A Questionable Pre-Convention Convention, by Klemet Preus

A notice has gone out from the Synod Office for Travel and Meeting that a series of “gatherings” will take place this winter in anticipation of the upcoming convention. At these gatherings, all of which President Kieschnick plans to attend, an effort will be made to convince the delegates to approve the restructuring proposals that his committee is promoting.

The cost of the meetings, reportedly, will be born by the circuits. Typically regional meetings are a bit less glitzy than synodical gatherings. Since people can drive, you can go to cheaper out of the way places. But not these gatherings. Ours will be held at the Minneapolis Hyatt, reported to be a bit more expensive than the Super 8 in Mankato where the pastors usually met. And in case you want to save your circuit a couple of bucks and find some cheaper digs forget about it. The district treasurers are supposed to make all the arrangements. Apparently the financial gurus at our district offices have plenty of time on their hands.

Obviously the administration wants to influence the delegates to regard the restructuring proposals in a favorable light. It is not enough simply to discuss things at the convention and decide. Now we have a preconvention convention and with only one purpose; to win the delegates to the president’s views. And unfortunately these meetings will not be voluntary or for interested parties only. Delegates brace yourselves for you will be told that this is your responsibility. Never mind that none of you knew about this before you were elected.

These meetings are, frankly, unprecedented. Never in the history of the synod have the deliberations of issues begun at an official meeting with the delegates before these delegates have actually been placed into office. And there is some question as to their constitutionality. The Bylaws say, “the delegates shall serve a three year term beginning with the convention” (3.1.2.2) Maybe someone should ask the CCM what their opinion is – or not.

Part of me actually thinks this is not such a bad idea. I just wish President Kieschnick had had it at previous conventions.

Think if there had been a preconvention convention prior to the controversial 2004 convention. Remember, that’s the one where in resolution 308a we accepted a CTCR report by a 52% majority about the role of women in the church and then after the convention president Kieschnick had to appoint a commission to decide what it was that we had just approved. Or imagine if we could have actually been able to discuss 2004 resolution 801a ahead of time, the one on dispute resolution, rather than being given just one evening to analyze a thirty page document full of all sorts of technical language. Wouldn’t it have been nice to have had at least a couple a months for the delegates to analyze the change they made to the Constitution – a change which was subsequently overturned by the congregations.

Or remember before the 2007 convention when all the nuances of the resolution to establish a Specific Ministry Pastor Program were being hashed about in coffee clutches and classrooms. Wouldn’t it have been great actually to have a preconvention convention so that the delegates could have been better informed? Or think of the Bylaw amendment passed in 2007 which actually said that “in the case of any conflict or uncertainty relative to the applicability of the laws of the State of Missouri, such issues shall be resolved in accord with the provisions in the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod.” Remember that one? If our Bylaws are against Missouri law then we will settle the issue by appealing to the Bylaws. That one might have merited a bit of pre-convention convention discussion. Or think of 2007 resolution 7-03 to amend Bylaw 3.3.5. This was the resolution which changed the bylaws so that a CCM opinion could be justified even though the CCM opinion was ostensibly based on the bylaws before they were changed, which change effectively deprived the Board of Directors the right to nominate from the floor of their meetings those whom they wanted for filling vacancies and boards even though Roberts Rules of Order, which the synod avers to follow, asserted precisely the right of the Board to do so. Confused? So were the delegates. Wouldn’t a pre-convention convention have been nice back in 2007?

So why the change now? I can only believe that President Kieschnick believes that the work of his appointed Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance is more important than all the other controversial issues which have come before the church during his eight year tenure. I can only conclude that President Kieschnick is willing to spend more of the church’s money and more of his time and other people’s time on these issues than anything else he has done. I wonder why this is so important to President Kieschnick.

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