Gathering the Force in Dearborn (1 of 2), by Glen Piper

(Editor’s Note: This is from Glen Piper’s blog Territorial Bloggings. Glen is a delegate to the LCMS convention in 2010, so he attended the Regional Gathering in Dearborn, MI.)

I have been gathered in by the BRTFSSG!

I’m going to break my report into two parts, mainly to keep the posts shorter & more easily readable. Part 1 will briefly describe the nuts & bolts about the gathering itself, while Part 2 will deal more with the actual content & issues discussed at the gathering.

Over the course of 25 hours at the Dearborn Hyatt, voting delegates to the 2010 Synodical Convention (along with select invited guests from District Boards of Directors) from the Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and English (Northern Circuits) Districts enjoyed a tightly scripted & controlled opportunity to interact with a few members of the BRTFSSG, as those members gave a briefing on their final report.

Additionally, the Chair & Vice-Chair of Convention Floor Committee 8 (Structure & Governance) were at the gathering, collecting input to assist in the process of turning the TF’s 21 recommendations into the resolutions that will be debated & voted upon on the Convention floor. It should be noted that the FC8 reps (DP Stoterau, Chair & SVP Buegler, Vice-Chair) were also members of the BRTFSSG.

Organizationally/Practically, the delegates were assigned seats at one of 31 tables that were set up in the hall, such that clergy, lay, and districts were all mixed together. The tables had a capacity of about 9, but I didn’t notice that any table had more than 6; so, I’d estimate that there were about 200 people there.

As anyone who has been to a meeting/session/convention run by SP Kieschnick will readily admit, it was no surprise to find that this event was well-run from an organizational/process standpoint. The agenda had us scheduled for 8 hours on Friday — 6.5 in session & 1.5 in break/dinner. Saturday saw us in session for 4 hours, minus a 20 min break.

While the larger question re: the stewardship aspects of these events still hangs out there, it can be said that they got a great deal on the rooms/facilities at the Hyatt. For $97/night, they got stuff covered; that’s a darned good deal. So, good on them for good negotiating skills. (Still doesn’t fix the problems on the macro level wrt stewardship, though…).

The final two interesting process/procedure-related data points that I have are these:

  1. The next BRTFSSG Gathering, in Madison, WI, will be videotaped so that it can be made available on the web by the end of February (along with some other info, like sample feedback questionnaires, feedback summaries, etc…). You Madison attendees might want to dress appropriately for camera time! ;)
  2. At the Convention next July, the order of business will see us take care of BRTFSSG/Structure & Governance (FC8) issues *BEFORE* we tackle the business of electing officers. (I’m not sure just what that means, yet, but I’ve got a gut feeling that it will probably end up meaning something…)

That’s about it for Part 1. Part 2 is found here.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He’s responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.


Comments

Gathering the Force in Dearborn (1 of 2), by Glen Piper — 25 Comments

  1. “At the Convention next July, the order of business will see us take care of BRTFSSG/Structure & Governance (FC8) issues *BEFORE* we tackle the business of electing officers.”

    WR Roberts Rules I’m a layman, but that simply CAN’T be legal. The electing of the Pres is always the first order of business. This is a way for the pres to control a convention even if he is unseated. Anyone got some insight on this?

  2. Seems obvious to me why the current administration would want to put BRTFSSG ahead of officer elections.

    If the first thing that the convention does is to deal with BRTFSSG resolutions, if the resolutions are adopted, then the implication is that we need the mastermind behind the BRTFSSG to stay at the helm. Conversely, if the first thing that the convention does is to elect someone other than the incumbent synodical president, then the implication is that just as the incumbent was rejected, so also should his BRTFSSG resolutions be rejected.

    The order in which these things takes place does matter. Think about Presidential Elections in the United States – if early returns in the Eastern and Central time zones heavily favor one candidate, people in the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones are less motived to actually take the time to drive to their polling place to cast their ballot. Why should they? Candidate X is already projected to win. But if it’s a close race on the East Coast, voters on the West Coast are more likely to turn out. The outcome of one affects the outcome of the other.

    To manipulate the normal order of business by front-loading the BRTFSSG resolutions, the incumbent stands the best chance to win re-election, and the resolutions stand the best chance off being adopted. But as things stand, if they are taken in the normal order, they are not as likely to pass, and the incumbent is not as likely to win re-election.

    Perhaps I am wrong, but the idea to put BRTFSSG ahead of officer elections didn’t appear out of thin air. It looks like a blatant attempt by an incumbent to retain power. It tells me that he feels threatened, and that he will take every possible advantage he can in order to keep (re-election) and expand (BRTFSSG) his power.

    This has “business consultant advice” written all over it. If I’m correct, the case could be made that LCMS funds are being used for consultants to functionally advise the SP on his re-election campaign.

    At the very least, this smells fishy.

  3. @revfisk #1

    It struck me as a bit odd as well (even knowing that Kieschnick will run the whole week’s show even if he loses), if only because it means that we’ll be officially in session for *two* days before electing officers!

  4. The 2007 LCMS Handbook is online at http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=13003

    From page 97:

    “(i) The convention shall organize at its first session on the basis of its
    registration and the report of the committee on credentials.

    (1) The President shall then make his presidential address and
    submit his official report.

    (2) The President shall, at the first session and during the course
    of succeeding sessions of the convention, announce the order of
    business for the day and following days.”

    I’m not a lawyer, either, but my understanding is that unless an organization’s constitution or bylaws say otherwise, Robert’s Rules says that the President proposes the agenda, but the proposed agenda is not in effect until it is adopted by the assembly. Under Robert’s Rules, the agenda is the order in which we all agree to do business, not what the president, or anyone else, unilaterally decides.

    Common sense says it’s the Synod’s convention, not the President’s convention.

  5. Interestingly enough, at conventions where the sitting president is “unseated”, the rest of the convention usually ends up being a tribute to him. In 1969, we declared fellowship with the ALC just after Preus was elected. In 1992 the dispute resolution was instituted after Bohlman lost to Barry. By the last day, Bohlman was declared “President Emeritus” – by the very convention delegates that unseated him!
    What is being attempted this summer has never been done before, and so it is hard to predict how it will all play out. Will the convention go for the proposals and then unseat the man behind them, as if to say, “Here are the proposals the left wanted, but the man in charge the right wanted. See, perfect balance.” Will they shoot down the proposals and then re-elect the man in a “pity vote”? Or perhaps they will shoot down the proposals and then say, “Since he said the synod can’t survive without the new proposals, and we shot them down, let’s elect someone who thinks it can survive without them.”
    The consultants may have suggested a particular course of action, but Missouri politics is it’s own brand of cola. We see things a very specific way. The new health-care proposals in the US congress might make people leery of trying something similar in Missouri. The very fact that a sitting president is recommending we change the power structure in his favor will likely make delegates very cautious. But “a new president” cautious? Hard to say.
    You just never know. No one has ever taken the convention for an extra two days, no one has ever tried this level of restructuring all at once.
    The advantage to doing it this way is that for two days you plow through this and nothing else, then you can “get on with” the convention proper. But how will it all play out?
    I wouldn’t hazard a guess. And at this point, I don’t think even the leadership of ***** First would hazard a guess either.

  6. @Anonymous #5
    But once you attend a convention, we all know that the President can make any changes he desires–even if they go against Roberts’ Rules. He simply smiles and asks the convention if they will “allow” him the privilege. Then a voice vote is usually taken, sometime even the electronic vote machine is used.

  7. Why wouldn’t the SP do everything possible to make sure the proposals pass and he is re-elected? That’s what these meetings are all about. I’ve reached the point where I believe that prayer and those delegates who still believe in being persuaded by the Word of God, call them what you like, will decide the day. If there are more of them, then we will have some hope for the future. If not, watch out.

  8. It would not be out of order for an objection to the agenda be offered and a revised agenda presented. This can be done from the floor.

  9. revfisk :
    WR Roberts Rules I’m a layman, but that simply CAN’T be legal. The electing of the Pres is always the first order of business. This is a way for the pres to control a convention even if he is unseated. Anyone got some insight on this?

    In 2004, the Ablaze!â„¢ Movement was adopted in two resolutions (whose rationale spoke rather glowingly of the incumbent Synodical President by name), then the convention was asked who they wanted to elect as President.

    This type of manipulation has been done before, and will continue until/unless it becomes a bylaw that the election of the President is the first order of business.

  10. This action of blue ribbon votes before presidential vote means confessionals must not walk at the prospect of having the congregations expropiated or they loose the chance to give SP K. a new vocation. My sense is that for congregations to stay around after a confiscatory result makes a done deal legally no matter what individual congregational constitutions say. Legal advice may be in order. This whole process smells like Frederich Wilhelms Prussion Union be forced down the confessing churchs throat. Cheers! GB

  11. Didn’t I read somewhere a long tme ago that the 2007 Convention voted to extend the length of the 2010 Convention by two days specifically for the purpose of discussing the proposed changes in structure? Adding those two days at the front end? If so, I doubt that there’s much of a chance of roadblocking this move, Bylaws or not.

  12. @califiowan #14
    I don’t think it got past discussion. The delegates gave up their franchise when President Kieschnick and DP Stoterau did a number on them, and they voted (by a simple majority) to give the decision about a convention to the COP. I may be wrong, but I think that particular decision was made by the Pres. when he decided not to have a convention in 2009. Note that it was his decision, no matter what you read.

    j

  13. @Glen Piper #16
    I have just read thru the 2007 Proceedings, and can’t find the two-day adder. Res. 8-13 only limits the scope of a potential special convention. Res. 8-07S gives the Pres & COP & Others the authority to call the special convention. The floor committee estimated that the special convention would last “two or three days” (Proceedings, p. 44) I do stand corrected however–it appears we ceded the decision to the Pres/COP by a 2/3 majority, not simple as I reported in #15 above. Oops!

    Glen–where is the resolution that adds the two days, either on one end or the other?

  14. @johannes #17
    I don’t think there is one, Johannes. You cited the one that I remembered (8-07S), along with the particular quote about the length of the special convention. I do recall general (and unofficial) talk on the convention floor about the special convention being a better option (e.g., cheaper & more focused) than expanding the 2010 convention by a number of extra days to deal specifically with restructuring.

    In short, 8-07S was, I think, it. And it was an ugly debate, too…

  15. Glen, you’re being too nice. Ugly doesn’t get it. Actually, it became apparent to the chair that the special convention wasn’t selling, so he pulled the plug. The structure task force was way behind in its work, and there was no way they’d get 2/3. If I remember correctly, there was no debate the next day, the way it had been set up. Or the way we had been set up.

    Ugly, downright ugly. When you think about it, the floor committee’s estimate of 2-3 days is not realistic. They could add ten days, and it wouldn’t be enough. But–that’s a thought.

    j

  16. The simplest reason to have decisions concerning structure BEFORE the elections is that if the changes are adopted some of the elections need not be held, or certain “regional” aspects of elections would need to be observed. After all, there’s no need to elect members to a board which no longer exists, or whose members are now appointed rather than elected.

    I haven’t heard, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the committee on nominations has been asked to prepare slates for both the current structure as well as the proposed new structure. I can’t see President Kieschnick not doing so if he believes structural changes need to be made. Think of the confusion if the structure were changed but nominations weren’t ready for the new structure.

    One thing I haven’t seen anywhere in the materials the BRTFSSG produced, or heard as a topic of discussion in reports from the regional gatherings is how and when the structural changes will be implemented (if approved). As far as I can tell, it simply hasn’t been addressed in public.

    According to the current constitution and bylaws, amendments to the bylaws become effective as soon as they are passed by a simple majority at the convention. Amendments to the constitution, on the other hand, not only have to receive a 2/3’s majority at the convention, but also have to be ratified by being approved by a 2/3’s majority of the congregations that cast a ballot on the changes. Congregations have a six-month period in which to vote, and any changes approved become official only after that time. (See Article XIV of the LCMS constitution. The entire constitution and bylaws are available in .pdf format at the Synod’s website.)

    The point is that even if structural changes are approved in convention, any which depend on changes to the constitution don’t come into effect immediately. Unless it’s somehow accounted for in the resolutions that come before the convention, for some time–at least six months, until the following convention if any constitutional changes are not ratified–there can be conflict between new bylaws and the constitution.

    These last may seem pretty boring and picky details, but they’re important. Not to put to fine a point on it, it would be illegal to take actions based on constitutional revisions approved by the convention unless and until they are ratified by vote of the congregations.

    The potential for a conflict between the constitution and bylaws, even if only for a matter of months, should be considered and accounted for by the convention. Some of this could be addressed by making bylaw changes contingent upon and effective only with ratification of applicable portions of the constitution.

    The course I would recommend, of course, would simply be to retain the current constitution. (And EVERY congregation gets to vote on THAT!) I don’t see a single amendment to the constitution that’s really necessary, but quite a few that are a cause for concern.

  17. So you got special mini conventions in 2009! With questionable legality, since the NEXT group of delegates is invited,not the last ones who presumably serve “until the next convention”.

    But nobody says a word, at least, not out loud.

    If the “restructuring” passes convention, there will be a sleeper somewhere that eliminates the congregational 2/3 vote because if it got down to the pewsitters, it would fail.
    Been there once with a resolution; it won’t be allowed to happen again.

  18. The thing is, you can’t change the requirement for ratifying constitutional changes to apply to what’s proposed at the upcoming convention. The current constitution rules on what is required to change it. Nothing the convention does in 2010 can change the standards for amending the constitution now in force. (By the way, Article XIV remains the same in the BRTFSSG proposals, except that it changes to Article XV because of a new XIV being proposed.)

    It’s certainly worth looking very carefully at the proposed changes and what they would do going forward, but the only way they can come into effect is by a 2/3’s yea vote at the convention followed by 2/3’s of the congregations that vote voting to approve them. There’s no changing that at this point.

    As to the “questionable legality” of the “gatherings”, I’ve heard that prior to the Denver gathering a pastor requested a ruling from the CCM concerning them. So someone has said a word. As far as I know, there’s been no word back from the CCM.

  19. Yes, I requested an opinion from the CCM back in October. I have heard nothing yet as to any decision — and since the gatherings have already started, I doubt that anything will come of that request.

  20. @John #22

    maybe there’s no changing them, but there could be ignoring them by the CCM.

    On the scholia site : http://www.scholia.net/files/lcms/04%20CCM%20Opinions%20of%20Note.PDF

    Pastor Pauls refers to an amendment that “required” a 2/3 approval by congregations:

    “Although an amendment to the LCMS constitution failed to receive the required 2/3 vote in favor by responding congregations, the CCM ruled that it would implement the effect of the amendment anyway.”

  21. I received a response from the CCM today to my request. Basically they said that these meetings are being held under the authority of Bylaw 3.1.9 which gives the President of Synod responsibility “for the overall organization and operations of the conventions of the Synod”. I have sent a follow-up to Dr. Hartwig with some clarifying questions, but again due to the timing I doubt anything will happen. I have also sent a request to Dr. Kieschnick, asking how much money these regional gatherings are costing and how much adding the additional days to the convention in July will cost. It seems that it may be helpful to know how much money we are spending on all this.

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