The Wild Boar posted a helpful description of the purpose for circuits in the synod. (The LCMS is organized into districts and districts are organized into circuits – collections of about 10 neighboring congregations.) You can view the Boar’s blog by clicking here. This is his recent post on circuits.
The BRTFSSG has recommended that we “Restore Circuits to Their Primary Purpose”. This sounds like a really good idea to me. I have long argued for the title “circuit visitor” over “circuit counselor”. After all, they were originally visitation circuits, and restoring that would be of great benefit to the synod.
But what do I find when reading through the report? Not one mention of visitation. None.
This “critical to the success of this restructuring proposal” would simply change the way that circuit visitors are nominated. They would be nominated by the District President, rather than by the circuit. According to the Task Force, since they are an extension of the District President’s office, the District President should have input in their selection. This is the exact opposite of the primary purpose of the circuit.
The circuit is the place for the CONGREGATIONS of the circuit and their pastors to meet, discuss theological matters, and yes, receive visitations from a trusted local pastor who can inquire in to the life and practice of the congregation and her pastor to insure that all is working according to our common confession. What a nice utopian idea.
The idea that the Circuit Visitor should be appointed from above (and idea that the TF admits was dear to its heart and only given up unwillingly) shows that, instead of restoring the circuit to its primary purpose, they plan to enshrine the current administrative practice, thereby reducing the congregational nature of circuits.
I’m not an MBA (but I play one on TV), but even to me this is an obvious attempt to gather power centrally. How can you claim that it increases the congregational focus of circuits to have the leader of the circuit appointed from above? And why is this specific proposal critical to the success of the entire venture?
There is only one reason that I can conceive of to explain this. The District Presidents no longer want congregations to have a voice in selecting Circuit Visitors, because too often the Circuit Visitors are not aligned visionally with the District President.
A look at Rome would be instructive. The American Roman Church is, by and large, very liberal. Yet the leadership is almost exclusively conservative. Why is that? The pope appoints all officials. And the last two popes, covering a period of thirty years, have been very conservative.
Are most District Presidents elected after serving only in a parish? No. Most are elected after years in a parish, serving as a circuit visitor, eventually being elected to the District Presidium or Board of Directors, etc. By making the Circuit Visitor an appointed position, the District President chooses the future leaders, making sure that all future leaders of the district are “in his image.”
How they can justify this as a proposal to be more congregation-focused is utterly beyond me, but I believe that defeating this proposal is critical to any attempt to restore the congregational nature of our synod.
Final note : The idea that requiring circuits to meet and discuss theology would have any effect at all is ludicrous. They are supposed to do that now. We have, black letter, a requirement that all congregations be visited every triennium. Aside from one or two stubbornly Paleolithic districts, it simply doesn’t happen. So, circuit forum by fiat will be no more successful under the new proposal than under the current one.