Comprehensive Analysis on the Blue Ribbon Proposals Part 10 ““ Recommendation #7: To What Extent does your Congregation Actually Need and Use District and Synod? by Pr. Rossow

This is Part  10  of a continuing series analyzing the final report of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Structure and Governance (BRTFSG). All posts in this series are listed here.

Here is Recommendation #7 of the Blue Ribbon Task Force.

Recommendation #7: Establish Five Geographical Regions in the Synod

Create five geographic regions within the Synod. As the districts are themselves reconfigured (Recommendation #4), these regions also may have to be reconfigured. (Final Report, p. 33)

This is one of the recommendations that if passed would have little effect one way or the other and so is somewhat benign. However, when one actually considers what it means, all sorts of annoyances arise which make one wonder why we would want to make this change.

Here is the rational for forming these regions.

The five regions would be created primarily for representational purposes but also to improve communications and coordination of functions among and between themselves and the national Synod. (Final Report, p. 33)

We ask, when was the last time “Synod Inc.” had a substantial impact on your congregation other than providing a worker benefits plan, assisting in the call process or asking you for Ablaze money? The influence of synod is not going to rise by creating more layers of bureaucracy. We need less layers of bureaucracy, not more. My district deployed the district staff about ten years ago in order to get them out of the district office and into the congregations. In that ten years I have not received a single call or visit from the four deployed staff.

The influence of synod will not increase with increased bureaucracy. Synod’s influence has decreased because the Church Growth Movement teaches congregations to be independent of bureaucracy and to downplay the most important thing a synod has – the unifying power of its commitment to the doctrines of Scripture. One third of the synod’s congregations could care less about synod because they have bought into this narcissistic church growth mindset; one third of synod is rudderless and is not sure where to turn (these are the ones who will be most positively impacted by the election of a churchly man like Matt Harrison because he will provide confessional leadership for them); one third of the synod is actually concerned about doctrinal identity and realize that this is what Synod really is and know that no increase in bureaucracy will make people be more devoted to synod.

Another annoying trait of this recommendation is that it confuses “grassroots” with added bureaucracy. Here is further definition from the Task Force.

The task force also believes strongly in strengthening relationships between members and the people of the Synod at the various levels of the church body’s system of structure and governance. Dr. David Roozen (see Page 16) spoke strongly of the importance of stronger relationships within 21st century churches. Vice presidents nominated by the grassroots in each region, and then serving as “connectors” in those regions, would strengthen these important confessional and missional relationships. (Final Report, p. 33)

The Task Force does not understand that “grassroots” is grassroots. You cannot manufacture grassroots support. Adding a layer of bureaucracy does not increase devotion to synod, it removes synod one more step from the grassroots. Creating five new regions does not make for grassroots involvement. Grassroots involvement and interest in an institution grows underground and spreads by itself, not by institutional manipulation.

As we argued last week, we hope the delegates to the convention will recognize the level of control that President Kieschnick and his Task Force wish to have over the Synod and reject it. If synod is to mean anything, it must be grounded in doctrinal unity and commitment. Matt Harrision’s “It’s Time” document is a prescription for addressing the true problem of synod in the 21st century. We need unity in confession, not added layers of bureaucracy.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Comprehensive Analysis on the Blue Ribbon Proposals Part 10 ““ Recommendation #7: To What Extent does your Congregation Actually Need and Use District and Synod? by Pr. Rossow — 23 Comments

  1. 1. At the Regional Meeting in St. Louis, attendees ranked this proposal almost lowest (over half of the tables had this in their lowest priority list, none had it in their top priority list – the only proposal to fair worse was the name change). One of the floor committee members noted his intrigue (but total lack of surprise) that at every other regional gathering, this proposal was one of the top priorities but of the Midwest Districts (i.e. close to St. Louis), this is one of the lowest.

    2. At the Regional Meeting, President Kieschnick took an informal poll, asking the attendees how many of their districts are divided into geographic regions for the election of their vice-presidents. Every geographic district indicated that they did so. “That’s all we want to do at Synod, too,” he added. What he didn’t ask was whether that really had any effect on District effectiveness – and that question was raised at dinner by our regional VP. My congregation is 3 hrs away from our Eastern Region VP, 3.5 hours from the Western Region VP, both are within an hour of the district office. (BTW – our Eastern Region VP is further west than the Western Region VP – gotta love it.)

    3. While #7 may be mostly benign, you cannot really separate it from #14 – the regional election of the Board of Directors. The purpose of the recommendation is to be more representative of the Synod. Under #14, the BoD would be expanded from 15 to 17, with a layman and an ordained minister elected from each of the 5 regions. Under the proposed (more broadly representative) system, the minimum number of districts represented on the BoD is 5 but they will be from all 5 regions. Under the current (less representative) system, the minimum number of districts represented is 13, but that could be from as few as two different regions. Proposal #14, in the name of broader representation, has the potential to dangerously stifle broad-based representation.

  2. Is there any way that we can get a tally count from each of the regional meetings on the highest/lowest priority proposals?

  3. @PPPadre #1 Padre, your report is just a tad incorrect. I was at the Regional meeting in St. L. also. In the MO. District, for example, we do NOT elect VP’s regionally. As I recall, at least one other District reported the same. The biggest problems with electing regionally are, in my opinion: [1] it assumes that the VP’s are to kind of represent their “contingency,” or to that effect — this is very American but it completely misunderstands the purpose of the VP’s — it is rather akin, I think, to when a congregation elects elders who tend to think that they must represent their “contingency” before the congregation (and the Lord?) — it might be stated otherwise (is it? I don’t recall), but if people fall prey to that kind of thinking, then I fear that we will be in line for all kinds of possible foolishness of practice, doctrine, etc., all in the name of “this is what we do in our area”; and worse, I think, [2] what if it happens that the Lord has provided completely dedicated and competent men to serve in those offices but they are not located in the right geographic area? They are then in effect ineligible for election and the Synod gets cheated out of very good men who might serve in wonderful ways. Just my $.02 worth.

  4. Oops — but, Padre, I meant to add that I concur with your point and concern, of course, I only wanted to offer the slight correction to your report on the response to Pres. K’s informal poll. 🙂 Thanks for understanding.

  5. Right, considering there are at least 22 Willow Creek Partner churches, in just the
    Michigan District alone, knowing what they teach, preach, & do, & what very little that District President does, to defend or uphold, what the LCMS church teaches…that is just one district. How many more like that are there? And they want to lump those like them into a 5 geo graph? Yeah, that’ll work well.

    And to which, would that/those be sanctioned into which geographic/demographic new “district” would they be relagated to? And by what parameters, not that listed, the actual ones, after the vote passes.

    Power play, to ensure majority votes, funds, control and power. It Pastor Harrison is elected, I pray it doesn’t take the listed 10 years to correct wrongs. Abide by the Solas, abide by the Confessions, or allow us to show thee the door.

  6. Pastor Wollenburg,
    Thank you for the correction. That’s what happens when I try to go from recollection and not by notes. Now that you’ve said that, I do recall there were exception among the geographic districts and not just the non-geographic ones.

  7. PPPadre :
    Is there any way that we can get a tally count from each of the regional meetings on the highest/lowest priority proposals?

    From the CNH, PSW, NW and English District Gathering with 27 tables:
    Top 3:
    #18 (19 votes) – Realign the National Synod Ministries around Two Mission Commissions
    #3 (16 votes) – Restore Circuits to Their Primary Purpose
    9/13/4/7 (6 or 7 votes)

    Bottom 3:
    #20 – Adopt a Process Leading to the Renaming of the Synod
    #21 – Urge the Continued Study of Pastoral Certification/Continuing Education
    #19 – Clarify the Priority of the Constitution over the Bylaws

  8. @PPPadre #2

    Well, I can tell you Jesus First’s priorities:

    1. Recommendation 18
    2. Recommendation 4
    3. Recommendation 11

    I would submit from experience that #18 is a concrete shifting of power that most people can understand, along with emphasizing that SP gets control of seminaries and universities as well.
    I’ve seen JK supporters go berko when confronted with this.

  9. @wrl #8

    wrl: Translate “go berko” (if you can do that on a public site). 🙁

    I would suggest that all of those you mention would consolidate power in the hands of GK/PoliticsFirst past prying away again.

  10. @Brian Yamabe #7

    Do you have the top/bottom counts for the entire list? I’m trying to put together a comprehensive list – mostly for my own research and preparation for the convention.

    And I am presuming that was the Newport Beach?

    And pardon me for being so rude as to ask for information but not offer my own answers.

    Here are the unofficial tallies for the St. Louis Gathering (I missed one or two – the guy sitting next to me started talking to me while the tables were reporting results and some tables had 2 or 4 top/bottom picks).
    Proposal 1 – 0 top 5 bottom
    Proposal 2 – 0 top 1 bottom
    Proposal 3 – 15 top 0 bottom
    Proposal 4 – 8 top 6 bottom
    Proposal 5 – 3 top 3 bottom
    Proposal 6 – 3 top 0 bottom
    Proposal 7 – 0 top 15 bottom
    Proposal 8 – 0 top 4 bottom
    Proposal 9 – 10 top 1 bottom
    Proposal 10 – 3 top 2 bottom
    Proposal 11 – 2 top 3 bottom
    Proposal 12 – 0 top 5 bottom
    Proposal 13 – 3 top 1 bottom
    Proposal 14 – 0 top 0 bottom
    Proposal 15 – 1 top 3 bottom
    Proposal 16 – 0 top 0 bottom
    Proposal 17 – 11 top 0 bottom
    Proposal 18 – 22 top 0 bottom
    Proposal 19 – 4 top 4 bottom
    Proposal 20 – 0 top 24 bottom
    Proposal 21 – 2 top 8 bottom

    Thanks to all for any additional information anyone can provide.

  11. I think we need to understand what we mean by “priorities.” At the Dearborn meeting, when I heard that word, it occured to me that I would personally rank them in order of priorty TO BE DEFEATED. Of course, that isn’t what the TF leaders meant. But a priority ranking is not necessarily agreement with the proposals.

    Frankly, I think we ought to re-think our priorities. It shouldn’t be too difficult.

    I wonder if JF (“Politics First”) would back all that concentration of power if Jack Preus were the LCMS President. Just wonderin’


  12. @Johannes #11
    I don’t know why, but I got a big smile at the thought. And the possibility exists that the power does get concentrated and Matt is elected. Won’t they (JF folks) feel silly then!?!

  13. @PPPadre #10

    Proposal 1 – 3 top 5 bottom
    Proposal 2 – 3 top 0 bottom
    Proposal 3 – 17 top 0 bottom
    Proposal 4 – 8 top 1 bottom
    Proposal 5 – 0 top 3 bottom
    Proposal 6 – 1 top 0 bottom
    Proposal 7 – 7 top 3 bottom
    Proposal 8 – 6 top 3 bottom
    Proposal 9 – 7 top 1 bottom
    Proposal 10 – 1 top 2 bottom
    Proposal 11 – 4 top 3 bottom
    Proposal 12 – 1 top 8 bottom
    Proposal 13 – 7 top 1 bottom
    Proposal 14 – 0 top 0 bottom
    Proposal 15 – 1 top 5 bottom
    Proposal 16 – 1 top 5 bottom
    Proposal 17 – 3 top 0 bottom
    Proposal 18 – 19 top 1 bottom
    Proposal 19 – 1 top 8 bottom
    Proposal 20 – 2 top 16 bottom
    Proposal 21 – 1 top 10 bottom

  14. @helen#9

    “Translate “go berko” (if you can do that on a public site).”

    Ooops…Australian slang…

    angry in a unreasonable way

    Berko, gone
    gone mad, looks like going mad

  15. @STEVEN BOBB #12
    It would be similar to when the “confessionals” had some changes made in the constitution and by-law to help their cause while a good man was president. He was defeated and the changes were now being used against the conservative/confessional cause. I tried to find the examples before writing but it is late and I could not. Maybe someone with better computer files would be able.

  16. @Johannes #11

    At the St. Louis meeting, the question was asked whether it was top proposals we wanted or top priorities to be addressed/changed/corrected/defeated. Several tables made it quite explicitly clear that their top priorities were items they wanted voted down.

    Do you have the list from the Dearborn meeting? I don’t have that one yet for my research project – which has expanded into a presentation for our District Pastors Conference in about 6 weeks.

  17. Did anyone at any of these meetings mention that passage of proposal 18 would mean that the President of Synod would personally control 70-80% of synod’s $81 million budget?


  18. @wrl #15
    angry in a unreasonable way

    Thank you, wrl. [Google failed.]

    I take it then that JF(Politics First) didn’t appreciate your noticing the proposed concentration of power (and control over the budget)?

  19. Sometimes it’s hard to know if resistance to criticism is coming solely from Jesus First supporters. I recently spoke to someone who has been studying the Task Force Report for months, a devout Lutheran and a good man. When I pointed out that #18 centralizes power, he countered with quotes from the report where they say the BRTF will “de-centralize” power (and quotes about “harmony” and “unity”, and of course Walther quotes). I countered that that’s the problem, in my book, that constitutional and bylaw language must be very precise, and that the whole report says one thing on one hand and makes proposals that are just the opposite. He and I should not be reading the same thing and walk away with two different conclusions, I said. He also countered that there are checks and balances throughout the Constitution, especially with the Board of Directors. I point out that they’re selling #18 as a way to save money partially, but that Synod Treasurer (who is on the Task Force) says it is net neutral.

    No matter what points I used, I got the feeling that because this is what the Synod has proposed after careful study, and is going to all this effort promoting it at regional meetings, we should go along with it. There was no discussion of whether this proposal or that proposal was good or bad, just a sort of blanket approval of the whole thing; a sort of “if this is what the proposal says, then it must be true” attitude. To my knowledge, this person knows little of the history of proposals (how they were put forward by Jesus First at 2004 convention and voted down) and doesn’t seem particularly interested in any of that. Nor did he really know what is dividing the Synod. But he does think that there’s a lot of unwarranted criticism of our Synodical President.

    I think what I was coming up against was Pastor Wilken’s description of LCMS Exceptionalism. There are those that have little or no connection to the politics, but act as if everything that the Synod proposes must be good and correct, and that local congregations need to follow. And that criticism of anything coming out of the Synod is somehow improper (from people who don’t like centralized secular government). I have even heard the comment, “Even if #18 centralizes power, would that be bad if we’ve elected a God-fearing man?”

    Answer: No matter who gets elected, centralized power seduces even the best. We have checks and balances in our structures because we are all sinful human beings.

  20. To clarify my comment above “(from people who don’t like centralized secular government)”:

    The irony is that people who don’t like centralized secular government can at the same time not be bothered by centralized power in the Synod. I can only attribute that to LCMS Exceptionalism.

  21. WRL,

    Yes, if these proposals pass, it will because of the myth of LCMS Exceptionalism is still alive and well (and is being used by the synodical president and his task force) in the LCMS.


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