The ultimate “wedge issue”

Of all the proposals from the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance, one of the most disliked is the one that would give larger congregations more votes. Well, I’m not really sure why the Blue Ribbon Task Force proposed it considering that their consultants told them it would go over like a lead balloon. It’s funny because the consultants clearly have no understanding of the theological basis for a congregational model of Synodical organization. But they’re smart enough to know that people really, really, really don’t like the idea. Here’s what they say under the section “Giving Larger Congregations a Greater Voice” on page 79:

Diminishing their vote in Synod deliberations is the clearest and potentially most troubling of such symbols. If ever there were what politicians call a “wedge issue” for the LCMS, this is it.

So why did the BRTFSSG include the recommendation? I don’t know. But it’s yet another example of how the task force disregarded the information they spent $500,000 to get.


The ultimate “wedge issue” — 17 Comments

  1. Mollie,

    Do you know when this report was commissioned and when the BRTFSSG members received it? It is mind boggling that they would push ahead after reading the consultant’s report.

  2. This is extremely disturbing. I’d like to give K more Christian charity than this. But WHY would he deliberately “wedge” when he’s been specifically warned by an objective source that has surveyed and evaluated the Synod? Just so he could back away from it and appear like he’s “listening”?

    It’s only corollary that comes to mind is TCN, where one of the expected outcomes IS to divide the congregation, and members (and pastors) are expected to leave.

    The BRTF is just TCN for the Synod, plain and simple.

    Change Management 101 = TCN = BRTF

  3. That was one of the more troubling proposals that I saw. As already mentioned, it ignores that fact that congregations are members of Synod, not individual congregants. The other issue that would most assuredly arise (given the old Adam still in us) is that congregations would be tempted to fudge numbers in order to cross the threshold of extra voting delegates. How many pastors would be pressured to (or be tempted themselves) to ignore catechesis in order to get a few more members in, or ignore the Law’s plain proclamation in needed situations so that someone would not be offended and leave?
    I certainly could understand how smaller congregations would feel about this issue– it certainly is a wedge; or perhaps it feels more like a wedgie issue? Eh, Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to.

  4. If this idea had any merit at all, it would have come from the grass roots, in the circuits and disctricts of Synod. Since it did not, and I have not seen any circuit or district resolutions addressing this grievous injustice to our larger congregations, I can only assume that it is a non-issue and deserves to be treated as such along with the rest of the wasted effort.

  5. @wrl #3

    The parallels between TCN and BRT are striking. You and I are not the only ones to notice this. The major “lynchpin” of TCN is changing the governance of the congregation, turning the pastor into a CEO, for all practical purposes. (and that’s for “effectiveness”) And now we’re being asked to change the governance of the Synod, all for the sake of (are you ready?) “effectiveness”. I’d like to think it’s a coincidence. But…..

    @Paul Becker #4

    The only “grass roots” source of this odious recommendation comes from some of the larger congregations, such as Trinity Roselle Illinois. Pastor Charles Mueller was complaining about this alleged “unfairness” already at the 2004 Convention, fer cryin’ out loud (pun intended). I’ve heard similar rumblngs from the pastor of a large congregation in my own district. But “grass roots”? Hardly.


  6. An amendment to be made to one of the anti-BRTFSSG overtures to be passed at the convention is to forbid LCMS staff and employees from hiding or destroying documentation, reports, emails, or data regarding the costs of this BRTFSSG fiasco.

    When President Harrison takes office this information should be publicly released as one of the warning about the dangers of Stephanite-style governing in a church body. One of the reasons Martin Stephan was deposed in 1839 was his complete financial mismanagement of the Missouri Saxons’ funds.

  7. While folks tend to focus on the part of this proposal concerning larger congregations, the other portions of the proposal have some theological concerns, as well.

    The franchise for vacancy pastors is flawed in its premise because the report asserts that such vacancy pastors are divinely called by those congregations. And of the 350 or so non-calling vacancies, how many of them are circumventing the doctrine of the call so that they can keep a pastor they can fire at will?

    The additional votes for multi-point parishes fundamentally shifts the concept of the multi-point parish from that of a single congregation meeting at several locations to multiple congregations sharing a pastoral staff. And I write “pastoral staff” because the District Convention proposal made mention of multiple pastors serving a multi-point parish. Why would a dual parish call two pastors to serve the dual parish rather than each church call a pastor? When that “dual parish” is a mega-church with a satellite campus. We have always treated satellites in the same manner as a multi-point parish, and if these other parts of the proposal are passed, then megachurches could receive not only an additional pair of votes, but dozens of additional votes.

  8. Besides “fairness”, what is it specifically that the larger congregations want that they’re not getting now? I’d like to hear them say it plainly and explicitly. They want SOMETHING.

  9. @mbw #9

    Much of the BRTF report is about “fairness.” Both left and right like to use that term.

    No “fairness” is about power.

    As in “Animal Farm,” — “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”


  10. I write this as a pastor of a “larger congregation” that stands to get more votes if this proposal passes. I believe this question needs to be addressed theologically. What and where is church? Where God’s Word is proclaimed in its truth and purity and the sacraments are administered according to the Word of God. Is a congregation that has 500 gathered around Word and Sacrament 10 times “more church” than the congregation with 50 in attendance? Heaven forbid!

  11. Unfortuneatly everything about this commission and report and subsequent consult smacks of amateur hour. Having been involved in “culture change” implementation at two fortune 500 organizations I can’t believe how botched this was. It seems to me that many of our professionals think they know more than they actually do. Even if all were in agreement as to what kind of change is to take place the manner in determining that change and the attempt to implement violates every tenant against “people breakage” that even the pagans understand. A great consulting group would have first determined what we are truly aligned around and what if anything is hampering that unity. Then they would determine what the rules of engagement were and stuck to them. Finally they would have had everyone align themselves around our common goals and fixed a process to remove those who do not want to stay in alignment. THIS was a top down, shove it down your throats approach with a total denial of those who are out of alignment and are allowed to stay.

    Of course keeping everyone aligned around the confessions and Divine Service practice requires deft leadership with the ability to fire not just hire.

  12. Men can, I think, be asked to resign a call if they refuse to preach and teach in accord with Scripture and the Lutheran confessions which they all take a vow to uphold.

    [But what is actually happening is that those who do teach the Confessions go to the ash heap.]

    Any kind of non Lutheran drivel is preferable in the eyes of this administration.
    Kieschnick was a willowcreek devotee when he was DP.

    Confessionals in Texas are unhappy, but not surprised at anything!

  13. Mollie said: “Well, I’m not really sure why the Blue Ribbon Task Force proposed it considering that their consultants told them it would go over like a lead balloon.”

    K is a very shrewd politician. Nothing happens without much thought. Remember how the original BRTFSSG document on structure contained a statement something like, “We can change the synod according to a 2/3rds vote… and if the congregations ratify it and some don’t like it, they can leave.” This was removed from later versions because it was too controversial.

    K claims that the low nomination turn out was in his favor. He’s hoping the silent ones do not care what he does.

    So along comes the consultants cautioning against the wedge issue. K is intentional about keeping the wedge in there. What other reason could there be for purposely keeping something said to be divisive except to be intentionally divisive? He WANTS to cause a split? He must think the 2/3rds of the congregtions who didn’t care enough to vote would not be motivated to join an exodus.

  14. @michael #15
    He must think the 2/3rds of the congregations who didn’t care enough to vote would not be motivated to join an exodus.

    He may be right, unless we’ve got a lot of anonymous congregations out there.
    It may split congregations which did nominate Harrison.

    But if this sort of thing gets around, perhaps people will begin to think.

  15. michael :
    Mollie said: “Well, I’m not really sure why the Blue Ribbon Task Force proposed it considering that their consultants told them it would go over like a lead balloon.”
    K is a very shrewd politician. Nothing happens without much thought.

    I’m beginning to think that some people aren’t as smart or shrewd as they think they are, regardless of how much thought they put into something.

    Some of the results are due, no doubt, to district and synod admins being one or two levels removed from the pastor in the pulpit and the member in the pew.

    Things look very different when you are looking down from the ivory (or purple) tower.

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