The LCMS Convention: Floor Committee Intrigue, by Scott Diekmann

And so it begins. An overview of the 104 convention resolutions prepared by the eight floor committees for the 64th Regular Convention of the LCMS has been released by Reporter Online. The biggest news may not be what’s in them, but what isn’t in them. In what seems to be a growing tradition in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, the floor committees did whatever they wanted to do, ignoring the majority of the overtures presented to them by congregations and Districts across the Synod.

Pastor Todd Wilken’s partial list of resolutions Floor Committee 8 ignored is rather stunning (Floor Committee 8 is responsible for Structure and Governance):

  • To Foster Greater Unanimity in Decisions re Structure
  • To Postpone Consideration and Implementation of Task Force Report
  • To Exercise Care and Delay Implementation of Structure Changes
  • To Allow Time to Study Task Force Recommendations
  • To Submit BRTFSSG Report to All Congregations for Study and Defer Action until Following Convention
  • To Proceed with Task Force Proposals Only If Full and Timely Disclosure of Proposed Revisions Is Provided
  • To Reject Blue Ribbon Task Force Recommendations
  • To Defer Proposed Restructure/Reorganization To 2013 Convention
  • To Delay Implementation of Certain BRTFSSG Proposals
  • To Consider Recommendations of BRTFSSG as Separate Items to Be Voted on Individually
  • To Consider Alternate Restructure Plans and Proposals and Decline Recommended Changes To Synod Constitution
  • To Retain Existing Synod Constitution
  • To Reject Proposed Changes to Articles II, III, and VI
  • To Retain Current Constitution Articles II-IV, VI-VII
  • To Align Synod Structure with Walther’s Church and Ministry
  • To Affirm Integrity and Dignity of All Congregations
  • To Respect All Congregations Equally
  • To Give Congregation Overtures Equal Consideration
  • To Reject All Proposals That Limit or Hinder Participation of Congregations
  • To Retain Congregational Orientation of Synod
  • To Remove Task Force Proposal re Constitutional Subscription
  • To Delete Reference to Constitution from Proposed Article VII
  • To Reject Coercive Language in Handbook
  • To Retain Current Congregational Representation
  • To Maintain Present Form of Delegate Representation
  • To Retain Voting Delegates as Lay and Pastoral
  • To Retain Current Article V of Constitution
  • To Reject Any Proposed Changes re Voting Delegates to Synod Conventions
  • To Reject Proposed Change re Voting Delegates To District Conventions
  • To Reject “Associate Members” Recommendation
  • To Clarify Voting Rights of the Preaching Office
  • To Preserve Fifty Percent Lay Vote
  • To Have Every Congregation Represented at Synod Conventions
  • To Allow Vacant Congregations Two Lay Delegates
  • To Oppose Dissolution of English District
  • To Retain Present District Structure
  • To Retain Current District Alignment
  • To Retain or Increase Number of Districts
  • To Continue Current Practice of Election of Circuit Counselors
  • To Return to Use of Title “Circuit Visitor”
  • To Increase Convention Quorum Requirement
  • To Continue to Allow Congregations To Choose Vice-Presidents
  • To Elect Officers by Direct Vote of Congregations
  • To Change Composition and Increase Duties of Board of Directors
  • To Give Careful Consideration When Addressing BRTFSSG Recommendation 18
  • To Delay Implementation of BRTFSSG Recommendation re National Office Structure
  • To Reject Proposal for Advisory Boards
  • To Retain Board for Pastoral Education
  • To Reject Any Proposal for Name Change
  • To Keep the Name “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod”
  • To Retain Name “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod”
  • To Decline Further Study of LCMS Name Change
  • To Retain the Name “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod”
  • To Reject Any Proposal to Change Pastoral Candidate Certification

The Reporter Online states that “all eight committees’ proposals primarily respond to reports and a total of 251 overtures.” In the case of Floor Committee 8, it seems like they didn’t respond – instead, they excised. Part of their report goes on to say

One of the major resolutions coming out of Floor Committee 8 calls for the realignment of the Synod’s national ministries around two mission boards. In the preamble to the resolution, the committee states that the “current operational structure of the Synod’s boards and commissions and the relationship of staff coordination and accountability begs for improvement.”

It seems that, in light of the complete disregard for any and all objections to the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance recommendations, it is the floor committees’ accountability that “begs for improvement.” Their statement is an allness statement that is based on somewhat of a false premise.

In case you didn’t catch it, the committee is still planning to deconstruct the Synod by eliminating the “existing program boards and some staffed commissions.” They also propose to amend the Constitution Preamble, and Articles II, III, VI, and VII, and add an Article XIV, the wording of which has not yet been released. These constitutional amendments are most troubling, and need to be thoroughly scrutinized once the final wording is released in early June.

Committee 3, Theology and Church Relations, recommends the Synod continue to sit on its hands and do nothing about the ELCA’s embrace of homosexuality by proposing “continuing cooperation in matters of physical need with other Lutheran churches, including the ELCA, ‘with theological integrity’ and request the CTCR, in consultation with the Praesidium and other entities, to develop theological criteria for assessing cooperative endeavors toward a report on current ‘cooperation in externals’ by the next Synod convention.”

Committee 4, Administration and Finance, presents a helpful resolution which in part, recommends “Bylaw amendments to facilitate convention preparations, including earlier deadlines for reports, floor committee appointments, convention nominations and distribution of the Convention Workbook and Today’s Business, as well as providing that they be posted on the Synod’s Web site….”

Committee 5, Seminary and University Education, has come up with another novel way to circumvent the proper training and formation of pastoral candidates for our Synod by suggesting this:

Following a 2007 convention resolution that called for a task force study of the Synod’s current lay deacon program, another resolution asks that the program be continued and includes recommendations for providing a “reasonable way through which deacons, who are preaching and administering the sacraments, might be examined, called, and ordained within three years of beginning their service.”

The way in which we conduct our business as a Synod seems to be completely non-functional. To allow floor committees this much control over what is presented to the convention seems criminal. And to allow proposals, some of which are new, and many of which have huge repercussions, to be presented this close to the actual vote is a mistake. We are rushing decisions that require much more thought than time allows. Instead of deconstructing the structure of the Synod, maybe we should be deconstructing the timing and operation of the convention. Generally speaking, the success of a home improvement project is directly proportional to the amount of effort placed in the planning phase, and much less related to the actual implementation of the plan. The same should be said for Synod Conventions.

This was originally published on Scott Diekmann’s blog, Stand Firm. Head over there for more excellent articles!

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