2010 LCMS Convention Resolution 8-26

This is another in our series of resolutions to the 2010 Synod Convention, posted here to allow for discussion. If you have a comment on a specific resolution, see our Resolutions page. If the one you want to discuss is not yet posted, please contact us and we will add the resolution to start discussion.

This resolution harmfully limits the input of the local congregation in two ways. First, it drastically reduces  representation at the synod convention. If this resolution were in force this year the number of delegates to the national convention  would be reduced from around 1300 to 10% of the congregations, or around 600. Does your church currently know who your delegates are? With that many more congregations to “report” to, will your church receive a report from your delegates in future conventions?It puts more power in the hands of fewer people. This is the same thing the ELCA did years ago which has resulted in a small group in that church rail-roading through unscriptural resolutions.

Secondly, it depends on other resolutions which eliminate the congregations from the selection of delegates. In the new structure delegates are selected by district conventions and not by congregations. This politicizes the process and puts it in the hands of beuracrats and takes it out of the hands of the people. If you like centralized power you will like this resolution. If you like to see decisions left in the hands of the people and the congregations you will have a problem with this resolution.

This resolution also demonstrates what a house of cards the BRTFSG proposals are. This resolution is related to the passage of at least two other resolutions. The Task Force has done us the disservice of creating such a tangled web of legislation that it will be hard for anyone person to understand it all. It is never a good thing to ask people to vote on something they do not fully understand.


To Determine the Number of Delegates at National Conventions
RESOLUTION 8-26 (starting on line 31)

Overtures 8-28–29, 8-31–32, 8-35–45, 8-60 (CW, pp. 231–236, 242)

WHEREAS, The Synod convention is the “principal legislative assembly, which amends the Constitution and Bylaws, considers and takes action on reports and overtures, and handles appropriate appeals and establishes general positions and policies of the Synod, provides overall program direction and priorities, and evaluates all such positions, programs, policies, directions, and priorities in order to provide responsible service for and on behalf of its members” (Bylaw 3.1.1); and

WHEREAS, Circuits no longer exist for the election of delegates; therefore the size of the national convention is undetermined, and

WHEREAS, Removal of the electoral circuits eliminates the need for exceptional circuit delegates; and

WHEREAS, Reducing the number of delegates

  • enables greater engagement of the delegates in the discussion and the proceedings of mission and business;
  • ensures equality in the number of delegates each district is apportioned; and
  • allows for a greater stewardship of the gifts of God’s people for the work of mission and ministry by opening up less expensive venues;

therefore be it

Resolved, That the number of delegates to the Synod convention be fixed based on ten percent of the number of congregations in the Synod six months prior to the first district convention; and be it further

Resolved, That Bylaw 3.1.2 be amended accordingly, as shown (“2007 Handbook Convention Version,” TB, p. 228).

((Changes to the bylaws are too extensive to duplicate here; click the link immediately above to read it in Today’s Business))

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

2010 LCMS Convention Resolution 8-26 — 16 Comments

  1. Aren’t all the congregations represented at the district convention? I know that this gives a better chance to sway delegates’ decisions on who to send to the national convention but they aren’t being disenfranchised by this resolution per se at least IMHO.

  2. Actually it does change the polity per se, meaning per the thing itself. Whereas with the current structure the local voter’s assemblies possess the ability to actually vote on a local level on who the delegates will be, with this proposal only two voting persons from the local parish are able to cast a ballot offsite from the local assembly, at a District convention.

  3. Yes, they are and here is how: Presently our districts are broken up into what are called “electoral circuits.” Back in September of 2009 each of the congregations in the circuits elected their delegates to serve at the Synodical Convention this July. That is how the congregations are presently involved.

    Basically what this change does is eliminate the electoral circuits and allows the delegates to be elected as a block at the District Conventions.

    Norm, you probably should have referenced this resolution with the resolution that eliminates the idea of “electoral circuits”.

    At the present the synod’s constitution provides for the districts to divide their district into “supervisory circuits” (lack of a better word) and “electoral circuits”. I already mentioned the purpose of the electoral circuits. The supervisory circuits are for the purpose of providing supervision to the congregations and pastors as well as providing a forum for meeting and discussing matters of theology and casustry within the circuit.

    Nowhere – is it mandated that the electoral and supervisory circuits have to be the same. Districts are free to have the electoral and supervisory circuits completely different if they want. In the districts, they are the same at this time for ease of usage. So the other resolution connected with this one is the one that would be titled “Restore Circuits to Their Original Purpose” (I think) which elimates the idea of “electoral circuits.” I don’t know if this helps any or not.

    GH

  4. FrDaniel,
    Don’t want to quibble on this but actually now each congregation sends a pastor and a lay delegate to the circuit forum to choose the national delegates so it is just two voting from each congregation in the current system anyway.

  5. @Bob E #4
    While it may not disenfranchise the local congregation, this change would severely reduce the individual congregations input in the process. As it stands, the pastoral and lay circuit delegate, representing their congregation, have a good idea where the potential national delegates stand based on what they know about the congregations in the circuit and possibly first-hand interaction with the individuals. In the new scheme, you’re either going to have a lot of campaigning or you’re you’re going to be blindly voting based on, I don’t know what. This just feels like its going to turn into the creation of a political class where the same people are elected delegates to every national convention and the convention becomes more disconnected from the local congregation. Just like the ELCA and seemingly every other mainline denomination.

    I understand the desire to reduce the number of delegates to reduce costs. I just don’t think blindly chopping off the number and saying go figure out how to comply will lead to a positive outcome. Maybe a cost-savings one, but not a good one.

  6. Make no mistake about it – this is not about cost savings. This is about creating a smaller, easier to persuade group of delegates that is not selected by the congregations but by the district conventions. The cost savings involved would be negligible.

    TR

  7. @Pastor Tim Rossow #6
    Pastor Rossow,
    I have no love for this or any of the restructuring resolutions, but why wouldn’t halving the number of delegates and switching to a 4 year cycle produce a real cost savings? The savings wouldn’t be enough to sway me to vote for this, but in discussing this with others I don’t want to start from a position that is counterintuitive without being able to explain why the savings would be negligible.

    Thanks,
    Brian Yamabe

  8. Brian,

    Three points about the budget:

    1) There is no budget plan for what is replacing the current structure so there is no way to say if there is any savings. The Task Force has repeatedly said they cannot say how much this will save.

    2) Synod convention cost is a drop in the bucket compared to the synod budget.

    3) Congregations are assessed for the convention so we are not talking about a savings to the synod as an entity.

    It is all smoke and mirrors my friend. The Task Force proposals are a way for the synod to go corporate and “x-ed” the people out of decisions just as the church growth corporate parishes have “x-ed” people out by going to a board of directors structure and bascially marginalizing the elders and voters assembly.

    The old fashioned scriptural way of conducting church business is slow, intentional, and full of checks and balances – just as it should be. President Kieschnick’s way is slick, fast, nimble and not encumbered with checks and balances. I hate slow and belabored but I love Scripture so I promote that form for church decisions. After all, the church is not about maximizing the latest trends. Church is really simple – conserving what Christ got from the Father and gave to us through the Spirit and then preaching and teaching it. President Kieschnick’s view of church is too slick, corporate, and complex.

    TR

  9. Brian: To clarify Pr. Rossow’s third point .. it is my understanding that a budget is made for the convention, then it is divided up into each church somehow, and the churches send a special assessment into synod to pay for it.

    Note: following example is simplistic; surely they have a way to assess churches based on other than # of churches; the size of each church is probably included somehow.

    To put it another way, say the convention costs $1M to have 1300 delegates. Split among the 6000 churches, each one pays $166.

    Now, for the 2013 convention (I’m assuming the 4-year cycle is not passed), they have cut the number of delegates down to 600, so the convention now costs $600,000; each church is now assessed $100.

    This money is completely off-budget; it does not save synod one dime to decrease the number of delegates.

    Can anyone with detailed information correct my limited understanding on how this operates?

  10. This proposal creates electoral circuits, but renames them and redraws them each year. We already have electoral circuits. How about we just make them bigger?

  11. Norm (#10) —

    The congregations are assessed an amount through their Districts. The Districts pay for the delegates airfare, housing and meal stipend at the convention. Congregations are not directly billed by St. Louis. I don’t know who is responsible for the costs of those at the IC.

    In our District we are billed the same amount each year, (don’t know if the others do the same) whether or not there is a District or Synodical convention. So if we went to a 4-year cycle, money would be saved, but I’m not sure where. Perhaps the District will keep billing us annually. And if the Districts (and circuits?) are supposed to have convocations in the “off” years, they will cost money too.

    I don’t believe these proposals will generate any real savings. And don’t forget, Thomas Kuchta the outgoing LCMS treasurer has gone on record saying the same thing. (And he was part of the BRTFSSG. He should know. Funny the panel never mentioned that at the Regional Gatherings.)

    Giving the SP more power and increasing the interval between conventions, doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.

  12. @Conv. Delegate #13

    Thanks for the updated information; I was wondering why when I was involved in the finances of my church I didn’t see any payment for the convention. I have an email report from another that the fee is based on the number of communicant members in the churches, so larger churches pay more than smaller ones do. Has this changed since this report / how are the districts billing rates set? And why would it be a fixed amount .. with no change year by year .. and with billings paid during non-convention years???

    Was there a larger billing this year to support the pre-convention regional gatherings, as well as the 2 additional days added to the convention?

  13. I don’t know what other Districts do, but ours bills per communicant a flat rate. So yes, larger churches pay more than smaller churches. And we are billed the same amount every year.

    I’ve looked back and we’ve paid the same rate for the last several years, so no, it doesn’t change no matter where we are in the convention cycle. Five or six years ago the rate jumped up substantially, but its been stable since then.

    Actually that is a really good question — why are we paying the same rate in a non-convention year? My guess it that they’d say they say it equalizes things out in the long run. I don’t know how they absorbed the extra expense of the regional gatherings. They were really an “unfunded mandate,” just as the extra convention days are.

    So much of Synod and District funding is a mystery. I don’t think many people realize that the Synod general budget does not get money directly from the congregations, (unless it is the 2010 Covention Offering.) Congregations (should) tithe money to the Districts and then the Districts CHOOSE how much they keep and how much they forward to St. Louis. Congregations do not have control over that. In 1974 Districts forwarded $57 of every $100 they received from the congregations to Synod. In 2008 that fell to $29 of every $100. The Districts are keeping a bigger percentage for themselves. There are a variety of reasons for the change, but it is a big part of the funding problem in St. Louis that no one seems to be talking about.

  14. Norm Fisher :@Conv. Delegate #13
    Was there a larger billing this year to support the pre-convention regional gatherings, as well as the 2 additional days added to the convention?

    The amount districts are to pay to Synod to cover convention related expenses nearly doubled for 2010 over what was assessed for 2007. This does not include the delegates’ travel expenses or other, district based, expenses, but it does include the extra costs for conducting the regional gatherings and the additional days of the convention.

    It sounds like Conv. Delegate’s district annualizes this assessment to its congregations and pays everything out of the district kitty. The district in which I reside (and I think Norm is in the same district) sends assessments to congregations only in convention years (district or synodical) based on communicant membership (or is it baptised?). If the assessment exceeds the actual expenses, the district has issued refunds in the past. (Well, if the excess is appreciable. It doesn’t make sense to issue refunds if it costs more to mail the check that the check is worth.) As I understand it, the Synod has done the same in the past for the district assessments if they are in excess of actual convention expenditures. (Hasn’t happened frequently, but it has happened.)

    [H]ow are the districts billing rates set?

    Each district’s Board of Directors determines how they will come up with the funds to cover the expenses for the district or synod convention. Typically, the total estimated cost is divided by the total communicant membership for the district, then rounded up to a nice sounding number ($2.65 or $2.75 per communicant rather than $2.63, for example). For district conventions, congregations pay travel, food and lodging expenses directly for their delegates, so that is not included in the assessment. For synodical conventions, the district pays those expenses so they are included in the assessment sent to congregations.

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