Here is a communique that the Southeastern District President sent out in response to the synod convention. He notes that many were shocked at the elections and he pledges his support to the new Harrison leadership team.
July 21, 2010
Dear Partners in Mission:
Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Church!
“Regular” is the term that appears in the title of national conventions of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. From what most of us have already witnessed or heard, the one just completed in Houston was anything but a “regular convention.”
From the day I arrived, it was clear to me that most of the energy of this convention would be invested in the elections and the proposed changes in structure and governance. The election results were surprising, even shocking, to many, and they have clearly resulted in a wholesale change of leadership in virtually all synodical positions. We have a brand-new President, Matthew Harrison, and First Vice-President, Herbert Mueller, as well as a couple of other big changes in the composition of the Praesidium. From the Board of Directors on down, there are very few incumbents returning to their positions of service. Conventions certainly have the right to express their will. But in many cases, we have suffered some significant leadership losses.
The Structure and Governance Floor Committee succeeded in hitting more of a “stand-up double” than a “home run.” On the one hand, the Convention decided by a thin margin to streamline all the synodical boards and some commissions into a “national” and an “international” mission board. We also concurred with the resolutions to divide the Synod into five regions, each of which will nominate its own Vice President, representative on the LCMS Board of Directors, and members seated on the two mission boards. All congregations will have opportunity to participate in the election of the Synod President in 2013, and the President-elect will select a slate of candidates from the top 20 nominated for First Vice-President, from which the Convention will in turn choose the one who will serve in that office. Realignment of the 35 LCMS Districts will be studied for a recommendation to the next convention.
On the other hand, the money-saving shift from a three to a four-year cycle of district and synod conventions failed to gain the necessary two-thirds vote. The Convention chose not to act on another financially-prudent resolution to reduce the number of voting delegates to the Synod Convention from approximately 1200 to 600. It also blinked on the proposal to let the election of these same delegates take place in a new way, so that districts might more freely configure their circuits to aid area mission development.
In retrospect, this Convention appears to have ignored my pre-convention warning about making major changes without preserving a measure of continuity in either structure or leadership. Everything at the synodical level, therefore, has changed! Those who are taking the reins of leadership on September 1 will be facing great challenges. Hence, I encourage all of us, whether we were pleased with the outcome of the elections or not, to give them our support and to keep them in our prayers.
During these next months, the actions of the Convention will be studied, necessary changes made, and a new Handbook produced. During this time, we will learn more about the impact that these decisions have upon our walking and working together as Synod. In the meantime, I strongly recommend that you avoid becoming involved with any group or association seeking to organize for the apparent purpose of rolling back currently-held Synod positions or policing the ministry of congregations. Instead, I encourage you to be in prayer for the work of the Gospel that unites us and remains before us.
“Will the Ablaze! movement continue?” The answer to this already frequently-asked question is a resounding “yes.” The Convention in fact adopted to solid resolution to this effect. Under the Ablaze! banner, the Southeastern District is being richly blessed by God. The number of faith-sharing moments that have been tabulated to date is approaching 600,000, and we are more than halfway toward our goal of 100 new mission starts. Surrounding these missions are more than 2000 mission prayer partners. My proudest moment at the Convention, moreover, was the fact that two out the three congregations that received special recognition for their participation in the Ablaze! fundraising effort were from the SED.
Even more encouraging was the Convention’s overwhelming endorsement (1080-33) of the Lutheran Malaria Initiative. LMI not only aims to mobilize all Lutherans in the US in the global fight against a disease that kills one million people worldwide each year. It provides a unique opportunity for us to bear witness to the Jesus that so many in our culture long to see.
In my view, the uncertainty and the challenge that the 64th Regular Convention of the LCMS has created dare not distract us. The Lord of the Church, after all, is Jesus Christ. The mission opportunities that God has given to our congregations, therefore, must remain our focus.
In conclusion, the pledge I make to you as your SED President is to keep us one District together in mission!
Very truly yours in Christ,
Dr. Jon Diefenthaler, President
Southeastern District, LCMS