Proposed Resolutions: Committee 8, Structure and Governance, Introduction and Overview (by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

We have been looking at the 106 proposed resolutions from the eight floor committees, as found in “Today’s Business.” To see the previous articles in this series, go to Henrickson’s blog at steadfastlutherans.org.

Finally, we come to the resolutions proposed by Floor Committee 8, Synod Structure and Governance. Our first column on this committee will be an . . .

Introduction and Overview

Floor Committee 8, Synod Structure and Governance, is responsible for about one-third of all the proposed resolutions, 34 out of 106. This floor committee is bringing forward virtually all of the recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance (BRTFSSG).

Now it should be pointed out that President Kieschnick appointed the Blue Ribbon Task Force, and he also appointed Floor Committee 8. This is his baby–or, to use another image, this is the albatross around his neck. The Blue Ribbon Boondoggle has been the biggest waste of time and money in the history of Synod–thousands of man-hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars. None of these resolutions percolated from the grassroots on up. Nobody was asking for these changes. On the contrary, there were many overtures from congregations, circuits, and entire districts asking for these proposals to be rejected–or at least deferred, to allow more time to examine and discuss these sweeping changes in their final form. There was even a consultants’ report–commissioned by the Kieschnick administration, ironically enough, and to the tune of a half-million dollars–advising the Task Force against many of these ideas. But the Kieschnick administration has chosen to try to push them through anyway.

The resolutions proposed by Floor Committee 8 are an interconnected morass of Constitution and Bylaw changes that together would make for the most radical, massive restructuring in the Synod’s history. Taken as a whole, and many of them individually, these resolutions would shift power away from congregations and circuits and move the power up the ladder to district presidents and the synod president. There is a hierarchical thread running through these resolutions, as we will see.

Even so, the Task Force and the Floor Committee will claim, “It’s About Congregations.” At the head of every resolution, the committee prefaces each title with the phrase, “Congregations Walking Together in Mission. . . .” In the “Whereases” and in the “Resolveds,” the word “congregations” is used countless times–as though repeating the word often enough will make it so.

The way these resolutions are written, the titles and the “Whereases” are filled with flowery language–nice-sounding words (“enhance,” “strengthen,” “clarify,” “affirm”), but they do not necessarily correspond to the actual changes that are hidden in the “Resolveds.” You see, with many of these resolutions, you cannot even see all the changes that would be enacted unless you go to the back of “Today’s Business” and tediously plow through all the strike-through lines of deleted text and all the added words of new text. How many delegates have had the time to do that?

Now when you get to Convention, delegates, you will be told a number of things to try to get you to vote in favor of these resolutions. Here are a few you may hear:

“These people have worked so hard on this.” That may be true. And the people may be well intentioned; I’m sure they are. But that does not mean their proposals are good ones.

“Trust us, we’re from the government.” Don’t. It’s not about “trust,” it’s about changing the structure and governance of our synod in a drastic way.

“The survey says. . . .” Forget about it. Those surveys were bogus in the way they were worded and conducted. The survey statements were written in such a way so as to produce a positive result. And the surveys were taken often without a true pro-and-con debate being heard first. The “surveys” are basically worthless.

“Well, we’ve got to give them something.” No, you don’t. Nothing will be lost if we reject the Committee 8 proposals as a whole. We will still have a functioning Constitution and Bylaws.

“We came down here for two extra days, so I guess we have to pass something.” No, you don’t. See above. You will do a greater service to the Synod by preventing these resolutions from passing.

So those are some appeals you may hear. Don’t fall for them. Instead, remember the fundamental rule of medical treatment: “First, do no harm.” Have you read through all the strike-through lines and all the added lines in the back of the book? Has your congregation worked through them? Has your circuit? Has your district? If not, then you should not be ready to vote for these things. If they are good ideas, then let’s see if they “percolate up” over the coming triennium, rather than being handed down from above and rushed through by a president’s task force. “First, do no harm.”

For this voting delegate, the rule of thumb will be, to paraphrase the late theologian Johnnie Cochran:

“If it comes from Eight, you must negate.”

Or, in other words, paraphrasing Nancy Reagan:

“Just say NO to restructuring!”

Next up: A quick run-through of the Committee 8 resolutions themselves. This may take a couple of columns, since there are so many of them.

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