Restructured Synod in meetings

Last week also marked the first meetings of the newly formed International and National Mission Boards. I have no doubt that these boards will figure out their task in relatively short order, but I spoke with many of the members and observers of these boards and, well, it’s going to be a bit tough.

By definition, no one serving on these boards has any experience on them. Usually a board carries over at least a few members with institutional memory. There is none, since these were just created out of whole cloth. There’s a great deal of question about what the parameters for each board are, what their oversight areas are, whether they have any real authority, what — if any — authority they have.

There’s been something of a revolution at Synodical headquarters — and not just in personnel, obviously. Somehow the elected, appointed, volunteer and professional members of these boards and agencies are going to have to figure out what’s going on.

Many of the people who were elected to serve on these new mission boards weren’t fans of restructuring. But I heard that even those who were supporters of restructuring were surprised or dismayed at the new structure.

So please keep everyone in your prayers as they work overtime to get everything figured out. It’s very important that the work of the church continue.


Restructured Synod in meetings — 37 Comments

  1. I do not envy SP Harrison. Even if everything else was perfect in the LCMS, just trying to figure out the new structre and make it work will be an enormous task in itself.

  2. I don’t know if it is possible to figure out the new structure, as it makes no sense. According to the by-laws the two new boards have no real authority. Basically they have authority to ask questions and make suggestions to the mission offices. (Bylaws 1.2.1(m) and 1.2.1(o). ) All the authority/responsibility rests with the CMO and ultimately the President.

    Has the CMO been named yet? Have the heads of the National Mission and Int. Mission offices been named yet? I’m not surprised if they haven’t, they are important positions and Pres. Harrison only took office two weeks ago. I’d imagine until that happens there will be confusion. Workers in the IC used to take direction/report to Boards and Commissions. Those boards are gone, so things are probably rudderless for the time being.

    A pastor I spoke to months before the convention said that he hoped the delegates were “smart enough” not to pass this. Immediate implementation would send the corp office into “cardiac arrest.” The wisdom of dismantling a structure and immediately implementing the new one was lost on me.

    Yes, pray for all those involved. There has been enough time spent on structure, let’s hope Pres. Harrison and co. can move the mission of the church forward.

  3. “I have no doubt that these boards will figure out their task in relatively short order…”

    No way, Mollie. They won’t have it figured out in three years. Oh they’ll come up with something, but they won’t have it figured out. They will discover most, if not all of the bugs inherent in the new structure and probably invent a few of their own. They will have a lot of suggestions to improve things and:

    Then we’ll have the 2013 Convention and those poor delegates will have a lot more to “figure out.”


  4. The story is told of the man who invented the cure for which there was no disease. Then he caught the cure and died. It may be that the solution is worse than the problem.

  5. Question (to which someone here may or may not know the answer):

    Will the current status of the restructuring process put a delay on works of charity that our synod should be doing?

    For instance, if there happens to be a famine in Niger and millions are endangered, and there is no longer such thing a as Lutheran World Relief and Human Care, will relief nevertheless find a way to get there soon?

  6. @rev. a. eckert #5
    Pastor Harrison has said that this will not happen.
    I choose to believe him.
    His integrity is on the line, and I don’t believe that his (or our) compassion would allow us to be ineffective.

  7. “Usually a board carries over at least a few members with institutional memory. ”

    It hit me during the convention: Perhaps THIS was the real reason behind the restructuring. The incumbent was always concerned about having a “unified team” (even if those disagreeing with him were in the minority) and with the previous boards there were always “holdovers” so that most boards were nearly evenly divided.

    The only way to “clean house” so that there wouldn’t be any naysayers anymore was to simply eliminate all those boards, and with them all the holdovers, so that all new boards with all new members presumably uniformly supportive of his agenda could be elected. This would be based upon the premise, apparently widely believed in Jesus First et. al. circles, that the convention would heavily favor their viewpoint.

    If that WAS the plan it worked perfectly — just for the other viewpoint!

  8. Fortunately, there are some on the newly elected Boards that have previous Board/Commission experience. The new Chair of National Missions is Rev. Steve Briel and the International Missions chair is Rev. Bernhard Seter.

    Those employed at the IC have been and will continue to do what they have always done, despite the restructuring. I don’t think this will impact the day-to-day work of those at the IC.

    I do not envy the Boards the task of figuring it all out, but since there are some “holdovers”, so to speak, they should be able to use some of the structure/guidelines from the former Board Policy Manuals.

    My biggest concern right now is who will be named “executive director” of National and International Missions? That is, the person at the IC who is in charge of those under him/her (like Harrison was exec dir of WRHC). Under the old system, Boards called these positions (with names submitted to, then approved by, the Pres office). Who will do that now? Will they be appointed by the CMO? By the Pres? By the BOD? In my opinion, that is one very important aspect that needs to be reversed at the next convention — Exec Dir and other execs of Natl and Intnatl Missions should be called by the Boards, because the Boards are elected by Synod in Convention.

    It sure will be interesting to see what happens. I’m just very, very thankful I am a *former* Board member!

  9. Since the LCMS badly wants to imitate the Church Growth Movement and corresponding worship styles, I wonder if it would also try to copy the organizational structure as well. Not just “The Purpose Driven Life”, but also “The Purpose Driven Church.” Has the ABLAZE! movement now been discontinued, or will it resurface with a different name?

    If “Church Growth” is now verboten, then I could imagine Pastor Harrison examining the organizational structures of other Christian denominations (Southern Baptists, Methodists, etc.) and copying the best of what they have. Just like in football, the team owner looks at the more successful teams to see what makes them excel. Look at what the competition is doing. Can we copy and improve on what they are doing. It would otherwise be too hard for the LCMS to reinvent the wheel.

  10. @Jim #11

    You expect him to come in and get rid of things like Ablaze in 2 weeks? Do you really think this is the way to unite people. I’m not even sure he can order an end to these things. In my opinion, if he does some of things some of you want he won’t see a 2nd term.

  11. The BRTFSSG recommendations were discussed on BJS and elsewhere months before the convention and it was clear that the structural changes were basically a massive FUBAR.

    On what planet were the convention delegates visiting when all this was laid out and the warnings issued?!?

    Now President Harrison and his staff (and who knows how many others) will have to spend valuable months, if not years, trying to straighten out this mess into some semblance of order instead of working on real issues that are screaming to be addressed.

    What were you delegates who voted for this restructuring garbage thinking?!?

  12. @Carl Vehse #13

    48% of the delegates understood how ridiculous this restructuring program would be. I think the idea of saving money and streamlining the operation appealed to enough delegates to pass it.

  13. @Michael #12

    Perhaps Pastor Harrison could make Ablaze! just “a little” more confessional. Maybe he could reform it. Would that be possible? For example, it would be nice to see LCMS churches promote Lutheran authors instead of books and videos by Calvinists such as Rob Bell. Attend a Lutheran church, but study works that conflict with Lutheran doctrine? Brilliant.

  14. @Carl Vehse #13
    While many delegates voted for the changes roughly for each of the structure changes there were on average 49% who were not in favor. Unfortunately–that was not enough to keep the changes at bay.

  15. Even though by deifnition, since the National and International Mission Boards are new and those serving on them don’t have experience in this new structure, several of those serving have served previously and have quite a bit of experience in the previous structure. It wasn’t a clean sweep of all boards as some may think. There are several other boards which were not restructured (CPH, for example), who still retain members finishing the second half of their terms and who were elected at the 2007 convention. Many of those retain the experience of those members who have served for the past 3 years and also retain a diversity of theological perspectives.

    As was pointed out, almost half of the delegates did not vote for Resolution 8-08a which enacted the missions boards. Rember, it was couched as the only soution for the budget crisis Synod is in and the only way out. Many delegates probably felt compelled to vote for it, less a non vote plunge Synod even deeper in debt and result in larger problems in the future. I doubt all the consequences of such a vote were fully realized as there was structure, but not much flesh proposed.

  16. The convention endorsed ablaze in resolution. The first step would be to rename it, (casting off a lot of negative baggage) then develop a list of criteria, such as using the name Lutheran Church Missouri Synod on signs and letter head, promotion etc. then basically reinvent the whole program to benefit congregations who truly want to be Lutheran.

  17. It will be a (small) comfort to President Harrison and his administration knowing that ONLY slightly more than 50 percent of the delegates were clueless about the real mess the incompetently written Resolution 8-08A would cause.

  18. My take is that if you were the type to try and read and understand 8-08 you voted “no.” It wasn’t clear to anyone what the new structure would actually look like — what functions/jobs stayed in St. Louis, what went to districts and what was eliminated. They said as much in the open hearings prior to the convention. Several times we heard “We don’t know.”

    If you were more of the ilk to say, “They worked hard. They must have known what they were doing. We must do SOMETHING. And this is “something.” You voted “yes.”

    As someone said earlier, the delegates were given two bad choices: an undefined “something” and nothing.

    Given the time and huge expense of the BRTFSSG in some ways its remarkable that it came so close to being defeated. But it just wasn’t enough.

  19. @Luvable Lutheran #17
    You are most certainly correct. In speaking with a lay delegate in the evening after the vote on 8-08 A, the remark came– “Did we really vote for that!?” Once explained, the lay delegate stated they would have voted against it, if they had understood it the way it actually was. however, their DP had stated what you have mentioned: to not vote for it would plunge us deeper into debt.” To say the least, they were a bit upset with their DP!!

  20. On April 24th, Paul Becker noted on BJS: “Personally, I can’t wait to see how quickly the delegates will clear the deck of this potpourri of preposterous proposals. Is that a train whistle I hear coming?”

    My response was, “Just watch for the train wreck.

    And let’s not forget the engineers who produced this derailment:

    BRTFSSG members: Dr. Ralph Bohlmann, Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger, Rev. Jon Braunersreuther, Dr. Jeff Schrank, Dr. David Buegler, Mr. Ron Schultz, Dr. William Diekelman, Mr. Tim Schwan, Rev. Robert Greene, Dr. Will Sohns, Dr. Raymond Hartwig, Dr. Larry Stoterau, Dr. Tom Kuchta, Ms. Virginia Von Seggern, Dr. William Moorhead, Ms. Jane Wilke

    Floor Committee 8 members: Dr. Larry Stoterau, Dr. David Buegler, Rev. Joel Hoelter, Rev. Bill Klettke, Rev. Paul Linnemann, Rev. Ron Burcham, Rev. John Gierke, Rev. Daniel Teller, David Hegert, David Schilling, Kent Warneke, Rev. James Pragman.

    I will be very disappointed if any of these people are allowed to participate in fixing there mess.

  21. Dr. Barry’s “Tell the Good News About Jesus” was just as officialy endorsed by the Synod in convention as Ablaze as an outreach program. Upon his election, Dr. Kieschnick immediately and summarily dropped it in favor of Ablaze–before there was any Synodical resolution regarding Ablaze. Likewise, “For the Sake of the Church” was adopted by the Synod in convention as a fundraising program long before”Fan into Flame,” but it too has been effectively dropped.

    I would probably keep the name Ablaze, tweaking the logo such as incorporating Luther’s seal, and focus it anew on spreading LUTHERAN doctrine in conjunction with the 2017 500th annversary of the Reformation. My sisters just returned from a trip to Germany and they are already very focused over there culturally on this approaching major anniversary. A great opportunity to communicate what the Reformation really was about. I’d make THE major component of Ablaze the plan to bring hundreds of Pastors from all parts of the world to our seminaries to study. And, yes, I’d drop the hokey “contact counter” ASAP!

  22. Pr Schurb and others warned us that there was no implementation plan for the restructuring.

    In the open hearings before the convention Pr Stotterau and others on the task force and on FC8 admitted as much.

    I agree that many delegates bought into the money-saving argument, although the amount of savings predicted was minimal.

    I’m curious if FC8 and the BRTFSSG actually had/has an implementation plan that they were keeping under wraps, ready to pull out if JK had been re-elected, and are now sitting back watching the newly-elected leaders squirm?

    Forgive me if I’ve made an 8th commandment leap here. Just wondering, not accusing.

  23. Jim,

    Well, the BRTFSSG was handpicked by President K and gave him almost complete power — something he had been aiming to get through messy procedures such as the “executive orders” he used when my committee would do something he didn’t like. I think it’s reasonable to assume that he and his hand-picked committee that had been working for years to put a particular structure in place probably had some ideas about how that would work.

    I hope they did, at least! Otherwise, they’re doubly wrong!

  24. @Carl Vehse #28

    “I don’t know of anyone else who has publicly expressed a claim for (partial) credit in the efforts of these train wreck engineers.”

    Train wrecks are normally “engineered” by saboteurs, but I hate to go there. I guess I just did.


  25. Jim — I recall during the debate on the convention floor for 8-08a, Dr. Stotereau made a comment that a “transition team” had been at work in the IC for “months.” That made me pause, as we had heard previously things were nebulous. No one followed up on it, as it was so difficult to get to the mics.

    My guess is that there was “a plan,” ready for implementation, but that Pres. Harrison and his team are not in accord with the plan as proposed and thus are devising their own.

  26. Work needs to begin immediately coming up with proposals for the next synodical convetion for a governance structure that will work. At the next convention, it needs to be admitted that the BRTFSSG seemed like a good idea at the time (good idea to some by not all) but the reality was it was not well thought out and totally unworkable. Here is our more carefully thought out plan, here is why it wil work and here is how it will be implemented. I think if a new proposal is well thought out, well explained it could replace the BRTFSSG.

    Or am I just being totally unrealistic and overly optimistic about changings the BRTFSSG so quickly?

  27. The BRTF… was in disarray and completely unprepared in 2007, and subsequent events merely verified that fact. The debacle of the “special convention” parliamentary slight-of-hand in 2007, and the inept and arbitrary handling of the committee’s work since have only further obfuscated things. Five-some years, countless hours, gobs of dollars, an interminable convention, and the new president and his team have to figure things out anew. Not a pretty picture–I’m sure there’s a Parkinson’s law that applies here, but I don’t know which one to use. Those 51-49 votes are very troubling–that’s what makes bylaw tinkering so dangerous.

    The cure is worse than the disease….


  28. …gobs of dollars…

    Including gobs of $$$ going to outside (non-Lutheran) consultants.

    I’m sure there’s a Parkinson’s law that applies here…

    And don’t forget Murphy’s Law, Jenkinson’s Law (“It won’t work.”), the Peter Principle, the Dunning–Kruger Effect, and Finagle’s Fourth Law (“Once a job is fouled up, anything done to improve it only makes it worse.”).

  29. @Kebas #24
    I would probably keep the name Ablaze…

    I wouldn’t. It’s an albatross. Former Pres. Kieschnick laid responsibility for the idea on one of his departing deputies, which suggested to me that he was going to ditch it himself.

  30. Perhaps the executive directors will be able to sort it out and organize it when they are appointed. It seems that the executive directors and the SP have been given some power to get things done and make decisions as they work with the elected boards.

    It seems likely that most of the present boards and commissions will continue to to their work even if they have different names and are organized differently. Most of them fill legitimate needs. As case in point is LCMS World Relief.

  31. @Mollie #25

    Mrs. Stoterau was voted to the National Missions Board at the convention, one of the results of the passage of Resolution 8-08a, whose floor committee was chaired by her husband, Rev. Larry Stoterau.

  32. Here I am just now being able to finally catch up on some comments. In the very beginning of this on #1 . Many of us and maybe most all will be digesting much of this. We were told previously this was not good.. I know the names of the many that were pointing out much of the wrongs or faults of this Blue Ribbon Task. They had much to tell, yes even when the convention was going on. These clergy and lay people KNEW what they were talking about. This is why we keep Pres. Harrison and ALL affiliated with him and the boards to keep them CONSTANTLY in our prayers .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.