The Two Amendments: Why I’m Recommending “Against” (by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

On Sunday, March 6, at a special voters’ assembly, our congregation will be voting on two proposed amendments to the Constitution of our Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. (The deadline for the ballot to be received is March 15.) I am recommending that we vote “against the proposed amendment” on each. Let me tell you a little bit about these amendments and why I’m inclined to vote against them.

Both of these proposals came out of former President Kieschnick’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance. They then went through Floor Committee 8 and were presented as resolutions (8-10 and 8-27) to the LCMS Convention in Houston last July. They were approved by the necessary two-thirds vote and sent out to all the congregations of the Synod for possible ratification. If approved by two-thirds of the congregations responding, the proposed amendments would go into effect. Short of that two-thirds ratification, the amendments fail.

Right off the bat, my “default mode” is to vote “No” on these two amendments. First, in general, I am wary of amending constitutions, period. Unless someone can make a compelling case for why this or that amendment is necessary, I say “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Up to this point, I have not seen a compelling, persuasive argument for why either of these amendments is needed. The burden of proof should be on those who want to change the Constitution.

Second, I am wary of anything coming out of the previous president’s Blue Ribbon Task Force. As a whole, I was very much opposed to the direction that that president and his task force were taking: moving power up and away from congregations and the Synod in convention, and amassing power “up the ladder” of the hierarchy. So again, my “default mode” is to vote “No” on proposals from the previous president’s task force and the floor committee he appointed.

Now as to the amendments themselves: Proposed Constitutional Amendment A would amend Articles X and XI by striking “Vice-President-Finance–Treasurer” from the list of officers of Synod. But this proposed amendment is related to a bylaw change that was approved–by a very narrow margin, 52%-48%–in a different resolution (8-39) at the convention. That resolution changed the Treasurer from being an elected office to an appointed office. Instead of being elected by the Synod in convention, as was historically the case, the Treasurer now is appointed by a smaller group, the Board of Directors, with the concurrence of the Synod President.

I thought that was a bad idea at the time and, as a delegate, voted against it. It takes power away from the Synod in convention and moves it to a smaller group of people. I am generally in favor of such positions being elected rather than appointed. In every congregation I’ve been a part of, the treasurer has been elected and has been one of the executive officers of the church council. I think that should be the case also at the synodical level and would like to see that bylaw change reversed at a future convention.

Can we get a good Treasurer via appointment rather than election? Yes, to be sure, and I hope that our newly appointed Treasurer will be such a man. But we have had good treasurers via election in the past, and I would rather have the convention as a whole “take ownership” and be able to elect this office.

However, if we pass this proposed amendment, it will “lock us in” more on the Treasurer being appointed rather than elected. It will make it harder to undo the bylaw change in the future. So these are reasons I would vote “against the proposed amendment” on Constitutional Amendment A.

More briefly, on Constitutional Amendment B, this would add a new article to the Constitution, on the relation of the Bylaws to the Constitution. But I do not see any need for such an article. I am not aware of any problem in that regard. It seems fairly self-evident, and our synod has functioned for over 160 years without such an article. I don’t know why this proposal was put forward, and there is enough language in the wording (e.g., “binding regulations”) to cause one to wonder how it could be used politically at some point in the future. So, lacking a compelling argument for its necessity, I would vote “against the proposed amendment” also on Constitutional Amendment B.

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