The Lutheran Clarion — New Rules for Synodical Conventions, by Rev. Dr. Martin R. Noland

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New Rules for Synodical Conventions

Operating under the Euripidean principle “Leave no stone unturned,” the previous President’s Task Force for Synodical Structure and Governance convinced the 2010 Synodical Convention to change just about every aspect of the Missouri Synod in some way or another. Among those changes are a significant alteration to the way that the Synod elects its president (Resolution 8-17), as well as seven other revisions to elections, appointments and procedures (Resolutions 4-05, 4-07, 4-09, 8-13, 8-14A, 8-16A and 8-39,). The convention also referred to committee the proposed procedure for caucus election of synodical delegates at district conventions (Resolution 8-05B) which may come back to the 2013 convention for consideration.

Congregations need to be aware that the pastor and layman they appoint to serve as their delegates to the 2012 district conventions will vote for the President of the Synod in 2013. This is a significant change from previous conventions “…the resolutions…reduced some of the powers of synodical delegates and increased some of the powers of the Synodical President.” and, along with Resolutions 8-13 and 8-39, denies the right of election of three synodical officers by synodical delegates. Synodical delegates will come to the 2013 convention with a president already elected, a slate of five first vice-presidents already “selected” by him, and the Chief Financial Officer of the Synod already elected by the Synod’s Board of Directors in consultation with and with the concurrence of the President of the Synod. These changes reduce the rights and powers of synodical convention delegates.

How will the synodical president be elected in 2013? Resolution 8-17 amended synod bylaws 3.12.2.1, 3.12.2.2 and 3.12.2.3. The initial nomination process in bylaw 3.12.2 remains as before. Each congregation of synod will be eligible to nominate two rostered synod clergy for president and two rostered synod clergy for first vice-president. As previously, congregations receive these ballots in the mail and name their nominees at a regular or special voters’ meeting. Ballots must be received by the Synodical Secretary’s office no later than five months prior to the opening date of the convention, which would be early February 2013.

After the deadline and an audited tally, the three nominees for president who receive the most number of votes will become the candidates for that office. Brief biographies will then be published in the Convention Workbook and on the Synod’s website (Bylaw 3.12.2.1). Four (4) weeks prior to the national convention, that is, early June 2013, the previous year’s district delegates will receive ballots with the three nominees’ names. Each delegate will vote for one candidate. If no candidate receives a majority, the person with the least votes will drop off the ballot, and another vote will be taken. Two weeks prior to the national convention the president-elect will be notified and his election will be made public.

For the election of the first vice-president, the twenty nominees who receive the most number of votes will become the candidates for office (Bylaw 3.12.2.1). Brief biographies of these men will also be published in the Convention Workbook and on the synod’s website. After his election, the president will “select” five out of these twenty men for consideration by the convention. Delegates to the convention will then have a slate of five candidates for this, the first of all elections to actually be held at the convention hall (Bylaw 3.12.2.4.)

This procedure for first vice-president is really only “half-an election” since the president can “weed out” anyone he doesn’t like, or who doesn’t fit his political posture. In the past, conventions sometimes chose firstvice presidents who were a bit different in style or posture from the president in order to help moderate the president’s style or position. Evidently the President’s Task Force on Synodical Structure and Governance felt that the occasional (and mostly private) conflicts between president and first vice-president outweighed letting the synodical delegates decide how the presidency would be characterized for the new triennium.

Resolution 8-39, just ratified by more than two-thirds of congregations voting on the changes to the Constitution (Article X.A.4, X.B.1, XI.E and XI.F), changed the election of the position that was Vice President-Finance-Treasurer and also the title. That position is now called the “Chief Financial Officer” of the synod and that office holder will report directly to the LCMS Board of Directors (Bylaw 3.4.1 to 3.4.1.4) which will evaluate him and may depose him. The CFO will be appointed by the Directors for a three year term and may serve an unlimited number of terms. More significantly, the CFO’s appointment must have the “concurrence of the President of the Synod.” Clearly Resolutions 8-13 and 8-39 concentrate more power in the president of the synod since he gets to “select” and veto the appointments of two out of the four top officers of the Synod.

Resolutions 8-14A and 8-16A mandate regional elections of Vice Presidents Two through Five and the LCMS Board of Directors. For some period of time now a synodical bylaw (2007 Bylaw 3.3.5.1) has prevented more than one director from being from the same district. Now the slates for directors and Vice-Presidents Two through Five will be dictated by regions: East/Southeast, Great Lakes, Central, Great Plains and West/Southwest. For the precise borders of these regions, see Reporter Online (April 2011), “COP meets with LCC“.

The bylaws for regionalization mean that, for the Board of Directors, one layman will be elected from each region, with five others elected at-large (two clergy, two laymen, one commissioned minister), “up to three at-large laypersons appointed by elected members of the Board of Directors…” (Bylaw 3.3.4.1) with such appointees having specific skill sets. Not more than two persons can be from the same region. For Vice Presidents Two through Five, each congregation of the region can nominate two candidates for these Vice-President positions prior to the convention. This is a new process and congregations need to be aware of their responsibilities here (See Bylaw 3.12.2.5). A deadline is not stated for this. It is clear: floor nominations at the convention for any regional election, i.e., Vice Presidents Two through Five and Directors, will be prohibited!

Resolution 4-09 changed the procedure by which the President appoints convention “Floor Committees”. NOW, he must do so “in consultation” with the Council of Presidents and synodical Vice-Presidents, but they do not have veto power over his selections. Evidently the previous members of the Council of Presidents and the Praesidium wanted to have more influence on the selection of these key committees. (See Bylaw 3.1.7.)

Resolution 4-05 changes the order of elections, from the most important offices to the least, so that a candidate who is on multiple ballots will not be denied a higher office if he or she is elected to a lower office first. Resolution 4-07 changes some minor procedures of convention preparation, including the availability of the Convention Workbook online and the submission of overtures and nominations by electronic means. This is actually a very helpful resolution as it reduces the number of hours required by Synodical staff to type up resolutions for the Convention Workbook which therefore will be available for study much earlier than in previous years IF congregations use the electronic means of submission.

Overall, the resolutions reviewed here, which were proposed and highly recommended to the 2010 convention by the previous President’s Task Force on Synodical and Governance, reduced some of the powers of synodical delegates and increased some of the powers of the Synodical President. Whether “good, bad, or ugly,” they are the bylaws congregations must be aware of now in order to exercise their rights as members of the Synod.

The Rev. Dr. Martin R. Noland
Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Evansville, IN
The Lutheran Clarion
May 2011

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