New Rules for Synodical Conventions by the LCA

Some folks have been wondering how the last LCMS convention changed elections, nominations, floor committees, and other convention procedures. Dr. Martin R. Noland recently published an article in “Lutheran Clarion,” (PDF) published by the Lutheran Concerns Association, that addresses these issues. Congregations and delegates to the 2013 convention will need to become familiar with these matters soon, since the election of delegates to the district conventions will determine the electorate body for the election of the LCMS president in 2013.

We posted this previously two months ago, but I’ve seen comments about this recently with inaccurate information.

 

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. “…the resolutions…reduced some of the powers of synodical delegates and increased some of the powers of the Synodical President.” This is a significant change from previous conventions 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 threeyear terms 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” (http:www.lcms.org/pages/rpage.asp?NavID=18441).

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

 


Visit our Lutheran Concerns page or the Lutheran Clarion website for more articles from this or other issues.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

New Rules for Synodical Conventions by the LCA — 10 Comments

  1. It will be interesting to see how the new system works with election of president and vice president. I suspect that political shenanigans will be harder to pull off than in the past.

  2. Guess the former procedure where congregations voted for President gave them too much power. After all, it’s all about the congregation! Not! “If it’s not broken, break it!”

  3. I find the new election procedure bizarre — the two delegates from the district convention get to vote. What if the pastor took a call elsewhere? What if the lay delegate moved in the interim? Do they still get to vote? If so, their prior congregation doesn’t get a voice.

    I would imagine this would greatly favor an incumbent. As any delegate knows, we were inundated with a lot of information and our names and addresses were available. I can’t image all 12,000 potential electors information will be available. And sending information to every elector would come at a high cost. It could be that the only “known” name at the time of the election will be the one currently holding office.

    I recall there was an “election issue” of the LW. Is an issue going to be sent to every elector? That would be very exepensive.

    The whole thing wasn’t well thought out and I think for a lot of the votes 51% of the delelgates thought “well they must think it is a good idea.” It was frustrating.

  4. For the disaster this is, I personally think we should vote for and pray for Pres. Harrison, to help see his vision through, which I think is a better one (i.e. Koinania). While some of us may agitate for changes and reversals, this could be one area, but might not be the most critical. Forget about restructuring the synod office again. I’d be interested in district realignment, and I think critical issues are DRP, maybe CCM, relationship of COP to the BOD and Presaedium… These are our voting ground rules. Lets try our best to play by them, and come up with good overtures to the next synodical convention.

  5. Jason :
    For the disaster this is, I personally think we should vote for and pray for Pres. Harrison, to help see his vision through, which I think is a better one (i.e. Koinania). While some of us may agitate for changes and reversals, this could be one area, but might not be the most critical. Forget about restructuring the synod office again. I’d be interested in district realignment, and I think critical issues are DRP, maybe CCM, relationship of COP to the BOD and Presaedium… These are our voting ground rules. Lets try our best to play by them, and come up with good overtures to the next synodical convention.

    @Jason #5 My choice of overture would be very simple: Resolved, that the Synod organization revert in all respects to its pre-2010 structure.

  6. Sorry … except that each congregation of the Synod receive one vote, to be determined by the congregation’s voters assembly.

  7. @Larry Kleinschmidt #6

    But that still doesn’t solve the DRP problem that ACELC doesn’t want to use, nor how the whole Yankee Stadium/Benke/Schulz affair went down. And with some of the fuzzy opinions tha tcome out of CTCR. (I think CTCR is mostly okay, just don’t know if it’s the best way to do things). A complete reversal hasn’t been working so well in Washington, D.C., or look a tthe beating MN South confessionals took for appearing spiteful about the Alley. Chucking the whole system like we did last time still did not alleviate specific conerns many people had with Synod, Inc. So give clear, concise and specifc remedies to pressing problems. Can’t remember if it was ALPB or LutherQuest, but a recent discussion was about whether a new pastor should immediately create wholesale changes with the chaos and collateral damage, or go slow and stay but risking ongoing problems to arise. I do not favor alienating some many so fast before trust has been builyt up. But I sure don’t hope we go too slow either. (Benke posted on Lutheran Forum about Koinania taking 10 years, wow that seems longer than necessary) Fix some things now, more thing snext time and keep working. Slow and steady (especially steady) wins the race.

  8. Jane Emily :
    I find the new election procedure bizarre — the two delegates from the district convention get to vote. What if the pastor took a call elsewhere? What if the lay delegate moved in the interim? Do they still get to vote? If so, their prior congregation doesn’t get a voice.
    I would imagine this would greatly favor an incumbent. As any delegate knows, we were inundated with a lot of information and our names and addresses were available. I can’t image all 12,000 potential electors information will be available. And sending information to every elector would come at a high cost. It could be that the only “known” name at the time of the election will be the one currently holding office.

    Jane:

    The Synod Bylaws 3.12.2.2 and 3.12.2.3 explain how the election procedure will take place and answer some of your concerns:

    3.12.2.2The Secretary of the Synod shall publish in the Convention Workbook and post on the Synod Web site brief biographies of the three candidates for President and the 20 candidates for First Vice-President. This report shall contain such pertinent information as age, residence, number of years in the Synod, present position, offices previously held in a district or the Synod, year of ordination, former pastorates, involvement in community, government, or interchurch affairs, and any other specific experience and qualification for the office. Opportunity to provide a personal statement shall be offered to each candidate for publication in an official periodical, this statement also to be posted on the Synod’s web site.

    3.12.2.3 – Four weeks prior to the national convention, the Secretary of the Synod, using lists of delegates in attendance at the prior year’s district conventions as submitted by the secretaries of the districts, shall provide, via a secure and verifiable method, opportunity for two voting delegates from each congregation in attendance at the previous district conventions who remain members of the congregations they represented to vote for one of the candidates for President. If one or both delegates are unavailable, congregations shall be provided opportunity to select substitute voters. The Secretary shall, with the approval of the Board of Directors of the Synod, obtain the assistance necessary to accomplish this task.

    The highlighted portions of the bylaws show how the communication of information will be done and the provision for substitute voters. Internet communication would remove much cost in sending biographical information concerning the candidates for President. My guess is that the substitute voters will usually be the alternate lay delegate that the congregation selects for the District Conventions and/or the newly called pastor. If the pastoral office is vacant, then it is likely that the congregation would not be able to exercise that vote, but that would be a good question for the Committee on Constitutional Matters to take up.

  9. In some ways, I think electing the Synod President in advance is a good procedure. For one thing, it gets the election for Synod President out of the way, which is one less thing on people’s minds during the convention itself. I suspect knowing who the Synod President will be would also affect how things are presented at the convention. However, we won’t know for certain how it works until after it’s actually been done once.

    I partly like the procedure for electing the First Vice President. The benefit is that there will (likely) be relatively little in the way of personality conflict between the President and First Vice President. However, the downside to this is that the President could weed out anyone who disagrees with him, which wouldn’t be good for the Synod, either. Perhaps a “best of both worlds” option would be to give the Synod Convention delegates the power to overrule the President’s selections: The Convention can vote on each of the 15 candidates who were nominated but not selected by the President. A 2/3 majority of delegates can have 1 of the nominees re-inserted onto the ballot in addition to the President’s 5 selections, giving the delegates a slate of 6 candidates from which to choose.

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