Witness, Mercy, Life Together — District Convention Representation

Found on Witness, Mercy, Life Together blog:


With three district conventions down and 32 to go, delegate representation is a subject of considerable interest and conversation in the Synod. This blog provides an opportunity to address five frequently asked questions.

  1. Q: How has delegate representation changed from previous conventions?  A: Actually, representation has not changed. Article V A of the Synod’s Constitution still determines delegate representation at district conventions: “At meetings of the districts of the Synod, every congregation or parish is entitled to two votes, one of which is to be cast by the pastor and the other by the lay delegate.”
  2. Q: Well, something has changed. Why must some congregations now share a lay delegate when they had not done so in the past? A: We are more now applying more consistently and uniformly the historical definition for a “parish” in our Synod: “Two or more congregations served by the same pastor.” With the assistance of our Rosters and Statistics Department, this definition is being painstakingly applied across the Synod to make certain that congregations are represented equally and fairly throughout our 35 districts.
  3. Q: If nothing has changed, why are some congregations that were previously regarding as ”permanently vacant” now regarded as part of a “parish”? A: The decision by the 2010 Synod convention that delegates to district conventions would also be the voters in the election of the President of the Synod prompted greater care in determining those situations to which “parish” is to be applied. A phrase from Bylaw 2.11.1 is pivotal: “regularly performing the duties of…an ordained minister.” Accordingly, a pastor providing regular Word and Sacrament ministry is being regarded as the congregation’s pastor for delegate representation purposes. If he is providing such regular ministry to two or more congregations, he is serving a multi-congregation parish.
  4. Q: Are there any exceptions to this rule? A: Yes. If a congregation is in the process of actively calling a pastor, it is regarded as truly “vacant” even though it is receiving regular word and sacrament ministry from a pastor. The above (#3) applies only to what were once regarded as “permanent vacancies.”
  5. Q: What about congregations that have been served by “emeritus” pastors? A: Congregations (or parishes) receiving regular word and sacrament ministry from a rostered pastor of the Synod deserve two delegate votes at their district conventions: a pastoral vote and a lay vote. The roster status of “emeritus” pastors (advisory and therefore non-voting) is being changed to “active” status when possible to reflect the fact that they are providing regular Word and Sacrament ministry to a congregation of the Synod. Such roster status change does not adversely affect retirement status or benefits. It does provide the congregation with its rightful privilege of two votes (pastoral and lay) at district conventions and in the election of the President of the Synod.

There are, of course, many other questions that arise while working through this process with our 35 districts and their conventions. You may wish to respond to this blog with such questions.

Ray Hartwig

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.


Witness, Mercy, Life Together — District Convention Representation — 9 Comments

  1. There is an effort underway to memorialize the 2013 synodical convention to allow each separate congregation at least a lay vote. There are pros and cons to this. it’s a discussion worth having.

  2. Oh, and Dr. Hartwig ought to be given a great deal of thanks for having to deal with this huge and convoluted mess of a change to the electoral process in our synod. He is *scrupulously* fair. I think the fact that he has held the position for so long, without any serious challenge is testament to that fact.

  3. It’s difficult to keep a balance between pastoral and lay votes when so many congregations do not have a called pastor.

  4. @LW #3
    That’s one issue. My first question in *all* of this is–How does our theology–doctrine of what the Church is–drive how we organize ourselves? I had a big problem with the idea that big congregations ought to get more delegates, because that would suggest that a small congregation has less of the Body of Christ, when He Himself said, “Wherever two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” When, a couple weeks ago, there were literally 3 of us at one of my 2 churches for the Lenten Vespers, was there less of Christ present? To judge by size is to judge by sight, not according to the Word of Christ.

    But then, the question needs to be asked on the other side, too, wrt multi-point parishes. How would the proposed change reflect our proper Scriptural Christ-crucified-centered ecclesiology? I’m not saying I know for sure. It may be better. but I haven’t thought it all through, yet, and I wonder what other folks think.

    My immediate reaction (and I did vote in favor of just such an overture from our circuit forum) is that it is a good idea. It certainly seems advantageous *politically*–especially to me, as I serve a dual parish. But I want to make sure it really would fit with our doctrine, first. Yes, “polity is adiaphora”, but “adiaphora” does *not* mean we can do whatever we want, without even thinking about the theology that would be confessed by a particular action.

  5. @Rev. David Mueller #4
    I believe that the original intent of Walther et al was that the synod would have equal representation–one lay and one pastoral. It would seem to me that that system has served us well. Were we to go to a system where larger churches get more votes we could have the possibility that three districts alone could “control” the convention because by their size and the number of larger churches in each they would have more than a majority of the votes. I believe that Hales corner, Wisconsin with about 8,000+ members would have almost as many votes available as would the whole of the Wyoming District–realizing this would only be at District Conventions. While I can understand the feelings of those in dual parishes [I have served three now] it would be a mistake I think to allow each congregation of a parish to have a lay vote. My reason is simply that such would continue the thought that we are not a parish but still three individual congregations who just happen to be served by one pastor. Two cents completed.

  6. Don’t know if it’s relevant, but with multi-point parishes, congregations or what-have-you, with one shared pastor… so 2 or 3 lay votes but still only 1 pastoral vote? FYI, e_ca set the quota at 60-40 lay to pastoral. Granted they have so many issues, but their CWA’s skew towards the laity being more in charge. While many of them can be good, as a whole I just don’t see them with as much theological insight as the ministerium. So the good Lutheran question is, “What does this mean?”

  7. My concern was born during the discussion at the last synodical convention when someone raised the question of multi-point parishes that are served by a multi-pastor staff. Would these parishes be permitted more than one pastoral delegate?

    The cynical side of my brain thought this might be an end run by mega parishes. If multi-point parishes (which, theologically, are single congregations meeting in multiple locations) are to receive additional representation, why shouldn’t mega churches receive extra delegates for each satellite campus? And taking that one step further (given the direction the SMP program has gone), what about multiple congregations meeting on the same campus? Should they be entitled to a pastoral and a lay delegate each? So the older adult congregation and their pastor, the twenty-somethings/college students and their pastor, the Hispanic congregation and their pastor, and the Hmong congregation and their pastor, all of whom are meeting at Relevant Church (and all of whom are also named Relevant Church) all get a pastoral and lay delegate in addition to the pastoral and lay delegates from the Relevant Church whose facilities they are using for their services.

    God strengthen me if such cynicism is guarding against the wiles of Satan. God forgive me if such cynicism is breaking the 8th Commandment.

  8. @The PPPadre #7
    I am not so sure that it would really be cynical–I heard some of that talk at the last convention as groups were trying to figure out how they could get their voice heard!!

  9. Sterle, PPPadre, Jason: You all raise valid concerns. This is why, though I did vote to get that overture to our district convention, I do have my doubts about whether it’s really a good idea. In the end, I’m coming to the conclusion that I will vote against that idea, should it make it to the floor of the IN Dist. convention as a resolution. It opens too many cans of worms.

    To be sure, it’s worth noting that each *congregation* *is currently* entitled to a lay vote, regardless of multi-point parish status, *at the circuit fora*. For some reason, the same rule doesn’t apply there. For what it’s worth, keep that in mind this late summer/fall, when it comes time to hold the Fora for electing synodical convention delegates.

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