Planning an Overture to the Next Synodical Convention?


by Pastor Roger Gallup

Are you planning to ask your congregation, circuit forum, or church worker conference to submit an overture to the next synodical convention that would make a change to some doctrinal position of the LCMS previously adopted via a doctrinal resolution? For instance, would you like to address the 1989 Wichita resolution allowing laymen to preach the Gospel and administer Holy Communion or the 2004 resolution on the service of women in congregational offices or some other doctrinal resolution? The Synod has a set procedure you must follow, as outlined in Bylaw 1.8.2:

Dissent from doctrinal resolutions and statements is to be expressed first within the fellowship of peers and then brought to the attention of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations before finding expression as an overture to the convention calling for revision or recision. While the conscience of the dissenter shall be respected, the consciences of others, as well as the collective will of the Synod, shall also be respected.

What does this mean? Your congregation, circuit forum, or official District conference (note: not a circuit pastor’s conference or “Winkel”) cannot simply send in an overture to a synodical convention that aims to change a previously adopted doctrinal position of the Synod. Two basic steps that need to be followed before submitting such an overture. The point of dissent must first be A.) “expressed first within the fellowship of peers” and B.) “brought to the attention of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations” (CTCR).

In its recently released minutes (May 11&12, 2012 – Opinion 12-2646) the Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) has offered some clarity concerning this Bylaw. Still, questions remain about what it means in practice.

What does it mean to express dissent within the fellowship of peers? Send them a letter? Talk to them? Give a full theological argument? Just say to them “I disagree with this resolution”? The same questions apply to bringing it to the attention of the CTCR. Is the bylaw fulfilled if I simply send a note to the CTCR saying “I express my dissent concerning synodical resolution so and so?” Neither the Bylaws nor the CCM offer much specific guidance here. It would stand to reason that “more is better,” yet there is no specific requirement on the nature of the dissent.

With the 2013 synodical convention in view, overtures can be submitted in various ways. Based on the Bylaw and the recent CCM ruling I offer these suggestions for what you should do to ascertain that your overture makes to the appropriate floor committee for consideration.

  1. OVERTURES SUBMITTED BY A CONGREGATION – If an entire congregation contemplates submitting an overture to the Synod in convention, the first question would be: Who is the peer of a congregation? Presumably, another congregation. How should one congregation go about expressing its dissent to another congregation? Bringing the issue to the Circuit Forum for discussion is one possibility, since all the congregations of the circuit are represented there. Perhaps a letter notifying neighboring congregations of the dissent could meet this requirement. The dissenting congregation would then have to make the CTCR aware of its dissent before submitting an overture.
  2. OVERTURES SUBMITTED BY A CIRCUIT FORUM – The member of Synod (individual or congregation) submitting the overture to the Circuit Forum would need to have previously expressed dissent to peers and brought the dissent to the attention of the CTCR.
  3. OVERTURES SUBMITTED BY AN OFFICIAL DISTRICT PASTORS’ OR TEACHERS’ CONFERENCE – The individual member of the Synod proposing an overture to these official entities would first have to express their dissent within the fellowship of their peers and then to the CTCR before submitting the overture for consideration by the conference.

Note that this procedure does not apply if you desire to reaffirm an existing doctrinal position of synod (i.e. reaffirm closed communion). Also, while you are required to express within the fellowship of peers and to bring to the attention of the CTCR there is nothing that requires you to seek their approval or even wait for their reply to proceed.

However clear or cumbersome Bylaw 1.8 may be, all of us in the Synod have agreed to live under it. You need to do your best to follow it. If you would like to change it, an overture to this effect can certainly be submitted. Changing this Bylaw would not be a matter of doctrine. Any synodical entity eligible to submit overtures to a convention could submit such an overture without going through the procedure in Bylaw 1.8.2.


Planning an Overture to the Next Synodical Convention? — 7 Comments

  1. Since it might not be doctrinal, anyone want to submit an overture to overhaul/scrap the DRP? The way it allows for foot-dragging and other things, this “procedure” is about as onerous as any doctrine.

  2. Dr. Robert Preus (1924-95)…

    “Many issues that do pertain to doctrine and church life were overwhelmingly endorsed by the Synod. Some of you, maybe in the discussion period, can mention things that I forget because I don’t have the Synodical report yet. One is that people who are illegally–lay people–who are illegally preaching are told to go off to the two seminaries and get a theological education before they continue doing that. Now six years ago at Wichita, some of us tried to make that the way of doing things, but we were beaten, barely, by Dr. Bohlmann. And you had this strange case that people were out in the ministry–the practical ministry of preaching the Word–who were not called to be there. And that was a violation of the fourteenth article of the Augsburg Confession. Now we’ve made these men honest by asking them to come into the seminaries and take the amount of education necessary to qualify them to get a legitimate call into the ministry–go back to wherever they are serving and do it in an honest, Lutheran fashion. That I think is a very good step. What’s so heartening about it is it was so overwhelmingly endorsed by the convention, as were practically all of these decisions.”

    “Dr. Robert Preus Presentation-1995 LCMS Convention”
    September 9, 1995

  3. This artilce is well and good, except that when an overture is submitted that calls into question something that a previous convention has already debated and voted on, it is tossed into an omnibus resolution and swept under the rug. It would be great to go back and undo some of what previous conventions did (i.e. SMP) but submitting the overture is only half the battle, you still have to get it to the floor.

  4. Rev. Schmidt,
    I understand your frustration. Remember the floor committees are appointed by the synodical president. We have a new president who I suspect will appoint very different floor committees from what we have had for the last three conventions. They may actually want to address important theological issues. @Rev Michael Schmidt #3

  5. J. A. O. Preus II: Anybody who elects a [Synod] president, and then thinks they’re going to run him afterwards, always has a certain amount of iffyness in that picture.

    “You and Your Synod–Present Issues Between the Synod and Other Lutherans”
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, IL

  6. Hmm. Wasn’t there some sort of correction to ’89 Wichita back in ’98? I seem to recall having a conversation with my father-in-law about that around that time–while I was a sem student. But then, Al Barry died, 2001 happened, etc., etc., and the ’04-’10 conventions muddied the waters again. So which convention resolution actually takes precedence? Roger, this is a good reminder, but we have a *pile* of contradictory synodical resolutions that have passed. Which one/s do we follow?

    Maybe we need Chief Justice Roberts’s distinction between “precedent” and “super-precedent” and “super-duper-precedent.” Oh, yes, I forgot, we have our own CCM/SCOTLCMS to sort those things out….

    (Canon law and canon lawyers, here we come!)

  7. more Scripture and confessions and much less of roberts rules and no church growth canned theology,dear Lord. No more celebs and more defenders and teachers of the truth!

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