Convention 2013: Submitting overtures, by March 2–better, by February 1 (by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

 St. Louis, July 20-25, 2013


1. What is an “overture”?

An overture would be comparable to a motion made at a congregational voters’ assembly, except that an overture is submitted to the Synod’s “voters’ assembly” (i.e., the National LCMS Convention), and the overture is submitted months prior to the convention itself (to be held in St. Louis, July 20-25, 2013). The definition used in the LCMS Handbook (Bylaw is this: “Overtures are recommendations in the form of proposed resolutions requesting action on the part of the convention.” Overtures adopted become resolutions directing the Synod’s officers, boards, commissions, seminaries, universities, etc., as to what they are to do, and/or encouraging the Synod’s congregations, as to what they might consider doing.

2. Who can submit an overture?

Congregations and circuit forums are the main entities eligible to submit overtures that most of us could be involved with now at this point. District conventions also can submit overtures to the national convention, and many did so this past year, but those district conventions are over. So now it’s up to congregations and circuit forums, mainly. (A few other groups are eligible to submit overtures, and they are listed in the “Overtures” bylaw,

3. What sorts of things should an overture deal with?

Overtures deal with matters of substance concerning our Synod and the work that it does. They can involve theological issues and practical issues. Overtures usually fall into one of a number of categories handled by the convention floor committees, for example: Missions; District and Congregational Services; Theology and Church Relations; Administration and Finance; Seminary and University Education; Human Care; etc.

4. How does one go about writing an overture?

Think about what you see in the Synod that could be commended or corrected or encouraged. How can we improve the work that we are doing together as Synod? Are there some things that we should change? What is realistically attainable? Remember, a good overture will not be vague or overly idealistic but will ask the Synod to do something specific and attainable. Talk about your ideas with others: pastors, laymen, people in your congregation or circuit or district. Do a little research, so you know what you’re talking about. Look at previous overtures that have been submitted at the district or national level (the convention workbooks are available online), and then look at the resolutions that resulted (the convention proceedings are also available online). Also, keep in mind that certain issues that may not have been addressed adequately at the past few national conventions might now get a better hearing from this convention’s floor committees. But don’t get your hopes up too high! There is only so much that can be “fixed” at one convention! And what’s more, not everything can be fixed simply by the passing of resolutions!

As to the actual writing of an overture, it will first have a title, usually beginning with the word “To,” followed by what the purpose of the overture is, i.e., a brief summary of the “Resolved.”  For example, a title might look like this: “To Upgrade and Focus the SMP Program”; “To Bring a God-Pleasing End to District Lay Deacon Programs”; “To Encourage Congregations to Strive for Uniformity in Church Practice.” Conventions usually like overtures that are written in a positive tone.

The body of the overture then consists of one or more “Whereases,” followed by one or more “Resolveds.” The “Whereases” provide the reasoning behind the “Resolveds”: the biblical, confessional, historical, and practical reasons for whatever the proposed resolution would do. Each distinct reason usually gets its own “Whereas.” The “Whereas” section is where you do your persuading, where you make your case. But remember the “eyes-glaze-over” factor: Don’t make the overture too long, or the delegates may not read it. After the “Whereases,” the “Resolved(s)” then state what action is to be taken.

If you wish to use a template for the writing of your overture–with fill-in sections for the Title, Whereases, and Resolveds–you can find one here: Overture Template

5. How do we go about submitting an overture?

Once the proposed overture has been written–and proofread, and edited–then print copies for your congregational voters’ assembly or your circuit forum to see. If it is passed by the congregation or the forum, make sure it is signed and dated by the congregational president and secretary or the circuit counselor, as appropriate. You should have three print copies signed and dated, which are then sent by mail to this address:

Office of the President
Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
1333 S. Kirkwood Rd.
St. Louis, MO 63122

And you should send an electronic copy by e-mail to this e-dress: [email protected]

6. What is the deadline for when a submitted overture needs to be received?

The deadline for overtures to be received (note, “received,” not just “sent in by”) is March 2, 2013. However, the Secretary of the Synod is strongly encouraging everyone to get those overtures in by February 1, if possible, as that will facilitate inclusion in the Convention Workbook.

7. What happens to our overture once it has been submitted?

It is reviewed by the President of the Synod for any material errors or misrepresentations of truth or character. Then it is included in the Convention Workbook, scheduled for posting on April 27. Time is allowed for responses before the overtures are turned over to the appointed floor committees for their consideration. Those committees will meet, and they may take a number of related overtures, all dealing with the same topic, and try to distill them into one proposed resolution that will then be brought to the convention floor.

8. How can I find out more?

You can read up on “All Things Convention” at the National LCMS Convention site. In regard to overtures, you can go to the page on Convention Overtures, as well as to Convention Procedure Update #11.

In our next “Convention 2013” post here at Steadfast, we’ll talk about nominating for Synod President and Vice-Presidents, etc.

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