Convention 2013: Convention Workbook now out (by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

 St. Louis, July 20-25, 2013

The 2013 Convention Workbook is now out! It was posted online yesterday and will be arriving in the mail soon. Over 450 pages from cover to cover! What’s in there? Lists of delegates, floor committees, synodical officers, etc. Reports from various officers, boards, and commissions. Over 250 overtures, organized into seven categories. CCM opinions, CTCR reports, SMP Task Force report. There’s a lot here to absorb! The art is in knowing what to skim over and what to study more closely.

Today I’ll give just a brief overview. In succeeding columns, I may focus on particular parts of the Workbook.

DELEGATES (pp. iv-xiv): Do you know who your circuit delegates are, both ordained and lay? You should. These are the people who will be voting for you in July. And you can give them your input before then.

FLOOR COMMITTEES (p. xvii): The first seven committees are the people who will be sifting through the many overtures and coming up with proposed resolutions to be included in Today’s Business and presented to the convention.

SYNOD REPORTS (pp. 1-133): The first two reports are from the Synod President, Matthew Harrison (pp. 1-13), and the Chief Mission Officer, Gregory Williamson (pp. 13-37). These reports will give you a good overview of what the Synod has been doing in the last triennium, what our general situation looks like, and where we might be headed in the next few years.

Harrison’s report, for instance, covers these topics: Baptized for This Moment?; Witness versus Doctrine?; Thankfulness: Has Our Love “Grown Cold”?; Is It Still Raining in Missouri?; So “What Does This Mean” for the 2013 Convention?; Can We Visit about the Mission?; Missouri’s Moment?; Restructuring; Values and Priorities; Financial Issues We Face; Koinonia Project; 2010 Resolutions Assigned to the President; Current International Mission and Partner Churches; Wittenberg Project; Our Great Demographic Challenge; Kingdom of the Left Issues; Compassionate Action for Those Struggling with Same-Sex Attraction; National Offering; Worldwide KFUO: The Messenger of Good News; SMP Task Force. The topics prioritized in the President’s Report, combined with similar overtures submitted to the Workbook–this will give you an indication as to the kinds of resolutions the floor committees will likely propose.

In addition to the reports from the SP and the CMO, there are also reports from a host of boards, commissions, auxiliaries, various synodical entities, and the 35 district presidents. The report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (pp. 77-88), for instance, touches on a number of important matters: Requests for Theological Opinions (e.g., on AC XIV and the carrying out of pastoral functions by laypersons, pp. 81-83); Expressions of Dissent (Becker, ACELC, p. 84); Church Relations (e.g., AALC, Wisconsin, ELS, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Sweden, pp. 84-87). The report of the Resolution 8-07 Task Force (pp. 129-133), which deals with future district function and reconfiguration, includes recommendations on visitation and ecclesiastical supervision, as well as an essay on “The Office of Visitation in the LCMS, Historical and Theological.”

OVERTURES (pp. 135-280): The first thing to say about the more than 250 overtures that have been submitted is that most of them will not appear in their original form as proposed resolutions in Today’s Business. But they do provide grist for the mill for the floor committees, which will come up with those proposed resolutions. The overtures tell the committees what sorts of issues need to be dealt with.

The second thing to say about overtures is that you can give your input to the floor committees–what you think about these overtures–before the committees meet on May 17. So there is value in reading these overtures. Express your comments to the Secretary of Synod, Ray Hartwig–again, before May 17.

As to the overtures themselves, they are gathered into seven categories: 1) Witness; 2) Mercy; 3) Life Together; 4) Theology and Church Relations; 5) Seminary and University Education; 6) Administration and Finance; and 7) Structure and Ecclesiastical Matters. In my cursory first look-through, certain overtures jump out at me. Some of them are good, some are bad, often dealing with the same subject. Here are some areas I’m noting:

Committee 2: Religious liberty, re HHS mandate (2-02 through 2-04).

Committee 3: Koinonia Project, mission and ministry emphases (3-08 through 3-23); Transforming Churches Network (3-31 through 3-34); worship practice (3-36 through 3-41).

Committee 4: Church fellowship (4-01 through 4-06); the role of women in the church, including rescinding 2004 Res. 3-08A (4-17 through 4-21); the pastoral office, licensed lay deacons (4-22 through 4-46); interfaith services, witness in the public square (4-47 through 4-55); closed Communion (4-56 through 4-63).

Committee 5: SMP program (5-17 through 5-34).

Committee 6: Overruling CCM Opinion 02-2309, on ecclesiastical supervision (6-25).

Committee 7: The office of visitation (7-01 through 7-03); district reconfiguration (7-04 through 7-07); Handbook issues (7-19 through 7-25); rescinding regionalization of elections (7-26 through 7-28).

APPENDIXES (pp. 281-453): CCM opinions from the past triennium, on a variety of subjects (pp. 281-337).

CTCR documents (pp. 339-400): Principles for Cooperation in Externals with Theological Integrity; Theological Dialogue with Other Christian Church Bodies; Theology and Practice of Prayer: A Lutheran View; Immigrants Among Us: A Lutheran Framework for Addressing Immigration Issues; Response to Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust; CTCR Response to Matthew Becker Dissent of 6/29/11.

First Amendment statement (pp. 401-402).

SMP Task Force Report (pp. 403-452): This report is particularly important, in view of the many overtures–and likely proposed resolutions–related to the pastoral office, the SMP program, and licensed lay deacons.


Comments

Convention 2013: Convention Workbook now out (by Pr. Charles Henrickson) — 16 Comments

  1. If the document, “CTCR Response to Matthew Becker Dissent of 6/29/11,” (2013 Convention Workbook, p. 399) is approved by the LCMS Convention, perhaps he will feel the theological noose tightening around his (or else his ecclesiastical supervisor’s) synodical neck.

  2. “The report of the Resolution 8-07 Task Force (pp. 129-133), which deals with future district function and reconfiguration, includes recommendations on visitation and ecclesiastical supervision, as well as an essay on “The Office of Visitation in the LCMS, Historical and Theological.”

    In reading this report, is it fair to say nothing ‘has been/will be’ done about reconfiguring the districts?

  3. Here is a historical excerpt from the 2013 Convention Handbook, p. 296, taken from 7. Landmark October 11, 1974, Opinion by the CCM:

    An analysis of Assertions in Present Controversy In dealing with the many requests that have been placed before the Commission on Constitutional Matters during this time of controversy within the Synod, the Commission has heard recurring expressions of certain propositions. It feels constrained to comment on some of these assertions which in the estimation of the Commission are either invalid or are at least misleading and in that way tend to becloud the issues before the Synod and to vitiate the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod.

    I. “Christians are ruled not by laws but by the Gospel.”

    There are several ways in which this theme has been stated in denigrating the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod and thus finally making them of no effect.

    Among Missouri Synod Lutherans there should be no need to state once again that we believe and confess that we are saved not by the works of the law but by God’s grace for Christ’s sake through faith. We exult in our freedom from the demands of the law as children of a gracious heavenly Father. We remember with gratitude that Christ our Savior has fulfilled these demands for us and that through His blood we have forgiveness for all our sins. And so we can rejoice in the promise of life everlasting already here and now. This is the wellspring of our life and we will permit no legalism in whatever form to deprive us of the joy which is ours thru the unmerited grace of our God.

    Do we then renounce, repudiate, set aside the law of God? By no means. As Lutherans learn in their Catechism instruction, the law of God has three great purposes:

    1. To hold in check the coarse outbursts of sin on the part of unbelievers and also on the part of the old Adam of the Christian;
    2. To show us our sins so that we may truly find our joy and salvation in Christ, the Savior from sin;
    3. To serve the child of God as a guide for his doxological life of service to the God of all love as that life is lived out among other men. There are some who deny the third use of the law but the Commission affirms what the Scriptures and our Lutheran Confessions teach regarding it.

    So much can be said for the law of God. It has a place in the life of the Christian. But is there room for human, man-made laws in the life of Christians together? We submit that there is. Whenever two individuals, even Christian people, enter into a relationship with each other—whether it be in marriage or in a business partnership or in whatever relationship it may be—certain agreements, rules, contracts, covenants—“laws,” if you will—become necessary. The same is true when Christians join together as a worshiping and serving community of God in the world. It is customary for Lutheran congregations to use not only the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions but also unwritten traditions and especially written Constitutions and Bylaws as instruments under which they agree to govern themselves.

  4. The last resolve of Overture 4-39 “To Affirm Deacon Ministry in Synod” states,

    “Resolved, That the Mid-South District encourage the 2013 LCMS convention to form a task force to present recommendations to the 2016 LCMS convention that will address concerns related to the deacon ministry so that the Synod may be united in support of this ministry.”

    ——————

    Apparently, we can resolve to have a predetermined conclusion for a task force. We can create a task force so that “Synod may be united in support of this ministry.”

  5. Does the resolution indicate a travel budget for this task force?

    As we get closer to 2017, there are likely to be various reasons pop up why commissions, committees, task forces (blue-ribboned or otherwise) on the synod, district, and circuit level, need to conduct their business in Wittenberg either before or after some quincentennial celebration.

  6. John Rixe: In reading this report, is it fair to say nothing ‘has been/will be’ done about reconfiguring the districts?

    That would be my guess. Turf wars, you know. Nobody wants to give up their fiefdom.

    Cases in point: The two non-geographic districts, English and SELC. Now first let my say that I grew up in the English District, and I did my vicarage in the SELC. I have nothing against those districts or the people in them. But there is no good reason for them to exist as districts–and believe me, I have heard all the arguments for keeping them, for decades. The English and SELC congregations could easily be folded into their respective geographic districts. This is low-hanging fruit here, as far as getting reconfiguration going. But do you think it will happen?

  7. @Charles Henrickson #7

    Though probably expected, this is a disappointment.  The national office has made a good and successful effort to streamline operations and cut expenses.  It’s too bad there apparently won’t be a similar effort at the district level.

    Most of our unrestricted mission donations are spent by the districts, not St Louis.

  8. Speaking of efforts to “streamline operations,” the workbook for 2013 is 498 pages; the workbook for 2010 was 328 pages.

  9. Ginny Valleau : Speaking of efforts to “streamline operations,” the workbook for 2013 is 498 pages; the workbook for 2010 was 328 pages.

    Don’t judge a book by its pages, Ginny. For the 2010 Convention, alongside the Workbook itself, we also had mountains of Blue Ribbon to wade through.

  10. One of the most disingenuous, unLutheran, and unctuous statements to political correctness is in the CTCR report, “Immigrants Among Us” (Workbook, pp. 366-367; Report, pp. 21-22):

    The popular debate over whether immigrants without a valid visa should be referred to as “illegal” or “undocumented” immigrants illustrates what happens when we attempt to resolve the inherent tension between the demand to preserve the immigrants’ well-being regardless of legal status with the demand to obey the laws of the land regulating their legal status. On the one hand, Christians who prefer to speak of “undocumented” immigrants might desire to affirm the basic dignity of immigrants (along the lines of the fifth and eighth commandments), showing sensitivity to their plight and the need for promoting their well-being. Consequently, they might appear to give less weight in their use of language to current demands of the civil law regarding legality or illegality without ultimately denying the need for the rule of law. These brothers and sisters in Christ generally tend to be in disagreement with those aspects of current immigration law that they consider inadequate to address the fair treatment of immigrants. On the other hand, Christians who speak more readily of “illegal” immigrants might focus on the need for obedience to the civil law (a fourth commandment concern) as it applies to current immigration law, but in doing so might appear to come across as insensitive to the plight of immigrants and as somewhat uncritical concerning certain potentially problematic aspects of current immigration law that might not address adequately their fair treatment.

    The convention delgates need reject this CTCR report, “Immigrants Among Us,” and tell the CTCR to rip out this paragraph and similar unLutheran statements from the report and also to replace the politically correct euphemism, “undocumented immigrant(s),” with “illegal alien(s)” if they ever want to bring it back to the convention again.

    Ptui!

  11. In December 2010, President Harrison, per Bylaw 3.9.5.2.2(c). declared LCMS fellowship with the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC). The 2013 Convention delegates will be asked to rubberstamp… er, endorse this declaration (see Overture 4-02, Workbook, p. 163).

    A Gottesdienst Online article, “A Lutheran bishop reflects on his ministry,” presents a newsletter article from Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC) Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin, who will be a guest at the 2013 LCMS convention in July.

    The SELC has an episcopal polity. However some of what Bishop Lytkin states appears to take that episcopal polity to a area outside of the Missouri Synod’s understanding of the Lutheran doctrine of church and ministry:

    “Sometimes they ask me whether it is difficult to be a bishop. Is it easy? You know, perhaps, you would think that I’m boasting if I tell you that it is very hard. It is much harder than being simply a priest.”

    “So this is my work. With it I feel myself like a fish in water. But being bishop is too hard. It seems on the surface that being bishop is not much different from being a priest. Glamorous color shirt, miter on the head and staff in the left hand. But you know, I almost died when exactly six years ago five bishops have laid their hands on me, and I am still dying (cf. 1Cor 15:31).

    “Every time I die when I ordain somebody as a priest. It seems that I physically sense how the power leaves me, and after that I want to fall down and lie without standing back on my feet. This is some kind of mysticism, you might say, and you would be right. Yes! It is mystical. If somebody told me this earlier, just six years earlier, I would not have believed it.”

    A mysticism of ordination directly contradicts the Lutheran position in the Confessions as explained by C.F.W. Walther in Thesis VI, on the Ministry (Kirche und Amt).

    Overture 4-02 should be tabled until verified clarification, or correction to the SELC position on the doctrine of church and ministry is publicly presented and understood.

    Moreover, another Overture, 4-06 – To Restore to Synod Conventions Sole Authority for Declaring Fellowship (Workbook, pp. 165-6), resolves to strip paragraph 3.9.5.2.2 (c) of the Synod’s Bylaws.

    I encourage convention delegates that Overture 4-06 should be passed overwhelmingly. Also the 861 delegates at the 2010 Convention who passed Res. 3-04A, which added that section to the Bylaw, should be chastised. You know who you are!

  12. In addition to the example given in Post#12, here is another reason to reject the CTCR report, “Immigrants Among Us,” which can be found on p. 11 in the CTCR document (2013 Convention Workbook, p. 364):

    I. Immigrant Neighbors Past and Present:
    How Should Scripture Inform Attitudes Towards Immigrants Today?

    When dealing with the narrow topic of illegal immigration, we must come to terms with a basic problem of interpretation, namely, that Scripture does not deal specifically with the narrow question of the church’s attitude towards “illegal” or “undocumented” immigrants. Scripture deals with the church’s basic attitude towards immigrants (aliens, sojourners, strangers) who live in the midst of God’s people without qualifying its teachings on the basis of the legal or illegal status of these immigrants.

    This is utterly disingenuous sophism by the CTCR (or whoever composed this section), pretending first that modern immigration can only be treated by Scripture as a narrow topic, even though Scripture in several places deals with or recognizes the difference between legal and illegal behaviors. Even the thief on the cross recognized the difference between legal and illegal behavior… and I doubt he went to any seminary.

    The CTCR report, “Immigrants Among Us,” is a flawed and erroneous document with an obvious leftist political bias. Approval of this CTCR Report will embarrass and harm the Missouri Synod, unless it is simply ignored and stored in the “circular file” like the CTCR’s previous Pecksniffian pollution, “Together With All Creatures.”

  13. Part 1 of 2 –
    One of the overtures in the 2013 LCMS Convention Workbook is Overture 4-15 (p. 169), “To Encourage Prompt CTCR Response to Request for Study on Cremation.” In part it claims:

    Whereas, In response to the need for theological and pastoral guidance regarding the practice of cremation, the 2010 LCMS convention tasked the CTCR, “in consultation with a group of congregational pastors and seminary faculties, to prepare a study on the practice of cremation and especially of its implications for our public witness” (Ov. 3-32, as approved in Omnibus Resolution A); … therefore be it

    Resolved, That the English District of the LCMS memorialize the 2013 LCMS convention to ask the commission to complete its study on the practice of cremation on or before December 31, 2015.

    If such a resolution is passed, it should be a very short study, since the past and current LCMS position on the practice of cremation is, “The LCMS has no official position on cremation.

    On and prior to October 27, 2009, this position was stated in the LCMS response to the FAQ, “What is the Missouri Synod’s position on cremation?”. Sometime between October 27, 2009, and January 27, 2010, a revised answer to the FAQ was inserted, although it still contained the LCMS’s “no official position” statement In 2011 the CTCR eliminated that revisionist additions and provided the answer currently noted in a LCMS website FAQ document entitled “LCMS Views – Life Issues” (p. 4). This still includes the statement, “The LCMS has no official position on cremation.

    The revision was eliminated after the CTCR had received objections to some of the revised text and references to Alvin Schmidt’s book (mistitled in the FAQ), which was not published by Concordia Publishing House (and thus subject to doctrinal review) but was published by Regina Orthodox Press, a producer of books on the false theology of the Eastern [Un]Orthodox Church, which has traditionally opposed cremation. Schmidt’s book contained legalistic and conflicting statements.

    Another objection was that although the LCMS had stated it had no official position on cremation, the revised version by an unnamed LCMS FAQ writer claimed, “There continue to be arguments against cremation for Christians.” This latter statement failed to point out that such “arguments” were not based on any Scriptural or doctrinal proscription of cremation.

    Other Lutheran church bodies have made statements about cremation. An April 2002 CLC Spokesman article stated: “But the bottom line is that cremation is a matter of Christian freedom. Burial may be preferable, but as long as the weak are instructed concerning cremation so as to avoid offense (See Rom. 14:15, 1 Cor. 8:9), and so long as the motivation is not unchristian, nor for purposes of greed, we cannot forbid it. Nor do we want to place man-made laws on our people to burden them (see 1 Cor. 5:21, Gal. 5:1).” The WELS and ELS have stated similar positions.

  14. Part 2 of 2 –
    In its 2012 District Convention Workbook (p. 4-1), the English District did mention Schmidt’s book, but reference to it was eliminated in the final Resolution printed in the English District 54th Convention Proceedings (June 27-30, 2012, p. 34).

    A Resolution was also passed in the Michigan District Convention Proceedings (pp. 39-40), to study a Lutheran Church-Canada document, “Cremation and the Christian” (pp. G.1-G.8). The LC-C document in a “you-can-choose-the-choice-we-tell-you-to” conclusion, states:

    “The Church does not seek to unduly burden the conscience of the Christian with new laws and so teach as doctrines the precepts of men… It must be admitted, however, that the intentional destruction of the body of the sleeping Christian does not make a very clear confession of the resurrection of the body. In some cases it can even lead to real confusion about this doctrine. For the sake of our faith and its confession in the world, it is therefore advisable and preferable that whenever possible Christians lay their bodies to rest in the state that God created them.”

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