The Boring-Isn’t-Bad Convention (by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

The gavel has sounded. The 2013 National LCMS Convention has come to a close. Some might call it “The Do-Nothing Convention.” Or “The Kick-the-Can-Down-the-Road Convention.” Or “The It-Isn’t-Time-Yet Convention.” Or “The Baptized-for-the-Next-Convention Convention.” But I think a better name might be “The Boring-Isn’t-Bad Convention.”

Late in the week President Harrison said (I’m paraphrasing, since I don’t have the exact quote in front of me): “Some have said this has been a boring convention. And that’s not bad.” My translation: There’s no way this convention could possibly match the intense drama of the 2010 convention. And a lot of the resolutions here won’t change the synod overnight and fix all the problems at once. But we are putting some things in place that will help us deal with the important issues, more directly and decisively, beginning at the next convention. We’re moving the ball down the field in the right direction. And we’re doing it in a patient, consensus-building way. In other words, boring isn’t bad.

Today I’m writing only a brief, off-the-top-of-my-head reflection on the convention just concluded. (I may put together a more complete report later on.) And I’ll focus on the business of the convention, the resolutions and elections, rather than on the worship, the theological essays, etc. For example, the magnificent music at the services, President Harrison’s “You’re all wet/It’s in the water” sermon, his “gavel-gazing” speech–all excellent, and you can find links to them through the page, but I won’t spend time on them here.


Of course many of the “mom and apple pie” resolutions passed by wide margins, virtually unopposed. These were opportunities to highlight the good work our synod has been doing in many areas: e.g., campus ministry, military chaplains, disaster response. So also with resolutions on the Koinonia Project, fellowship with several overseas church bodies, some boring bylaw language clarifications–little controversy there.

The resolutions that addressed more controverted issues fell mostly in these committees: 4, Theology and Church Relations; 5, Seminary and University Education; and 7, Structure and Ecclesiastical Matters.

Committees 4 and 5: In regard to licensed lay deacons and the SMP program, structures were put in place–a task force here, an oversight committee there–that will bring recommendations for action to the 2016 convention. Likewise with our seminaries and universities. There will be a task force to address the question of Lutheran identity at our Concordias, lest they drift away from our theological moorings. And there will be a committee that must give prior approval to any new faculty at our seminaries. These measures are not glamorous, but they could prove effective.

Committee 7: This committee did have some good resolutions, and they passed, particularly a couple that emphasize the importance of visitation. But this committee also proposed the only really bad resolutions in the book. These were the past Blue Ribbon proposals dug up from the graveyard of bad ideas. I am happy to report they all failed miserably. One resolution would have allowed visitation circuits to be formed by “affinity” rather than geography, thus further balkanizing us when we need to be brought together. We defeated that one on Monday by a whopping 71% to 29%. Another resolution, the worst one in the book, would have taken delegate elections away from the circuits and moved them up to the district level. We thermonucleared that one 93-7. Its companion enabling resolution thus did not come to the floor. And while the proposal to go to a four-year convention cycle was brought up early in the week, the committee did not bother bringing it back later, because that one would have been shot down too.


There were a total of 71 elections, if you include the pre-convention election for Synod President. And there were two competing lists recommending candidates. The United List (UL) traditionally recommends more conservative/confessional candidates. The other list usually recommends more liberal/church-growthish candidates. That list this time was called the “Missional/Our Future/Preferred Servants List” (MOFPSL)–the title morphed over the last several weeks. If you’re using a scorecard, the UL won 40 head-to-head elections, the MOFPSL won 19. Candidates common to both lists won eight elections, and candidates from neither list won four. Speaking as one who generally favors the United List choices, I can say we ran the table on the Praesidium, winning the presidency and all six vice-presidencies. This in turn may tip the balance–to the good–on the Council of Presidents. And we swept the four elections for new members to the Fort Wayne Board of Regents. But we split the four elections for the LCMS Board of Directors (although the overall balance looks good). And we split the four elections for the St. Louis BOR.

Overall, the tone of this convention was amicable, the theme for the inspiration was baptismal, the synod’s good work was highlighted, and the framework was put in place for correcting some nagging problems more decisively next time. All in all, boring isn’t bad. We’re moving in the right direction.


The Boring-Isn’t-Bad Convention (by Pr. Charles Henrickson) — 16 Comments

  1. Thanks, Pastor – excellent report. Also, thanks to the delegates and the other volunteers.

  2. @John Rixe #1
    You are welcome. I was a lay delegate to the convention. When I first read the resolutions, I was concerned about the number of items we were sending to task forces and the next convention. But as the convention went on I saw the wisdom of this approach. President Harrison stated that there are several issues that used to come up every convention (like our relationship with the ELCA) that we have finally put to rest and did not come up this time. We need to properly study the issues sent to the task forces so we can come to final resolutions on them in 2016. It requires patience, but the final result should be better for the LCMS in the long run versus just pushing items through a convention by raw political power and then having to reconsider them at the next convention.

    I do hope that we have come to the end of the restructuring, and that none of the defeated ideas come back in 2016.

    All in all, a very uplifting convention. “Boring” can be good.

  3. Dear Charles,

    Thanks for the excellent and incisive overview. I agree with your analysis and conclusions, from what I saw of the convention.

    I just did a 1/2 hour spot on KFUO-AM, the program “Studio A” for today, July 27, 2013, with Roland Lettner. The segment I talked about the convention was from 2:30-3:00 pm. If they post that show on the KFUO website next week (see, you might want to listen to that segment.

    I did not go into the detail you have here, but among other topics I did try to explain the relatively sedate mood of the convention–sedate compared to many previous conventions. In my opinion, it was caused by a change in chairmanship, and a different understanding of how the chairman/president relates to the synod in convention.

    I can’t summarize that talk here, so check out “Studio A” for Saturday, 7/27, the 2:30-3:00 PM segment when it is posted.

    Thanks again for all your work in informing the synod and delegates, Pastor Henrickson!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  4. I also was a lay delegate. I didn’t quite know what to expect going after the 2010 convention, but was fairly happy with the direction we seem to be moving.

    Not everything was boring, the whole room gasped when we nearly re-adopted the 1943 Small Catechism! The presentation of the Presidents Emeritus was particularly interesting…..

    For the most part the worship services were very good, nearly all of it came from LSB & the musicians were wonderful!

    As our Pastoral delegate put it, we decided to be Lutheran again instead of acting like Baptists that drink wine.

  5. I think moving the Presidential Election out of the convention had something to do with the mood. There was a tendency in the past to look at the sermon by the President and the 3rd part of his report as reelection campaign speeches since they came before the Presidential election. With this system you could actually listen to the sermon and speech without looking for ulterior motive (which I know is sinful, but we all do it). It also gave us a chance to carefully look ahead of time at the other elections and the resolutions knowing who would be in charge for the next 3 years. I also received a lot less mail as compared to the convention I went to in 1986.

    If this system continues to work well for the Synodical President, I would be in favor of also having the District Presidential elections occur before each District Conventions.

    By the way, I took the time to write comments about the resolutions to the floor committee chairs ahead of the convention. I was pleasantly surprised how many of my suggestions ended up in the “A” versions of the resolutions. Perhaps others had the same comments, but it appeared to me that the floor committees were really trying to incorporate comments and suggestions from the delegates into the resolutions whenever possible.

  6. I wish that someone at the convention had brought up the subject of defrocking and excommunicating the following individuals:

    As one of the LCMS liberals explains, they are simply waiting for the opportunity to steer the Synod back in their direction:

    There were a total of 71 elections, if you include the pre-convention election for Synod President. And there were two competing lists recommending candidates. The United List (UL) traditionally recommends more conservative/confessional candidates. The other list usually recommends more liberal/church-growthish candidates……. But we split the four elections for the LCMS Board of Directors (although the overall balance looks good)…

    Thank you for the report. Very well done. Note: When you have a truly, confessional group (LCMS Board of Directors) then it will be worth cheering about and then balance will be great. Currently, work still needs to be done in their area of understanding and in agreement to, of our Lutheran confessions.

  8. As a pastoral delegate, about halfway through the convention I realized it was really like a second special structural convention, because so much of this convention was dedicated to tying up loose ends in the bylaws created by the last convention’s restructuring.

  9. @Nicholas #6

    Those folks get on my last nerve. I left the ELCA to get away from them. There are plenty of places they can go, ELCA, LCMC, NALC, etc.

  10. @Mrs. Hume #10

    Unfortunately, they consider themselves on a mission to turn the LCMS into what the ELCA is. Liberals can be zealous and even fanatical in their false religion. If we don’t expel them, they won’t go.

    They’re trying to make converts to liberalism among LCMS members, particularly youth. They are doing it at Valpo and our own Concordia universities, several of which are liberal: (Contains link to “Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues in Counseling”)

    And you can search “Concordia Portland” here at BJS.

    We only succeeded in kicking them out of our seminaries, but not our other schools. And many of the Daystar contributors teach at our schools and remain on the LCMS clergy roster, with their names still listed on our Synod’s main website.

    Our leaders seem to be afraid that defrocking and excommunicating the remaining LCMS liberals will make them “look bad” in the eyes of the world and be subject to the world’s ridicule. Who cares? Do we seek to please man or please God?

  11. Nicholas :More leftists and perverts who poison the minds of our youth…
    I wonder how many of the delegates who attended the LCMS Convention are even aware of these things.

    Many are blissfully ignorant, others celebrate. I know one who said they are “moderately confessional,” while you and I are somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun…

  12. Resolution 4-14, To Clarify the Doctrine of the Call (2013 Today’s Business, pp. 97-98), resolved, in part, “That district presidents or circuit counselors be encouraged to review with congregations the historic and biblical reasons whereby a called worker may be removed from office and the orderly process by which this must be done to protect the rights of the worker and the congregation.”

    A Reporter article, “Final four resolutions pass for Theology, Church Relations Committee,” states:

    … the Rev. Matthew P. Helfrich, pastoral delegate of the Pacific Southwest District, moved to amend by changing the word “office” in the phrase “whereby a called worker may be removed from office” to “calling congregation.” [Floor Committee 4 Chairman Scott] Murray asked him to change the language to “calling entity” to include synodical offices and other entities, and the amendment was accepted by the floor committee. The assembly passed the resolution 830 to 30.

    As Walther noted [1]:

    “The question came up in connection with ordination: if the preacher could still exercise the functions of the Office, in the same way as if he were still in the Holy Office, when he is no longer in the Office. The answer to this was that a distinction needs to be made. If the preacher is driven out of his Office against his will, because of God and the truth, then in this case he is still the lawful bishop of the congregation that has driven him out. If he has laid down his Office voluntarily, then in that case he lost all the authority of the Office. If the Call of the congregation has ended, to which he was called, then his Office authority ends, because there is no universal Call for the whole Church; only the Apostles had this Call.” [emphasis added]
    [1] Kirche and Amt at the 1851 Synodical Convention, Synodal-Bericht (1851), 169-171. Literal translation by Gerald Paul.

    This understanding is confirmed in the CTCR February 2003 report, “The Divine Call,” particularly in the section, “Removal From Office” (p. 42ff).

    Such a change is another sign of the drift away from the Missouri Synod’s official position and understanding of the doctrine of church and ministry (as explained in C.F.W. Walther’s Kirche und Amt) and toward a more Loehist (Lufauxran) view. It should be disturbing to Missouri Synod Lutherans that Floor Committee 4 and its chairman allowed this change to be made as a friendly amendment (thus not needing a convention vote) without any objection, other than to further weaken it by changing “calling congregation” to “calling entity” (no doubt thrilling episcopist entitites). It also says something about the delegates who sat by and let this happen.

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