Four Overtures for the 2016 Convention

It’s time . . . to start submitting overtures regarding the issues confronting the LCMS.

The following are four overtures that address, in my opinion, some of the most significant issues that need to be dealt with at the LCMS 2016 convention in Milwaukee, July 9th-14th. I am issuing these overtures now so that interested persons may be able to submit them to their 2015 district conventions, in the form of an overture directed to the national convention for action.

Persons submitting these overtures to their district or synod may modify them as they please, although they need to realize that Constitutional and Bylaw amendments have been carefully worded to effect the needed change. Don’t forget that nominations for synodical office are now also open, until October 9, 2015. Information and forms for nominations may be found here.

Click here for the LCMS Handbook from LCMS.org. A PDF version of the DOC file available on that page (titled “2013 Handbook (Updated Nov. 19-20, 2014)”, named 2013_Handbook_January_12_2015_v2.doc) is available here.

 

 

OVERTURE ONE – TO SUPPORT PROPER ECCLESIASTICAL SUPERVISION IN SYNODICAL DISTRICTS

Whereas, in a recent case, charges of false doctrine against the accused party, who is a professor of theology at a private Lutheran university and a long-standing-and-vocal critic of the public doctrine of the LCMS, were dismissed; and

Whereas, his ecclesiastical supervisor, i.e., his district president, was responsible for this dismissal because he refused to initiate formal proceedings, but instead referred the case to a Referral Panel (Bylaw 2.14.5) that dismissed it; and

Whereas, this action was a dereliction of duty, since serious doctrinal charges need to be heard by the proper adjudicatory authorities, i.e., in this case the Hearing Panel (Bylaw 2.15.7); and

Whereas, the most important work of a district president is to see that the doctrine of the Synod, as described in Article II of its Constitution, is upheld by all rostered church-workers under his supervision; and

Whereas, a district is the Synod “in that place,” thus making a district president an officer of the Synod and accountable to it; and

Whereas, this recent action requires the President of the Synod to report such cases to the Synod (Constitution XI.B.2), but neither the Constitution nor Bylaws provide a means by which dereliction of ecclesiastical supervision can be addressed, other than expulsion from the Synod (Bylaw section 2.15), which may be too severe a punishment in such cases; therefore, be it

Resolved, that, in full accordance with Constitution XI.B.2, when a district president refuses to act according to the Synod’s Constitution, and refuses to heed the admonishment of the president of the Synod, that the president of the Synod will report such cases to the Synod in its national convention, with all significant details in documentation for the delegates only, giving them sufficient time to review the matter; and be it further

Resolved, that such cases will be resolved by the national convention itself through a simple impeachment process, whereby the district president in question shall have the opportunity to defend his actions (or failure to act) before the convention, and only members of the Council of Presidents shall have the opportunity to engage in a rebuttal or affirmation of that defense, with a simple majority of the convention voting to impeach; and be it further

Resolved, that such impeachment only entails removal from office, not expulsion from the Synod; and be it further

Resolved, that if the convention decides not to impeach, then the matter terminates and cannot be reviewed or appealed on the basis of the same actions (or failure to act) of that district president; and be it further

Resolved, that if the convention decides to impeach, then the president of the Synod who was elected (or re-elected) at the convention will appoint an interim district president for the vacated office—such interim district president: 1) must be an ordained minister; 2) must be a member–at the time of the synod convention–of the district whose president was impeached; 3) will be eligible for election in the normal way at the next district convention; and 4) will end his term of office in the normal manner if he is not re-elected; and be it further

Resolved, that this impeachment process may be utilized at the 2016 convention of the Synod; and be it finally

Resolved, that the Bylaws of the Synod be amended accordingly by the Commission on Handbook to include this impeachment process.

 

OVERTURE TWO – TO STANDARDIZE ADMISSION TO THE LORD’S SUPPER IN SYNOD CONGREGATIONS

Whereas, there is a wide diversity of practice in admission to the Lord’s Supper in Synod congregations, therefore be it

Resolved, that Constitution Article VI be amended to insert the following point between present points 2 and 3 as a new point:
“Congregations and pastors shall admit to the Lord’s Supper only persons who are communicant members in good standing of Synod congregations or who are communicant members in good standing of Lutheran congregations in altar fellowship with the Synod. Exceptions to this rule may be made by pastors or chaplains in cases of: 1) imminent death–or the possible threat of the same, 2) emergency, 3) war, 4) severe illness, 5) intense personal crisis, or 6) individuals who are in a “state of confession”; but only for Lutherans who were at some time communicant members of a Lutheran congregation. In such cases, the pastor or chaplain shall make an examination of such person’s understanding of the Lord’s Supper prior to communing him or her, if that is possible.”

 

OVERTURE THREE – TO PROVIDE FOR DOCTRINAL REVIEW OF NON-SYNODICALLY APPROVED WORSHIP AND CATECHETICAL MATERIALS

Whereas, there is a wide diversity in the worship and catechetical materials used by the congregations of the Synod and there is no provision for the doctrinal review of such materials that are non-synodically approved, therefore be it

Resolved, that present Constitution Article VI.4 be amended by adding this paragraph at the end of present point 4:
“The doctrinal purity of official agenda, hymnbooks, and catechisms shall be determined by the national convention of the Synod. The doctrinal purity of non-synodically approved worship and catechetical materials shall be decided by the individual congregations using such materials. Any communicant member in good standing of a Synod congregation may challenge the doctrinal purity of non-synodically approved worship or catechetical materials, whether those materials are used by his or her own congregation, by another congregation of the Synod, or by an entity or agency of the Synod. Such challenge shall be in the form of a written appeal to the Commission on Doctrinal Review, which shall issue its ruling to all relevant parties in a timely manner.”

 

OVERTURE FOUR – TO PRESERVE THE USE OF THE HISTORIC LUTHERAN LITURGY AND HYMNS IN SYNOD CONGREGATIONS

Whereas, there is a wide diversity in the worship materials used by the congregations of the Synod, and in many cases, the historic Lutheran liturgy and hymns have been completely neglected in regular use, therefore be it

Resolved, that present Constitution Article VI be amended to insert the following point between present points 4 and 5 as a new point:
“Congregations and pastors shall exercise their responsibility for training children, youth, and inexperienced adults in the Lutheran religion by making regular–but not necessarily exclusive–use of: 1) the historic Lutheran liturgy for communion services; and 2) the hymns which have been published in the official hymnbooks of the Synod. Although the order of the elements in the historic Lutheran liturgy may be varied, the following elements shall be retained in such regular use, in order to demonstrate a congregation’s unity with the ancient church and the Synod: 1) the Kyrie; 2) either the Gloria in Excelsis or “This is the Feast”; 3) the Lessons; 4) one of the three ancient, ecumenical creeds; 5) the Sermon; 6) the Sanctus; 7) the Lord’s Prayer; 8) the Words of Institution; 9) the Agnus Dei; and 10) the Distribution of the Body and Blood of our Lord. No particular musical setting or instrument is hereby recommended. Everything in Lutheran worship is to be done reverentially and faithfully, and in a manner which best serves good order, evangelical decorum, Christian discipline, and the edification of the church (FC SD X, 7 & 9).”


Comments

Four Overtures for the 2016 Convention — 29 Comments

  1. “Impeach”: (v.) to call into question the integrity or validity of (a practice).

    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    Happy Friday!

  2. Might I inquire as to the use of the phrase “Lutheran religion” in Oveture Four. Sounds awkward in my head, but there may be a reason for using it I might be missing?

  3. In the fifth resolved of the first overture, I would suggest the following amendment:

    Resolved, that if the convention decides to impeach, then the president of the Synod who was elected (or re-elected) at the convention will appoint an interim district president for the vacated office. Such interim district president shall be subject to the Constitution and Bylaws of the LCMS and the bylaws of his district, especially those pertaining to qualification for office, retention in office, and future election to office. The appointment of the interim district president shall be ratified by a simple majority of the voting delegates present at the synodical convention in which the preceding district president was removed from office. The district to which this interim district president is appointed may meet within 180 days following the conclusion of the synod convention to either ratify the appointment or elect a different president. Should the district hold such a special election, the man who was removed from office may not be on the ballot. Failure on behalf of the district to meet within the allotted 180 days shall constitute a ratification of the appointment of the interim district president, at which point he shall no longer be considered to be interim; and be it further…

    Yes, it adds a lot to it, but you cannot so easily strip away the rights of the district to elect its own leader; nor can you deny the qualifications for office established by the district. I don’t know what each district has. I assume that they are all essentially the same. But you still have to acknowledge them.

  4. What Srsly? said, impeachment is far from the best word; one fix would be to call the Synod President’s action or report to the convention (1st resolved) the impeachment, and then the convention can issue a judgment, etc., that’s my unlearned 2 cents.

    And what Rev Mo said, and maybe even “tooth it up” further by adding phrasing along the lines of “Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States”.

  5. These overtures are well thought out and make sense. You have done great work Pastor Noland. The problem I see that most, if not all of them, will never make to the 2016 convention floor because they first have to pass through the hands of the DP’s and the district conventions. We have too many DP’s that are not confessional Lutherans but politicians and happy, clappy men who see nothing wrong with praises bands and CoWo worship services.

  6. On the first proposed overture, is there a reason not to utilize the succession order already established in the bylaws of most if not all districts, with the vice president(s) being in line? After all, the vice presidents were elected by the district in part to provide for an orderly transition in the case their president was unable to complete his term.

  7. On a three levels in the LCMS we see Vice Presidents
    replace Presidents when they can no longer serve.

    Vice President Kuhn replaced President Alvin Barry
    when he died.

    On the District level the District lst Vice President
    has replaced the District President when he was
    unable to serve.

    On the Parish level, the Congregational Vice
    President has replaced the Congregational President
    when he has moved out of state or passed away.

    Bottom Line: We need to respect Vice Presidents
    who have been elected by the people.

  8. Dear Dr. Noland,

    What you have written in commendable and looks pretty good. However, one thing you have written stands out to me as a potential problem for having the entire first overture ignored and that is the following statement:

    “Resolved, that such cases will be resolved by the national convention itself through a simple impeachment process,”

    The issue becomes what is a “simple impeachment process?” If that process is defined elsewhere, you need to refer to it. If it isn’t defined, then you need to define it.

  9. I remember this type of post happening when IE was cancelled, and again when it was announced that MN South wanted to persecute ULC, but did anything come of those? Did those overtures make it to convention? And if not, what are we going to do to see that this post doesn’t immediately fade from our memory but rather does make it to convention?

  10. @Jonathan #9
    In the case of ULC, the Minnesota South district in convention considered an overture to reverse the sale of ULC. It was ruled out of order by the chair, probably erroneously, and a large majority of the convention voted to overturn that ruling, but unfortunately not the 2/3 majority needed to do so.

    Then someone moved to give ULC $2,000,000 from the sale proceeds. After considerable, very difficult discussion, including Synodical President Harrison himself taking the floor to suggest the need for generosity to ULC, this resolution passed.

    An overture to give ULC $1,000,000 went to the synodical convention and was included in the convention workbook; however, it did not make it to the floor for an up or down vote.

  11. Ralph :
    The problem I see that most, if not all of them, will never make to the 2016 convention floor because they first have to pass through the hands of the DP’s and the district conventions.

    LCMS Bylaw 3.1.6.2 says, “Overtures to a convention of the Synod may be submitted only by a member congregation of the Synod, a convention or board of directors of a district, an official district conference of ordained and/or commissioned ministers, the faculty of an educational institution of the Synod, the Board of Directors of the Synod, a board or commission of the Synod listed in Bylaws 3.2.2, 3.2.2.1, 3.2.3, and 3.2.3.1, a committee established by a prior convention, or a forum of a circuit.”

    I highlighted three means by which an overture might make it to the Synod convention that do not require a district president bringing the overture to the floor. I do not know if you are ordained, commissioned, or lay.

    If you are ordained, you have three different avenues that you can pursue: pastors conference (and if your district has regional conferences in addition to the district-wide conference, those count, too), circuit forum, or your own congregation.

    If you are commissioned, you are commission, you also have three different avenues that you can pursue: commissioned workers conference (and if your district has regional conferences in addition to the district-wide conference, those count, too), circuit forum, or your own congregation.

    If you are lay, you have two different avenues that you can pursue: circuit forum or your own congregation. Or you can give it to your pastor and ask him to take it before a pastors’ conference.

  12. Pastor Dave Likeness :
    Bottom Line: We need to respect Vice Presidents
    who have been elected by the people.

    This is an excellent point, and it appears to be far more consistent with the existing structure and established precedent.

    Resolved, that if the convention decides to remove the district president from office, then the bylaws pertaining to presidential succession of the district from which the district president was removed shall be observed. Any district president so removed from office shall not be eligible to be placed onto his district’s ballot for district president without prior approval of the Board of Directors of the Synod or a 2/3 majority vote of a Synod in convention; and be it further…

  13. @Reverend Mo #12

    It is a good point, and I would add, if the desire is to make the man ineligible for the office, say that directly, not “ineligible to be placed on the ballot” but “ineligible for the office”. (Write ins, succession, etc.)

  14. @Reverend Mo #11

    But it still will go through the convention floor committees before making it to the convention floor. And subject to time restraints, if there isn’t enough time at the convention to handle all business put before it.

  15. Personally, I think that Synodical conventions should be a bit longer. The need to rush through a lot of business can weaken what is brought to the floor quite a bit. If the conventions were two days longer, with the proviso that those two days were only to be occupied with worship and actual presented business, we could get a lot more done.

  16. Norm Fisher :
    @Reverend Mo #11
    But it still will go through the convention floor committees before making it to the convention floor. And subject to time restraints, if there isn’t enough time at the convention to handle all business put before it.

    Yes, but that was not the point made by @Ralph #5 . The goal is to get the overtures to the synod convention, and he thought that they had to go through district conventions. I was showing that there are other ways.

    Of course, once any overture gets to synod convention then it is entirely out of our control. Anything and everything can happen to it.

    But what is in our control is the ability to get overtures to the convention. There are ways of getting them there that do not require going through a district president. (This leads me to believe that this was an oversight in the synod restructuring that centralized power with the district presidents.)

    I am hoping, however, that President Harrison stacks the floor committees with chairmen who will do good things. And by “chairmen who will do good things” I mean “people other than district presidents.”

  17. Carol Hack Broome :
    Personally, I think that Synodical conventions should be a bit longer. The need to rush through a lot of business can weaken what is brought to the floor quite a bit. If the conventions were two days longer, with the proviso that those two days were only to be occupied with worship and actual presented business, we could get a lot more done.

    I would rather see frivolous business lumped together into a single overture and put last (or excluded altogether). We don’t need to spend 15 minutes discussing whether or not we should thank God for shoelaces.

  18. Reverend Mo :


    I would rather see frivolous business lumped together into a single overture and put last (or excluded altogether). We don’t need to spend 15 minutes discussing whether or not we should thank God for shoelaces.

    There are already omnibus resolutions that do this. But there are also a lot of substantive issues that don’t get to the floor or arrive at the floor quite weakened because of the fear that their discussion will take too long and exclude other worthy matters from being considered. We can do better than this.

  19. Please remove “This is the Feast” from overture 4. There is no need to encourage the use of this Vatican II Roman Catholic canticle in our circles.

  20. @Carol Hack Broome #15
    With all due respect, I disagree.
    I was a delegate to the marathon convention of 2010–two extra days to deal with the BRTFSSG proposals. (After all this time I still remember the initials!) By Friday afternoon and Saturday, the delegates simply wanted to “get on with it and get home.” We were mentally wiped out. This makes for poor decision-making. I remember the one phrase from the song of the same name running through my head non-stop: “Homeward Bound”. And I was quite motivated to stick it out and fight everything Stoterau threw at us.

    Longer conventions would not improve anything. Unfortunately. Does this mean that a lot of worthwhile resolutions and issues never make it to the floor? Yes. But sometimes that’s actually a good thing.

    Oh, and Mo, what do you have against shoelaces?! Every Christian should be in favor of shoelaces! 😉 At the 04 convention, there was lady who was pretty clearly on the other side of most of the important issues sitting behind me. Together we kept track of the handful of votes that went against the resolutions that should have been easily unanimous. At least we got a rueful laugh together out of that.

  21. Rev. Chairman Noland, I rise in opposition to the proposed amendment made in post 19. 🙂 (Some of us get into this convention language and protocol stuff too much, don’t we.)

  22. @Reverend Mo #16
    I may be mistaken on this, but I think the Floor Committees *must* be chaired by DP’s. However, for the key floor committees, I think we have enough good DP’s, anyway.

  23. @Rev. David Mueller #22

    I’m not sure, but maybe nowadays the rules are set the DP’s do HAVE to chair the Floor Committees. And in tacking all 35 of them and reading some of their stuff, I am going to pick somewhat arbitrary numbers…. 10 Missional opposed to Pres. Harrison, 13 Confessional who will do the right things, 12 in the middle will twist in the wind. Considering there are only like 9 floor committees, Pres. Harrison can easily appoint good leadership throughout the convention. Here’s to hoping…

  24. @Norm Fisher #25
    Dear Norm,
    Oh my, that was and still is my biggest frustration. My delegate even laughed at the nature of the discussion.
    Add on that, never enough time, because we must get in all the reports, etc.

    Back in the day when Rome called the Councils, I don’t think “Call the Question” was ever used. Even in early Missouri.

    Oh well, this is the NOW.

  25. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    “Calling the question” is an art form in itself. There is a gentleman who comments here occasionally who is the premier “question caller”==not me==but a good friend. 🙂

    The art is in knowing when the significant arguments on both sides of the question have been voiced at the mikes. Anything beyond that is a waste of time–including most amendments. Stalling tactics–such as continued discussion without advancing the arguments, and constant amendments– just anger and frustrate the delegates. They know that the floor committees have honed the resolutions to a fine degree==or in some cases, took out their guts.

    On the other hand, Norm is right that some people call the question before the real issues AGAINST a resolution have been voiced. Since the delegates decide whether to “call the question,” they are really to blame if they shut off discussion prematurely.

    How can delegates know whether “call the question” is premature? Only if they have studied all the issues in advance, both pro and con. Most delegates, unfortunately, do not do their “homework” and they ignore publications intended to educate them, like the old “Affirm,” the new “Lutheran Clarion,” the BJS website, and the perennial “Christian News.” If you accept the job of delegate, you accept the responsibility of doing homework before the convention. It is not a paid vacation to see old friends or a new part of the country.

    As to “This is the Feast,” our standard liturgy books by CPH argue for its inclusion and why it is a good change, and how to use it properly. See “Lutheran Worship: Its History and Practice” and Dr. Arthur Just’s fine book on the Lutheran liturgy from CPH.

    As to the comments on Overture One, anyone is free to modify that overture and send their version in. Similar overtures will be melded into one anyway by the floor committees. But if we can get some districts to send in these overtures, it will have much greater impact than just a few congregations. Even better would be dozens, or even hundreds of congregations, sending similar overtures. All submitting congregations have to be listed–and that would be quite a testimony to the need and support for an action.

    My thinking on these overtures has not been revealed, due to lack of time and other commitments. . . . But I will say this about Overture One. The intent there is that the synodical president does his job in overseeing, and looking at, what the various DPs are doing or not doing. If one or two are not doing their job, or involved in some serious malfeasance, and that DP’s district approves, the Synod President has to report that to Synod in convention (Const XI.B.2), but what then?

    This attempts to provide a process that:
    1) Gives final decision to the national convention delegates, i.e., Synod in its proper sense.
    2) Lets the debate be conducted by the DPs–if there is not one that defends the DP in impeachment, then that tells the delegates something. If they all defend him, it also tells them something. If it is split, some DPs for, and some DPs against, that forces the delegates to review the issues carefully.
    3) It avoids mixing executive and judicial powers–so that the Synod President doesn’t become a judge in the strict sense, but only the one who executes the orders of the Synod. “Jack the Wise”, i.e., JAO Preus understood this, and left the business of judgment to the Synod at the 1975 convention. That is how our Synod has been structured since 1847, though lesser judicial cases are tried by church courts, not Synod in convention.

    If you all can write a clearer overture that accomplishes these purposes, PLEASE DO! 🙂

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  26. Rev. David Mueller :
    @Reverend Mo #16
    I may be mistaken on this, but I think the Floor Committees *must* be chaired by DP’s. However, for the key floor committees, I think we have enough good DP’s, anyway.

    If there is a rule stating that floor committees must be chaired by district presidents, then that rule is present somewhere other than the Bylaws. 3.1.7 deals with this, and only states that the committees shall be appointed by the president in consultation with the COP and the Praesidium.

  27. @John #6

    For good reason, the line of succession is most likely of the same cloth as the deposed DP, or nearly so. The 180 days in the proposed change would offer them the chance to revert back to the line of succession if they wanted to do that and not live with the appointed DP.

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