What is Fair? Looking at the “Fairness” of the BRTFSSG Proposals, by Rev. James Douthwaite

At my District Convention I listened to the presentation of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Restructuring (BRTFSSG). One of the proposals put forth is to give larger congregations more voting delegates at conventions. The rationales for this is that since they bear a larger share of the convention costs through assessments, they deserve a greater voice.


Besides the fact that this proposal violates our understanding of the church, namely, that every congregation is not just part of the church but fully the church in that place (not because of size, but because Christ is present there with His gifts), I started wondering about this rationale . . . why was this particular one chosen? And is there a better one?

I know that larger congregations bear a greater cost in paying for conventions. Assessments are usually made on the basis of communicant membership. But if we want to use “bearing the cost” as our criteria, there is another factor that could be considered. For really, conventions – while expensive – only last for a week or so. What about in between conventions? What about the day-to-day costs of operating the Synod? What would an analysis of that reveal for synodical convention representation?

The truth is that year after year, many larger districts give much less money to the synod than smaller districts. For example, take my own SELC District. In many categories, we are among the smallest districts in the synod. However, we are ninth in giving to the synod per communicant member. This means that year after year (not just in convention years and in assessments) the people of the SELC – on average – give more than 75% of the other districts.

Why not use that criteria for deciding representation? In fact, that criteria seems not only much broader and more fair, but also more biblical. When Jesus commended folks who were giving, who did He commend? The rich who contributed much out of their abundance, or the widow who contributed much less in dollars, but much more because it was all that she had? (Mark 12:41-44) You know the answer.

Now, I’m not really advocating for this, I simply want to point out that the suggestion the BRTFSSG has proposed is based on an arbitrary standard which on the surface may seem fair to many, but which really isn’t and in the end serves very few and undermines the doctrine of the church and ultimately, the Gospel. Instead of marginalizing the many “widows” in our synod which give all they can, we should be honoring and cherishing these old faithful ladies of the church. We should give the same representation to all and rejoice in the goodness of our gracious, giving God in richly supplying all our congregations with His gifts.

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