Analysis of the 1977 convention elections

Analysis of the 1977 convention elections
And a correction

Far be it from me correct my colleague Mollie Zeigler Hemmingway, but… she has repeated an inaccuracy which has been floating around since the announcement of the nominations was made last Wednesday.

Everyone seems to accept uncritically that in 1977 J A O Preus “won handily on the first ballot.” That is not true. Actually, according to the minutes of the 1977 convention Preus did not win until the second ballot and then it was not that handy.

The minutes of that convention read as follows:

Chairman Zeigler (no relation to Mollie I assume) of the floor Committee on Elections presented the election report for the office of President (Keep in mine that there were paper ballots back then which need counted. It all lead to great suspense). He reported that 1097 ballots had been cast of which seven were declared to be invalid. A majority of 546 was required for election. Results of the first ballot were as follows: Bernthal – 80; Heckmann – 19; Maier – 168; Mueller – 279; Preus 544.

Points to be made:

  • Of the five candidates Maier and Preus were considered conservative. The others were “moderate.” Preus failed to be elected by 2 votes. He was very disappointed not to have gained a majority on the first ballot and was particularly irked at Walter A Maier who campaigned against him vigorously especially through the pages of Christian News. (As much as presidential candidates dare to campaign without being accused of “seeking the office” which has always been deemed “impious” by Missouri).
  • This was in the immediate aftermath of the Seminex events. J A O Preus was opposed, obviously, by those who supported Seminex. Their guy was Charlie Mueller senior. Mueller is currently working for Jesus first and has been a chronic thorn in the flesh to confessional candidates in Missouri. Those who supported Seminex and the old St. Louis seminary back in the 70s ultimately supported Gerald Kieschnick in the 21st century.
  • But J A O Preus was also opposed by Walter A Maier and a sizable group of delegates. They were upset because J A O Preus was not aggressive enough for them and had not cleaned house as thoroughly as they had wanted. I will let the historians bicker over whether such charges were well-founded or not. Let the reader know that the conservatives were divided back in the seventies.
  • J A O Preus was elected on the second ballot. “…542 were required for a majority. The results of the election were as follows; Bernthal – 38, Maier – 119, Mueller 330, Preus – 596.” So even on the second ballot Preus received less than 55% of the vote.
  • Note Well. In my opinion this shows that the conservative/confessional movement in Missouri has for 50 years been unable to stay united for any extended period of time. This has not only resulted in poor convention showings it has detracted from the credibility of the movement itself. If we can’t agree with ourselves how can we expect others to agree with us? The charge that we are just contrary is not without foundation.
  • I expect that someone will come along in the nest three months and say or do something which will have the effect of undermining the conservative/confessional cause in 2010. Who, when, where? I don’t know. But it will happen. And when it does we should sigh and not be too distracted.
  • In 1977 J A O Preus had 75% of the nominations which had been made for the top five candidates. Yet he received 49% of the votes. That is a difference of 26%. Delegates are not bound to follow the trends of the nominations. They vote on the basis of their own perceptions and insights. Good or bad that’s they way it is.

Take these observations for what they are worth. I have never believed that history does or does not repeat itself. I am pleased for Pastor Harrison and for those who have been praying for change in the leadership of Missouri including myself. I will continue to pray.

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