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I commend Synodical Secretary, Dr. Raymond L. Hartwig, for sending frequent and informative reminders to congregations by postcard and e-mail about significant changes to convention procedures adopted at the 2010 convention. In this article, I intend to review only two of those changes: the process for electing the Synodical President and the process for memorializing the synodical convention. Persons interested in other issues of convention procedures may find relevant information here.
Electing the Synodical President
The most important new procedure for 2013 is that the 2012 district delegates will elect the new Synodical President. The most important procedural fact is that these same district delegates need to be appointed by your congregation’s voters’ assembly prior to the deadline for registration for your 2012 district convention. For most districts that means you need to schedule your voters’ assembly as soon as possible, if you have not already done so.
Here is the new procedure, step-by-step:
- congregations appoint two persons (one pastor and one layperson) to be their delegates to their 2012 district convention, at a voters’ assembly prior to the registration deadline for that convention;
- district delegates may vote for Synodical President in 2013 only if they attend the 2012 district convention;
- the Secretary of Synod will send out ballots and procedures for the nominations of president and first vice-president to congregations at least five months prior to the 2013 synodical convention;
- each congregation may nominate two ordained ministers for synodical president and two ordained ministers for first vice-president;
- the candidates for synodical president will be the top three nominees among ballots received for that position; candidates for the first vice-president will be the top twenty nominees among ballots received for that position; no floor nominations will be accepted;
- the Convention Workbook will publish the names of the presidential and first vice-president candidates and their biographical data;
- the two delegates from each congregation that attended the 2012 district convention will vote for the synodical president by audited mail or audited Internet ballot; if one or both delegates are unavailable, substitutes will be accepted;
- if a nominee for synodical president does not receive a majority on the first ballot, the nominee with the least votes drops out, and a second ballot will be cast;
- the synodical president-elect will choose five out of the top twenty nominees for first vice-president as the slate of nominees to be considered by the convention;
- the first election to be conducted by the synodical convention will be for first vice-president, from the five nominees selected by the president-elect.
Memorializing the Synodical Convention
There has been some confusion about the new procedure for memorializing the Synodical Convention. Resolution 8-06A had intended to prioritize overtures submitted by circuits and districts. This would have resulted in overtures from individual congregations being received by the floor committees, but not, in most cases, being considered by the convention during its sessions. Resolution 8-06A was declined, with the result that individual congregations may still send overtures directly to the synodical convention and they have as good a chance as others of being considered by the convention itself.
At the same time, bylaw 4.2.1 (b) (2010 Handbook, p. 191) does state that “the district convention is the instrument to receive overtures (Bylaws 126.96.36.199-188.8.131.52.5)” [my emphasis]. The cited bylaws do not exist, because they were part of Resolution 8-06A and were declined. I believe that fair-minded people will see that, since Resolution 8-06A was declined, the old process still exists and therefore overtures for the synodical convention do not have to be received by the district convention.
However, a new procedure for certain types of overtures was adopted and is found in Bylaw 4.2.1 (b & d) (2010 Handbook, p. 191). These types of overtures pertain to “synodwide triennial mission and ministry emphases.” According to bylaw 4.2.1 (b), these types of overtures may originate with an individual congregation, but must be adopted by the respective circuit forum. Overtures thus adopted will be considered by the district convention, which must submit a list of two or three such emphases to the national convention. Emphases adopted by the national convention must then be used by the President, LCMS Board of Directors, and national offices in their setting of financial, budgetary, and programmatic goals for the triennium between conventions (see Bylaws 184.108.40.206 (a), 3.5.1, 3.5.2).
Since the officers and boards of the synod must follow these “emphases,” they are not slogans, but real priorities that determine where your offering dollar is spent. Congregations should consider where they want their “synod and mission” offerings spent as the deadline for submitting overtures to the circuit forums approach. Deadlines are normally the week prior to the circuit forum. You can determine the date and location of your circuit forum by contacting your Circuit Counselor.
Suggestions for Overtures
This is the time in the synodical triennium when folks start thinking about what types of overtures they might send to Synod, partly since some folks discuss these matters at district conventions. Some deadlines have already passed, e.g., the deadline for overtures to the North Dakota District Convention was October 13th. Check your Circuit Counselor or district office for information about your deadlines and applicable procedures.
One area that was completely overlooked in the restructuring at the 2010 convention was the matter of the synod’s “dispute resolution process,” which is the LCMS “church court.” A case involving an LCMS teacher and her LCMS school is presently working its way through the U.S. Supreme Court. [See Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School, petitioner, v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al., Respondents, U. S. Supreme Court Case No. 10-553.] This may have significant implications both for the status of our teachers and the procedures of our church court. I have previously expressed concern that, since 1965, revisions to our church court, and to powers of “suspension,” were adopted for political reasons, not due to principles of justice or fairness. [In 1992, the then existing adjudication system was abolished and the present reconciliation system adopted.] This is a highly complex area that affects the livelihood of all church workers. It deserves careful review by a committee appointed by the president, with revisions suggested for consideration by the 2016 convention.
Other areas of concern that I have heard about that could become overtures include:
- training all pastoral candidates more thoroughly, which applies specifically to the Specific Ministry Pastor and other Alternate Route programs;
- improving the information provided in district financial reports;
- requiring use of doctrinally-reviewed Lutheran worship resources at all district and circuit gatherings;
- encouraging regular use of Lutheran Service Book in all congregations, and reminding congregations of their constitutional agreement to use only doctrinally-reviewed Lutheran worship resources (Constitution Article VI.4);
- supporting full-time campus ministries in proximity to major universities in the U.S., which could become a triennial mission and ministry emphasis; and
- encouraging congregations to LIVE TOGETHER in peace, by seeking the common good, by supporting their pastors, teachers, and other church-workers with adequate compensation, and by protecting the same from personal attacks from within or without.
Rev. Dr. Martin R. Noland
Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, Evansville, Indian