Anything but Dull – Convention Report – 2015 Montana District LCMS – Part 1

This is Part 1 of a report on the 2015 Montana District LCMS convention. Part 2 will report on Resolution 5-04 “To Call Upon the Synodical President to Invoke the Procedure for Expulsion from Synod the Rev. Paul Linnemann, District President of the Northwest District.”

The Montana District of the LCMS held its 33rd convention June 22-25, 2015 in Billings, Montana. I was the lay delegate from Trinity Lutheran Church, Sidney, Montana and was assigned to floor committee 5, the Committee on Administration and Special Overtures. That assignment sounded drab to me, but events proved it to be anything but dull.

The convention dealt with several major issues, and one momentous issue. One of Montana’s resolutions earned mockery from the Synodical President later at the Michigan convention.

Equally with our committee’s stances and actions, I always will remember the oneness of confession, gentleness of spirit, and strength of character among its 22 members, and the openness of procedure by its leaders.

Likewise on the floor, I always will remember the amazing experience of seeing debate work. So often, debate does not work because opponents do not listen to each other, they talk past each other, few people’s minds are changed, and unity does not develop. In Montana, people listened to each other. When they spoke, they actually answered what those on the other side of a question had said. When better arguments came to light, you could see minds being changed and unity developing. Montana Lutherans are independent minded people who work together.

Frequent worship and confessional study were a large part of influencing both the tone and substance of the convention. The orders for Morning Prayer, the Service of Prayer and Preaching and others without the Sacrament were followed. The pastors who preached spoke on assigned texts that revolved around the convention’s theme, that there is no other name given among men by which we must be saved, than the Name of Jesus. The sermons each had the individual flavors of their authors, but each sermon was a pearl on the string of the theme.

The convention read and studied the Smalcald Articles. In each session, the Convention Reader read aloud a segment of this confession while each delegate had the text in hand, and then groups at tables had discussion guided by prepared study questions and pastors at each table.

One of the lessons of the Smalcald Articles became very important in floor debate on a momentous matter. For there to be a denial or loss of the chief article of the faith upon which the church stands or falls, it is not necessary that an enemy of the Gospel directly say, “I deny the chief article.” False teaching on other articles can involve a denial or loss of the chief article. Dr. Matthew L. Becker’s teachings are like that.

The discussion guide was titled, “On Making a Public Confession.” We were reminded that making a public and true confession is vital. The necessity of confessing the faith became the mainspring driving the convention’s actions on various issues, including its resolutions concerning Dr. Becker and his supervisor, Northwest District President, Paul Linneman.

Resolutions from committees adopted by the convention, leaving aside for the moment ones dealing with heresy, include:

Resolution #1-01
To Address the Fear of Decline of Church Membership

Resolution #1-02
To Encourage the Identification of Church Planting Opportunities within the Montana District

Resolution #1-03
To Establish a Task Force to Study Opportunities for Chaplaincies for Montana Detention Centers

Resolution #1-04
To Provide Ongoing Support for International Missionaries Called from the Montana District

Resolution #2-03
To Encourage the Establishment of American Heritage Girls Chapters

Resolution #3-04
To Encourage People and Pastors of the Montana District to Stand Firmly Against the Culture of Death and Support Those Voices That Actively Challenge It

Resolution #3-05
To Support Pastors and Laity in Firmly Confessing the Biblical Understanding of Human Sexuality

Resolution #3-06
To Assist Congregations in Their Privilege to Welcome All People Regardless of What Sexual Identity They Profess

Resolution #4-03
To Uphold Our Stated Confession of the Office of the Ministry
Resolved, that congregations with lay men (non-ordained men) not under a supervisor in a field education or vicarage program who are preparing sermons and preaching publicly and/or administering the sacraments be instructed by their District President, for the sake of the Gospel and our agreed confession, to stop no later than October 1, 2016; and be it further
Resolved, that all Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod District training programs preparing lay men to preach publicly and administer the sacraments in the church, be brought to an end no later than October 1, 2016; and be it finally
Resolved, that the Montana District in convention memorialize the synod in convention in 2016 to make this resolution its own

Resolution #5-06
To Commend for Study the Report on Worship
(Questions to ask and factors to consider before abandoning or changing the historic liturgy)

The following delegate resolution was adopted:

Resolution Delegate–01 To Memorialize Synod at the 2016 Convention to Direct the Synodical Board of Directors to Address Budget Redistribution and Synodical Organization in Order to Better Fund Our Seminaries, The Global Seminary Initiative, and Missionaries

Apparently it was Resolution Delegate-01 that earned the mockery of the Synodical President at the Michigan convention on Tuesday, June 30, 2015. Decide for yourself by viewing video of his remarks here, specifically beginning at timestamp 18:20. Apparently, it plays well in Michigan to mock Montana, and that is Life Together.

The following resolutions regarding heresy were adopted:

Resolution #3-01
To Allow for the Review of Acquittals
(Memorializes to the 2016 synodical convention language for the amendment of Article XIII of the synodical constitution)

Resolution #3-02
To Adopt a New Method for Dealing With Charges of Heresy Apart from the Existing Expulsion Process
Resolved, that the President of the Synod appoint a task force comprised of one professor from each seminary, two District Presidents, one parish pastor, one commissioned minister, and three laypersons (one of whom shall be an attorney) to develop bylaws for dealing with heresy to be presented to the 2019 Synodical Convention; and be it further
Resolved, that all charges of heresy be brought directly to the Praesidium of the synod for a determination as to whether such charges have grounds to be considered under the bylaws for dealing with heresy; and be it finally
Resolved, that the Montana District meeting in convention memorialize the Synod in convention in 2016 to make this resolution its own.

Resolution #4-01
To Call for Members with Confessions Contrary to that of the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions to Leave the Synodical Union Voluntarily

Resolution #5-03
Out of True Love for the Reverend Matthew L. Becker to Call on Him to Repent and Recant

Resolution #5-05
To Emphasize Effective Ecclesiastical Supervision in the Districts of the Synod
Resolved that the Montana District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod memorialize the 2016 convention of the same to direct that this triennium’s program agenda for the Council of Presidents, that is, the entire part of its meetings not devoted to various Bylaw-mandated administrative tasks and deliberations, be organized by the President of Synod and not by the Council of Presidents or a subcommittee thereof; and be it further
Resolved likewise to memorialize Synod that the program agenda devised by the President for the Council shall be, in whole and in part, concerned with advancing the “unity of doctrine and practice in all the Districts of Synod” and with counsel regarding the “doctrine and administration of Synod,” with opportunity for input and mutual counsel by other members of the Council, but within the program agenda set forth by the President under this directive of the Synod; and be it finally
Resolved likewise to memorialize Synod that the President of Synod shall through Synod’s official publications deliver pertinent, detailed, timely, and regular reports of the Council’s progress in working toward “unity of doctrine and practice in all the districts of Synod.”

Part 2 will report on Resolution 5-04 “To Call Upon the Synodical President to Invoke the Procedure for Expulsion from Synod the Rev. Paul Linnemann, District President of the Northwest District.”

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