Kieschnick: No special convention to consider restructuring

Citing the need for sufficient time, clear communication, proper feedback, and clear consensus in the Synod, President Gerald B. Kieschnick has announced that he will not call a special convention in 2009 to consider recommendations of a task force on structure and governance.

In a presentation to the Council of Presidents (COP) Sept. 9 in St. Louis, the president instead urged a well-planned process of communicating the task force kieschnick headrecommendations, gathering feedback, revising the recommendations, and bringing them to the Synod’s regular convention in 2010.

“The issue has to be the recommendations of the task force,” Kieschnick told the council.  “I don’t want the calling of a special convention to be the issue.”

While affirming the urgency of the matters being addressed by the task force, Kieschnick said, “It is the president’s belief, hope, and prayer that this process would avoid any appearance that recommendations of the task force are thoughtlessly created, hastily recommended, or in any way forced upon the Synod.”

He said he wanted the result to be “greater understanding, agreement, consensus, harmony, trust, and lasting peace among us in our beloved Synod as we continue to fulfill our mission” and added words from the Synod’s mission statement, “vigorously to make known the love of Christ, by word and deed, within our churches, communities and the world.”

The COP responded by unanimously adopting a motion to support the president’s recommendation.  Adoption of the motion was followed by extended applause.

Kieschnick shared his decision in a presentation that described both “pros and cons” of a special convention.

In its preliminary report to the LCMS convention last July, the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance said it had identified areas of overlap, duplication of responsibilities, declining resources, inequitable representation on elected boards and commissions, and other issues.  A special convention was proposed to deal specifically with Synod Constitution and Bylaw amendments to deal with structure and governance.

The LCMS convention adopted a resolution noting that the Constitution allows the Synod president to call a special session with consent of two-thirds of the district presidents and directed the president to meet with the Council of Presidents within 90 days to discuss such a session. The resolution also stated that if a special convention were to be called, the delegates “stand ready to serve.”

The resolution also called on the president to consult with the two seminary presidents, the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, the Board of Directors, the vice president–finance/treasurer, other officers, and the Commission on Constitutional Matters prior to meeting with the Council of Presidents.

In comments to the Board of Directors a day earlier, Sept. 8, Kieschnick described feedback from those sources as “frank and varied.”  There was no clear-cut support, he said, either for or against the calling of a special convention, and the general consensus was to leave the decision up to the president and the COP.  He said the primary counsel expressed by those participating in these consultations was that the work of the task force be carefully, completely, and collaboratively conducted.

Kieschnick said the task force on structure and governance will have its initial report and recommendations prepared for LCMS district conventions, which begin in January 2009.  He suggested ways to gather responses to the recommendations, including a DVD of the task force report to show at all 35 district conventions, feedback from the district conventions, and regional caucuses for 2010 convention delegates and district leaders.

Those activities would provide input for the task force in shaping its final recommendations for the 2010 convention.  The task force already has met with district boards of directors and intends to conduct interviews with district presidents and meet again with district boards of directors in 2008.

“Every time we get feedback, the task force wrestles with that feedback,” Kieschnick said.  “In my judgment, that give-and-take makes it much more probable that the sense of ownership and acceptance will be widespread throughout the Synod.”  He also repeated his encouragement that pastors, congregations, seminary and university faculties, and other members of the Synod thoroughly study and provide feedback to the theological principles document already produced by the task force, titled “Congregation-Synod-Church,” so that any proposed structural changes are consistent with what the LCMS believes, teaches, and confesses.

Kieschnick suggested that the 2010 convention will be extended by two to three days to allow careful consideration of the structure and governance proposals.  He said the convention should consider the task force recommendations first, since convention decisions on those recommendations could affect the number and types of officers, boards, and commissions to be elected, as well as other convention business and decisions.

Posted Sept. 11, 2007

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