President, district presidents authorized to call special convention

HOUSTON – Delegates to the 63rd Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod said they “stand ready to serve” if President Gerald B. Kieschnick and two-thirds of the 35 district presidents determine that a special convention should be called to amend Synod structure and governance.

Substitute Resolution 8-07, adopted July 19 by a vote of 793-325, directs the Synod President to discuss the subject with the Council of Presidents within 90 days, after consulting with the two seminary presidents, the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, the Board of Directors, the vice president-finance/treasurer, other officers of the Synod, and the Commission on Constitutional Matters.

The adoption of the substitute resolution followed considerable discussion during this convention about calling a special convention.

The floor committee on Synod Structure and Governance presented the subject of a special convention to the convention. Rev. Kenneth H. Roberts, a delegate from the Pacific Southwest District, offered the substitute resolution.

The original resolution, 8-07A, which the delegates began debating earlier in the week, called for the special convention after district conventions are completed in 2009, as determined by the President. The original would have amended the Bylaws to limit a special convention to the “specific stated purpose.”  It would have required a two-thirds vote to adopt.

Because of its wording, the substitute proposal – which delegates agreed on July 18 to consider – required only a majority vote. But noting the concerns of delegates about the margin required to adopt the proposal, Dr. Larry A. Stoterau, Pacific Southwest District president and committee co-chair, asked on behalf of the floor committee on July 19, for the “forgiveness” of the delegates. “In the spirit of working together,” Stoterau moved, on the committee’s behalf, that the substitute resolution require a margin of two-thirds to adopt.

Before the vote, Kieschnick said he and others believed that it would be better for this convention’s delegates to deal with structure and governance versus a new group of delegates in 2010. The chair [Kieschnick] believes a sense of trust has been established during this assembly,” he told the delegates.

The delegates immediately agreed that a two-thirds vote should be required to adopt the substitute resolution. Following the voting, Kieschnick expressed his “deep appreciation” for the “charitable manner” in which the delegates addressed the topic.

In remarks earlier in the week to the convention, Stoterau said “there is urgency about facing the issues.” The net cost of such an assembly, expected to be two to three days in length, is estimated to be between $600,000 and $1 million, he said. The cost of a special convention would not affect the mission and ministry of the Synod, nor would it affect the Synod’s doctrine, Stoterau said.  He stressed that many leaders in the Synod believe that action on restructuring and governance matters cannot wait until 2010.

The report of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance was cited in the original resolution for a special convention. It said the task force identified “areas of overlap and duplication of responsibilities, declining resources from unrestricted funding, inequitable representation on elected boards and commissions, and other substantive issues.”

Two former Synod presidents, both members of the task force on structure, spoke in favor of a special convention.  Dr. Ralph A. Bohlmann said a special convention will give delegates a chance to focus on the Synod’s mission, while engaged in study, consideration, and listening with guidance from specialists who will help the process.

Dr. Robert T. Kuhn, former president and current chairman of the LCMS Board of Directors, said, “We feel it is very important.  The Board of Directors felt it was strategically important to the have a special convention.”

By 937-156, delegates on July 19 adopted Resolution 8-13 which amended the Synod’s bylaws for a special convention.  That resolution limited the business of a special convention to the “specific stated purpose for the calling of the special session.” It also enabled the Synod president in consultation with the Council of Presidents and the Board of Directors to provide for specific provisions for the special convention.

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