Structure task force gears up for presentations to districts

By Roland Lovstad

Responses from boards of directors of all 35 LCMS districts will be used by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance to refine its “Proposals and Possibilities” for presentation to district conventions next year.

Task force Chairman Rev. Robert Greene emphasized that the 2009 district conventions are one more step in the process of preparing a report for action at the 2010 LCMS convention. “The task force is serious about getting feedback and making it a transparent process,” he said. “We will give further consideration to issues that surface from these meetings.”

This fall, three task force members are meeting with each district’s board of directors to present the task force’s “Proposals and Possibilities” document and hear discussion. Responses from those meetings are being compiled for the 17-member task force to consider at its meeting in December.

The document deals with relationships between congregations and districts, including consideration of the number of districts; relationships between congregations and the national Synod, including the number of boards and commissions and national staff; congregational representation at district and national conventions; and frequency and function of district and national conventions.

The “Proposals and Possibilities” and response questions were first used by the task force at the Synod’s national theological convocation Aug. 18-20 in St. Louis. That method assures consistency of the feedback, according to Greene, a retiree who formerly served as president of Lutheran Social Services of the South.

In making its preliminary proposals, the task force emphasized that its focus is on serving the mission of congregations.

Just as it conducted a follow-up survey of individual participants at the theological convocation, the task force sent surveys to the district board members.

The process will be similar when the task force takes its proposals to district conventions. Besides a presentation and discussion period, Greene said, “We intend to survey the convention delegates during our report. At conventions that have electronic voting arrangements, we will survey at the end of our presentation. If they don’t have voting machines, we will do some kind of a written survey.”   

Greene added that task force representatives also intend to spend at least a day at each convention to talk informally with delegates.

He encouraged pastors and laity to go to the task force Web site at www.lcms.org/LCMSFuture to view or download the document. “I’ve been trying to encourage people to go to the Web site, look at it, and tell us what you like and what you don’t like. Let us know.”

Task force member Rev. Jon Braunersreuther, who made six district presentations, emphasized the effort to build consensus. “We strongly believe it’s important for this task force to listen honestly to the constituency of the Synod about what they see and what they need in terms of structure and governance,” said the senior assistant to the LCMS president.

“The districts were very receptive, very hospitable, and very engaged,” observed Dr. Will Sohns, recalling his district presentations. A member of the Commission on Constitutional Matters and former president of the Wyoming District, Sohns observed that the board members made meaningful contributions and responses, adding that they are interested in continuing their participation in the process.

The district convention cycle begins with North Dakota Jan. 18-21 and ends with the Central Illinois District July 5-7. The task force will use feedback from the conventions to further refine its findings and recommendations. Once delegates are elected for the 2010 LCMS convention, Synod President Gerald B. Kieschnick will host regional caucuses of the delegates to present the proposals, concepts, and options for consideration and discussion.

The task force will bring its final report for action to the LCMS convention July 10-17, 2010, in Houston.

Roland Lovstad is a freelance writer and a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Perryville, Mo.

Posted Nov. 20, 2008

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