6. Human Care
Floor Committee 6 is proposing seven resolutions that:
- thank God for the Synod’s disaster-relief work — particularly in Haiti — through LCMS World Relief and Human Care, LCMS World Mission, Orphan Grain Train, districts and congregations, Haitian mission societies, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti, and the Lutheran Church of Haiti. The resolution also urges the Synod to “preserve and maintain” its disaster-response and human-care capacity.
- encourage the convention to denounce legislation or actions that support or fund abortions; urge congregations to work with local crisis-pregnancy centers; commend Lutherans For Life and encourage pastors and congregations to affirm the sanctity of life; call on the Synod to maintain its sanctity-of-life ministry and ask that ministry to convene a conference.
- ask the Synod to amend its Bylaws so that institutional chaplains and pastoral counselors may receive “divine calls for ministry” as do parish pastors.
- encourage the Synod and its agencies and schools to be “committed” to the Lutheran Malaria Initiative — a collaborative effort with Lutheran World Relief, Baltimore, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to combat malaria.
- ask the LCMS Board for Human Care Ministries to develop resources to recruit and train clergy and laypeople for prison and jail ministry; ask the Synod to sponsor a training conference; and encourage districts to have prison ministry coordinators.
- ask the LCMS Board for Human Care Ministries to provide materials and training to help districts, congregations, and schools address domestic violence and child abuse.
- encourage the Synod to support efforts to end human trafficking and slavery that affects some 2.5 million people worldwide.
7. Ecclesial Matters
To encourage the continuing work of the 12-member Task Force on Synodical Harmony, whose progress report is contained in the Convention Workbook, is the first of eight resolutions prepared by Floor Committee 7.
Its second resolution comes in response to numerous overtures that request the overruling of certain opinions by the Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM). The CCM opinions deal with the ecclesiastical supervision and expulsion of a member, who, when performing his or her official duties, follows the advice and counsel of the designated supervisor.
Noting that it honors “the genuine concern expressed by individuals, congregations, circuits, and districts of the Synod regarding CCM opinions in question and desire(s) to resolve this manner in a responsible and God-pleasing fashion,” the floor committee’s resolution affirms the Synod’s responsibility to:
- provide each of its members with appropriate ecclesiastical supervision and counsel;
- supervise and hold accountable ecclesiastical supervisors that it puts in place for the protection of its members and the Synod itself; and
- affirm that CCM Opinion 02-2309 and related opinions should not be misunderstood “to grant immunity to any member of the Synod, or to allow such member to act with impunity, or to give permission to act contrary to the Holy Scriptures, the Lutheran Confessions, the Constitution or Bylaws of our beloved Synod.”
The committee’s third resolution calls for adding a new Bylaw to the Synod’s Handbook that deals with the removal of individual members from boards and commissions, stating that previous proposals “have not been acted upon by past conventions,” but recommends it now because “there is an interest in bringing peace and order among the individual members and congregations of the Synod.” The proposed Bylaw outlines 10 causes for an individual’s removal and details the process.
Responding to a task force report that studied the composition of hearing panels involved in dispute resolutions, the fourth resolution seeks to add a hearing facilitator and a reconciler who is a layperson to the panels and change the way district presidents are selected for the panels.
Other resolutions from the committee ask the Synod to:
- clarify the Bylaw regarding specific ministry pastor limitations, changing the word “location,” which implies a specific geographic area, to “context.”
- amend the Bylaw regarding the calling of pastors by congregations to include ordained ministers of certain partner churches.
- amend the Bylaw that deals with expectations of Synod membership to include “financial support of the work of the Synod and the provision of annual statistical information.”
- request the Synod secretary to study time limitations for initiating the dispute resolution process.
8. Structure and Governance
This committee’s 33 resolutions are presented in five sections carrying titles that all begin with “Congregations walking together in mission,” and then continuing with wording more specific to each section’s subject matter.
In addition to calling for certain actions, most of those resolutions also authorize changes to Bylaws or Articles in the Synod’s constitution.
The first five resolutions offered by the committee have to do with “small and large networks,” primarily concerning circuits and districts — beginning with a proposed action that would eliminate the provision for advisory members in the Synod, “since they are represented by the eligible voting delegates selected by their congregation,” as the resolution states.
The second-priority resolution proposed by the committee would have representatives of “the circuit network of congregations” gather for a circuit forum at least once in the later-proposed “quadrennium” (of every four years) “to celebrate their common confession and give voice to the opportunities to share in mission and ministry.” It also encourages congregations to send convention overtures to the circuit for study.
Noting that the circuit counselor is the “principal officer of the circuit,” another proposed resolution in this section concerns nominations for circuit counselors beginning with the congregations in the circuit, and also would allow the district president to nominate eligible circuit counselor candidates, with their election occurring at the circuit forum, and to be ratified during the next district convention.
Congregations without a pastor at the district convention would be assured more equal representation if a proposed resolution is adopted that allows vacancy or interim pastors to serve as delegates to those conventions.
Other proposed resolutions call for:
- voting delegates for Synod conventions to be elected at district conventions.
- establishing a “preferred process” for receiving overtures for the Synod convention that gives priority “to overtures submitted … by circuits and districts, while still giving consideration by floor committees to all submitted overtures.”
- “this year’s Synod convention to direct the president of the Synod to convene a special task force to work with the Council of Presidents and the LCMS Board of Directors toward submitting an overture to the next Synod convention that would recommend “general principles of viability for a district …, the purpose and function of a district, … a recommendation for the number and configuration of districts,” and “an implementation plan for any recommended changes that will address staff personnel and operation.”
One of the major resolutions coming out of Floor Committee 8 calls for the realignment of the Synod’s national ministries around two mission boards. In the preamble to the resolution, the committee states that the “current operational structure of the Synod’s boards and commissions and the relationship of staff coordination and accountability begs for improvement.”
The resolution would:
- eliminate the existing program boards and some staffed commissions, excluding the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), the Commission on Doctrinal Review, the Commission on Constitutional Matters, and the Commission on Structure (to be renamed the Commission on Handbook).
- assign responsibility for all staff functions at the national office to an officer of the organization
- Realign all functions currently performed by the program boards and staffed commissions, with the exception of the CTCR, into a two-office ministry structure, or assigned to the Office of the President, the LCMS Board of Directors, or other LCMS agencies.
It also asks that the position currently titled “vice-president-finance/treasurer” be renamed “chief financial officer” and that a new position, chief mission officer, be created. This person would serve a four-year term, report directly to the Synod president, and be responsible for supervising the daily activities of the national office’s ministry functions.
The two ministry offices to be created would each function under policies set by two new mission boards: the Board for National Mission and the Board for International Mission. The Office of National Mission would be responsible for coordinating the national office efforts in serving domestic ministries, especially congregations and schools through their districts, while the Office of International Mission would oversee the work of the Missouri Synod in other countries.
If the restructuring proposals are adopted, other resolutions call for the creation of a “Transition Team” that would facilitate the movement from the current structure to the proposed structure and the Synod’s Board of Directors to amend the Bylaws to “implement the spirit of the resolutions involved in the restructuring of the Synod adopted by the 2010 convention.”
Another resolution in this section seeks to develop mission and ministry emphases that would coincide with the proposed four-year national convention schedule, and asks that schools and congregations develop individual goals in alignment with these emphases to provide a “common focus for the LCMS as we engage in ministry together.”
Stating that “a church body may periodically see the need for a name change to more effectively reflect its character, breadth, and mission,” another proposed resolution asks the Council of Presidents and Board of Directors to consider alternative names for the Missouri Synod from a suggested list and agree on two names that would be voted on by delegates at their next district conventions. The alternative name receiving the most votes would be proposed as a resolution at the next national convention.
The next five resolutions offered by Committee 8 concern how leaders are nominated and elected.
Noting that the Synod president and first vice-president must work compatibly, the floor committee offered a resolution that would permit the president-elect to select five preferred names from a list of 20 nominees for first vice-president. That list of five would comprise the ballot for election at the national convention.
The structure and governance task force recommended the creation of five regions as a means to build stronger connections between congregations. The floor committee’s resolution would have the Board of Directors designate these regions in coordination with the Council of Presidents. Based on geography and confirmed membership, the Board would form the regions at least 24 months before the national convention. Congregations in those five regions would nominate candidates for vice presidents and the convention would elect the regional vice presidents.
To complete elections at this year’s convention, the floor committee provided a resolution to waive the 24-month advance notification for 2010. That would enable elections to the Board of Directors, the Board of National Mission, and the Board of International Mission. Under terms of the resolution, the Board of Directors and the Council of Presidents would present a regional makeup to the convention prior to the elections.
Another resolution would revise the election procedure for the LCMS Board of Directors. Composition of the Board would be one layperson from each region, two ordained ministers elected at large, one commissioned minister elected at large, two laypersons elected at large, three laypersons appointed by the elected Board (to bring skills in specialized areas such as finance, etc.), and the Synod president — for a total of no more than 14 voting members. The resolution proposes that no more than two voting members would be from the same district.
Congregations would have a direct role in electing the Synod president under procedures outlined in another resolution. Using technology, the process would have each congregation’s two delegates to the previous district convention cast votes for Synod president. The election would take place four weeks prior to the national convention from a ballot of three candidates who received the highest number of nominations submitted earlier by congregations. If no candidate receives a majority in the first election, the voting would go to a second ballot. Should no candidate receive a majority on the second ballot, the convention would elect the president from the two remaining candidates.
Floor Committee 8 prepared nine resolutions that deal with district and national conventions of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, and the business they conduct.
Those resolutions call for:
- a four-year cycle of conventions, with circuits holding theological convocations in year one; districts holding theological convocations in year two; districts holding conventions in year three; and the national LCMS convention meeting in year four. (Current cycles of district and national LCMS conventions are three years.)
- four-year terms of office for all circuit, district, and national officers, as well as board and commission members (current terms are three or six years, depending on the office). This resolution also limits officers to three successive terms.
- a two-thirds majority vote of national LCMS convention delegates to adopt resolutions that state the Synod’s doctrinal position on specific issues. (Such statements currently require a simple majority by delegates, plus a two-thirds ratification by LCMS congregations within six months of the convention.)
- reducing the number of delegates at national LCMS conventions to 1