HOUSTON—Bylaw changes describing the role of circuits (local groupings of congregations) and methods for electing pastors to serve as circuit counselors were among actions adopted July 16 by delegates to the 64th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Also adopted were two resolutions requesting study materials related to two articles of the church body’s constitution.
The convention continues through July 17 at the George R. Brown Convention Center under the theme “ONE People–Forgiven.” Among the approximately 3,000 participants are 1,200 clergy and lay voting delegates.
The changes were proposed to the convention by the Floor Committee on Structure and Governance, which earlier introduced structure changes that were adopted by the convention. Delegates acted on six resolutions relating to structure and governance during the July 16 morning session:
- Resolution 8-02A, “to restore circuits to their primary purpose,” includes a new bylaw that states, “A circuit is a network of congregations that ‘walks together’ for mutual care, support, advice, study, ecclesiastical encouragement, service, coordination, resources and counsel—all for the sake of greater congregational participation in God’s mission.” The resolution adds additional descriptions of the functions of circuits, circuit counselors, circuit forums (with each congregation represented by one pastor and one lay delegate) and circuit convocations (open to all congregation members).
The resolution was adopted by a 63 percent majority, with an amendment introduced from the floor that specifies that districts shall establish circuits according to geographic criteria.
- Resolution 8-05B, “to elect delegates to the Synod convention,” was referred by a delegate vote of 583 to 551 to the Commission on Handbook (formerly called the Commission on Structure). The resolution proposed bylaw changes that would set the number of delegates to the national convention at 10 percent of the total of member congregations and set a method of electing delegates through “electoral clusters.”
- Resolution 8-03B, “to elect circuit counselors,” revises bylaws for electing circuit counselors. Under the new system, candidates may be nominated by congregations or the district president, elected at a circuit forum and ratified by the district convention. The counselors previously were elected at district conventions. The resolution, with amendments, was adopted by a 619-509 vote.
- Resolution 8-12A, “to direct the Board of Directors to amend the bylaws as necessary,” specifies procedures to amend bylaws as may be necessary to implement “the spirit of the resolutions involved in the restructuring of the Synod.” The rationale for the resolution notes that even with careful work by the floor committee, “the complex work of making major interrelated changes to the bylaws can result in unintended gaps or ambiguities.” It was adopted by an 822-286 vote.
- Resolution 8-30B, “to study Article VI of Synod’s constitution,” directs the Synod president—in consultation with the Council of Presidents, the Commission on Theology and Church Relations and the Commission on Constitutional Matters—to “make provisions for the preparation of materials (a study) that explains the biblical, confessional and historical basis for Article VI of the Synod’s constitution and the current and historic bylaws that elucidate the article.” The resolution, adopted by an 850-286 vote, also states “that the study involve the Council of Presidents, the districts, circuits and seminaries.”
Article VI deals with requirements of members of the Synod, which include congregations, ordained ministers and commissioned ministers of religion.
The resolution further encourages congregations “to engage in the study to promote unity, harmony and understanding.” Following the study, the Commission on Handbook, in consultation and concurrence with the Synod president, the Commission on Constitutional Matters and the Council of Presidents, is to submit a proposal to the next convention “to clarify and affirm or amend Article VI.”
- Resolution 8-32B, “to study Article VII of Synod’s constitution,” calls for a study of the article dealing with the relationship of the Synod and its members. The resolution calls on the president to implement a synodwide study of “Congregations of the Synod, Background Materials on the Advisory Nature of the LCMS,” produced in 2004; a 2009 opinion of the Commission on Constitutional Matters; and other historical materials. It was adopted by an 858-271 vote of the delegates.
The resolution also states that the study involve the Council of Presidents, districts, circuits and LCMS colleges, universities and seminaries. It encourages congregations to “engage in the study to promote unity, harmony and understanding. As in Res. 8-30B, it calls on the Commission on Handbook to bring a proposal to the 2013 convention.
Posted July 16, 2010