By Joe Isenhower Jr. and Paula Schlueter Ross
The seven floor committees that met in St. Louis over the May 17-20 weekend drafted 116 proposed resolutions for some 1,200 voting delegates to consider at The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s 65th Regular Convention, July 20-25 in St. Louis.
All of the committees’ proposals primarily respond to reports and a total of 254 overtures in the Convention Workbook. The workbook — and other convention resources — may be downloaded from the lcms.org/convention website.
To further refine their work, the floor committees plan to meet in closed sessions July 19 and on the afternoon of July 20, with open hearings scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to noon July 20. The convention’s opening business session is set for 8:45 a.m. July 21.
The first issue of Today’s Business — the daily convention guide — contains the 116 resolutions being initially proposed. It is expected to be mailed to delegates and congregations in mid-June. The resolutions also are on the Web at lcms.org/todaysbusiness.
Below is a summary of the resolutions, listed by floor committee number and name.
Leading the 17 resolutions prepared by the floor committee on Witness is a call to “highlight and strengthen” theological education by sending qualified LCMS professors to teach at the seminaries of Synod partner churches, and making it possible for members of those church bodies to study at LCMS seminaries.
The resolution acknowledges that God “has blessed” the LCMS “with gifts of faithful, biblical theological education found in two strong seminaries and many fine theologians who are capable of training pastors and other church workers” and that “Lutheran churches around the world are seeking the assistance of the LCMS in training their church workers.”
The resolution also calls for the convention to “recognize” that this so-called “Global Seminary Initiative agrees with the Synod’s mission priority of strengthening confessional Lutheranism by providing confessional Lutheran theological education around the world to ensure that the preaching of the Gospel and distribution of the sacraments will continue for the edification of the saints and the extension of the kingdom.”
Other resolutions prepared by Floor Committee 1 ask the convention to:
- recognize and give thanks for LCMS missionaries and their families.
- approve the development and Synodwide study of a “Lutheran Theological Statement of Mission for the 21st Century,” including a campaign to promote “the study of God’s Word to equip people in witnessing to the Gospel.” The statement would be developed by the LCMS Offices of National and International Mission.
- encourage congregations to support church-planting efforts — as a “means of making new disciples” — with prayers, offerings and other support.
- allow and encourage all LCMS districts, circuits, congregations and members to “work collaboratively at every level” to sponsor a missionary, a church plant, a specialized ministry or a mission. This resolution also directs the Office of National Mission to “work aggressively” to make Synod entities and members aware of its resources to train and equip “all God’s people … for joyful evangelization.”
- amend Bylaw 6.2.1 (d) regarding sending workers to foreign fields by adding: “All [Recognized Service Organization] and auxiliary personnel serving overseas, contracted and called, including missionaries, shall abide by the protocol documents that exist between the LCMS and its partner churches and shall abide by policies established by the Board for International Mission.” The resolution is intended to help the Synod carry out God’s mission “in an organized and coordinated manner [in order] to avoid confusion and offense and to best utilize the treasures given to us by God.”
- urge congregations to support The Wittenberg Project both “prayerfully and financially.” In the project, the LCMS and its German partners intend to establish by 2017 a welcome center in Wittenberg, Germany, where Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses in 1517.
- approve the development of a “mission best-practices policy document” to help districts and congregations involved in mission projects coordinate their activities with the Offices of National and International Mission.
- “prepare LCMS congregations and pastors” to defend their faith by taking part in “the study of God’s Word and of the Lutheran Confessions and Lutheran Apologetics.” The resolution also asks Concordia Publishing House to publish materials “to train congregational members and professional church workers on how to respond to persecution in our society and establish clear, confessional proclamation of the Gospel.”
- encourage the development of “Spanish and multi-lingual capabilities in the Synod” by urging Lutheran schools — from preschool through colleges and seminaries, including church workers pursuing post-graduate work — to promote the study of a second “modern” language (such as Spanish or Mandarin) among students. The resolution also asks congregations to offer English as a Second Language (ESL) classes “in order to develop relationships with immigrant people,” and asks Concordia Publishing House to provide Lutheran resources that teach Spanish and ESL.
- approve, as the Synod’s mission priority, the recruitment and placement of more career missionaries. The resolution asks the Synod to double the number of career missionaries — currently at 68 — over the next three years.
- recognize and give thanks for military and institutional chaplains.
- encourage each district to have a coordinator to promote ministries among prisoners, ex-offenders, prison staff, crime victims and family members.
- encourage districts to develop intentional mission strategies for Native American ministry and relate those strategies to the Office of National Mission (ONM) so that the ONM can establish a synodwide network for such ministry.
- encourage more support for college students and campus ministry within congregations and districts.
- ask the Synod, LCMS districts and Concordia Publishing House to provide captioning with all of their video materials to make them more useful for those who are deaf and hard of hearing.
The first four of 11 resolutions prepared by the floor committee on Mercy commend and give thanks for five mercy-based ministries: LCMS Disaster Response; Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Baltimore; Lutheran Services in America and Lutheran World Relief, Baltimore; and the LCMS National Housing Support Corporation.
The resolutions also ask Synod congregations to support these ministries with gifts of “time, talent and treasures.”
Other resolutions ask:
- for a change in Bylaw 3.8.2 regarding the service of specialized pastoral ministers — to allow the Board for National Mission to “serve as a calling agency for institutional and agency chaplains and other non-foreign specialized ministers” (such as Veterans Administration, prison and hospital chaplains) “after consultation with the appropriate district president(s).”
- for a “strong finish of the Lutheran Malaria Initiative” (LMI) and to “give thanks for the effect LMI has made” to end malaria-related deaths in Africa. The initiative ends, as planned, on “World Malaria Day” (April 25) in 2014.
- for an emphasis on the “biblical teaching of sexuality, marriage and family.” The resolution seeks encouragement for the LCMS God’s Gift of Sexuality Task Force and for the “production, dissemination and use of good, Bible-based materials dealing with human sexuality to empower faithful and God-pleasing lives.” And it asks pastors and congregations to “seek practical ways to show mercy to those who have been caught up in sexual sin, especially through confession, absolution and restoration to the body of Christ.”
- congregations to “engage in works of mercy in their communities” and to use the booklet Theology for Mercy, written by LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, as a framework for their mercy activities.
- to encourage “Christian citizenship and vigilance” by praying for federal, state and local elected and appointed officials; following government laws as long as they “do not contradict or contravene the eternal and everlasting truth set forth in God’s Word”; and supporting the Synod’s “Religious Liberty: Free to be Faithful” campaign and LCMS leaders as they speak on these issues.
- that LCMS pastors, teachers and parents “continue to speak out against violence by faithfully teaching the Fifth Commandment and leading godly lives” in the midst of violence through abortion and mass shootings, such as those in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn. The resolution also asks the Office of National Mission to produce materials to assist pastors, teachers and parents in speaking out and in “promoting a culture of life.”
- to commend the Office of National Mission’s (ONM) Planting Gospel Seeds While Serving Human Needs training process as a “congregational revitalization and church-planting tool”; encourage districts and congregations to use that training process; and ask the ONM to develop additional training materials “to encourage congregations to immerse and root themselves in their immediate neighborhoods for the sake of proclaiming the Gospel.”
3. Life Together
A call to expand the Koinonia Project — the synodwide effort launched in 2010 to bring harmony to controversial areas and relationships in the Synod — leads off the 19 resolutions proposed by Floor Committee 3. That first resolution calls for “widespread support for, and participation in” the Koinonia Project “throughout all levels of the Synod,” and asks the Synod president to develop a website for the project as well as more resources and “ways for study groups to share results across the Synod.”
Other resolutions call for:
- LCMS members to “respect one another and put the best construction on all things.” The resolution also asks that differences be addressed “personally and privately before making our disagreements public or bringing formal charges against each other.”
- increasing the “witness, mercy and life together ministry” of Lutheran schools by making proclamation of the Gospel “a major focus of the ethos” of schools.
- authorizing a blue-ribbon committee on Lutheran schools to identify ways to help congregations embrace schools as a “critical ministry” and to support schools in the 21st century.
- addressing responsible Internet use in congregations in light of temptations such as pornography.
- continuing the Synod’s threefold emphasis of Witness, Mercy, Life Together during the 2013-16 triennium.
- promoting “mission awareness, support, collaboration and coordination” for rural and small-town, urban and inner-city, and suburban ministries.
- reaffirming “faithful church revitalization” as a priority of the Office of National Mission and directing the ONM to “review, evaluate and recommend” revitalization resources for districts and congregations.
- supporting and promoting black ministry in the LCMS by appointing a director of black ministry and producing a formal historical account of the ministry in the Synod.
- appointing a task force to study the call process for returning missionaries and military chaplains as well as other rostered church workers without a call. The task force — to be appointed by the LCMS president — is asked to report its findings at least six months prior to the 2016 Synod convention.
- supporting professional church workers through thanks, prayer, salary, continuing education and the establishment of “worker wellness committees” in every congregation.
- affirming LCMS worship resources “old and new” and commending the Commission on Worship document Text, Music, Context for use throughout the Synod.
- updating the 1991 An Explanation of the Small Catechism and asking that a “more comprehensive and apologetic” catechism for adults be produced. This resolution does not refer to Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation; it refers only to the 306 questions and answers that supplement the Catechism.
- encouraging daily family devotions and the study of God’s Word.
- producing resources for the study — and asking congregations to hold regular studies — of the Lutheran Confessions, to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.
4. Theology and Church Relations
The first two priority resolutions of the 16 proposed by Floor Committee 4 call on convention delegates to endorse altar and pulpit fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia and the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church, respectively. Those proposals are in line with a 2010 convention resolution and an amended Synod Bylaw that allow “a streamlined approach to altar and pulpit fellowship with the Synod.”
Other proposed resolutions having to do with church relations call for recognizing the Lutheran Church of Togo as “an independent, self-governing partner church”; affirming “growing mutual relationships among international Lutheran church bodies”; and encouraging “further discussions with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and Evangelical Lutheran Synod.”
Other Committee 4 resolutions call on the convention to approve resolutions to:
- “address questions regarding service apart from [Article XIV of The Augsburg Confession]” — regarding the teaching that “no one should publicly teach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call.”
- address LCMS “rostered workers communing at heterodox altars” — resolving that such workers “shall not commune at ELCA [Evangelical Lutheran Church in America] altars.
- approve retaining the trinitarian formula (the words “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”) when baptisms are conducted.
- overrule an LCMS Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) opinion that “reception of the Lord’s Supper, by itself, does not constitute ‘[t]aking part in the services and sacramental rites of a congregation … .’ ”
- “encourage proper oversight in the administration of the Lord’s Supper through visitation” of district presidents or their representatives with pastors and congregations.
- request the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) to study “the proper role of men in the Church and home.”
- “thank God for the faithful service of women.”
- “encourage confession and absolution for pastors.”
- “clarify the doctrine of the call.”
- “reaffirm the Synod’s position on creation.”
5. Seminary and University Education
Committee 5 proposes 14 resolutions. The one receiving top priority calls for encouraging “continued faithful witness by the Concordia University System,” specifically in terms of the 10 LCMS colleges and universities retaining their Lutheran identity and biblical teachings affirmed by the Synod, and calls on each of those schools to develop “an intentional strategy” for helping their students deal “with unbiblical cultural challenges facing them in the world today.”
The committee’s second-priority resolution asks the two LCMS seminaries, districts and congregations to support and encourage new pastors’ and their wives’ participation in the Post-Seminary Applied Learning and Support (PALS) initiative.
Two proposed resolutions have to do with the Synod’s Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) program. One calls for an SMP oversight committee and the other urges continuation and strengthening of the program.
Five other resolutions call for changes in Synod Bylaws — for Concordia University System boards of regents and for their faculties, the election process for CUS-school presidents, the procedure for consolidating CUS institutions and appointment of seminary faculty members.
Other proposed Committee 5 resolutions:
- “thank God for the affiliation of Concordia University Wisconsin and Concordia University, Ann Arbor.”
- call for establishing a “standard” for continuing education for pastors.
- ask for revision of Synod Bylaw 188.8.131.52.2, concerning the election process for CUS-school presidents.
- “encourage, promote and support the recruitment of Hispanic and Spanish-speaking students and faculty into church-work professions.”
- encourage recruiting “the highest-caliber candidates for pastoral ministry.”
- mandate a “study of the alternate routes to the pastoral ministry.”
6. Administration and Finance
Promoting “financially healthy universities, seminaries and church workers” is the intent of the top-priority resolution — among the 17 proposed by Committee 6. Specifically, the resolution calls for developing strategies “to eliminate the historic Concordia University System debt of the Synod”; asks district presidents to identify strategies to help church workers and church-work students minimize and eliminate education debt; encourages congregations to set aside annual gifts to defray and eliminate educational debts of such workers and students; and encourages individuals to support churchwide appeals and funds for LCMS higher-education institutions. It ends by calling on “the Lord of the Harvest … to send forth laborers into His harvest and implore Him to equip us with all things needful to carry out His work.”
The committee’s second-priority resolution calls for fully funding — actually, [“joy]fully funding career and Globally Engaged in Outreach missionaries” in the Synod.
Another resolution calls for addressing Synod Board of Directors’ “budget and management responsibilities,” proposing Bylaw changes in response to questions over the past three years related to those responsibilities.
Other Committee 6 proposals would:
- “restore the secretary of the Synod as a voting member of the CCM.”
- revise definitions in the LCMS Handbook that contains the Synod’s Constitution, Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation.
- in two separate resolutions — address Handbook issues over “synodwide corporate entity governing instruments” and “required background checks.”
- “clarify the appointment process for various representatives and offices.”
- clarify the process for appointing executive directors of the LCMS Offices of National and International Mission.
- clarify appointment of the chief executives of synodwide corporate and trust entities, as well as the executive director of the CTCR.
- strengthen the nominations process for synodwide corporate entities’ boards of directors.
- amend several LCMS Bylaws concerning membership on the Concordia Plans board, removal and filling vacancies of Lutheran Church Extension Fund board members, terms of office of LCMS Foundation board members, and removing and filling vacancies of LCMS Foundation board members.
- “encourage conversation and education about the CCM,” including in the districts and among LCMS-member congregations and workers.
7. Structure and Ecclesiastical Matters
Among the 19 resolutions it proposes, Committee 7 puts top priority in the “Office of Visitation” with its first three resolutions.
The first — “To set forth clear mutual expectations in carrying out [the] Office of Visitation” — states that the committee realizes that visitation of ecclesiastical supervisors (Synod and district presidents, as well as circuit counselors [or “visitors”] with those under their supervision) is “noteworthy” in the history of the LCMS and integral to “the purpose and function of a district.” The resolution makes it clear that at least once in each triennium, the president or a vice-president of the Synod is expected to visit with every district president and district board of directors; the district president or a vice-president is to visit with each circuit counselor and his congregation, as well as with other congregations; and every circuit counselor is to visit with each congregation in his circuit. The resolution makes several other recommendations concerning the qualities, qualifications and responsibilities of circuit counselors.
The committee’s second-priority resolution mandates that the Synod return to the use of the title “circuit visitor” instead of “circuit counselor,” and the third calls for establishing “visitation circuits to best meet needs of congregations.”
Another resolution proposes adoption of 10 “general principles for judging viability of districts” — that they be used “when forming, consolidating or dividing a district of the Synod” and calls on each of the 35 LCMS districts to evaluate themselves in light of the principles in the 2013-16 triennium.
Other resolutions from Committee 7 would:
- “allow e-meetings for voting by circuits, districts and Synod agencies — especially when voting requires extensive travel for brief meetings.
- provide a process for the Council of Presidents to “seek a compassionate way” to serve those with the status of “candidate” or “non-candidate,” as 217 ordained pastors are identified in the 2013 edition of The Lutheran Annual.
- authorize a number of changes for the process of electing delegates to the Synod convention, including to develop a formula for calculating the number of voting delegates to the 2016 Synod convention.
- fix the number of voting delegates to the Synod convention, in line with the aforementioned formula, “based on 20 percent (estimated at 1,230) of the number of member congregations in the Synod six months prior to the first district convention.
- resolve a number of Synod Bylaw issues remaining from the 2010 LCMS convention.
- adopt a four-year convention cycle for the Synod and LCMS districts to take effect after the 2016 LCMS convention. The Synod and districts are currently on a three-year convention cycle.
Four proposed resolutions call for addressing LCMS Handbook issues regarding the expulsion process from Synod membership, the dispute-resolution process, Bylaws pertaining to districts, and Synod conventions.
Others call for addressing district membership/ecclesiastical supervision issues, strengthening district boards of directors, amending Bylaws 3.1.3 and 3.1.4 (governing advisory delegates and representatives) to include all officers of the Synod, and studying the matter of doctrinal training for Synod reconcilers.