Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Task Force Report: Initial Observations

The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance--whose title alone guarantees that lay people with lives and the majority of pastors have already stopped reading-- has issued their initial report, offering "proposals and possibilities for consideration and discussion." It's available at the LCMS website (this should link directly to it.)

Don't stop reading! This stuff is important for the LCMS and LCMS congregations!

Some items of note:

1. The second paragraph says, "The following proposals are not final by any means. The task force considers its work to be under construction." In other words, the final proposals may get much better, or much, much worse.

2. With only a hat-tip to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, the report plunges in to governance issues. In other words, we are in the realm of politics now, not theology. There are worldly presuppositions and agendas at work in the proposals.

3. The report suggests either increasing the number of districts to 100 or reducing the districts from 35 to 20. Either options would isolate Confessional, liturgical congregations from the others. How so? If you had 100 districts, the ones with the biggest churches would get the most influence, and confessional pastors would get routed into like-minded districts and then ignored, making confessional ghettos. With larger districts, the few Confessional-minded districts that now exist will not any longer, and thus District Resolutions from such districts that are now a thorn in the side of the Powers-That-Be will vanish.

4. The proposal that "circuits could be formed geographically, by affinity group [emphasis mine], by size of congregation, or by any other method deemed most appropriate by the congregations of the district" will ensure that we would have entire circuits of consumerist pop-Christianity, Contemporary Worship, Saddleback-Willow Creek congregations, who would get more delgates (see below). I suppose this would keep pastors from fighting with each other as it happens at many Circuit Meetings, but it does seem to isolate "Old Missouri" from "Not Your Grandfather's New Missouri."

5. Several items under "Congregations and the National Synod" entail eliminating various boards and committees (in general, good), with fewer "national," non-executive staff reporting directly to the president. More power in the President's hands. Never a good thing, since he would have no peer. We know in the Western Church what happens when power is concentrated in one office without peer.

6. Furthermore, there is this disturbing idea that task forces be appointed for "LCMS Youth Gatherings, hymnal projects, transformation of congregations [emphasis mine], urban ministry and the like." So we would then have the President appointing people to make his kind of hymnal, and transform congregations (what does that really mean?) into his likeness.

7. A proposal that congregational delegates (one ordained/commissioned, one lay) per 750 members was long expected. The system we have now is akin to a Senate--each congregation represented equally at District Conventions. This proposal would ensure that large congregations would have the most influence and control over District Conventions, which furthermore ensures that they will set the agenda, nominations and elections for all National-level Conventions.

8. Reduce the number of voting delegates to 625 or 850 at National Conventions, to "provide more effective representation." How's that? Either I don't understand representational government (probable), or they are lying. How could less representatives ensure "more effective representation?"

9. National Convention delegates would be elected not at circuit forums, but at District Conventions--where the largest congregations have most representation. This further marginalizes small-congregatoin pastors and those "outside the loop."

10. A reference to the Divine Call of the Synodical President, vice presidents and secretary is confusing. Currently, these are not "called" positions, I don't believe.

11. As it now works, a congregation can send an overture (resolution) to the District Convention or Synodical Convention. A series of proposals would limit this by giving precedence to overtures that are also adopted by circuits or districts. The effect would be to eliminate overtures that cut against the grain.

12. Finally, at the end there is this proposal, "All adopted doctrinal resolutions are to be honored and upheld by the members of Synod (pastors & congregations) in accordance with each resolution's intended status until such time as teh Synod amends or repeals them," and, "The task force proposal clarifies and affirms that the Synod expects every member congregation of the Synod to respect its resolutions and to consider them of binding force on the assumption that they are in accordance with the Word of God and that they are applicable to the condition of the congregation." No more dissent!

I must say that I am not too surprised at these "proposals for discussion." On the surface they seem mild and reasonable--nothing too radical. But as noted above, there seems to be a systematic effort to isolate and marginalize those not in the majority. Confessional pastors and congregations, or whatever you wish to call them, are not in the majority. I believe if these proposals are all enacted, they would maximize the ongoing transformation of our Synod away from our Lutheran, Evangelical Catholic heritage and confession into a mainstream, Evangelical Pop Consumerist Trend.

Other analysis at: and Necessary Roughness


  1. Bryce P Wandrey said...

    One question: is there a hesitancy to giving larger congregations more say?

  2. Jeremy Loesch said...

    Hi Chris, thanks for your observations of this. This is sad, not unexpected, but still sad. It's been obvious for a while that some people in God's Church don't count. The shrinking of the delegate base, the expansion or shrinking of the number of districts, and the consolidation of power in the Office of the President carries the Church farther away from the Body of Christ, which I always thought was the Church. But what do I know? I'm a pastor who doesn't count, serving a church that doesn't count. Thanks again Chris. Jeremy

  3. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Bryce...thanks for visiting and the question.

    Yes, there is hesitancy, for two main reasons. First, the larger congregations tend to be the mega-church, American Pop-Evangelical stripe in the LCMS. Extra votes for these would nullify the voice of smaller congregations.

    Second, as the Body of Christ, in theory, it is inequitable for larger congregations to have more power than smaller congregations. Is the hand more important than the toe?

    If we were not in the middle of a struggle to keep/reform our heritage and confession, if we had bishops to ensure the orthodoxy of the congregations, if small or non-growing congregations were not seen as second-rate in the eyes of many, then perhaps it wouldn't be troublesome. As it is, however, there is cause for concern.

  4. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Fourth sentence above should read: "...nullify the vote of smaller, but confessional congregations."

    Sorry about that.

  5. Bryce P Wandrey said...

    Would it be too out of line to ask if the confessionals would be against this measure if confessional congregations were larger than non-confessional ones?

    (I guess it is a pretty rhetorical question)

  6. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Bryce--not out of line at all. It is rhetorical, but since it is my blog, I'll take a stab at it.

    It's a good question. In 1992 a man presumed to be confessional took office, and those who supported him did indeed grant him more power than he ought to have had. Short-sighted on their part, I suppose.

    While I like to think of myself as being less petty than that, I'm not sure if Confessionals would be so against more representation if the tables are turned. It's human nature, after all.

    I would hope that they might recognize the theological implications of it and refuse it, but couldn't say for sure.

    The real problem, though, is much deeper than all this: real weaknesses in the LCMS, in our understanding and explanation of the Lutheran Confessions, and perhaps in the Confessions themselves. It makes all of us crazy.

  7. Mike Baker said...

    ger·ry·man·der [verb]:

    1. try to get extra votes unfairly: to manipulate an electoral area, usually by altering its boundaries, in order to gain an unfair political advantage in an election.

    2. to divide (a geographic area) into voting districts so as to give unfair advantage to one party in elections by securing an electoral majority in a large number of districts while concentrating the voting strength of the opposition in as few districts as possible.

    3. to divide (an area) into political units to give special advantages to one group.

  8. Dixie said...

    Pastor Hall, your analysis was thoughtful and most excellent. I don't know what to say beyond that.

    As my French boss tells me in difficult situations, Bon courage!

  9. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    As to between 100 districts or 20, I think 100 would more apt to pave the way for an eventual split, especially if you tie the majority of confessional leaning congregations in a minority number of circuits. . . this would provide an inter-confessional structure within the Synod that could be the basis of organization if a break were to come. . . especially if there is to be no dissent.