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.