Last Friday District President (DP) Ken Hennings sent an unprecedented, public letter to the rostered members of his district. The letter explains the drastic change that the United List majority of the Synod Board of Directors adopted in May regarding ecclesiastical supervision.
But Hennings did more. The letter explains why District Presidents in Synod are no longer the final ecclesiastical supervisors of churches, pastors, teachers, DCEs and other church workers. Our new, changed reality?
Synod President Harrison has taken that job for himself.
District President Hennings clearly warns of the consequence this bylaw change brings:
“It is necessary that I personally make you aware of the significant changes to the process of ecclesiastical supervision in our church body. The board of directors of the Synod has adopted bylaw changes that give the ultimate responsibility for your (and your congregation’s) ecclesiastical supervision to the President of the Synod. In other words, if charges are brought against you or your congregation in the area of doctrine or practice, the President of the Synod has been given ultimate authority to determine whether those charges can be substantiated and whether suspension is warranted.” [Bold emphasis added]
HENNINGS DECRIES CENTRALIZATION
DP Hennings is particularly well-suited to write such an opinion. Not only is he called to serve as the DP of one of our largest districts, he also was voted by his peers as the Chairman of the Council of Presidents (COP). His opinion counts. Speaking as the majority-elected leader of the 35 Districts of Synod and the Praesidium, Hennings outlines the re-written history of our Synod by the Harrison-appointed Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) and others:
“You will read articles that will declare that the SP has always had this responsibility for every member of the Synod. People might tell you that there’s nothing new about this, but in my opinion that is not true. This significant change represents a centralization of power and control in one office – that of the President of the Synod. Our church body has historically been congregationally based. Now the power is moving away from the grass roots to the national church body.”
HARRISON DIDN’T MAKE THIS CHANGE ALONE
It’s true. President Harrison didn’t take this power alone. He used the Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) he appointed and Floor Committee 12 of the Milwaukee Convention he appointed to help him.
Others helped, too. Secretary Sias, another United List supported nominee, drafted the new bylaw using a last-minute, “emergency” CCM Opinion 16-2791 he wrote as a Harrison-appointed member of the CCM. The problem is 16-2791 ignores the history of our Synod and past contrary CCM opinions.
With this ruling, the CCM bypassed Synod congregations acting in convention and created an imagined constitutional crisis that needed to be fixed. The CCM ruling suggests that all conventions resolutions regarding ecclesiastical supervision from 1989 are in conflict with Synod’s Constitution.
Confused? Concerned? You can find the minutes here.
The CCM opinion is quite a stretch. Think about it. In order for the conclusions of CCM Opinion 16-2791 to be true, CCM members for the past 30 years would have to have been wrong, ignoring the Constitution. And thousands of delegates, too. For this to be true, men and women elected by congregations to serve us as convention delegates must have ignored Synod’s Constitution as they voted.
With thousands of eyes and years of experience on the issue of ecclesiastical supervision in our Synod, is that even possible?
Could we all be wrong and this newly-appointed CCM be right?
HENNINGS’ QUICK ACTION AND OURS
Because of the ill-advised action of President Harrison, the CCM, Convention Floor Committee 12, and the Synod Board of Directors, Hennings acted for the good of his district and our Synod. Instead of sweeping this under the table, the Chairman of the Council of Presidents is bringing this to the attention of the congregations of our Synod – starting with Texas. Congregations Matter will act, too.
In future articles, Congregations Matter will show from LCMS history that this CCM Opinion 16-2791 is flawed and, in fact, stands against the congregation-centered heritage of our Synod. It needs to be overruled — and that can only happen in Synod Conventions. Future articles will also reveal how the top-down, hierarchical, centralized-power process President Harrison and Secretary Sias used takes control of our Synod from congregations and conventions.
WE NEED TO ACT NOW
Congregations Matter supports the leadership of District President Hennings. He has a heart for both our Synod’s constitution and history. In his letter to the Texas District — and to all of the rest of us — Hennings encourages his district to act:
“Since more and more power is being given to the SP, you and your congregation might want to give special attention to the nomination and election process for electing the President of the Synod. This process will take place at the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019. You might also want to make sure that you participate in the nomination of the next Texas District President. The election will happen at the June 2018 District Convention.”
We couldn’t agree more. All of us in all of our districts will want to follow Hennings’ sage advice. If you would like to join the movement, here are some things to do:
- Sign up for our email list and receive new posts from this site to become more informed on the issues.
- Make sure your congregation passes resolutions to district conventions and national conventions that support this effort — especially resolutions to overrule CCM Opinion 16-2791. We must turn our LCMS leadership back to its historic role.
- Elect local delegates to the District and National conventions who will vote for the primacy of congregations, not the primacy of the Synodical President and his administration.
And one more thing. You have the responsibility to nominate men and women to serve as our leaders in Synod. When it’s time to nominate a Synod President and others in 2019, let’s choose leadership that will support congregations, not use congregations to support them.