Writing A Letter

COP Chair Challenges Ecclesiastical Supervision Decision

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.

Congregations matter.

 

Click Here to Download District President Hennings’ Letter

2 comments

  1. Dear Congregations Matter-
    I was a delegate to the last convention and I have to admit, this missive from President Hennings confuses me because he was the one who spoke so strongly in favor of Resolution 12-14 which is the basis for these bylaw changes. Your readers should know this. On page 233 of the 2013 Convention Proceedings there is even a note after the text of the resolution, “(President Harrison explained the purpose of Res. 12-14 and then called on Council of Presidents Chairman Kenneth Hennings to assure the assembly of the council’s unanimous support. A proposed amendment to insert “or President of the Synod” after “District President” in the resolution’s title was received by the committee as a friendly amendment. After brief discussion, the chair called for a show of hands and debate was ended. Res. 12-14 was adopted as changed [Yes: 996; No: 67].)” So the resolution which is the basis for the new bylaws was supported by President Hennings, and he assured the assembly of the unanimous support of this particular way of changing the Synod’s bylaws and it was supported by the convention itself 966-67.

    But now President Hennings has changed his mind. Your readers should note that there is nothing in his letter to his district about his previous support for this specific process by which the bylaws were amended. If anyone is concerned about the way in which the bylaws were amended (I’m not), they should take it up with President Hennings!!!
    Pastor Ben Ball+

  2. Pastor Ball, many of us were at the convention, too. Just because President Harrison explained what was supposed to happen to the convention floor doesn’t mean SP Harrison and Secretary Sias actually did what they promisedand what the Convention directed in Res. 12-14.

    If the promised consultation Hennings and the convention agreed to turned out to be no consultation at all, of course President Hennings has every reason to state his opposition to the resulting flawed bylaw change. That’s not a “change of mind” on the part of President Hennings. He’s just letting the rest of the Synod know that what was directed by the Milwaukee Convention didn’t happen.

    This type of consultation is found throughout our bylaws. For instance, in Bylaw 2.14.10.3 Synod has called for action “in consultation with the Secretary of Synod and with the concurrence of the Council of Presidents.” This is not a novel idea. However, it seems from President Hennings’ letter that there is no “concurrence” by the Council of Presidents, no serious consultation even attempted.

    In the forward to the 2016 electronic version of the Handbook, Secretary Sias noted the following:

    “The convention did not complete revisions to of Bylaw Sections 2.14–2.17, necessitated by opinions of the Commission on Constitutional Matters having to do with who has the authority to suspend a member. Instead, by Res. 12-14, it directed the Secretary to consult with the Council of Presidents and develop new bylaws consonant with the Constitution on this point (see CCM Op. 16-2791, 16-2794). As the required consultation is still ongoing, the adoption of these bylaw changes by the Board Directors (under Bylaw 7.1.2) must wait.”

    It sounds to the rest of us in Synod there wasn’t much “consulting” in the “consultation.” Had Secretary Sias been ready to listen and partner with the COP in coming up with his flawed bylaw revision, the Council of Presidents’ Chair would be cheering instead of jeering the results.

    The Congregations Matter Editorial Team

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