Convention Day Three brought lots of highlights and moments to celebrate. However, Tuesday was marked by two sad themes — both for the delegates and Synod. One was done to the delegates. The other was done by them.
The Concordia Texas Crisis
The first was the whole process of dealing with Concordia University Texas (CTX) issues in Resolution 7-03. You can read about it from our Synod leadership’s point of view in the Reporter summary for the day. The Reporter article appropriately records convention action. However, it never gets to the why.
In the end, convention action will probably not achieve its desired results: reconciliation.
Two intractable positions from the presidents of Synod and CTX drew all of the delegates into a crucible with them. Both godly men with different points of view, different opinions about what the other did, and different goals to protect their institutions stood opposite one another in the convention hall. President Harrison was above on the dais and President Christian spoke below from the floor — while the rest of us had to deal with the failure of both to lead their institutions to reconciliation. In the end, delegates had to choose sides and start to deal with the mess.
One delegate gave a real pastor’s response to the crisis as he proposed a solution. He likened this situation to a family dispute between spouses where the marriage hangs in the balance. Although he gave wise counsel in a substitute motion to stop the condemnation, get information out to Synod from all sides, and direct a reconciliation process with the help of an independent third party, his motion was ruled unconstitutional in advance by the CCM. An amendment to direct the same failed to gain support.
In the end, President Christian was given two minutes to speak to try to explain some of his position. However, the CTX crisis cannot be summed up in a two-minute story. Some of the details of what brought about this crisis are just now being reported.
Given the information they had, within 15 minutes, a delegate majority voted to support President Harrison’s stance that reconciliation can only happen after CTX first returns to Synod control.
This was not an Acts 15 moment. It is a sad day for everyone because the direction of Synod on this issue will more likely lead to lawsuits than unity.
Delegates Chose to Silence Debate
The second? In the first days of the convention, delegates pointed out the chair’s refusal to follow our standing rules regarding speaking to topics from the podium, calling for votes before any debate occurred, and choosing not to follow the order of speakers showing on the screen.
However, business was moving along briskly.
To keep up this pace, the chair asked to suspend the standard rules of debate we follow at District conventions, and congregational meets at his discretion. For the most part, that means moving to a vote without any discussion or opportunity to do so.
A majority of delegates gave President Harrison the control over the proceedings he asked for. Now, convention delegates are quickly passing proposals with no debate. None. Unheard of. And sad.
The result is that, for the most part, the voices of anyone standing in opposition, citing concerns with the resolution brought about by President Harrison’s floor committees, asking clarifying questions, or pointing out the dangers of decisions are silenced. The opinions of delegates, for the most part, cannot be affected by the wise process of simple parliamentary debate. By this decision, delegates become readers of resolves and voting button-pushers, rather than men and women making a decision “after much debate” as they did in Acts 15.
However, business does move along briskly — if your business is passing resolutions and tweaking bylaws.
Would our Synod be better served by discerning God’s will and ensuring that we’re doing the best thing for our Lord’s Kingdom after robust debate?
Bright Spots, Too!
There were many bright spots as we voted faithful men and women into office, heard many fine presentations, dealt with schools and family issues, pastoral and international ministries, celebrated military chaplains, and heard the story of two brave Finnish Lutherans persecuted for their faith.
To be sure, today there will be more ups and downs. We will pray with and for one another that the message of hope in Jesus will be the center of our lives.
A Delegate Prayer for Wednesday
Heavenly Father, You are my hope and You hold me in Your hands. That’s a good place to be. Speak to me Your truth in Your Holy Word. Help me model of our Synod objectives with one another. So send me Your Spirit as we gather today just like the Church did in Acts 15. Help all of us deliberate on the hard issues before us by hearing and listening to one another, acting as sisters and brothers in Christ, respecting one another because we are all made in Your image, and making opposing opinions as important as our own, even when I don’t agree.
Remind me that “much debate” (Acts 15:7) will normally produce a better opinion that my own.
Then, remind me also that Your Church is made up of Your diversity of gifts (1 Corinthians 12:14-31) as You send them. Let me see my brothers and sisters in Christ as You do. I thank You that each of us is a gift to Your Church for Your Kingdom to come and Your will to be done. So help me see others in the room as Your way of completing Your Body, the Church. You prepare us to do immeasurably more that we ask or think. None of us is here by accident. You placed us as partners in the Gospel. So let us be of one mind. I need that so I can lead a life worthy of Your calling (Ephesians 4:1). Make me humble and gentle. Give me patience with others, “making allowance for each other’s faults because of Your love” (Ephesians 4:2).” Help me use my remaining hours of service to honor You and love others.
This dear church body I love and serve needs hope and a future. Give it both. Give me both.
In Jesus’ precious name I pray. Amen