What should concern delegates?
There is much to be concerned about in this resolution.
First of all, the timing issue. This resolution was supposed to be presented to delegates no later than six months before the convention for conversation and consideration. Instead, the current version of 7-04 — which is significantly different than the Workbook version (Report 61, Pages 137-159) — was shared with delegates just six weeks ago.
In addition, overtures in the Workbook from Texas, Florida-Georgia, Northwest, California-Nevada-Hawaii, Michigan District, and Central Illinois Districts, all asking in some way to delay the consideration of a new CUS governance model until 2026, were ignored by the floor committee. The requested delay is due, in part, to problems they see, inconsistencies, the level of control exerted over our Concordias, and the need for more information and conversation in Synod about such a big change (See Workbook pages 349-355). Less than two months since the new version was published in Today’s Business 1 is simply not enough time.
Setting aside the resolution not meeting the minimum of six months of consideration and the complexity of all of the parts of the proposal, of greatest concern are sections A, B, and E which introduce the new concept of “Ecclesiastical Review” to the Concordia system. The language resembles that of “ecclesiastical supervision” in our bylaws, but lacks the language of “protect” and “encourage.”
This “Ecclesiastical Review” concept (see Page 147, line 3, Page 149, line 36) removes the Synod President from his responsibility to “visit” CUS institutions — and effectively bypasses the role of the University President and the local District President, giving the CUS ecclesiastical supervision responsibilities. Accepting this would bring confusion to the new role of the CUS: is it “oversight” (evaluation and recommendations) or “supervision” (taking action and calling to account)? Visitation now looks more like an “inspection” than an affirming partnership in our work for Jesus.
Under this new proposal, a Concordia University President is now accountable to the BOR, the CUS, the Synod BOD, the President of Synod, and the congregations of Synod. Accepting this new accountability clearly brings into question the issue of ascending liability from universities to Synod, Inc. — as well as the ability of our Concordias to be accredited by their regional accreditation agencies due to a lack of local control. This may create for Concordia University presidents an untenable situation of being accountable to two different leadership groups asking for different outcomes.
The proposed added bylaw 18.104.22.168.2.d should concern everyone: “The institution reviewed may within 30 days of being notified of Concordia University System’s visitation determination(s) submit a written appeal and/or response to Concordia University System’s determination. Once Concordia University System has, within 30 days of its receipt, considered and acted upon any such appeal, its determination is final and not subject to further appeal.” This makes the CUS investigator persecutor, judge, jury, and appellate judge all in one and eliminates the appeal process currently in our bylaws.
In addition, the proposed removal of Bylaw 22.214.171.124.i.6 removes the ability of BOR members to protect their institution on behalf of Synod. The elimination of “(6) Serving as the governing body corporate of the institution vested with all powers which its members may exercise in law either as directors, trustees, or members of the body corporate, unless in conflict with the laws of the domicile of the institution or its Articles of Incorporation. In such event the board of regents shall have power to perform such acts as may be required by law to effect the corporate existence of the institution” removes the ability of BOR members to fulfill part of their fiduciary responsibility “as required by law.”
What can be done about it?
Many questions need to be answered before delegates can in good conscience consider this resolution. This resolution as it stands now should be amended, defeated, or substituted by one of the overtures from districts found in the Workbook (Pages 349-355).
Ask how presenting 7-04 in its present form in June fulfills the 2019 convention resolution requirement for 6 months to review the proposed changes. This proposal is completely different from the one published earlier this year. Delegates have only had a maximum of 6 weeks — not 6 months — to review the text.
Ask President Harrison if he still agrees with his statement in “It’s Time: LCMS Unity and Mission — The Real Problem We Face and How to Solve It” when he wrote on page 15
“The aggravation that has been and will continue to be caused by continued change only exacerbates the divisions, decreases the trust, joy, and participation of congregations in our synodical life, and, most sadly, closes ears. Bylaw and constitutional matters should come to the floor of the convention only if they have been previously recognized across the broad spectrum as non-political, and not given to exacerbate an already tense situation. And once on the floor they should be adopted only by a minimum 85% approval. If “the gates of hell shall not prevail against [the church]” then holding off on a few constitution and bylaw changes of the Missouri Synod probably won’t hold her up much, either.”
If President Harrison still believes this, he should support tabling this motion. If he does not still believe what he said, ask why not.
Ask where the approximately $1 million to implement this new bylaw will come from — especially since Floor Committees were informed in June that they couldn’t bring forward resolutions that had a financial impact on the budget because of Synod’s tight financial position.
How much will it cost our Concordias to comply with this bylaw change?
Ask to hear from sitting Concordia Presidents regarding how this proposed bylaw change will affect their work as president, student recruitment efforts, strengthening donor support, their work with their Boards of Regents, and their accreditation processes.
Ask what effect passing this resolution will have on the $302M lawsuit against the LCMS. If LCMS exerts this kind of control over CTX and the decisions of the CTX BOR, how can we assert we had no control over the decisions of Concordia Portland’s BOR? Doesn’t this put us in danger of ascending liability?