What should concern delegates?
This resolution seeks to “respectfully decline” overtures made to the convention. In a nice way, it silences the issues brought up. You will notice all of the “term limit” overtures receive this kind of consideration without addressing the reasons why the term limit issue keeps coming up convention after convention after convention.
The issues that caused three of these overtures to be presented should be considered by the convention: Overture 9-32, Overture 9-43, and Overture 9-47. Here’s why delegates should consider bringing them out of the “declined” status and onto the floor as resolutions to be acted on:
- Overture 9-32 (Workbook, Pages 387-388) To Require Ratification of Commission on Constitutional Matters Opinions. This overture presented by the Texas District fixes a problem that Synod conventions have had for the past decade or more. There’s a “Catch-22” in the system around Commission on Constitutional Matters decisions. On the one hand, CCM decisions stand and are binding until they are overruled by a convention of Synod. On the other hand, for the past several decades, floor committees continually decline or send to Omnibus resolutions all overtures seeking to overrule CCM opinions.It is practically impossible to have CCM opinions overruled. Floor committees don’t want them to be overruled — and the convention is the only place to have them considered and overruled. But there’s more.In addition, we have a bylaw that requires floor committees specifically to deal with overtures to overrule CCM opinions: Bylaw 22.214.171.124.c.Floor committees are required by this bylaw to write a specific report as to recommendations for action based on the Overture requesting the convention to overrule a CCM opinion. For the past decade at least, there has been no such report provided — as well as no action by floor committees to consider overruling opinions.As an example, in both the 2016 and 2019 conventions, eleven overtures representing eight district conventions, twenty-five congregations, and two district Boards of Directors sent overtures to overrule CCM opinions. That’s eleven overtures from bodies representing more than 1000 congregations.
In other words, the only group that can overrule a CCM opinion is the Synod convention and floor committees never allow Synod conventions to consider overruling CCM opinions — nor explain why they can’t with a report from the floor committees.
That means CCM rulings are always binding in perpetuity because they — in practice — can’t be overruled by a Synod convention that never gets to vote on them.
Overture 9-32 seeks to reverse the “binding” nature of CCM rulings and allow Synod conventions always to consider them by requiring CCM opinions be ratified by conventions. The “binding” nature of CCM rulings on the issue they address will only last until the next convention because delegates will consider making them binding into the future.
- Overture 9-43 (Workbook, Pages 393-394) To Establish Term Limits for Elected Officers in the Synod and Districts.This overture proposes a term limit of 12 years for all District and Synod officers. The floor committee declined this overture because it places “a limit upon the Synod President that does not apply to his representative district president” and is a “policy inconsistency.” However, a simple reading of this overture makes it clear that Floor Committee 9 did not carefully review it, since their reason for declination doesn’t apply. Stating that tenure is limited by each election at each convention is true but denies the control of communication incumbency inherently brings.
- Overture 9-47 (Workbook, Pages 395-397) To Create True Synod-Wide Dialogue
and Study with Respect to Controverted Matters.
This overture sent by the Texas District and the Boards of Directors of the Michigan and Pacific Southwest Districts – REPRESENTING MORE THAN 1,000 CONGREGATIONS – requests and outlines a process to accomplish the first of two reasons our LCMS Constitution lists for forming a Synodical Union:“(1) the example of the apostolic church (Acts 15:1–31); and (2) our Lord’s will that the diversities of the gifts should be for the common profit (1 Cor. 12:4– 31).”The overture reports on three recent times that conversation on controverted issue “worked”: 1991, 2010, and the advent of the Koinonia Project soon after 2010. It also reminds delegates that Synod Bylaw 1.6.2 clearly states a time for “study and suggestions” on “controverted matters” could take as much as a year before being acted on officially.The overture proposes declaring topics as “controverted matters” when a two-thirds majority of the Council of Presidents can’t agree on something. This group of men, which includes the Synod President, the First Vice President, and all Regional Vice Presidents, as well as all District Presidents, is already assigned to both serve as a representative of “Synod in this place” and to bring issues from congregations to the attention of the Council of Presidents.
The overture further directs a process for developing a Scriptural and Confessional rationale for each “side” of the controverted issue, disseminating it throughout the Synod for study, and then only afterward bringing the issue to the Synod convention for a vote.
Floor Committee Nine declined it because they believe it creates a “top-down” procedure and goes beyond the authority of the Council of Presidents.
However, a careful read of the overture reveals that this proposal actually returns the power and control of dealing with controverted issues back to the congregations. Furthermore, Bylaw 126.96.36.199 actually allows the Convention to assign this type of work to the COP.
That means the COP has whatever special authority they need to do the work a Synod convention assigns them.
That’s what happened in 2016 when we assigned the COP the responsibility to consult with the Synod President and bring to the 2019 convention a resolution they agreed to regarding the surprise controverted issue of extending the Synod President’s power of ecclesiastical supervision. While they were not able to do so, at least the convention got the COP to talk with one another on a controverted matter.
That’s what more than 1,000 congregations asked the convention to do: give us a process where we can talk with one another about controverted issues, study God’s Word and the Confessions together, and have the time to do it before we have to vote.
What can be done about it?
First, delegates will want to go to open Floor Committee meetings and request that they remove Overtures 9-32, 9-43, and 9-47 from Resolution 9-13, consider them, and bring them to the floor of the convention for delegate consideration.
Failing that, when Committee 9 is presenting at the convention, delegates may move to remove these three overtures from 9-13 and bring them before the convention for consideration. This is the only way to get the resolutions out of the proverbial “round file.”
- When considering the removal of Overture 9-32 (Workbook, Pages 387-388) To Require Ratification of Commission on Constitutional Matters Opinions from 9-13 comes to the floor, delegates will want to ask a number of questions, the first of which is “How did Floor Committee Nine fulfill the requirements of Bylaw 188.8.131.52.c? Where is the “specific report to the convention with recommendations for appropriate action”? If the Floor committee did not fulfil their responsibility, how can this overture be denied consideration?Ask how a convention “can already take action on Commission on Constitutional Matters decisions” when the floor committee will not allow the overture to come to the floor?Ask if because CCM opinions are binding unless and until they are overruled by a Synod Convention, why delegates are being asked twice in this convention to “affirm” a CCM ruling (Resolutions 7-03 and 10-07) but delegates are not allowed to consider overruling CCM opinions?Ask when in the convention schedule the Synod President will make time for Committee Nine to bring this resolution to the floor. In other words, how can we make sure the committee doesn’t “run out of time” before the convention considers this resolution?
If brought out of 9-13, look for more information on Overture 9-32 from this website. It will have a new number.
- When considering the removal of Overture 9-43 (Workbook, Pages 393-394) To Establish Term Limits for Elected Officers in the Synod and Districts from 9-13 comes to the floor, delegates will want to ask a number of questions, the first of which is “How does Overture 9-43 bring up a policy inconsistency because it treats both District and Synod officers the same?Ask if tenure is limited by elections as the Floor Committee suggests, why is there a 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? Is there something different regarding tenure in the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod than in the U.S. Constitution?If brought out of 9-13, look for more information on Overture 9-43 from this website. It will have a new number.
- When considering the removal of Overture 9-47 (Workbook, Pages 395-397) To Create True Synod-Wide Dialogue and Study with Respect to Controverted Matters from 9-13 comes to the floor, delegates will want to ask a number of questions, the first of which is “If a Synod convention can assign work to the Council of Presidents, how does this overture overstep the authority of the COP since this is not a bylaw change?”Ask how pastors and congregations talking with one another about controverted matters in advance of a convention in a process similar to what our Lutheran forefathers and confessors did creates a top-down procedure.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 he still believes this, how will pastors and congregations recognize an issue as “non-political” across a “broad spectrum” of the LCMS if we are kept from talking about it due to a lack of an agreed process?