My contributions to this WMLT blog are often less than inspiring. While they address matters of our “life together,” in the minds of some they might better be called “blahgs,” for they usually have to do with life together according to bylaws.

But life together according to our Synod’s Bylaws is important, for this is how we have agreed to walk together. And this particular blog is particularly important for it is about FOEs. We often hear of FAQs. This is about FOEs, “Frequently Observed Errors” in the manner in which we prepare to send delegates to our Synod conventions.

Bylaws 3.1.2.1 and 3.1.3.1 provide very detailed processes to be used to elect delegates to national Synod conventions. Every detail has been thought by our Synod to be important to the process. Here following are seven frequently troublesome areas.

(1) “Each electoral circuit shall meet….” [3.1.2.1 (a)]

The bylaw requires a face-to-face meeting to provide opportunity for discussion of candidates and ballot votes for elections. This can create hardship for some electoral circuits with many miles to travel, but our Synod has determined that this is worth the effort once every three years.

(2) “…not later than nine months prior….” [3.1.2.1 (a)]

Circuit counselors, it is important to plan early for this meeting. It will be ideal also to establish an alternate date, in case unforeseen circumstances make the agreed-upon date for the meeting impossible. The bylaw offers no opportunity for exceptions to this date.

(3) “…one pastor and one layperson from each member congregation….” [3.1.2.1 (c)]

Representation at circuit forums is different from representation at district conventions. In the case of circuit forums, each congregation of the circuit is entitled to send a voting lay representative to the forum in addition to its pastor. This includes each congregation of a multiple-congregation parish.

(4) “All pastors who are not advisory pastors….” [3.1.2.1 (d)]

Sole or associate pastors of congregations are eligible for election as delegates—not assistant pastors or other pastors not in charge of congregations. Bylaw2.13.1 (b) (1) also adds specific ministry pastors to the list of those not eligible. While they are indeed pastors in charge of congregations, they are ineligible to serve as voting delegates to national Synod conventions for other reasons.

(5) “…each congregation shall nominate one layperson….” [3.1.2.1 (e)]

This is truly a FOE. Nominations of lay delegates may not take place at the circuit meeting. While each congregation should nominate a layperson from within the congregation or from another circuit congregation prior to the circuit meeting, these names must be provided to the circuit counselor prior to the day of the meeting. If there are no layperson nominees prior to the day of the meeting, there can be no lay delegate elections. Circuit counselors will want to make certain that they have received names of nominees well in advance of the day of the meeting so that a slate and ballot can be prepared for the meeting.

(6) …eligible for election as an alternate.” [3.1.2.1 (f)]

It is essential that circuits elect alternate pastoral and lay delegates. Each triennium, a goodly number of elected delegates are unable to attend the convention when the time comes. Only when an alternate delegate was elected who also cannot serve can the district president step in and appoint a replacement.

(7) “…selections must be completed at least nine months prior….” [3.1.3.1 (b)]

This final FOE pertains to the selection of ordained and commissioned minister advisory delegates. If such selections did not take place at recent district conventions, they will need to take place at official district ordained and/or commissioned minister conferences. Hopefully those conferences will take place on or prior to October 20, the deadline for advisory delegate selections.

In Summary

Call this a “blog” or call it a “blahg,” but call care taken to avoid these frequently observed errors very important to our life and walk together. Thanks for reading.

Ray Hartwig
LCMS Secretary