It is quite unique among Christian denominations, in use since 1992 when the LCMS convention adopted Res. 5-01B “To Adopt New Process for Conflict Resolution,” which the floor committe proposed “a. is thoroughly biblical; b. stresses the reconciliation of members within the family of God (encouraging a win-win rather than win-lose resolution of conflict); presents a positive witness to the secular community as to how Christians resolve their conflicts; provides for final resolution of disputes in a timely manner; is less costly in terms of money and time; discourages the secular approach of adversarilal litigation; and requires face-to-face meeting of the complainant and respondent in a spirit of Christian reconciliation.”

The dispute resolution process that was adopted was to be used for all disputes and required four pages of the convention Proceedings. Today there are five distinct processes (dispute resolution and expulsion) with applications also for other specific disputes (e.g., campus conflicts) covering 55 pages of the Synod’s Handbook and accompanied by nearly 200 pages of operating procedures manuals, every convention since 1992 making significant changes and additions to the bylaws governing dispute resolution.

While there continue to be mixed opinions regarding the Synod’s dispute resolution processes and some of its results, with calls to return to the former adjudication process submitted to every convention, the general response in the Synod continues to be positive for the reasons given in the 1992 convention action. Required involvement of trained reconcilers and face-to-face meetings between disputants often fosters reconciliation early on, before disputes reach the Synod level. Disputes that reach the Synod level are handled in an orderly manner in answer to St. Paul’s encouragement in 1 Corinthians 6 to “lay them before” the church.”

Because of regular changes to the bylaws and procedures governing the various kinds of conflict resolution, I (as Secretary of the Synod and administrator of the Synod’s dispute resolution process) will be hosting a series of meetings around the Synod to review current bylaws and procedures manuals with those most involved (reconcilers) and those providing good order (hearing facilitators). Also encouraged to attend are those who serve as administrators of the processes on the district level (district secretaries) and those who have significant roles in both the conflict resolution and expulsion processes (district presidents). The meetings will take place during September (eastern U.S.), October (central U.S.), and November (western U.S.).

I am happy to add that of the approximately 220 reconcilers, hearing facilitators, district secretaries, and district presidents invited to participate, nearly 200 have indicated that they will be able to attend one of the regional meetings, their attendance made possible by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans funding as well as a decision by the Council of Presidents that districts will assume travel costs. God bless our meetings together, that they will enable our Synod ever better to satisfy the intention of that 1992 resolution to provide for our Synod “a process for conflict resolution that is based upon thescriptural principles of reconciliation (Matt. 18 and 2 Cor.5).

Ray Hartwig