Posts tagged Convention
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today is Ash Wednesday, when the Church begins her slow and measured journey to the cross, where we see Jesus: the Savior who hangs — bloodied and scourged — for us. It is a time of reflection and repentance for me and also for you, for all of us as the LCMS, and for the Church throughout the world.
And yet in the midst of our dusty Lenten ashes, we also look forward to Easter, when our Lord is raised from the dead, triumphing over sin and Satan, all for us. Yes, even during our Lenten fast, joy abounds!
That’s why I want to share two important things with you, so that you may see and know that our Lord is at work in and among each one of us, and is using us collectively as the LCMS to bear witness to Him.
First, our Synod treasurer, Jerry Wulf, shared at our Board of Directors meeting last weekend that together as the Synod we have reduced internal borrowing of restricted funds to cash flow operations from some $16 million four years ago to zero. You read that correctly. Zero! And we’re not stopping there. To get our financial house in order, we have also achieved a three-month cash reserve for operations, which is the minimum for a responsible non-profit.
Second, I’m delighted to announce that we are closing in on doubling the number of career missionaries internationally, which is a goal set by the Synod in convention in 2013. We are working to find a measured pace that will ensure that a sound system of missionary care remains in place but, by God’s grace, will also enable us to continue to add men and women, lay and clergy, to our worldwide mission team. The international moment unfolding worldwide before us as the LCMS is truly astounding!
So, thank you. Thank you for taking part in getting our finances in order so that we may be hearty stewards of all our Lord has to give. And thank you for being a part of our church’s mission work, that our fellow members may go to the ends of the earth to bear witness to Christ to those who have not yet heard that they are loved and whole on account of His death and resurrection.
Thank you. Thank you for your faithfulness to God’s Word and to the Lutheran Confessions. Lay people, thank you for loving your pastors. Pastors, thank you for loving your people.
Thank you for living boldly as the baptized children, loved by God, that you are. And thank you for the privilege of serving you. I covet your prayers and promise you mine, this Lenten season and always.
Under the cross,
Pastor Matt Harrison
President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
On a recent trip I noticed the roadway sign “CONTINENTAL DIVIDE,” the point where the flow of North American rivers changes direction from eastward to westward. I happened to think that our Synod right now is crossing its own “contiventional divide,” the time when the flow of our Synod-wide activity changes directions from backward to the 2013 convention to forward to the 2016 convention.
Yesterday (March 1) marked the final official action remaining from our Synod’s 2013 convention, i.e., the deadline for congregational ballots to determine whether the constitutional amendment changing the word “counselor” (as in “circuit counselor”) to “visitor” (as in “circuit visitor”) throughout our Handbook was supported and ratified by two-thirds of the congregations that returned ballots. All that remains now is to prepare the report and announce the results, a first order of business this coming week.
But already during the past two weeks the Board of Directors and the Council of Presidents, turning their attention forward, have met to determine the designation of regions for the 2016 convention elections (a determination to be made at least 24 months prior to conventions). The board and council agreed that the same regional boundaries designated for 2013 convention elections will also be the regional boundaries for the 2016 convention.
And so we begin our sometimes-whitewater journey toward the convention of the summer of 2016. Already meetings are taking place to determine how better or best to navigate the flow of pre-convention requirements provided in our Synod’s Bylaws. My intention is again to alert the congregations of the Synod via a series of appropriately timed postcards of the next turns of events that will require their participation.
We have managed this flow of events once before, and we have learned a few things that should be helpful in making our way even more smoothly through certain frothy areas. But the entire process is still quite new and begins with expectations that will beg our attention almost immediately, as districts prepare for their own conventions in 2015. Let’s enjoy the ride.
That’s our theme for the convention of the Synod set to take place here in St. Louis, July 20-25, 2013. The Southern Illinois District of our Synod will be our host district as we come together to worship, to study God’s Word and to discuss various aspects of our life together as the Synod. Whatever our past, we have been “baptized for this moment” (see Acts 2:38-39). We are members of Christ, incorporated in His body, baptized in His name. He turns our faces to the future for He forgives, renews, restores and sends us for witness, mercy and life together.
If you are going to be anywhere near St. Louis the evening of Saturday, July 20, come on by the America’s Center in downtown St. Louis for the opening service. If you are a delegate of any kind, we are praying for you and seeking to prepare this opportunity for you to serve the Lord and to serve your fellow members of the Synod by your participation. As the convention approaches, you will receive mailings and emails from the President’s Office to help you prepare. Delegates should look for this material soon.
We ask you as well to keep the convention in your prayers. Pray that God would give unity in His Word both to the convention and to the Synod as a whole. Some time ago I read August Suelfow’s biography of C. F. W. Walther, Servant of the Word, in which he has this quote from H. C. Schwann, who followed Walther as president of the Synod in 1878:
What has kept us together until now was not our Constitution, as good as it is, not the personality of those who bear the highest synodical offices. No, it was something radically different, something which God Himself has given us. This was the unity of spirit and faith. We remain together outwardly because we are one inwardly. Because of this, districts, congregations and individuals can never be careful enough in whatever they are doing to maintain the bond of unity. Even though they may have the best intentions in undertaking certain items, if these are not properly thought through, and are not properly considered on the backdrop of love to others and with due respect to the welfare and furtherance of the whole [this unity cannot be maintained]. As long as we by God’s grace remain one in heart and soul through the Word and faith, our bond of fellowship at the continued existence of the Synod will not be seriously challenged. If this [spirit] is ever lost, then no constitution will coerce those who rebel, and the resulting cooperation will be of no value. (p. 133)
In that light, here is a prayer for our Synod: “O Lord God, our heavenly Father, you have given Your one and only Son to be our Savior by His death and resurrection and have gathered the Church by means of Your Word and Spirit. You have brought us together by our baptism into Christ’s body. You send the Spirit to renew and refresh Your Church. Look with favor, we pray, on the congregations of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, whose representatives are meeting in convention this summer. Strengthen our leaders so that we may be faithful to Your Word and zealous for witness and mercy in Your name. Heal any divisions in our life together by calling each of us back to Your Word, to the preached Gospel and the Sacraments done according to Christ’s Word. Keep our pastors, teachers and all our church workers focused on You. Give us a passion for Your Gospel and for people, that we may do everything possible to bring Jesus to them in Word, at the font and His table, through teaching and pastoral care wherever they are. Make our people bold witnesses of the hope You have given them in Jesus. Guide the convention delegates in their decisions so that everything Synod does will support our congregations in witness, mercy and their life together and give glory to Your most holy name, O Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.”
+ Herbert Mueller
First Vice President
With many district conventions meeting this month, we are close to reaching the first milestone in preparation for the 2013 convention. This is already quite an achievement, given the activity required by changes adopted by the 2010 Synod convention. I take this blog moment to thank at least some of the people most responsible for successfully reaching this milestone.
A word of general thanks…
- …to the Synod’s 6,000+ congregations, all of whom were required to meet to select representatives to their circuit forums, to nominate candidates to serve as circuit counselors, to consider mission and ministry emphases for the Synod for the next triennium, and to elect delegates to their district conventions;
- …to the Synod’s 600+ circuit counselors, each having to arrange circuit forums to select circuit counselors for the new triennium, to help their circuits identify mission and ministry emphases to propose to their districts for the Synod’s next triennium,, and to assist their circuits in contemplating other business to send to district and Synod conventions; and
- …to the Synod’s 35 district presidents, whose extra-ordinary efforts to keep their congregations and circuits aware of the many significant changes in bylaw expectations adopted by the 2010 Synod convention played a key role in reaching this first milestone.
A word of more specific thanks…
- …to the administrative assistants of our 35 district presidents for their tireless efforts to bring district rosters up to date with increased Synod expectations, thereby to foster uniform delegate representation at all 35 district conventions, critical for the election of the President of the Synod four weeks prior to the 2013 Synod convention;
- …to these same administrative assistants plus district secretaries and registration officials for their cooperation in developing district convention registration procedures to incorporate additional expectations associated with developing an accurate voters’ list for the 2013 presidential election; and
- …to the Council of Presidents for willingly undertaking the sometimes difficult and unpopular task of consistently applying new standards for voting representation that have directly affected multiple-congregation parishes and congregations served by retired pastors.
And a word of personal thanks…
- …to my office staff for their tireless labors to provide order to the huge task of providing the 35 districts with timely information and materials required to develop the 2013 presidential election voters’ list, this in addition to the host of other ongoing responsibilities associated with the Secretary’s Office;
- …to the Rosters and Statistics Department for developing a reliable process to obtain and maintain a credible and dependable presidential elections voters’ list, again in addition to their considerable other responsibilities for maintaining the official lists of the Synod; and
- …to the design, copy center, and mailroom staff of the International Center for their timely assistance in publishing and mailing the postcards that have and will continue to alert congregations to essential changes adopted by the 2013 Synod convention.
Finally, thanks in advance to all of the above…
…for we have only just begun. Still to come, along with the usual Synod convention preparations, will be significant changes to the nominations and elections processes, as well as the preparations required to carry out the presidential voting process. These will require continued attention and cooperation as we make our way down the pre-2013-convention path, one milestone at a time.
Ray Hartwig, Secretary of the Synod
Most of us are aware by now of most of the major changes that were adopted by the 2010 convention in Houston. Among the most major are the new manner of electing circuit counselors, the pre-convention election of the President of the Synod, the election of five regional vice-presidents and some board members, and the restructuring of the operations of the Synod.
That Other Convention Change
One additional major change, however, intended to permeate the entire life of the Synod, can easily escape attention. It was prompted by the structure task force’s interest in having congregations and visitation circuits play a greater role in the life and direction of the Synod. Agreeing with this interest, the 2010 convention created a new process for “grass roots” input into “mission and ministry emphases” that will direct the course of the Synod’s mission and ministry activity.
The end result of the convention decision is not some highly noticeable governance change that will immediately attract attention. Instead it is a relatively quiet seven-step process that begins with the Synod’s 6,200 congregations and in due time affects the entire life of the Synod during the following triennium.
How It Will Work
It may be helpful to outline the process:
- Each triennium, suggestions for mission and ministry emphases are discussed by congregations in preparation for their pre-district-convention circuit forums, this at the same meeting that they also select representatives to their forums and nominate pastors for their circuit’s circuit counselor position.
- The suggestions from congregations are discussed by their circuit forums, and one or more are submitted by overture to their 2012 district conventions.
- District conventions receive and discuss overtures from circuit forums and vote to send two or three mission and ministry emphasis proposals to the Synod convention.
- The Synod convention receives and processes overtures from district conventions and votes to adopt the Synod’s mission and ministry emphases for the next three years.
- The President of the Synod, in consultation with the Council of Presidents, identifies from these mission and ministry emphases specific goals for the national office to support ministry on the congregational level.
- The President, officers, Board of Directos, and mission boards and offices receive triennial focus from mission and ministry emphases and goals.
- District presidents encourage congregations and schools to embrace mission and ministry emphases adopted by the convention for the triennium.
The Time is Now
For congregations to participate in this process, now is their time to discuss the mission and ministry areas that they believe should be emphasized during the three years following the 2013 convention. There will be no opportunity outside of the process outlined above. Now also is the time for circuit counselors to include this discussion on their circuit forum agendas so that suggestions can be forwarded to district conventions. Circuit counselors, check your agendas.
District conventions are required by bylaw to include consideration and a decision regarding mission and ministry emphases on their agendas. Quote: “The district convention shall, through delegate vote, forward to the national convention a list of two or three triennial mission and ministry emphases for consideration by the national convention” (Bylaw 4.2.1 [d]). District presidents, check your agendas.
The Synod convention and Synod leadership are also required by bylaw to take this process and its end product seriously—evidence of the serious intention of the 2010 convention to provide for greater involvement from the grass roots in providing direction of the mission and ministry of the Synod. Synod leaders, check your agendas.
There is, after all, that other convention change to think about, right about now.