Archive for the ‘Convention’ Category

I am still in shock!

For six years or so President Kieschnick has been working to overcome what he called the “silos” of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. These are the program boards and commissions such as Communications, Missions, Human Care, etc. I remember first hearing about this at one of the president’s strategic planning programs several years ago. I was part of the planning for one of these meetings. I asked what they meant by “silos,” and I was told that these boards tend to work on their own and aren’t under the control off the president. Some of the boards are also blessed with restricted funds which I guess went into the “silos.” I remember saying at one of those meetings that it is still important to keep power balanced in any organization. I also specifically warned that you must not alienate “the loyal opposition.”

Then came the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synodical Structure. This task force was oppointed by President Kieschnick to address this problem. Their solution was to transfer the work of most of these boards to only two boards: one for national missions and one for international missions. My big problem is that all the staff for these boards report to the president. In the past the directors of boards could only be dismissed by their elected boards. Now the president has total control over them. It would be the same as if I had a problem with a staff member (youth director or music director), and I decided not to renew their contract. I wouldn’t have to work through the Board of Elders or Church Council. The effect is to make the president much more like a chief executive officer than a pastor.

As the convention began, a motion was made to move the presidential election to the front of the convention. By moving the election to the beginning we would know who who would inherit these tremendous powers. It made perfect sense, and I thought it would surely pass. That motion was voted down, and the restructuring proposals were brought to the floor.

Some of the proposals are good, and I support them. But Resolution 8-08, which created the two boards mentioned above, was the worst. I stood in line for 40 minutes along with 50 or so other pastors and laymen hoping to speak to this resolution. In particular I was interested in knowing how this new structure would affect the relationship between the synodical president and seminary presidents. But the convention was getting frustrated. There were technical difficulties with the microphones which caused some of the delegates to sound like they were drunk. We also wasted a lot of time trying to find anyone who would speak in favor of this motion. (Most of the speakers were against, but the convention alternates between “pro” and “con” speakers to keep the debate balanced.) One of the delegates called the question. Discussion ceased, and to my amazement, the resolution passed – just barely – bringing sweeping changes to the way we conduct ministry at the national and international level. Now the president has total control of all synodical communication, offerings, missions, human care, educational services, youth, etc.

Additional structure changes were brought to the floor, and several of them continued to give the president more power; for example, the power to approve the synodical treasurer and to require the Synod to elect a vice president from a list that he approved. All of these were close votes around 51%.

Three days into the convention we finally prepared to elect the president who would have this unprecedented power. I simply prayed that God’s will would be done. I supported Matthew Harrison for president and Herb Mueller for vice-president. But I braced myself for yet another close loss. I took comfort in the fact that God knows far more than I do, and that the person the convention chose, whoever he was, would be His choice. It was in His hands.

Then the election results came in. Matt Harrison was elected on the first ballot by 54%. Herb Mueller was also elected vice-president! Harrison gave a beautiful acceptance message that particularly addressed the pain now felt by the Kieschnick supporters. He said, “When one part of the body hurts, the whole body hurts.” I can’t imagine the shock being felt by those who were ceding more and more power to the presidency, and then to see that office go to their opponent.

Quo vadis? (Where do we go from here?)

I am very happy for the election of Harrison and Mueller, but I am not at all happy about the structural changes. They must be revisited and revised for the sake of our Synod. Perhaps this was God’s way of intervening in the predominant “corporate mentality” that has corrupted a healthy view of spiritual leadership in the church. My prayers go with Matt and Herb. But one of my most intense prayers is that they not be taken in by the temptation to keep this power that they will inherit. Satan, more than anything, wants them to think that they have all the answers for this church body. But they too, must work with the loyal opposition. I pray even more that God would use them to bring this Synod back together through the Word of God in truth and love. Yesterday was an historic day for the LCMS, and I pray that the mistakes that have been made can be corrected. God help us.

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Weariness and joy was evident in the faces and conversations today as Northwest delegates met for breakfast for the final time at the Hyatt.  Dr. David Buegler, Fifth Vice President of Synod met with us and talked openly about the 51-49 vote that happened frequently on the convention floor.  Over the 40 years of ministry he has served in the LCMS, he has watched the pendulum swing from conservative to moderate and back again several times.  At this convention it is clear that the pendulum has made another swing.  We in the LCMS have unity in Christ, concord in our confessions, but not always do we have harmony in what we do; we have great diversity of gifts and expression, but we are not always able to sing the same song together in harmony.

Urgency to complete our business together before adjournment tomorrow marked the day as President Kieschnick made great efforts to press on to the finish.  Devotions were led by Chaplain Mark Schreiber, US Navy (Ret.) who currently serves as the Director, Ministry to the Armed Forces, Board for Mission Services of the LCMS.  In remembering our men and women in the service, he shared Zephaniah 3:20 and reminded delegates that there is no cure for homesickness in the hearts of those deployed except to return home.  Of the 24 million Americans who make up the population of veterans, many believe that God has abandoned them and that God cannot forgive them.  Yet God, through us, calls them to come home to him through the Gospel.

Tom Kuchta, Synod’s retiring Vice President/Treasurer was recognized for 9 faithful years of service.  Rev. Sam Nafzger was also recognized for his some 35 years of work on the CTCR and other Synod responsibilities.  Then it was on to elections and business.  Ted Kober led us in our final Bible Study and talked about how the sharing of Christ’s peace in worship was never meant to be a trivial “Holy Howdy,” but an intentional effort in the body of Christ to make sure that all are reconciled one to another.  When we celebrate our unity in Christ at communion, yet are at odds with a fellow brother or sister in Christ, our disunity is a contradiction of faith and a disruption of worship.  After lunch, Dr. Leo Sanches, Director of the Center for Hispanic Studies (Concordia Seminary, St. Louis) led us in our afternoon devotion, focusing on the importance of reconciling even the differences we have as brothers and sisters at the convention.  After more business, the final special Ablaze! presentation was given on “sharing the faith.”  Three chaplains in our armed forces, CH LTC Oliver Washington (US Army), CH Maj. Matthew Franke (US Air Force), and Capt. Robert Crossan (CHC US Navy), gave a speech from the perspective of what their “dog tags” would say if they could talk, sharing with the delegates what these dog tags have observed about the activities of each chaplain to which they belong.  The convention rose in an extended standing ovation to show support to these faithful servants of the word in our armed forces.

Finally, at the close of the day, delegates gave glory to God in a special Service of Reconciliation.  Convention Chaplain, Johann Jotham, proclaimed that is never too late to be forgiven or to forgive.  Delegates were invited following the service to seek out anyone with whom they have difficulties so that they would be reconciled together.

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How Many Attend?

A few asked me how many attend a convention. Well here are registration numbers as of Thursday.

599 voting clergy delegates
594 voting lay delegates
1193 total voting delegates

393 “other” attendees

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This resolution that deals with women lay bible readers was added to an “omnibus” resolution. These resolutions respectfully decline a specific resolution because they have been acted upon by previous conventions.

The synod has voiced its opinion that women lay readers is okay.

Sign-up. Read away.

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Our voting machine

Some have asked what we use for voting. Here is a picture of the voting machine with my special authentication card.

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This resolution deals with starting new worship sites that span district boundary lines. Under the old system, a congregation had to open a new church within the district it resides. Under this new bylaw, a congregation can open new congregations, or worship satellite sites that span district boundaries.

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One resolution passed today was 1-03. This resolution calls for greater increase for outreach to immigrants. This is applicable to Redeemer due to the area we live in.

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