CONVENTION DELEGATE REVIEW COMMITTEE
Appointed by the President of the Synod
May 14, 2007
The Convention Delegate Review Committee has been asked by the President of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod “to take whatever steps it deems appropriate in the process of assuring the Synod that [the 2007 convention delegate selection process] has been done properly, decently, in good order, and in accordance with the covenants of love by which we in the LCMS have agreed to work together.”
The undersigned committee met via telephone conference call on May 3, 2007, to determine the steps it would take to carry out its assignment. It was agreed that a three-member subcommittee would meet at the Synod’s International Center on May 7 and 8 to review the 2007 convention delegate records. The subcommittee’s findings were then discussed by the full committee during telephone conference calls on May 10 and May 14. The committee submits the following report to the Synod.
No evidence was found of collaboration between the Office of the President of the Synod and the presidents and boards of directors of the districts regarding the seating of delegates to the 2007 convention.
Cases identified by Frederic Baue in his “Update on Circuit Exceptions for the 2007 LCMS Convention” as problematic and requiring additional exceptions were found to have reasonable explanations as a result of data provided during the delegate certification process.
The official records provided by the President’s Office offered no indication of collaboration between the President’s Office and district officials. Because all other related communication was oral in nature, no additional records were available for review.
The 65 electoral circuit exceptions granted for the 2007 convention of the Synod were granted according to the provisions of Bylaw 3.1.2.
Records in support of the exceptions granted were found to be in good order, in every case including all appropriate documentation of district board actions requesting exceptions and the granting of exceptions by the President.
All electoral circuit exceptions were granted within the parameters established by Bylaw 3.1.2, which provides no limitations on the number of exceptions that may be granted.
Limitations self-imposed by the President were announced repeatedly in his reports to the Council of Presidents and were generally followed. The President provided reasonable explanations for three exceptions to those limitations upon request of the subcommittee.
The pertinent paragraph in the Agreement that accompanied the settlement of the recent lawsuit was honored in the process used to grant electoral circuit exceptions for the 2007 convention.
The requirements provided in Bylaw 3.1.2 for the granting of exceptions were followed, and evidence demonstrates that districts were repeatedly encouraged to realign circuits to avoid the need to request electoral circuit exceptions.
A written reminder was offered to the Council of Presidents on at least one occasion (and the President reported numerous oral reminders on other occasions) calling attention to the provision in Bylaw 3.1.2 that advocates the joining together of adjacent visitation circuits to form an electoral circuit when electoral circuit requirements cannot be met by one or both visitation circuits.
The Convention Delegate Review Committee did not have time or opportunity to review the circumstances surrounding the extensive realigning of circuits that went on during the triennium to verify that all such alignments were done properly.
Districts may only realign circuits by convention action unless such authority has been specifically delegated to their boards of directors (CCM Opinion 03-2368).
These realignments have often only minimally met (and at times have even fallen short of) Bylaw 3.1.2 requirements, resulting in an increase in the number of delegates to the 2007 convention despite a reduction from 88 (2004) to 65 (2007) in the number of electoral circuit exceptions requested and granted.
The Convention Delegate Review Committee recognizes that a comprehensive study of concerns associated with the Synod’s delegate representation process is needed, such as is included in the overall study currently underway by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synodical Structure and Governance. A number of general observations surfaced during the committee’s research that beg further attention by the task force in the interest of fair representation at national conventions.
Delegate exceptions are at times being used to alleviate other concerns, including “adequate representation” for ethnic and other interests at national conventions. Exceptions requested for such purposes appear to elevate other concerns above the clear interest of Bylaw 3.1.2 in equitable representation based solely upon numbers of congregations and confirmed members.
The provision of Bylaw 3.1.2 advocating the combining of adjacent visitation circuits to form electoral circuits is not being given first attention as the to-be-preferred remedy when one or both of the visitation circuits do not meet requirements for an electoral circuit. This is evidenced by the fact that 65 electoral circuit exceptions were requested and granted for the 2007 Synod convention compared to only 16 times that adjacent visitation circuits were combined to form an appropriate electoral circuit. The granting of exceptions over the years has in reality become the rule, while the rule provided by the bylaw (to join adjacent visitation circuits) has in reality become the exception.
Statistics demonstrate that, in general, districts with already greater-than-average per-communicant representation at Synod conventions are also the districts that have been requesting and receiving the greatest number of exceptions, thereby further increasing their delegate representation advantage.
It is this committee’s hope and prayer that its efforts and this report will help to assure the Synod in general and the delegates to the 2007 convention in particular that the delegate body that will meet in Houston this summer has been selected “in accordance with the covenants of love by which we in the LCMS have agreed to work together.”
- Dr. William Hoesman, President, Michigan District; Chairman, Council of Presidents
Dr. Larry Stoterau, President, PSW District; Vice Chairman, Council of Presidents
Dr. Robert Kuhn, LCMS President Emeritus; Chairman, LCMS Board of Directors
Rev. James Fandrey, Luth.