By Paula Schlueter Ross
Two of the nine regional gatherings planned for LCMS convention delegates already have taken place, and organizer-presenter Rev. Jon Braunersreuther says that, so far, the events are doing just what they’re supposed to do: explain the current structure of the Synod and the 21 proposals of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance, and find out what delegates think about the proposals.
“The objective here is to share the information, to make it clear to the delegates, many of whom don’t know how the Synod is structured. And to make it clear what the proposals are, allow them to ask questions, and then, to get their feedback,” said Braunersreuther, assistant to Synod President Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick. “We want to know what they think so that the floor committee can take that information and use it to help mold the resolutions that they’ll put forward on the floor of the convention.”
Some 1,250 delegates are expected to take part in the convention, July 10-17 in Houston, spending the first two business days (July 11-12) determining which of the task force’s proposals — fine-tuned and presented as resolutions — will best prepare The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod to carry out its mission in the years ahead.
“We need structure and governance that are flexible and forward-looking — receptive to new opportunities God is giving the Synod,” Kieschnick said in introductory comments at each of the regional gatherings. “And we need a system of structure and governance that can help us maximize limited resources as faithful stewards, a need that has become even more critical in the current economic climate of our nation.”
Each of the pre-convention gatherings involves between 100 and 200 delegates. “People can really participate because of the size — it’s not intimidating,” says Braunersreuther.
One delegate told him that he had read through the task force’s report “and didn’t understand a thing” until he attended the pre-convention gathering, which “made all the difference in the world.” The delegate said he now understands the issues “so much more.”
“So, that’s a delegate who, if he had just come to Houston, would have been in the dark and it would have been confusing,” Braunersreuther said. “And now he’ll come and he’ll be prepared to make good decisions about the proposals as they’re put forward.”
Rev. Dennis Lassanske, a pastoral delegate from the Michigan District, attended the Dec. 11-12 regional meeting in Detroit. (The first meeting was held Dec. 4-5 in Denver.) After reading the task force’s report, he says he is “convinced that the restructure of the Synod operation is long overdue” and that the proposals offer “some insightful options.”
“I better understand their thinking as a result of the pre-convention meeting,” Lassanske told Reporter via e-mail. And, even though he realizes that the restructuring process will be difficult, he says he is “hopeful that delegates will be well-read and prepared to make supportive decisions that will move the Synod forward on these structure issues.”
Particularly helpful, he added, were the question-and-answer sessions, which “gave great information for making a more complete evaluation of the material and its historical context and impact.”
Said Lassanske: “I am more hopeful today than before the meeting and more determined to do my research and prepare for the convention this summer.”
Ron Jenkins, a lay delegate from the Indiana District, called the Detroit gathering “very informative and helpful.”
“I think it’s always good to [re-examine] our Bylaws so we can understand why we do things and not do it just because it has always been done that way,” he said.
Eva Fronk, an advisory delegate from the English District, said the regional meeting she attended “made me very positive and hopeful for our Synod.
“We are examining our present practices, evaluating our strengths and weaknesses, and prayerfully considering ‘which course is best for the salvation of souls,’ ” Fronk said, quoting the Synod’s first president, Dr. C.F.W. Walther.
Even though the participants didn’t agree on everything, the first two delegate gatherings “went very, very well,” according to Braunersreuther. “There was a wonderful spirit in the room at both of those regional gatherings.”
“People have been courteous and yet upfront about what their disagreements are. That’s a good thing.”
Everyone taking part in the meetings is being asked to complete a survey about the task force proposals, explaining what they like and don’t like. And, in table discussion groups, they are identifying the two or three most important proposals for convention action.
After all the regional gatherings have ended, the results of the table discussions will be tabulated. That information, along with the written survey responses, will be considered by Convention Floor Committee 8, on Synod Structure and Governance, as it prepares the resolutions and decides which proposals are most critical for the convention to address.
The remaining seven regional gatherings will take place in January and February in Madison, Wis.; Minneapolis; Boston; Newport Beach, Calif.; Atlanta; Dallas; and St. Louis.
Braunersreuther asks delegates who will be attending one of those meetings to “read the report, keep an open mind, and come with your questions.”
Posted Dec. 30, 2009