Eight floor committees that met in St. Louis the weekend starting May 21 drafted 104 proposed resolutions for some 1,200 delegates to consider at the Synod’s 64th Regular Convention, set for July 10-17 in Houston.
The work of one of those committees, for structure and governance, resulted in 33 proposed resolutions — by far, the most for any of this convention’s floor committees.
All eight committees’ proposals primarily respond to reports and a total of 251 overtures — 238 in the 2010 Convention Workbook, and 13 late and additional overtures.
The structure and governance committee’s resolutions also were guided by the report of the Blue Ribbon Task Force for Synod Structure and Governance, whose findings and recommendations received synodwide exposure and feedback before the floor committees met.
The structure and governance floor committee first met to get organized April 16-18.
The floor committees also will hold open hearings and closed deliberations to further refine their work during the two days prior to the opening convention session at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.
For the 2007 convention, floor committees drafted 97 resolutions at their meetings in St. Louis.
This year’s convention theme is “ONE People — Forgiven.
The first issue of Today’s Business — the daily convention guide — will contain the 104 resolutions being initially proposed. That issue is scheduled to be mailed to delegates and congregations in early June. The resolutions also will be on the Web at http://www.lcms.org/todaysbusiness.
Following is a summary of the resolutions, by floor committee number and name.
Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others has always been the goal of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, and in that respect the outreach-focused resolutions prepared by Floor Committee 1 for the 2010 LCMS convention reflect that time-honored goal.
But they also reflect the issues and challenges of today by encouraging LCMS congregations to reach out with God’s love to immigrants, Muslims, and U.S. service men and women.
Resolutions also address Ablaze!, the Synod-endorsed effort to share the Gospel with 100 million “unreached and uncommitted” people worldwide by 2017, and the related Fan into Flame campaign to raise $100 million to launch new Ablaze! ministries.
The eight resolutions prepared by the Missions floor committee:
- ask the Synod to “celebrate the blessings” of Fan into Flame, which has raised $57 million as of May 2010 for mission work worldwide, and extend the campaign for one year — until Reformation Day 2011. This resolution also asks that a final report on the campaign be provided to the next LCMS convention.
- ask the LCMS Board for Mission Services to evaluate Ablaze! and plan the future of the initiative, and “encourage every baptized child of God to be bold witnesses and faithful confessors of the faith in these challenging times.”
- urge districts and LCMS World Mission to work together to strengthen their commitment to new immigrants; encourage Concordia University System schools to recruit, train, and send immigrants to serve in immigrant communities; and encourage the LCMS seminaries to continue the expansion and development of the Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology, the Center for Hispanic Studies, and similar distance-education programs.
- call responding to Islam “a very high-priority mission task” and urge congregations to “respond to opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus by word and deed with those who are seeking answers to questions of faith and life.” This resolution also commends Concordia Publishing House for publishing Muslim Friends, The Truth about Islam, and How to Respond — Muslims, and encourages Lutherans to use these resources, and commends People of the Book Lutheran Outreach, Dearborn Heights, Mich., for its ministries among Muslims.
- affirm and encourage military chaplains.
- thank those who serve in the armed forces and urge congregations to be sensitive to the needs of those who return from combat by taking part in “Operation Barnabas,” a program to support chaplains and soldiers, and establishing standing committees for military concerns.
- encourage inter-district dialogue when new church starts, satellite worship sites, and specialized ministries are planned for sites that cross district boundaries.
- commend the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg for initiating the vision to establish a visitor center and interactive museum to proclaim the Gospel in Wittenberg, Germany, and encourage the society to pursue this project.
2. District and Congregational Services
Continuing support for six areas of ministry that are emphasized throughout the Synod is the aim of the top-priority resolution offered by Floor Committee 2, among its total of eight resolutions.
Those six areas are children’s, family, school, singles, stewardship, and youth ministries.
Pointing out that these ministries “have provided significant leadership and resources to districts and congregations,” the resolution’s only “resolved” is “that the LCMS continue to recognize the importance of supporting the ministries for the future growth of Christ’s church.”
The second resolution from the committee urges the Synod and 35 LCMS districts to share electronically with “every congregation and ministry” a document from LCMS School Ministry for implementing a “Reduction in Force” (RIF) process.
The proposed action also encourages congregations to use the resource when considering an RIF policy and to “consider the spiritual, financial, and emotional well-being of all impacted workers when implementing RIF policies.”
Noting that inter- and intra-generational concerns are “reflective of the mind of Christ and integral to His mission mandate to reach out to all,” another resolution calls on the president of the Synod to appoint a commission to “research, study, and make recommendations relating to our changing world and to the 21st century ministry of churches of differing sizes.” The commission would share its finding with congregations and report them to Synod leaders as it prepares the findings and recommendations for the next LCMS convention.
Other resolutions from this committee ask the Synod to encourage:
- daily devotions and study of Scripture for individuals and families, commending Concordia Publishing House for its “numerous resources in a variety of media formats to assist individuals and families in their devotional life.”
- every LCMS congregation and school to have “regular ongoing studies” of The Book of Concord as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation approaches in 2017.
- LCMS congregations, agencies, institutions, and entities “to follow district salary guidelines for professional church workers as a minimum guide to provide proper compensation.”
Another resolution commends the “Theses on Worship” produced by the LCMS Council of Presidents “for guidance for congregations,” and encourages their use throughout the church body, along with resources from the Model Theological Conference on the Theology of Worship held earlier this year.
3. Theology and Church Relations
Five of the 10 resolutions drafted by Floor Committee 3 deal with implications of the decision last August by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to recognize “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships” as morally acceptable and to approve pastors living in those relationships.
The committee’s first-priority resolution quotes from the report released early this year from the Task Force on Theological Implications of ELCA Human Sexuality Decisions, saying the issue “impacts the Gospel itself” and “… promotes a false security about behavior and conduct which God has forbidden and from which He longs to redeem us.” The resolution also expresses care for homosexual persons. For example, one “resolved” states that the LCMS acknowledge its responsibility “to love our neighbor as ourselves” and “to affirm that sexual orientation is no excuse for bigotry, hatred, animosity, or violence.”
The resolution also commends the task force report, as well as “Same-Gender Relationships and the Church,” a statement adopted in August 2009 by the International Lutheran Council. The resolution would recommend both documents for study and reference.
Other resolutions related to the ELCA decision:
- note that the LCMS, “while not encouraging discord in the ELCA, nevertheless cannot turn away from those who dissent from the ELCA, lest we deny our own convictions” and, if passed, the resolution would encourage other Lutheran church bodies that strive to remain faithful to confessional Lutheranism; would request the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) to continue developing plans for an international model theological conference on confessional leadership; and would call on the Synod president and the CTCR to explore ways to promote confessional Lutheranism throughout the world.
- propose continuing cooperation in matters of physical need with other Lutheran churches, including the ELCA, “with theological integrity” and request the CTCR, in consultation with the Praesidium and other entities, to develop theological criteria for assessing cooperative endeavors toward a report on current “cooperation in externals” by the next Synod convention.
- acknowledge procedures in place for establishing formal altar and pulpit fellowship with well-established church bodies, and propose to amend a Bylaw to allow the Synod president, following consultation with the Praesidium and approval by the CTCR, to declare recognition of altar and pulpit fellowship with emerging or newly formed confessional churches, subject to endorsement of the subsequent Synod convention.
- request the CTCR, in consultation with seminary faculties, to “develop a thorough, biblical, and confessional analysis of and response” to the ELCA report that led to its assembly action on same-gender relationships.
Floor Committee 3 also drafted resolutions on topics related to current and proposed theological studies.
One resolution proposes to commend the CTCR for its recent report, “The Creator’s Tapestry: Scriptural Perspectives on Man-Woman Relationships in Marriage and the Church,” and would encourage the commission to address additional issues related to the Christian understanding of man and woman.
Another resolution notes that the church faces new challenges brought by trends of Scripture interpretation in the post-modern era. The resolution would ask the CTCR, in consultation with the seminaries, to prepare Bible studies for the laity on “How to Read the Bible.”
Noting that the CTCR already includes representation from both seminary faculties, another resolution proposes an expression of thanks for the gifts of seminary faculty and the CTCR and asks that the commission and the faculties collaborate wherever possible.
In another resolution, the floor committee proposes to decline a congregation-submitted overture calling for partner churches to withdraw from the Lutheran World Federation. The committee’s resolution cites a resolution of the International Lutheran Council that recognizes that each member church has a responsibility to act in matters of church fellowship according to its conscience based on the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions.
And a final resolution declines three congregation-submitted overtures — to end all official theological talks with the ELCA; to request the Synod president not to attend ELCA Churchwide Assemblies; and to return to a Scriptural position on birth control. The committee cited the encouragement of 2Tim: 2:25 to “correct opponents with gentleness” so that God might grant them repentance as reasons for the first two declinations. As for the third overture, the committee noted that the Synod has never had an official position on birth control.
4. Administration and Finance
With a call for study of biblical stewardship and approaches to LCMS finances, this floor committee drafted its first four resolutions for the convention to deal with the Synod’s financial situation. The balance of the committee’s 12 resolutions deal with administrative topics by proposing amendments to the Synod’s Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation.
The first resolution, “To Lead the Church in a Stewardship Renaissance,” would encourage all congregations to search the Scriptures for stewardship examples and study stewardship principles. It would call on the Synod and its districts to promote a Lutheran understanding of stewardship principles that emphasize God’s gifts, the needs of neighbors, and trust in God’s provision. The resolution calls on each district president to lead his district in “a stewardship renaissance” using resources from the Synod.
Pointing to the 2007 report from the Blue Ribbon Task Force for Funding the Mission, a second resolution would place its recommendations for increasing unrestricted revenues on the agenda of the LCMS Board of Directors for disposition by the next convention. It also would request the Board “to evaluate all assets, taking action to ensure that they are being effectively used to carry out the Synod’s mission and ministry or make recommendations to the next convention for their appropriate use.”
A third resolution encourages the vice-president-finance/treasurer to broadly communicate the Synod’s financial position each November.
A fourth resolution proposes a study of the LCMS higher education system — colleges and seminaries — with a report to the next convention. The resolution would encourage congregations and individuals to increase their support of higher education with prayer, referrals of students, and financial gifts. It also would require the colleges and seminaries to require students to receive instruction in biblical stewardship to increase their ability to manage their personal resources.
- propose a Bylaw change so no more than two members — currently the Bylaw specifies only one member — may be elected to the Board of Directors from any one district and establishes an order for electing clergy, commissioned, and lay members at the convention.
- would amend and restate the Articles of Incorporation to include purposes as well as objectives of the Synod, plus other word changes as proposed by the Commission on Structure.
- offer Bylaw amendments to facilitate convention preparations, including earlier deadlines for reports, floor committee appointments, convention nominations and distribution of the Convention Workbook and Today’s Business, as well as providing that they be posted on the Synod’s Web site, and changing the number of presidential nominees from five to three and vice presidential nominees from 20 to 10.
- would alter the procedure for determining the date and site of conventions from a convention decision to a procedure involving the convention manager, the president, and the Board of Directors.
- would provide that convention floor committees be appointed by the Synod president in consultation with the Council of Presidents and the Praesidium.
- propose a return to pre-2004 wording of the Bylaw describing the responsibilities of the Board for Church Extension and its relationship to the Lutheran Church Extension Fund and independent district church extension funds.
- propose amendments to Bylaws — in two separate resolutions — to define an “operating board” and clarify the definition of a “governing board.”
- would change auxiliary terminology in Bylaw 6.1.3, replacing the word “president” with “chief elected officer.”
- would change Bylaw 1.5.3 wording to allow agencies to set their own manner of meetings, especially to cut the expense of travel for face-to-face meetings.
- propose a decrease from 14 to seven the number of members on the Commission on Ministerial Growth and Support for responsible use of stewardship resources.
5. Seminary and University Education
The first two of the 13 resolutions prepared by Floor Committee 5 call for the Synod in convention to continue its support of the What a Way initiative for recruiting and retaining full-time church workers and the “For the Sake of the Church” program that seeks to increase the number of students at the Concordia schools and support them financially.
Noting that more than $200 million in endowment gifts and pledges have been received through the “For the Sake of the Church” program, the resolution offers “special encouragement to congregations and individuals” to continue their support so the effort can reach its goal of $400 million.
Following a 2007 convention resolution that called for a task force study of the Synod’s current lay deacon program, another resolution asks that the program be continued and includes recommendations for providing a “reasonable way through which deacons, who are preaching and administering the sacraments, might be examined, called, and ordained within three years of beginning their service.”
A resolution that seeks to increase the impact of the vicarage program calls for the creation of a synodwide funding plan that would make supporting a vicar possible for congregations unable to afford the cost.
Addressing the topic of pastoral formation, a resolution asks the Synod to adopt 12 themes for pastoral education to “provide a planning and guiding focus for preparation of pastors” within the Missouri Synod.
Additional resolutions call for clarifying or revising the Synod’s Bylaws pertaining to:
- the election process for college/university presidents that would give a school’s board of regents responsibility for leading the presidential election process, instead of being “dominated by a search committee structure that is predominantly faculty members.”
- the responsibilities of a college/university president that allows the delegation of certain tasks to officers with leadership in the areas of finance, academics, student and spiritual life, recruitment, and fundraising. Saying the current Bylaw implies that the president must be male through its use of the pronoun “he,” the proposed Bylaw uses the word “president” instead. The committee’s rationale for the change states that no current Bylaws prohibit women from serving in the position.
- the composition of the Colloquy Committee for Commissioned Ministers and its purpose and functions.
The remaining resolutions revise the qualifications for a person to be elected or appointed to a school’s board of regents, streamline the process for the promotion of faculty to “continuing status,” and change the Bylaw wording regarding faculty appointments.
(Click here to read Part 2 of this story.)
Posted May 27, 2010