By Katie Schuermann
ST. LOUIS (July 22, 2013) — Committee 7 on Structure and Ecclesiastical Matters brought four resolutions before the convention today — two of which were adopted, one defeated and another returned to the committee for clarification.
Resolution 7-02A, proposing a single-word change from circuit “counselors” to circuit “visitors” in the Synod’s Constitution Article XII, met with long queues at microphones and animated discussion between delegates, the convention chairman, Committee 7 and the Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM). Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison reminded the assembly that making such a change to the Synod’s Constitution would require a two-thirds majority vote by the convention and an additional two-thirds majority vote among congregations. Harrison left the dais at one point to speak on the matter, explaining that he was doing so in his vocation as assistant pastor of Village Lutheran Church, Ladue, Mo.
“[Luther] bases the entire structure of Lutheran church government on the word ‘visitation,’” Harrison said from the floor. “It’s about caring for one another. This is the entire structure of our Lutheran Church. Our Constitution is completely based upon visitation.”
Delegates adopted Resolution 7-02A, exceeding the required two-thirds vote with a 73.3 percent majority — 704 voting yes and 257 voting no.
Resolution 7-01A, described by Committee Chairman Rev. Richard Boche as a move to “emphasize the importance of visitation,” set forth clear visitation expectations for the president of the Synod, district presidents and circuit counselors (visitors) of at least one visit per triennium to church workers and congregations under their ecclesiastical supervision and spiritual care. Further visitation beyond the expected minimum is also encouraged by the proposed resolution. After minimal discussion, delegates adopted Resolution 7-01A by a vote of 833 to 170, an 83.1 percent majority.
Resolution 7-03A proposed that individual districts be able to establish visitation circuits different from electoral circuits. The Rev. Heath Curtis, pastoral voting delegate from the LCMS Southern Illinois District, spoke from the floor concerning the committee’s proposition. “I think it invites division,” he said.
Curtis further explained his position, “Right now, our circuits are formed in a geographic manner so that those Christians who live together will meet together to discuss important issues and to support one another in the ministry … I am very concerned that this resolution will lead to the gerrymandering of circuits. It gives us something else to fight about.”
Resolution 7-03A failed to pass, with 732 delegates voting no and 295 voting yes.
Resolution 7-04 attempts to establish eight general principles for judging the viability of a district, but delegates voted by a 69 percent majority to return the resolution back to the committee for further clarification.
The 65th Regular Convention of the LCMS is meeting July 20-25 at the America’s Center Convention Complex under the theme “Baptized for This Moment.” Among convention participants are some 1,200 clergy and lay voting delegates.
Updated July 23, 2013