By John W. Sias
With fewer than 180 days to go before — Lord willing — the opening day of the 68th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the pre-convention work of assembling overtures, reports and nominations is well underway, all with the aim of guiding the Synod toward fruitful faithfulness for years to come.
While a detailed “map” of the whole process is always available online at lcms.org/convention/timeline, and an even more detailed guide for congregations on how they govern their Synod is available at lcms.org/convention/governance/guide, an update and reminder of opportunities and deadlines is now in order. Congregations that are planning meetings this month will want to be aware of quickly passing opportunities.
Overtures and reports: Due March 11
Overtures are requests or suggestions for the convention to take some action: to amend the Constitution or Bylaws, to speak to or call for study on theological or practical matters, to revise the Synod’s mission emphases and priorities, to address problems or meet opportunities, or to adjust in some way the work the Synod does for and on behalf of member congregations. Overtures can be submitted by circuits, district boards of directors, certain agency boards, official church worker conferences and even individual member congregations of the Synod. Detailed instructions and a helpful template are available here. We ask, if at all possible, that these be submitted by Feb. 10, roughly a month ahead of the statutory deadline, to help us prepare them for publication and get them in the hands of the whole Synod.
Reports are submitted by officers or agencies from which they are required; these are now being collected and prepared for publication, with the overtures, in the convention Workbook, to appear online later in April and in print in May. This Workbook and the good ideas it contains are the absolutely essential groundwork for the fruitful efforts of floor committees and the convention itself. So contribute!
Praesidium nominations: Due Feb. 28
Since 1973, the Synod has conducted the nominating ballot for its president and first vice-president prior to the convention, with each member congregation having the right to nominate two men from the clergy roster of the Synod for each position. (Before this time, a nominating ballot was taken at the convention.)
In 2013, this process came to include also nominations for a regional vice-president in each of the five regions of the Synod. This process is now underway — for the first time in electronic form. Each congregation or parish has been mailed credentials, provided by an independent election administrator, which will allow it to securely cast its nominating votes. These must be submitted by Feb. 28, with the results to be reported online approximately two weeks after the close of nominations, establishing the five candidates for president and 20 preliminary candidates for first vice-president. Details and instructions are available here.
In 2019, more congregations submitted nominations than in any year since 2004, although still only slightly more than a third of congregations did so. We are hopeful that the new electronic process and related communications will help to encourage increased, uniform participation across the Synod.
Registration of voters for Synod president: Due March 19
Since 2013, the congregations and parishes of the Synod have, by way of two voters, one pastor and one layperson, directly elected the president of the Synod in advance of each convention (Bylaw 18.104.22.168). (A parish is a group of congregations, regularly sharing one pastor or set of pastors, that acts as a unit in this respect.) The window for registration of these voters officially selected by each congregation or parish is now open but closes March 19. If a voter has been registered by that date, changes can be made until June 9. Information on electronic registration of these voters has been mailed to each congregation or parish. Details and instructions are available here.
Voters selected should be able to participate in an electronic election that, because the initial ballot for president has for the first time been expanded from three to five names, may involve more than a single run-off election. The election, conducted by YesElections (formerly Election America), will take place by electronic ballot (via the Internet) June 17–20, and if run-off elections are required, June 24–27, July 1–4, and July 8–11, 2023. The process is administered by the secretary of the Synod according to Bylaw 22.214.171.124, with results announced shortly after the election concludes.
The Synod has elected its president by this process three times. In 2013 and 2016, voters were those who had attended prior district conventions; in 2019, voters were registered directly by congregations, with no prior attendance of a district convention required. This increased the opportunity for registration of voters but did not increase the number who actually registered (although those who were registered wound up more likely to vote). In 2019, roughly one-third of potential voters did not register. We hope that the new electronic process and related communications will make it easier for every congregation or parish that wishes to participate to do so.
CCN meeting: Jan. 26–28
Finally, I must mention a process that has already moved on to a new phase. Nominations for Synod secretary, boards and commissions are handled by the Committee for Convention Nominations (CCN), as described in Bylaws 3.12.3–126.96.36.199, with the gathering of position qualifications, nominations, biographical information and evaluative material conducted by the LCMS Office of the Secretary. That initial in-gathering was wrapping up as the February Reporter went to print, with the committee — laypeople and rostered church workers elected each triennium by roughly one-half the districts in turn — fully elected and preparing to meet.
Here I have good news to report: bucking a long-term decline, the nominators of the Synod (which include even members of member congregations of the Synod) have sent more nominations than in the previous triennium, giving the committee more material to work with as it prepares slates of candidates for the convention’s consideration. Their work will be published in advance of the convention, along with the Workbook, in the Biographical Synopses and Statements of Nominees.
Prayers: Always “in order”
The convention is the member congregations’ opportunity to keep their Synod faithful and, as much as in us lies, to make plans and select laborers from which and whom they can expect — the Lord granting the growth — fruitfulness. The theme for the upcoming convention, “We Preach Christ Crucified” (1 Cor. 1:18–25), evokes the power and wisdom of God, ultimately revealed in the Christ crucified, prevailing mightily in the midst of a world that counts it as but foolishness and nothingness.
Knowing this Christ — that He is ours and we are His, that He is crucified for us, risen, ascended to the right hand of God’s power, interceding and ruling for His church, however she may now appear — should give us great confidence to approach the throne of grace for the petitions and the people drawing nigh to convention. The Good Lord grant by the power of His cross, despite our weaknesses and divisions and those of the world, that His wisdom and power may carry the day and bless our Synod in Milwaukee. That prayer is certainly always “in order.”
The Rev. Dr. John W. Sias (firstname.lastname@example.org) is secretary of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
Posted Feb. 1, 2023