Friday, September 12, 2008

On Synodical Structures and Changing Polity

Currently the LCMS has a blue ribbon task force studying possible changes in the structure of the governance of Synod. The September Reporter revealed several proposals currently on the table for discussion, summarizing a recently released "white paper" called Walking Together - The LCMS Future. The suggestions, at present, seem to be fairly extensive, and in some cases reflecting conflicting directions. Districts should either be increased in number or decreased or remain the same, but cooperate more with other districts. Change the circuits so that they are purely "visitational," and not "electoral." Involve the district presidents in choosing the circuit counselors. Change the voting representation so that larger congregations will have more delegates to correspond to their greater membership numbers. Discontinue advisory delegates. Continue the policy for submission of overtures, but include district or synodical officers as well. Encourage congregations to submit their concerns through circuit forums to district conventions and then have those results submitted to the national convention (instead of individual congregations submitting them indepentently as they can do so now.) Change the name of the Synod to "better reflect who we are today..." Involve district presidents and the congregations being served by pastoral candidates in the certification process. Make commissioned ministers eligible as voting delegates. And on go the suggestions...

Naturally I have my concerns, even fears, when I see proposals for far reaching change. While I understand that governance is a matter of choice - that is, there are no divinely appointed forms here - I also am cautious when we want to change structures that have, for the most part, stood the test of time, albeit imperpectly in an imperfect world. I hesitate on matters that seem, to my eyes, to reflect a possible tendency to centralize power, even for the sake of effeciency. For an effecient organization can also be one that too easily bypasses the need to consult the will of the people. Efficiency over representation. Even the forefathers of our nation knew there might be problems brewing here. They created what could be considered a fairly cumbersome and inefficient system of governance. But it was not because of carelessness. It was by design. Balance of power, they called it. One branch was never to become an out-of-control freight train racing ahead of the others.

I pray that the delegates of the 2010 convention carefully study these proposals and those that will certainly follow on their heels. Too often delegates have so much information before them that they cannot digest it all. They trust those who bring the overtures to the floor, assuming that they certainly are all for the best of everyone. While I do not wish to questions the sincereity or integrity of those who bring such proposals, I do hold the right to question whether they are in our best interest at this time. And right now I am wary. I hope that those who represent us are equally cautious in thier willingness to endorse these proposals. This all needs much more thought before it is brought to the synod.

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