ANO / Lutheran Watch

“ANO” stands for “A Neutral Observer” in that I take no side but that of justice and righteousness without regard to power or position. Unfortunately the pseudonym is necessary out of concern of retaliation for forthrightly expressing what will doubtless be some unpopular views. I’ve been there, done that, and have no desire to have myself or the people I care for ever threatened like that again.

“Lutheran Watch” is an honorific to Judicial Watch whose modus-operandi is to ensure that the law applies to all people regardless of power or position and Retraction Watch which tracks and reports on misconduct in the scientific community .

Topics of Interest
This blog’s is primarily intended to address material that is publicly available including blog posts, official church articles, and the like. My primary focus will be on the “business” side of the church – structure, accountability, and “doing business” in a manner that is consistent with the Christian faith while at the same time subject to the laws of the land.

Considering how LCC’s restructuring process is proceeding, it is also clear that the development of a corporate structure that is suitable for use by LCC’s members will be of substantial interest.

Articles Policy
I’m open to and interested in articles pertaining to:

  • LCC / LCMS structure and governance, organizational behavior, abuse in the church, and related topics.
  • Points of view that substantially differ from anything posted here, or would expand on any articles that cannot reasonably fit in a comment,
  • Matters of accountability of public officials

Any articles submitted for publication need to adhere to the standards of Christian conduct – they need to be factual, evidentiary, make reasonable conclusions based on the available information, and address topics / issues rather than persons and personalities.

Comments Policy
All comments are welcome provided they are constructive and go somewhere. Persistent obstruction or abuse of any kind is not welcome.

Correspondence Policy
All received correspondence will be considered confidential except for threats and abuse. Any correspondence of that nature will be subject to public posting, analysis, and refutation.

Disclaimer
I’m not a lawyer, legal analyst, financial adviser, doctor, etc. nor do I play any of these on TV. These comments are worth what you paid for them. If you have any questions requiring specialized knowledge or expertise – please consult a paid professional with the requisite training and certifications.

Who’se Responsible for What
All errors are mine, all glory goes to God.

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Synod to Youth: There is Nothing You Are Worth Less Than

This is the logo that Synod is using to promote the National Youth Gathering to be held in Langley, BC in July 2019.

nyg-2017-web

What is your first reaction when you read this? If you study it for a bit – does that reaction change?

Here’s the official explanation for the theme and logo –  please read it through and see if it changes your mind. If it it does change your mind, when does that happen?

Are we actually worthless? Well, that depends on your perspective. If you look at it from your own perspective, there are two questions to ponder: What do you have to offer God? and What you can do to make yourself worthy before God? The answer is nothing. There is nothing you can do to make yourself worthy before God, and nothing you have to offer God that makes you valuable. The only thing you bring to the table is your sin. You cannot save yourself from that sin. So, from that perspective, you could see that, in fact, you are worthless in God’s presence as you stand before him a poor, miserable sinner (1 Timothy 1:15). If you look at it from God’s point of view, you will see that He created you (Psalm 139:13-14), and He redeemed you through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus paid the price for your sins on the cross, that price being His life. In the logo, you see the cross within the word “worthless,” and we’re reminded of the blood He shed for us with the use of red lettering. Our theme verse is Romans 5:8 because it tells you that you are not worthless “but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The King of Kings died for you, while you stood there in your sin, proving that “there is NOTHING you are worth less than!”

Here’s what Romans 5:8 says: –

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I’ll be writing a follow-up piece to this and expect to have it out in a day or so.

 

Where Are We Now, and Where Do We Go From Here?

After years of this whole restructuring effort I have to wonder – how did we end up where we are and how do we get out of it?

From where I’m looking at things, it seems pretty clear that we as a synod have been talking past each other, and that what one group understands is not the same as what others perceive things to be. This difference in perspective is particularly significant when it comes to the place the Constitution and it’s various statements of faith have in LCC’s corporate structure.

Since Christ Harrow was kind enough to post their concerns for public consideration I’ll use their document as a starting point in my attempt to move the discussion along.


This statement can be used as an intro to one of the fundamental challenge we’re facing:

“Structure is to flow out of theology.”  The Handbook must be Confessional through and through, even where it describes our legal or corporate nature.

While I understand and appreciate the goal – I have a hard time seeing how it could be implemented under any form of government outside of a theocracy run in accordance with the Lutheran Confessions. And even if such a theocracy existed – the Lutheran Confessions specifically deal with right-hand kingdom questions – how does one use documents like that to deal with left-hand kingdom things like zoning decisions, utility management, immigration policy, jurisprudence, community development, and all the myriad of other day-to-day details that make up life on this earth?

This is the fundamental conflict we have to confront in any discussion about restructuring – how can we form and run a left-hand kingdom corporate body that is also fully confessional in the right-hand kingdom. Can it even be done? If not, what compromises are required? Are these compromises ones we’re willing to accept? And if not – then what?

This is a question all churches should look at – not just as a matter of deciding LCC’s structure but also in terms of their own founding documents and how it talks about the local church’s relationship with the civil government.


Here’s another significant challenge we as a community will have to get our collective heads around:

8.  Impermissible Changes: The current Constitution declares…

From a corporate standpoint the Statutory Bylaws are supreme and I discussed some the implications for Synod in it’s current state in a previous article.  In this article  I want to discuss what I think this means for a Synod which has a unified set of governing documents.

First and most significantly from an organizational standpoint, every Article of the current Constitution comes with an implicit condition – that in the event there’s a conflict between the Constitution and the Statutory Bylaws, the Statutory Bylaws wins.

As a concrete real-world example of what’s theoretically possible, consider the 2014 Constitution’s Article V Membership which states in part “Membership in Lutheran Church-Canada is restricted to congregations, pastors and deacons of the Evangelical Lutheran Church who confess and accept the confessional basis of Article II.” Now suppose Synod was infiltrated by a “chocolate ice cream” faction and it managed to get Synod in convention to change the Statutory Bylaws such that everyone who likes chocolate ice cream could become a member. That would weaken the statement written in the Constitution‘s Article II Confession and Article V Membership in that membership would no longer be restricted to people and congregations that adhere to Article II‘s confession of faith. And if the Statutory Bylaws were further changed to make an affection for chocolate ice cream the only condition for membership, then the Constitution’s Articles II and V would be completely overridden and of no effect.

This may be the reason why the author of the Harrow document was told:

 Until now LCC has needed a Constitution.  No one has made any compelling case for not having one, except that the lawyers say that constitutions are passé, …

I think the compelling case has been made – if the Constitution is subordinate to the Statutory Bylaws and does not provide the level of protection that people thought it did, then why have one?

This leads into the Harrow document‘s following statement:

5.  Fundamental Change:  The removal of the Constitution is no incidental change; it is fundamental.  There is no provision in the current Constitution to do away with the Constitution!  Amendments are possible that do not conflict with Articles II and VI (which then presupposes that Articles II and VI will never cease to exist).  

In this the Harrow author is correct – there’s no provision to do away the Constitution – but if civil law allows for the elimination of a Constitution, is such a provision required? As an example, my church had a pair of “unalterable” Articles in its Constitution when LCC was formed. In order to join LCC the church had to alter these “unalterable” Articles, which I found rather puzzling. As it was explained to me, joining LCC meant we were somehow a new organization which is what enabled the church to change these changeless Articles. This is a possible example of civil law trumping a Constitution.

Be that what it may – if the Constitution doesn’t serve the purpose for which it was created, then what form will? Given that the Statutory Bylaws can override any provision in the Constitution, the only way to include a statement of faith that has any meaning or effect is to write those provisions into the Statutory Bylaws or equivalent document.

I’m thinking this may be a contributing reason why the “Acts and Bylaws” was a single document instead of three documents.

More to come…

A Matter of Transition

Looking at the “Act and Bylaws” that the the CCMS spent so much time and effort on and that the BOD decided to circular file, I found this little gem:

15.1 Repeal, Replacement, and Amendments of Constitution and Bylaws
1. Repeal and Replacement of Bylaws
The Statutory and Synodical Bylaws made under the Constitution of Lutheran Church Canada are repealed and replaced. 
Cleared by the Commission on Constitutional Matters and Structure this 21st day of June, 2017.
2. Force and Effect
This Article shall be of no force and effect in the event the necessary approval to the amendments of the Constitution as required by Article XIV Amendments to the Constitution are not given within the time specified.

What this means is that – under the proposed Acts and Bylaws – if the amendments to the Constitution were lost, the whole process stops cold – no harm, no foul, and Synod continues on like it had before while the CCMS considers what to do next.

Then there’s the next section which addresses a matter almost completely absent from the restructuring documents the delegates adopted at convention:

15.2 Transitional Provisions

  1. The member congregations shall conduct an electronic vote in the second quarter of 2018 to elect persons to all positions required by these Bylaws.
  2. Member congregations shall elect one lay person and appoint a called pastor or  vacancy pastor as their delegates to participate in the electronic vote.
  3. In preparation for this electronic vote the Commission on Nominations and  Elections shall direct the nomination and vetting processes as documented in these Bylaws.
  4. The CNE shall also provide electronic ballots to the member congregations in each proposed region with instructions on the election process.
  5. If the approval of the member congregations is confirmed in the time specified in the Constitution, the electronic vote shall commence after April 16, 2018 and be completed by June 30, 2018, following the same voting process documented in Article 3 of these Bylaws.
  6. These transitional provisions shall become effective immediately following the approval of the repeal, replacement, and amendments to the Constitution as required by the Constitution.
  7. Subject to the approval of the repeal, replacement, and amendments of the Constitution, as required by the Constitution, these Bylaws, which repeal, replace and amend the Constitution, Statutory Bylaws and Synodical Bylaws shall become effective on September 1, 2018.
  8. Effective immediately prior to September 1, 2018, all those holding Directorships, positions, and appointments, except the President and the Vice President, shall terminate their positions regardless of the term specified when they assumed such positions.
  9. Following September 1, 2018, terms of office and the holding of conventions shall revert to a four-year cycle commencing in 2021.
  10. Following the approval of the repeal, replacement and amendment of the Constitution and the completion of the transitional provisions, the Convention may remove Article 15 Repeal, Replacement, Amendments of Constitution and Bylaws and Transitional Provisions.

It’s almost as if this was put together by someone that’s done this before or something.

  • If the amendments fail – the process stops and none of the changes are adopted,
  • If the amendments pass and restructuring is adopted, then all the changes are adopted similar to throwing a switch
  • The transition process is clearly laid out,
  • Synod has time to plan how to implement the transition,
  • Synod has a note on what and how to clean things up once the transition is complete.

And this transition plan even allows for the use of electronic voting to enable the member congregations to elect people into offices in the new structure without having to expend time and resources traveling to attend an expensive convention!

This stands in stark contrast to the restructuring process as proposed and implemented which mandates that

  • the new Statutory and Synodical Bylaws take immediate effect before the Constitution is amended,
  • there is no provision for what to do if amendments to the Constitution are lost,
  • there is little provision for a transition process to move from one structure to another.

I have to wonder – why wasn’t this transition plan copied by the Working Group when it developed its “Plan B” document?

Restructuring Order of Precedence

When a student takes math classes, one of the things they learn is that math has an order of precedence – multiplication and division have a higher precedence compared to addition and subtraction. This meant that when working through a calculation multiplication and division are done first and then additions and subtractions are done next.

This “order of precedence” has also shown up in the recent restructuring process when the convention delegates learned that – in corporate law – the Statutory Bylaws are considered first and trump everything else – including the Constitution. Since the convention I’ve heard some conflicting stories about what people think is going on, and in this article I’ll try to clarify things as I understand them.

In a company the order of precedence of its documents are as follows:

  1. Statutory Bylaws
  2. Constitution (if present)
  3. Synodical Bylaws

What this means is that if there’s a conflict between the Statutory Bylaws and the Constitution, the Statutory Bylaws have a higher precedence and thus would prevail. This has the effect of nullifying the conflicting text in the Constitution. The same would hold true for a conflict between the Statutory Bylaws and the Synodical Bylaws or the Constitution and the Synodical Bylaws.

To look at this in a more concrete manner – suppose these documents established Synod’s official color, food, and season, like so:

  1. Statutory Bylaws – see the Constitution and Synodical Bylaws for Synod’s official color, food, and season
  2. Constitution – Synod’s official color is red and food is ham,
  3. Synodical Bylaws – official season is spring

In this scenario Synod’s official color, food, and season would be red, ham, and spring. This is how the pre-2017 Bylaws and Constitution was structured – “important stuff” was placed in the Constitution with the Statutory and Synodical Bylaws referencing them as needed. Since changes to the Constitution require a confirmation from the member congregations – I suspect this structure was chosen to ensure that member congregations had a direct way to confirm any changes to Synod’s  official documents and policy.

At some point in time Synod holds a convention and changes the Statutory Bylaws to include a statement that blue is Synod’s official color. The Constitution is modified to remove red as the official color, but this change doesn’t take effect until it’s confirmed by 2/3rds of the congregations that vote.

The three documents now look like this:

  • Statutory Bylaws – official color is blue
  • Constitution – official color is red, official food is ham
  • Synodical Bylaws – official season is spring

Because the Statutory Bylaws take precedence over the Constitution, Synod’s official list would be the blue, ham, and spring instead of red, ham, and spring. In this way the part of the Constitution that establishes an official color (red) has been nullified by the change in the Statutory Bylaws which specifies a different color (blue).


That’s where LCC is at this point in time – by implementing the new Statutory and Synodical Bylaws with immediate effect, Synod currently has a Constitution which is in conflict with its Statutory Bylaws. The difference is that the real world conflicts between the new Statutory Bylaws and the current Constitution aren’t nearly as straightforward to sort out as the example we’ve just gone through.

The following sections are some of the conflicts that currently exist and may become a permanent fixture for Synod if the amendments to the current Constitution are lost.


The new Statutory and Synodical Bylaws references a Synodical Constitution which, at this time, does not exist. Furthermore, the Synodical Constitution will not exist unless and until the proposed amendments to the current Constitution are adopted. And what happens if the amendments to the Constitution are lost and the Synodical Constitution never comes into existence? Any reference to a Synodical Constitution would be meaningless and that would mean …. I’m not really sure what… but I’m betting it wouldn’t be very pretty.


The new Statutory Bylaws Article XVI Regions and Circuits establishes the regional structure as a replacement for the old Statutory Bylaws Article XVII which established the district structure. What this change did not do was make the regional structure the only one Synod would use and so nullify any reference to a District structure in all the other Synodical documents. In my Not A Lawyer Opinion – if the current Constitution stands and the changes fail to be adopted then Synod could – on paper – be saddled with two overlapping structures – the new Regions and the current Districts.

I can see the response now “But the clear intent was to change over to regions!”

If that was the clear intent – then why weren’t the documents written that way? The restructuring group clearly knew about the order of precedence and had no problem using it to nullify parts of the Constitution – why didn’t they write the Statutory Bylaws to make regions the exclusive structure for Synod to use going forward?

In addition, the people charged with implementing these documents aren’t allowed to use the purported intention of the authors because what Convention voted in is what the authors wrote, not what they allegedly intended. Secondly, for anyone to (re)interpret the document according to their understanding of the author’s intent risks amending the document without proper authorization.

All told, Synod as an organization has to use the documents they have as they are currently written and live with the consequences of the convention’s decision.


A failed confirmation vote could also mean that the vote for Synod to dissolve it’s relationship with the various Districts in 2019 may be null and void as a contravention of a Constitution that mandates their existence as arms of Synod.


Someone needs to put this in front of the CCMS and ask for their official opinion – I’d love to read what their thinking is on this.

Given what I’ve uncovered so far, I’m fighting an urge to hide my eyes from the impending train wreck that’s coming – particularly if the amendments to the Constitution are lost and Synod ventures into uncharted territory without a compass or a map.

texastraincollision

Special Convention anyone?

Credits: Train wreck picture is from a CBS News article published  June 29, 2016, 12:34 PM


Update 2017-11-11: GES on SolaGratia questioned my accuracy in terms of how the Constitution is amended so I’m including the Constitution’s entire change process here. Part 4 states that any amendments voted on at the convention become effective at the expiration of six months from the date on which the amendment was adopted by a Convention, provided a two-thirds majority of the votes cast by congregations within that period shall have favored the amendment.

That means Synod is still under the old Constitution and will remain so for at least six months after the convention – assuming the amendments pass the member congregation confirmation vote. If the member congregation confirmation vote fails then the Constitution remains unchanged and it’s anyone’s guess what happens next.

Here’s the full article:

Article XIV Amendments to the Constitution
1. Amendments to the Constitution may be made provided they do not conflict with the provisions laid down in the Act or Statutory Bylaws, or in Article II and in Article VI.
2. All proposed amendments must be submitted in writing to a Convention, and each proposed amendment shall be voted on separately. A two-thirds majority of all votes cast at a Convention shall be necessary for adoption
3. After adoption by the Convention such amendments shall be reported to the congregations in the official periodicals of the Synod.
4. Proposed amendments to the Constitution adopted by a Convention shall be submitted directly to each congregation that is a member of the Synod on an official ballot, and the congregations shall by official action express their affirmative or negative vote and indicate the same to the secretary of Lutheran Church-Canada on this official ballot. The proposed amendment shall become effective at the expiration of six months from the date on which the amendment was adopted by a Convention, provided a two-thirds majority of the votes cast by congregations within that period shall have favored the amendment.

A Cost-Effective Special Convention

After the delegates at the 2017 Convention started to realize what had happened when the Statutory Bylaws were passed, the question was asked “now what?” As one delegate asked “What do we tell the people we report to? ‘Too bad, so sad’?”

The answer was the changes were now the “law of the land” and changing them would wait until the next convention – or – a special convention could be held at a cost of $400K. What I saw was akin to having  a particular understanding about how a transaction was supposed to go, signing the bill of sale, and then suddenly finding out the fine print dramatically changed the nature of the contract.

sales_contract_greekshares

However – contrary to what was stated at the 2017 convention, I think it’s possible to follow the new rules and legally change Synod’s direction without having to spend anywhere near $400K to do it.

The process isn’t that difficult – though I’ll state up front that the Synodical community will need a lot of trust to pull this off.

 


To start with – here’s all the details from the New and Improved Statutory Bylaws:

1. Who can call a special convention:

9.09 A Special Convention may be called for specified purposes as provided for in the Synodical Constitution and Synodical Bylaws.
9.10 If two-thirds of the members of the Board request the calling of a Special Convention, the Board shall call a Special Convention.
9.11 If two-thirds of the delegates present at a Convention vote to call a Special Convention, the Board shall call a Special Convention

2. Who can attend a special convention:

9.13 Those eligible to attend and vote at a Special Convention shall be those delegates in office at the time of the preceding Convention except those delegates who have been disqualified by termination of membership in the Member Congregation which they represent. Vacancy in the position of a delegate shall be filled by the Member Congregation which appointed the delegate whose position became vacant.

3. What is the required notice for a special convention:

9.12 No notice of a Special Convention need be given a Member Congregation or to a delegate appointed by that Member Congregation. The secretary shall publish in an official periodical published by LCC the time and place of the Special Convention at least 90 days prior to the opening date of the Special Convention. Such notice shall indicate the business to be conducted at the Special Convention

4. How many people are required at the convention in order to get to quorum:

9.07 A quorum for a Convention shall consist of at least 25% of the eligible delegates.


Going from memory there was roughly 97 voting delegates at the convention – to keep the math simple I’ll use 100 people.

That means to call and run a special convention, Synod needs:

  • An agenda of business to transact,
  • 67 delegates or 2/3rds of the BOD to call a special convention ,
  • Publication of the business to transact in an official publication at least 90 days in advance, and
  • 25 or more delegates to actually attend the special convention.

Let’s suppose the agenda was to adopt the substitute motion that was considered and declined at the 2017 convention. An on-line forum or related mechanism could be used to deal with any up-front debate, concerns, etc. about the motion, and get the “attending delegates” on board with what their duties are.

The full agenda of a special convention could then be to

  1. Adopt the agenda,
  2. Deal with any mandatory reports, housekeeping, and related business,
  3. Vote to change the restructuring process to follow the process outlined in the substitute motion,
  4. Adjourn.

If such a convention was held within reasonable driving distance of 25 delegates, the whole affair could be over and done with inside of an afternoon.

Since the meeting wouldn’t need all the infrastructure that goes with a full convention, most of the cost would be travel / to from the venue, some overnight accommodations, a Livestream fee to broadcast and record who did what for accountability’s sake, and maybe a meeting room rental.

My guesstimate on the cost of such a meeting would be around $10K – $20K depending on how people got to the meeting.


The big “if” in this whole process isn’t organizing or paying for the convention – it’s that a Synodical convention has all the rights and powers that go with such a gathering. As such, the delegates could move and adopt a policy resolution that wouldn’t pass muster at a full convention. Such an action would bind Synod until the next convention where it could be undone.

With such a small group of people representing all of Synod, the Synodical community would have to trust that the attending delegates would do what they had been tasked to do – nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

Sweating the Restructuring Details

One of the pre-eminent issues any leadership position has is to get the details right, particularly when dealing with matters of structure and communicating with a large membership like LCC’s.

Recently Rev. Paul Schallhorn who is the Secretary for the LCC Board of Directors sent a communication to the member churches about proposed changes to the constitution and their duty to vote on that change.  In a note posted to the Canadian Lutheran he makes a fundamental mistake.

At the recent LCC Convention, amendments to our Synod’s Constitution were adopted by the delegates.  According to Article XI, Part 4 of that Constitution, these need to be sent to each LCC congregation for ratification. 

One has to keep in mind that everything has to be done in a particular order, and when amending the constitution the proposed changes do not come into effect until the following process has been completed:

  1. The changes are submitted to Synod in convention to consider.
  2. The delegates vote to adopt the proposed changes by a 2/3rd majority.
  3. The member congregations vote on the change one way or another within six months after the end of the convention.
  4. If 2/3rds of the votes cast are in the affirmative then the constitution is amended and the proposed changes come into effect. If not, the changes are lost.

In the Secretary’s communication he cites Article XI, Part 4 as the reason for the communication. In the current constitution – which is still in effect – Article XI, Part 4 pertains to the office of the President – specifically:

4. The president shall see to it that the resolutions of a Convention are carried out.

The correct citation is Article XIV Part 4, which states

Article XIV Amendments to the Constitution

4. Proposed amendments to the Constitution adopted by a Convention shall be submitted directly to each congregation that is a member of the Synod on an official ballot, and the congregations shall by official action express their affirmative or negative vote and indicate the same to the secretary of Lutheran Church-Canada on this official ballot. The proposed amendment shall become effective at the expiration of six months from the date on which the amendment was adopted by a Convention, provided a two-thirds majority of the votes cast by congregations within that period shall have  favored the amendment. At the end of the six-month period the secretary of Lutheran Church-Canada shall announce the outcome of the voting by districts in the official periodicals of the Synod.

A comparison of this text with the citation printed in the Canadian Lutheran shows that they are the same – the Secretary mistakenly used the location in the proposed constitution instead of the current constitution.

Since the wrong citation was made, this notice may be invalid. Whether or not that is the case is a question that needs to be referred to the Commission on Constitutional Matters and Structure for a decision. (I would note that the CCMS does not have the same get-out-of-jail-free card the Commission on Adjudication enjoys – when they’re asked a question, they have to make a ruling.) 


Questions have been asked – what happens if the proposed constitution isn’t adopted? Looking at the proposed changes, I think Synod would be in a peck of trouble if the amendments fail to pass.

A cursory review of the before/after changes:

  1. Article I in the new constitution changes a number of definitions.
  2. The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope is not added.
  3. The old membership definitions and conditions still apply.
  4. Members are expelled as opposed to membership being terminated.
  5. Article VII Relation of the Synod to Congregations uses different terminology and definitions.
  6. Article VIII pertaining to normal and special conventions would remain – although this article would be over-ridden by provisions in the Statutory Bylaws.
  7. Article IX Representation would remain – although this article would be over-ridden by provisions in the Statutory Bylaws.
  8. The duties of the Synodical President are drastically different between the two Constitutions – the duties in the new constitution’s Article X Part 4 is completely missing.
  9. Article XII Districts and Their Regulation remain, though this may be over-ridden by the Statutory Bylaws.
  10. Article XIV Amendments to the Constitution in the current constitution uses different definitions of terms compared to the updated Statutory and Synodical Bylaws.

This is the part of the proposed Article X Part 4 that would be missing if the proposed constitution does not pass:

4. The president shall:
a. manage the delivery of the following services:

(i) providing ecclesiastical supervision
(ii) building community
(iii) caring for Members
(iv) training church workers
(v) engaging in Canadian Missions
(vi) engaging in World missions
(vii) providing social ministry

b. provide pastoral leadership, oversight and support to the regional pastors,
c. provide leadership in the strategic planning process of Lutheran Church-Canada and the Synodical Family,
d. represent Lutheran Church-Canada at national and international meetings and gatherings of Lutherans and other multi-denominational gatherings,
e. represent Lutheran Church-Canada as required at meetings and gatherings of organizations with which Lutheran Church-Canada has signed a Memorandum of Understanding,
f. monitor compliance with the Memoranda of Understanding signed with other organizations.

Personally I think this question is something the Commission on Constitutional Matters and Structure should address in detail and then communicate to the church as a whole so they are fully informed when they vote.


2017-11-10: I’ve looked a bit further into the question about “what happens if the amendments to the Constitutions are lost” and wrote a post on it here.

Ecclesiastical Supervisors as the Devil’s Accomplices

I didn’t write this – but I could have, and many other pastors could as well.

This excerpt was taken from a post by  Pastor Johannes Nieminen‘s on Steadfast Lutherans. Pastor Nieminen serves Zion Lutheran Church in Melville and Trinity Lutheran Church in Neudorf, Saskatchewan, Canada.

It is just another normal day as yet another pastor is thrown out by the congregation God has called him to serve. Is he being ousted for Biblical reasons? Is he being thrown out because he is teaching heresy? Is he being thrown out because he is openly living contrary to the Word of God? No, no, and no. He is being thrown out because the congregation has simply decided that they don’t want to hear God’s Word from their called pastor any longer.

This is where a faithful ecclesiastical supervisor would step in and call the congregation to repentance, reminding them that the pastor speaks Christ’s Word to them on Christ’s behalf – “The one who hears you hears me.” (Luke 10:16) This is where a faithful ecclesiastical supervisor would step in and call the congregation to repentance, reminding them that rejecting Christ’s called pastor is rejecting Christ – “The one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects Him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)

However, when you don’t have faithful ecclesiastical supervisors, the congregation is not called to repentance. The congregation is affirmed and hardened in their sin. The congregation is led to believe that what they are doing is perfectly acceptable in the eyes of God and that throwing their pastor and his family out onto the street is even pleasing to God and good for the church.

Faithless pastors are leading people astray, while faithless ecclesiastical supervisors watch on. Such ecclesiastical supervisors are the devil’s accomplices. Instead of overseeing sinners called to repentance, they are overseeing sinners being hardened in their sin. They are overseeing the devil leading people to hell, and by their lack of action and discipline and by their affirmation of people’s sin, they are the devil’s accomplices.

You can read the whole article here.

Sin of Eli anyone?

Reasonable Notice

Danger Will Robinson – dry technical bureaucratese ahead!

Something every corporate structure has – be it secular or sacred – is a regular meeting of its membership to transact business on behalf of the organization. For commercial companies this can be a shareholder meeting, for charitable organizations it could be an annual general members’ meeting, and for Synod 2.0 it’s Synod in Convention which will be held every four (4) years.

For Synod to meet in convention delegates from the various member churches gather in one spot and transact the business of the Synod. In preparing for this meeting the “old” Synod would send each delegate one or more information packages about the convention business for review, study, and discussion. Then at the convention the delegates could vote their decisions about the Synod’s business.

Article IX of the old Statutory Bylaws is as follows:

Article IX Conventions
9.01 A Convention shall be called and held triennially in the manner and at a time and place as provided for in the Constitution and Synodical Bylaws.

9.02 The delegates in attendance at a triennial Convention shall receive a report from the president and from the Board; shall appoint auditors; and shall elect officers, directors, and members of such commissions as may be established and prescribed from time to time in the Synodical Bylaws; and shall transact such other business as may properly come before the Convention.

Nothing too exciting there – this is pretty standard stuff.

However, in this age of personalized mass communication, email lists, file servers, Facebook, Youtube, on-demand video streaming, and the like – it would seem the burden of communicating convention notices to the various delegates had become too much of a burden for Synod to discharge. What the restructuring committee did here is puzzling because instead of changing notification to allow Synod to take advantage of advances in communications technology, the restructuring committee did away with individual notification entirely in lieu of the secretary publishing a meeting notice in an official periodical published by LCC .

Article IX of the updated Statutory Bylaws now reads:

9.02 No notice of a Convention need be given to a Member Congregation or to a delegate appointed by that Member Congregation. The secretary shall publish in an official periodical published by LCC the time and place of each quadrennial Convention at least six months in advance of the opening date of the Convention. Such notice shall indicate the business to be conducted at the quadrennial Convention.

If a special convention was called one would think that would be considered a big deal and warrant individual notice – and you’d be wrong.  Here’s the section of the updated statutory bylaw:

9.12 No notice of a Special Convention need be given a Member Congregation or to a delegate appointed by that Member Congregation. The secretary shall publish in an official periodical published by LCC the time and place of the Special Convention at least 90 days prior to the opening date of the Special Convention. Such notice shall indicate the business to be conducted at the Special Convention.

The biggest the issue with this change is that it shifts the burden of notification from Synod to the individual delegates. This change  shifts the responsibility from Synod to provide a service to the delegates to one where the delegates have to get the information they need from Synod. It also presumes that the delegates are sufficiently motivated to continually follow what’s in the “official periodical published by LCC” to see if any meeting notices had been posted.

Care to guess which demographic would rate this activity a higher priority and thus be more likely to spot notices of an upcoming meeting?

The clergy.

Care to guess which demographic would rate this activity a lower priority and thus be more likely to miss notices of an upcoming meeting?

The laity.

During the convention a heartfelt plea was made to improve communication among the lay delegates so they’d have the same opportunity to communicate with each other that the clergy had. Acting on this request would be in keeping with a Synod that “walks together” because all members – clergy and lay alike – need to be fully informed and have a way to communicate with other delegates to discuss matters of interest before coming to a decision about a course of action.

With this change it would seem we as a Synod have farther to go to accomplish that goal than where we were as a Synod before restructuring.


One other note pertaining to reasonable notice – delegates at the 2017 convention got a crash course in legal order of precedence when they found out that passing changes to the Statutory Bylaws meant that  (1) they took effect immediately, and (2) any conflicting portions of the Constitution were effectively rendered null and void and (3) both these actions took place without any of the member congregations going through the traditional confirmation vote.

In the new structure amending the statutory bylaws requires individual notification be sent to the member congregations – not to the delegates attending the convention – and it only requires a minimum thirty (30) days “written” notice:

20.01 These Statutory Bylaws may be repealed or amended by a bylaw adopted by a two-thirds majority of the votes cast by the delegates at a Convention, written notice of which has been given to all Member Congregations not less than 30 days before the Convention enclosing the bylaw or a summary specifying the general nature of such bylaw.

This is at odds with the six months notice required for all other convention business and would seem to contravene a policy of full, open, and transparent communication with the membership. Given the scope and magnitude of potential change that could result from changing the Statutory Bylaws more advance notice should be given to the member congregations.


I’d close with a note that this change in notice is the mandatory minimum that Synod is required to do. Nothing is preventing Synod from using other channels provided by contemporary technology to communicate with the various delegates and members and so facilitate a conversation among all the delegates.

Let’s hope that’s what they do.

Like A Broken Record

“Back in the day” music was recorded as tracks on vinyl. The record was placed on a record player which had a needle that read the vinyl tracks. These readings became electrical impulses that were transmitted to some electronics that turned the readings into music you could hear, and the whole affair looked something like this:

pyle-ptcd56ubgr-record-player-stereo-system-1000x640

On occasion something could happen to the record’s track that would cause the needle to skip back a track resulting in the same music playing over and over and over and over and … you get the idea.

This led to the phrase “like a broken record” which is recorded in dictionary.com as follows:

noun

someone or something that annoyingly repeats itself, as a vinyl record with a scratch

Examples

You are starting to sound like a broken record.

noun phrase

Something or someone repetitive, tedious, and importunate : He kept asking for a raise, like a broken record

In LCC’s case, there’s been a broken record playing over the past triennium where the membership’s been told “nobody told me” about such things as UCE separating from LCC and the ABC CEF debacle.

In reading the 2017 Convention Treasurer’s Report I came across a line “Bad Debt Allowance – $121,640” Bad debts are money owed to you that you’re pretty sure you’ll never get paid and have to write them off. Given that the nature of LCC’s work is primarily one of accepting donated funds and then spending it on various missions and projects, I thought it curious that LCC was providing a service and not getting paid for it with the end result being a $128K bad debt.

Note 7 on page E.18 of the convention report tells the tale:

Write down of accounts receivable due from the Lutheran University of Papua New Guinea (LUPNG). LCC had a missionary (Dr. Brent Kilback) seconded in Papua New Guinea since 1991.

Dr. Kilback’s LinkedIn page places him at the Inter-American School Guatemala Central America in 1991.

Most of Dr. Kilback’s tenure was at the Highlands High School, but since 2006 Dr. Kilback was working at LUPNG. Even though Dr. Kilback worked for LCC, the funding to cover his salary and benefits always came from external sources. Originally the funding came from LCMS world missions, then the Highland High School, and finally from LUPNG.

LUPNG had been faithfully reimbursing LCC for Dr. Kilback’s salary and benefits for a number of years. Unfortunately unbeknownst to LCC during this triennium, the PNG provincial government and one of the sponsoring Lutheran Church bodies discontinued their financial support to LUPNG.

There’s that phrase again “nobody told us”, “we didn’t know”, etc.

If Synod was like any well-run company and had good governance with strong controls on spending authorization, contract management, and maintaining it’s corporate relationships in place, this wouldn’t have happened once much less three times (that we know of).

And it’s not like the process is that hard to follow – you establish that funding is in place, write a contract that establishes the parameters of the relationship, and then you execute the contract. Per the terms of the contract the University would make regular payments and the funds be used to pay the teacher and his benefits.

At an appropriate time before the contract expired both parties would have a conversation to establish that both sides want to continue and that funding was in place, amend the current contract as needed, get it signed off, and then continue. Over time you repeat this process as necessary, and if at any point the funding organization starts making noises about funding you take the hint and assume that funding will no longer be available.

As a result of the lack of funding Dr. Kilback left the University and accepted employment in another country. He no longer is employed by LCC.

Regretfully, as of this date we have not been able to recover what we are owed despite numerous attempts; which included President Bugbee personally writing letters to high ranking government officials.

Let me rephrase this – the Synodical President has time and Synod has resources to send the President all over the globe on various trips. But when it comes to recovering the $128K Synod feels it’s owed the most he can do is write some letters (by his own hand no less) instead of taking a side-trip on one of his overseas jaunts in order to visit the University and talk to the government officials face to face?

Letters can be easily ignored – someone sitting in your office regarding payment for services rendered, not so much.

As more time passes the likely hood of a successful recovery is doubtful. As a result we have recorded an allowance for bad debt.

I also suggest launching an investigation into the root cause why these kinds of things keep “happening” to LCC without Synod knowing what’s coming down the pipe.

If the reader would like to do some digging here’s a “google”  search to get you started.