A Discussion of Stahlke’s 95 Thesis – Part 3

This article continues the discussion of Dr Stahlke’s 95 Thesis. An introduction and overview of the series is here.

The overall division of these posts are:

  1. The Establishment of Authority (Part 2)
  2. LCC and its Operation (Part 2)
  3. A Sudden Change in Course (Part 3)
  4. The Working Group Proposal vs the Articles and Bylaws (Part 3)
  5. Questions, Questions, and more Questions (Part 4)
  6. Closing Thoughts (Part 4)

Terms –

  • SIC: Synod in Convention
  • CCMS:  Commission on Constitutional Matters and Structure
  • WG: Joint BOD / CCMS Working Group established to create a new structure.

A Sudden Change in Course:

  1. A week before the CCMS / BOD meeting a group of unknown people contacted the BOD with information critical of the proposal with allegations that it would be DOA at SIC if presented in its current form, and that the Synod Legal Counsel would not sign off on the structure,
  2. After a closed door in-camera session that lasted three hours and excluded the governance consultant, the BOD decided to reject the proposed Act and Bylaws and form a small Working Group (WG) composed of Synod Legal Counsel along with members from the BOD and CCMS. This WG would be composed of three pastors and one lawyer, and not include the Consultant.
  3. The CCMS acquiesced to the BOD’s decision, and having lost the authority to appoint the consultant to the WG, terminated the consultant’s contract,
  4. In this manner the BOD had usurped the CCMS’s constitutional responsibilities for organizational structure and report to SIC,
  5. Two months later (Sept 12, 2017), the WG finished creating a structure that was deemed more likely to be acceptable to SIC,
  6. No consultation was made with the membership, and the only explanatory meeting was two webinars (these webinars were announced nine (9) days before they were held via the Canadian Lutheran ANO),
  7. Challenges to or debate of the WG proposal during the webinars was disallowed while a late Overture asking for a comparison of the LCC Act and Bylaws with the revised 2017 Handbook was declined,
  8. A request by a lay delegate for contact information with other lay delegates to facilitate discussion before the Convention was also declined allegedly due to privacy laws which only allowed sharing information with permission of each delegate,  following this a request to ask the delegates to share their contact information was declined because staff was too busy getting ready for the Convention,
  9. This resulted in the lay delegates only receiving information provided by the BOD with no opportunity to have any pre-Convention conversations,

ANO:

First – the meat of the concern for the church at large is – who contacted the Synod BOD, made statements critical of the Act and Bylaws, and had the ‘firepower’ to convince them that the Act and Bylaws would be DOA at SIC?

My information has it that it that the “who” was the East District BOD and the “why” was that the left hand / right hand kingdom division of duties in the Act and Bylaws was deemed “unchristian” because it separated the organizational structure of LCC into it’s ecclesiastical / theological and non-ecclesiastical / business aspects. This was deemed to be contrary to the doctrine that the Word of God rules everything and that within LCC everything is subject to Scripture.

If this is factually true then the Act and Bylaws being jettisoned, the WG being formed without the Consultant, and the CCMS being convinced to go along with this process makes a lot more sense.

Regardless of the actual facts of the matter SIC deserves to know

  1. if there is any theological basis for a doctrine that asserts that Scripture should be used specifically for left-hand kingdom affairs such as the use of actuarial tables, building construction, the nature and manner in which staff is hired and compensated, budget development, employee benefit selection, overall financial management and accounting practices, which bank one chooses to do business with, the snow-removal service to hire, and the like?
  2. Or – why an estimated $100K and twenty calendar months of work went into this effort while failing to discern that a fundamental aspect of the proposed structure was not compatible with Lutheran understanding of what it means to be Christian.
  3. Or – why any group should have effective veto power over a CCMS proposal? If the proposal had been advanced and shot down, then so be it. By this action the possibility that the Act and Bylaws could have been advanced, amended on the floor, and then adopted has now been denied to SIC.

I personally find the assertion that all affairs of the church should fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction to be highly suspicious. Instead, responsibility for such left-hand matters should be given to members of the community that are skilled in such matters, are godly and of good repute while the pastors confine themselves to affairs of the right hand kingdom. Looking in Scriptures one sees that the first apostles, when they were overloaded with work, did exactly that when they were faced with dividing their duties:

Acts 6:1-6: Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews … And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. 

Second: The WG was operating under a dramatically compressed time frame of two (2) months in an attempt to complete an effort that was deemed tight when over twenty (20) months of time was available. The thought that four people could successfully develop an appropriate structure in such a short time is rather breath-taking.

That the laity have been largely kept out of the loop in this process and that delegates have been denied an opportunity to discuss these issues while the clergy discuss them on a regular basis is also troubling and cause for concern.


The Working Group Proposal vs the Articles and Bylaws:

  1. A review by the Consultant showed that the content and architecture of the proposed structure had been substantially changed with the WG proposal having a significantly increased centralization of power combined with the elimination of most lines of accountability that SIC would need from the SP and BOD,
  2. SP accountability is changed from the BOD to SIC,
  3. SP and VP are voting members of the BOD which makes it impossible for them to be accountable to the BOD,
  4. While the WG proposal allows for suspending a power of duty from a SP, both the SP and VP can vote on the suspension,
  5. The WG proposal changes the BOD role from a governance body that monitors the SP and Administrator to one of managing LCC’s corporate affairs,
  6. Of the eleven (11) members on the BOD, six (6) are pastors, four (4) are laypersons, and one (1) is a deacon, which gives pastors an outsized representation on the BOD,
  7. The Act and Bylaws authorized a Commission on Structure and Governance to attend BOD meetings to monitor governance integrity and quality with a report to SIC while the WG proposal replaced this Commission with one that reports to the BOD instead of SIC thus eliminating any form of effective oversight the SIC would have of the BOD,
  8. Day to day BOD management responsibility is delegated to the BOD Executive made up of the Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, SP, and VP – two (2) laypersons and three (3) pastors. The SP is the only full-time employee on the BOD Executive.
  9. The Administrator is no longer a CEO for corporate matters reporting to the BOD, instead the WG proposal makes this position an accounting / treasurer which takes direction from four (4) different sources,

ANO:

I’m still in a process of reviewing the WG proposal – what I’ve seen so far corresponds with Dr Stahlke’s observations here. What is particularly troubling about the WG proposal is the outsized influence given to clergy because:

  1. none of LCC’s congregations are large enough to give a prospective SP the requisite experience needed to effectively run a large and complex organization like LCC,
  2. there is insufficient Syond staff on hand to support a new SP in “learning the ropes” and ensure they perform their duties in keeping with their mandate,
  3. clergy don’t seem able to hold their own to account – witness how former ABC DP Don Schiemann has publicly taken responsibility for the CEF disaster yet he’s still on the clergy roster as a member in good standing. If LCC cannot do anything about something as public and out-of-bounds as ABC CEF was, how can the membership have any confidence a BOD composed of mostly clergy will do any better in policing its own?

One issue not identified in this document is that the proposal reduces the Synod BOD from twelve (12) members to eleven (11) members, while the various District BODs and their supporting committees are eliminated. This means either the District BODs were not doing any work, or the resulting transfer of workload from the old Districts to the reduced-sized Synod BOD will completely swamp the Synod BOD with the net result being long delays in getting things done, lower quality of work, Synod BOD member retention issues, and the like.

Another issue is the mix of the people on the BOD – ordinarily you’d want a representation from a variety of disciplines in order to ensure that all the requisite skill sets are covered – ecclesiastical, financial, technology, communications, governance, and the like. Making the BOD membership largely based on clergy and region goes against this best practice.

Finally, during the recent webinar 1st VP Nolan Astley stated

“33. Rationale for having the SP and VP on the BOD is that they are to inform, direct, and assist the BOD.”

This rationale inverts the relationship one would expect between the BOD and the SP and does not establish any clear line of accountability between the two. For instance, if the SP went off the rails the BOD has the power to suspend him – but he’s on the BOD. And what if the BOD didn’t do what the SP directed them to do? If the SP is supposed to be empowered with directing the BOD, then there should be something in place to deal with a situation where the BOD doesn’t do as it’s directed.

In addition the SP does not need to be on the BOD in order to accomplish all the goals enumerated by VP Astely – he can be just as effective as an employee accountable to the BOD.


My next article will cover the questions that arises from this material and some closing thoughts.

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