Gotcha!

In my experience big last minute asks for special treatment or consideration invariably  results in some kind of unpleasant ‘gotcha’ that would’ve resulted in declining the request. As such, my personal policy is to turn down these kinds of requests regardless of how good they sound or well-intentioned they may appear to be. This experience informed my advice to Convention to table the structural change proposals, continue the discussion to hash out the details and get to consensus, and then hold a special convention specifically to address restructuring.

Sadly my “just say no” policy has once more been confirmed, and here’s why.

When the restructuring process started the CCMS provided assurances that member congregations would get to confirm any changes made by Synod in Convention because changes to the Constitution required a confirmation vote by member congregations.

Here’s what just happened. It’s a bit on the arcane side so you’ll need to carefully follow what comes next:

  1. Synod in Convention just voted to change the Statutory Bylaws to adopt the regional model and related changes by a vote of 77% yes 23% no.
  2. Changes to the Statutory Bylaws take effect immediately on their approval and do not require confirmation by the congregational membership.
  3. When there’s a conflict between the Statutory Bylaws and the Constitution the Statutory Bylaws prevail over the Constitution.
  4. This means that by changing the Statutory Bylaws Synod in Convention just rendered any conflicting sections of the Constitution null and void without this change being confirmed by the member congregations.
  5. As such, if the proposed changes to the Constitution do not achieve the approval of the 2/3rd majority of voting congregations, it will have no effect on restructuring which will continue to proceed as laid out in the newly approved Statutory Bylaws.

Before restructuring the Statutory Bylaws used to defer certain matters to the Constitution. Changes to the Constitution, in turn, required the approval of a 2/3rd majority of voting congregations in order to pass. I’m thinking this was done on purpose to ensure that the congregational membership was directly included in deciding how Synod conducted its corporate and ecclesiastical affairs and ensure that Synod would always be a walking-together of its membership and not the other way around.

By moving corporate affairs to the Statutory Bylaws congregations no longer have that confirmation role when it comes to changes in corporate structure and policy. This also eliminates the six month period congregations used to have to consider these kinds of changes. And it allows for nullifying some or all of the Constitution without having to go through the trouble of getting the membership to confirm the change. This is particularly concerning when proposals can be submitted at the last minute for the Convention to consider without due time allowed to give them proper consideration.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time following the various documents generated by this process and while I was aware of the differences in how the Statutory Bylaws, Constitution, and Synodical Bylaws are approved, I cannot recall seeing anything to indicate that restructuring could be adopted in this manner without confirmation by the congregational membership.

At things stand now, Synodical restructuring is a done deal. The only way things can be changed or amended at the Synodical level is at the 2020 2021 convention or at a special convention. The various Districts also have to decide what they want to do, because, as was made quite clear during this convention, they’re independant corporate bodies and Synod cannot mandate that they do anything. Ditto for the member congregations.

This “As The Synod Turns” soap opera isn’t over by a long shot.

The vote being reported, follow-on discussion about proposed changes to the Constitution, and discussion of what happens if the Constitutional changes aren’t adopted by the member congregations can be watched at the start of Session 4 on the Canadian Lutheran.

2017-10-16: Changed 2020 to 2021 to reflect the change from a three (3) year to a four (4) year convention cycle.

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