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.

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