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…

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