Restructuring: Emergency Stop

When executing a restructuring of the size and scope as LCC’s there are lots of moving parts that have to be kept in alignment in order to ensure a smooth transition that maintains an uninterrupted provision of services.

What happens, though, when the as written documents don’t support that goal and in fact prevent the organization from achieving its stated objectives? That’s something I uncovered as I researched the answer to a question that was asked during the Joint Meeting with Lutheran Church–Canada Representatives and Representatives from the ABC and Central District Boards as reported in the Nov 15, 2017 East District BOD meeting minutes:

  • Q. How does the first RMMC get elected?
  • A. They should have been included in convention Resolution 17.1.04A.

What is Resolution 17.1.04a? It states –

RESOLUTION 17.1.04a – TO REQUEST THE 2018 CONVENTIONS OF THE THREE DISTRICT CORPORATIONS (THE ALBERTA BRITISH-COLUMBIA DISTRICT, THE CENTRAL DISTRICT AND THE EAST DISTRICT) OF LUTHERAN CHURCH-CANADA TO FACILITATE THE NOMINATION AND ELECTION OF REGIONAL PASTORS AND CIRCUIT COUNSELORS FOR THE BALANCE OF THE 2017-2021 TERM

In essence, this motion asks the Districts to aid Synod in nominating and electing Regional Pastors and Circuit Counselors to the new positions and so populate the new structure’s positions by the time Synod discontinues working through the Districts as of Jan 1, 2019.

What makes this an “emergency stop” is that – in examining the Statutory and Synodical Bylaws – I was not able to find any provision for electing Regional Pastors or Circuit Counselors before the 2021 convention.

Specifically – Statutory Bylaws 10.01(b) and 11.01(b) provide for the election of the SP, VP, Secretary, the BOD, and their placement in office as of Jan 15, 2018 with a term of office  lasting through to the 2021 convention.

Synodical Bylaw 3.01(a) addresses the election of Regional Pastors starting at the 2021 convention and not before.

Synodical Bylaw 4.11 requires Circuit Counselors to be vetted by the area Regional Pastor before being placed on a slate to be considered by Convention. If the next convention isn’t until 2021 that means no Circuit Counselors until then. In addition, if nominees for Circuit Counselor have to be vetted by the area Regional Pastor three months before the convention and the Regional Pastors can’t be elected until the 2021 convention – that means all the Circuit Counselor positions will be vacant until the 2025 convention (Note 1).

As a good Lutheran we have to ask “What does this mean?”

From where I see things Resolution 17.1.04a is contrary to the Statutory and Synodical Bylaws that the 2017 Convention had just passed, and that makes it impossible to implement. Just like changing the Constitution requires Synod to follow the process it established in convention, a resolution to elect people to official positions must follow Synod’s official processes for such elections and if it doesn’t then it is null and void.

In addition, if Synod implements Resolution 17.1.05 to stop working through the Districts as of Jan 1, 2019, it will have no official means for delivering services to its membership between Jan 1, 2019 and the time when the first group of pastors fill their various positions in Sept 1, 2021.

This can’t be fixed by saying “that wasn’t the intent” and tweaking the Synodical documents with a wink to the official amendment process – this is a show-stopping issue that requires an official act by Synod in Convention to correct. And soon.


This is a perfect illustration why “throw the switch” all-at-once restructuring efforts like this are problematic – significant details can be missed which can result in profoundly negative unintended consequences. When the details in question result in an “emergency stop” like the issues I’ve identified here, the organization as a whole suffers and – in some cases – may even cease to exist.

An incremental approach that has an overall goal in mind and makes small, step-by-step changes towards that goal will identify these issues as they arise, allow staff time to address each new issue, and slowly-but-surely move to the desired structure. This approach gives the organization much more room to maneuver and a higher likelihood of accomplishing the overall goal with a minimal amount of disruption to the organization’s work.

And in fact, this was the approach proposed to the 2017 Convention in the form of Overture 1.16 from the East District BOD:

TO IMPLEMENT WHAT IS MOST IMMEDIATELY BENEFICIAL FROM THE CCMS RECOMMENDATIONS WHILE CONTINUING TO REFINE THE REMAINING FOR FUTURE APPROVAL

A full discussion of this overture is beyond the scope of this article – I’ll discuss it in a future blog post.


I can’t see how Synod can avoid having to hold a special convention to address this issue. A possible approach to this could be:

  1. Take the pre-2017 Bylaws and Constitution,
    1. Amend them to adopt such changes as can be safely made (ie keeping the current President, VP, and BOD, and a four year convention cycle)
    2. Add a transition plan which’ll support each District identifying work to move to Synod and then Synod and Districts working together to implement that transfer of duties,
  2. Replace the current Synodical documents with these updated documents,
  3. Trust that the District and Synod personnel will faithfully work towards that goal in anticipation of the 2021 convention.
  4. In 2021, re-implement the structure passed by the 2017 convention or such structure as the CCMS develops based on lessons-learned between the 2017 and 2021 conventions.

As an example of how this can be done – if the Synodical regions are an exact overlap with the current Districts, then the current Districts could be maintained while their various responsibilities are moved over to Syond. When Synod was ready to fully implement a Region and a District was ready to be shut down or spun-off from Synod, the Synod BOD could appoint the District’s DP as the area’s Regional Pastor thus ensuring a smooth and predictable transition of power and responsibility. Ditto for the circuit counselors.

The 2021 convention would then hold the first official elections for these positions.


Note 1: It might be possible to treat open Circuit Counselor positions as vacancies and have the Regional Pastor appoint a candidate to those positions (Synodical Bylaw 3.02(f)). The Convention is also allowed to accept nominations from the floor.

I was unable to find a similar mechanism for filling a vacant Regional Pastor position.

Note 2: I’m not a lawyer which may mean there’s a “deeper magic” way out of this. If so please post a note in the comments or send me an email with an explanation I can post here.

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