Synod BOD Town Hall Meeting: My Response to Carl Vehse

In the article ‘LCC Synod BOD Channels “Lucy with the Football“‘  I discussed how the Synod BOD stated they were holding a town hall meeting at Leduc AB before changing the meeting format to what was in effect an after-church social with no advance warning.

“Carl Vehse” commented on that post as follows. My response is interleaved with his statements.

There is nothing in the posted original solicitation that indicated the LCC BOD would actually address or respond to any perceptions, viewpoints, needs, or support shared by any attending congregational members.

Later the the phrase, “an informal discussion of the above items,” refers to that four-part sharing by the attendees.

Carl is correct that nothing in the BOD’s solicitation implied that they’d do anything about what they heard. My response is that the term “town hall” precludes immediate action – by definition a town hall is simply a group discussion between a community and it’s representative(s) or elected leaders.

There is nothing in the original solicitation that indicated the BOD would do anything more that informally “meet and greet” meeting attendees.

I disagree – if someone tells me they are holding a “town hall meeting” I interpret that to mean a meeting

  • where the entire conversation is held in front of all the attendees,
  • where all the attendees get to hear all the questions and answers and
  • all the attendees have the opportunity to participate in any of the discussions.

Here’s the original notice:

  1. A “Town Hall” meeting will be held on Thursday, April 4, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, 5012 – 51 Avenue, Leduc, AB; and will include
  2. a meet-and-greet time with Board members,
  3. an opening devotion by President Teuscher, and
  4. an informal discussion of the above items.(1)

This is what I’d expect a town hall meeting to look like.

Where the BOD got into trouble was how they defined “town hall” as points 1-3 and left out point 4. Had the BOD advertised what they did – namely to hold a devotional service followed by one-on-one time with individual BOD members I fully expect people would’ve been fine with that. Advertising a town hall meeting and then adjourning the meeting after the opening devotion – not so much.

Continuing with Carl’s comment –

No wonder the “Town Hall” meeting included the scare quotesIn fact, it is possible that the wording in the original solicitation was prepared / approved by LCC lawyers in order to prevent anyone from claiming that at the meeting BOD members promised, agreed with, or confirmed anything that attendees might have shared.

Truth be told this is exactly what I’d expect legal counsel to do. First because a town hall meeting is supposed to be a discussion as opposed to a decision-making event, and second because Synod is named in a number of legal proceedings which requires the Synod BOD to tread carefully in terms of what they say and do. It wouldn’t do to hold a town hall meeting in an honest effort to move things forward if a foreseeable consequence was to land Synod in more legal trouble over something a non-BOD member did or said.

What troubles me the most is the disconnect between what was announced, what was delivered, and the apparent belief that changing the format at the last minute without communicating that to the community was acceptable behavior.  When people are told “we’re going to do X” they expect that “X” is what will happen. To change the rules or the format at the last minute gives the appearance of playing politics with the event at best and a level of disrespect for the audience at the worst.  Given that there is still a tremendous amount of unanswered pain and hurt in the community over how CEF/DIL developed over the course of years and how it still hasn’t been addressed by Synod, the negative reaction to this last-minute unannounced format change was all too predictable.

Did the Synod BOD miss something? Why did they think that a format change like that was appropriate? How did they think people that have been misled by the church for nearly two decades would react to being misled yet again? Did they think the format change wasn’t misleading?

I will grant the Synod BOD’s apology appears sincere and heartfelt. I also hope they’ve learned their lesson and will sweat details like this in the future. In all seriousness, if Synod truly wants to start to bind and dress the wounds caused by the CEF/DIL scandal they need to avoid even the appearance of deception. They also need to be completely open, transparent, and forthright about what they intend to do, what they actually do, and check in with the membership on a regular basis to see how things are going and course-correct as required. For even more goodwill / do-the-right-thing credits they could even take on the first order of business I proposed last year.

In closing here’s what Scripture has to say about the relationship between small and large matters:

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. Luke 16:10


Note 1: “The above items” refers to submissions made in response to the BOD’s solicitation of input.

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