Warning – dry administrivia parsing of constitutional minutia ahead….
The Covid19 pandemic has turned life as we know it rather topsy-turvy, and the church has found itself face to face with a number of issues it hasn’t had to face before – in person vs remote services, is remote communion a thing, and the like.
Among the issues the LCMS BOD had to deal with is the upcoming Synodical convention that the Statutory Bylaws state must be held in 2021 (my copy of the Statutory Bylaws). Given the level of uncertainty wrought by the pandemic, the LCC Synod BOD has decided they want to move the 2021 convention back to a future date that is “as soon as feasible.”
In order to accomplish that goal, they want to hold a special virtual convention on Sat, Oct 17, 2020 in order to amend Statutory Bylaw 9.01 to allow the 2021 convention to be postponed until 2022. (Notice here).
Here’s Bylaw 9.01:
9.01 A Convention shall be held every four years at a time and place determined by the Board.
The date of this notice is July 9, 2020. The proposed special convention date is October 17, 2020. This nets out to 100 days notice, which exceeds the 90 day requirement of bylaw 9.12.
One question – doesn’t the Board have the authority of Synod in Convention in between conventions? The answer to that is both “yes, but”:
12.02 During the intervals between Conventions, the Board shall possess and may exercise (subject to any restrictions which the Convention may from time to time make) all of the powers of the Convention (save and except only such powers as are given to the president and such powers as Synodical Constitution or Synodical Bylaws states must be performed by the Convention itself) in such manner as the Board may deem best in the interest of LCC in all cases in which specific direction shall not have been given by the Convention.
When Synod in Convention adopted its Statutory Bylaws, it not only skipped the promised confirmation vote by the full membership, it also reserved amending the Statutory Bylaws to itself:
9.05 A Convention shall have the exclusive right:
a. to adopt all amendments to these Statutory Bylaws, the Synodical Constitution, and the Synodical Bylaws;
Since 9.05 forbids the Board from amending any of the governing documents, they can’t make this change on their own and need the membership to amend the Bylaws.
With respect to the proposed special convention meeting date, Statutory Bylaw 8.01 is a potential obstacle to holding a special convention on Oct 17, 2020. In this regard Bylaw 9.13 promptly gets into an argument with Bylaw 8.01 over who is a delegate.
8.01 Subject to 8.02 and 8.03, at least 90 days prior to a Convention, each Member Congregation shall appoint two individuals as its delegates to represent the Member Congregation at the Convention. One delegate must be a pastor serving that Member Congregation and one delegate must be a lay person who is a Member of that Member Congregation.
This is contradicted in part by 9.13 –
9.13 Those eligible to attend and vote at a Special Convention shall be those delegates in office at the time of the preceding Convention except those delegates who have been disqualified by termination of membership in the Member Congregation which they represent. Vacancy in the position of a delegate shall be filled by the Member Congregation which appointed the delegate whose position became vacant.
First, it’s clear that if a member congregation lost one or both of their delegates that were sent to the 2017 convention and don’t have new delegates in place by July 19, 2020 (which is 90 days before Oct 17, 2020), they lose that representation at the special convention.
Second, 8.01 specifically states the manner in which delegates are appointed by a member congretation, it doesn’t make an exception for special conventions, nor does it have a “subject to 9.13” exception. In like manner, 9.13 does not have an “subject to 8.01″exception either.
I’m sure the legal system has ways to resolve contradictions like this – to my eyes 8.01 is the controlling bylaw and where 9.13 contradicts 8.01, the 9.13 contradiction would be tossed. (1)
Had 9.13 been written so:
9.13 Delegates to the Special Convention shall be the same delegates that were in office at the preceding Convention except for those delegates that have been disqualified by termination of membership in the Member Congregation which they represent. Any vacancy in the delegate position shall be filled by the Member Congregation the delegate represented in accordance with 8.01 with the exception that the congregation can appoint replacement delegates up to forty-five (45) days before the Special Convention. If a replacement delegate is not appointed within this time period, the position remains unfilled for that Special Convention.
The contradiction between 8.01 and 9.13 wouldn’t exist. Or, 8.01 could be redone to clearly delineate the nomination requirements for both regular and special convention delegates.
Maybe someone’ll take this up and get it fixed at the next regular convention. 🙂