LCC Wants to Hold A Special Convention: Synod Responds

Well that was fast.

The original series of posts just finished today when I received an update: “LCC releases additional documents pertaining to 2020 Special Convention“.

This publication has links to

I’ll discuss each in turn below.

  • Overture 1.01
  • “Bulletin #1”
  • CCMS Opinions 
  • In Conclusion

Overture 1.01

With respect to Overture 1.01 – it appears the Board agrees that the nature of conventions is not just about conducting business:

WHEREAS the purpose of holding a Convention is not simply for conducting business – elections to various offices and positions, making amendments to the Handbook, taking action on overtures and reports, etc. – but also an opportunity to physically
gather together as contemplated in Synodical Bylaw 2.01: “The Convention shall
afford an opportunity for worship, nurture, inspiration, fellowship, and the communication of vital information”; and

I disagree with this WHEREAS though:

WHEREAS changing the June 2021 Convention from an in-person to a virtual or online Convention would result in pastor and lay delegates being unable to physically gather together for a period of eight years; and

Nothing is prohibiting Synod from holding a physical gathering of some kind whenever they want to. If Synod persists in holding a virtual convention, they can still hold a physical gathering at some other date.


“Bulletin #1”

Under “Who?” the bulletin argues

Circuit Delegates to the 2017 LCC Convention are the delegates to this Special Convention, as per the interpretation by the Commission on Constitution Matters and Structure (CCMS) of Statutory Bylaw 9.13 in the 2017 Handbook of Lutheran Church—Canada” 

I’ll remind Synod that the definition of delegate changed at the 2017 convention from “circuit delegate” to the following:

1.01 In these Bylaws unless the context otherwise requires:.

“delegate” means an individual appointed by a Member Congregation to represent the Member Congregation at a Convention;

None of the delegates to the 2017  convention were appointed by member congregations, ergo none of them qualify as delegates under the 2017 definition.

Were the CCMS to unilaterally determine that these delegates are eligible to serve, that directly flies in the face of who Synod in Convention had decided was a delegate.

If the CCMS continues to try and grandfather the 2017 delegates in instead of requiring member congregations to follow the Statutory Bylaws and appoint their own delegates, this becomes a big concern about future CCMS decisions.

It’s also not the end of the question about delegates.


CCMS Opinions

This part should get members a bit warm under the collar.

First, CCMS opinions are effectively “the law of the land” when they are passed and are in force unless and until the Synod in Convention overturns them.

Second, it is difficult if not impossible to follow any CCMS rulings if they don’t publish them.

Lack of publication also means the rulings cannot be discussed, adopted, challenged, or otherwise considered by the membership.

It also raises the question – what is the CCMS hiding? What other “opinions” are they withholding from the membership?

With respect to the question about conventions, according to this document, the CCMS had a busy June and July. You wouldn’t know it since none of these opinions have been published until today (search Canadian Lutheran, search Lutheran Church-Canada).

Here’s the rulings in question:

CCMS Committee meeting date June 20, 2020 –
Moved and seconded that it is possible to conduct a 2021 convention electronically according to CCMS interpretation of LCC bylaws. The motion was carried.

CCMS committee meeting date July 9, 2020 –
In discussions CCMS indicated in order to hold a LCC convention in 2022, a special convention would need to be held for the purpose of changing Statutory bylaw 9.01.

CCMS committee Meeting date July 9, 2020 –
Moved and seconded that the Special Convention delegates will consist of delegates who attended the 2017 LCC Convention who are still in force at this time and if such a delegate cannot represent the circuit, the circuit alternate delegate to the 2017 LCC Convention will be the replacement; where both are unavailable the circuit will choose a new replacement. The motion was carried.

CCMS committee meeting date July 9, 2020 –
Moved and seconded that the Special Convention Advisory delegates consist of Pastoral and Diaconal delegates who attended the 2017 LCC Convention. The motion was carried.

CCMS committee meeting July 9, 2020 –
CCMS indicated Term limits of elected and appointed positions that would end in 2021 can be extended until that individual’s successor takes office as per Statutory bylaw 10.01a and Synodical bylaw 2.61b.

“moved and seconded”?

????

(takes deep breath)

We need to be clear what the role of the CCMS is.

Here’s what the Synodical Bylaws 2.104 states is the CCMS’s role in interpreting Synod’s governing documents:

2.104 Interpretation of the Statutory Bylaws, Constitution, and Synodical Bylaws of Synod

The Commission shall interpret the Statutory Bylaws, the Synodical Constitution, and the Synodical Bylaws, and resolutions upon the written request of a Member, officer, the Board, or commission, or an organization which has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with LCC. Such a request may be accompanied by a request for an appearance before the Commission. An opinion rendered by the Commission shall be binding on the question decided unless and until it is overruled by a Convention.

In the role of interpreter the CCMS is an adjudicator deciding a specific question in front of them. This means they are deciding questions from the membership, particularly when it comes to cases where the governing documents failed to anticipate questions such as conventions during a pandemic. As such, they are supposed to rule according to what the documents clearly state. When the governing documents do not directly address a question, any CCMS opinion needs to be as close to the documents as possible.

Unlike legislation and amendments, there’s no “moved” and “seconded” to a CCMS opinon. There’s the question before the committe, a discussion, a decision, a ruling which involves tallying votes for and against the decision, a written explanation for the ruling, and documenting any dissenting opinion as the case may be.

This batch of “opinions” is lacking in both rulings and explanations. Since the CCMS is not allowed to unilaterally amend the governing documents, wherever the CCMS attempted to do so I hold that their actions are null and void.

Simple put, the CCMS is NOT, repeat NOT a legislative body.

As an example of what one should expect, here’s the closest to a good opinion in this batch:

CCMS committee meeting July 9, 2020 –
CCMS indicated Term limits of elected and appointed positions that would end in 2021 can be extended until that individual’s successor takes office as per Statutory bylaw 10.01a and Synodical bylaw 2.61b.

There’s no “can be” here, either the position continues or it concludes.

Properly written this opinion should be:

CCMS indicated Term limits of elected and appointed positions that would normally end in 2021 will continue until a successor takes each respective office per Statutory Bylaw 10.01a and Synodical Bylaw 2.61b. The normal rules of succession and filling vacancies still apply.

Now that we can see what to expect, let’s consider the earlier “opinion”s.

Here’s the June 20, 2020 statement:

CCMS Committee meeting date June 20, 2020 –
Moved and seconded that it is possible to conduct a 2021 convention electronically according to CCMS interpretation of LCC bylaws. The motion was carried.

This statement directly contradicts both the governing documents and the Board that recognize a physical presence is required for a convention. As such, the CCMS is obliged either rule accordingly, or provide Synod with an explanation why they are ruling that something the Synodical documents clearly disallow is somehow permissible.

Moving to the July 9, 2020 batch of statements:

Moved and seconded that the Special Convention delegates will consist of delegates who attended the 2017 LCC Convention who are still in force at this time and if such a delegate cannot represent the circuit, the circuit alternate delegate to the 2017 LCC Convention will be the replacement; where both are unavailable the circuit will choose a new replacement. The motion was carried.

Again, according to Statutory Bylaw 1.01 the definition of “delegate” is member of a church appointed to that role by a member church. The CCMS is not allowed to change that definition.

In addition, the notion of “circuit delegate” and “circuit alternate delegate ” does not exist in the 2017 structure. 

That means this CCMS statement is either an attempt to legislate, or it is without meaning.

Moved and seconded that the Special Convention Advisory delegates consist of Pastoral and Diaconal delegates who attended the 2017 LCC Convention. The motion was carried.

Since the 2017 documents lack any mention of the term or position “advisory delegate” this statement is either without meaning, or an attempt amend the Statutory Bylaws.

As for advisory attendees, that’s a different matter.

Statutory Bylaws 9.13 and 9.14 have a clear distinction in terms of who is able to attend a special convention vs a regular convention:

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.

When a document states ‘shall be’ it’s making an imperitive statement that strictly mandates what’s about to follow.

In this case Synod’s clearly established definition is that only official delegates (which mean delegates of member congregations) can attend a special convention. There is no allowance for anyone else to attend – including advisory attendees.

That puts the CCMS statement outside the clear limits of the Statutory Bylaws. Once again, either the CCMS is legislating, or this statement is without meaning.

Now suppose it was considered that this was an oversight that should be reasonably remedied using the same standards of admission as a regular convention.

Here’s the Bylaws pertaining to who can attend a regular convention:

9.14 Those entitled to attend a Convention include:
a. delegates representing Member Congregations;
b. officers and directors of LCC;
c. the auditor;
d. advisors listed in 9.15; and
e. any other person as may be approved as a guest or visitor to the Convention.

9.15 Advisors include the following:
a. pastors whose Congregations have not been received as a Member Congregation;
b. any pastor who is not a delegate;
c. deacons;
d. Individual Members who are faculty members at an educational institution which has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding;
e. candidates for the office of the pastor or for the position of deacon; and
f. one representative of each of the Commissions established in the Synodical Bylaws and one representative from the Board of Regents or directors of the faculty of an educational institution which has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding.

Since the term “advisor” is not defined beyond what’s written in Statutory Bylaw 9.15, I take it to mean that advisors are people who hold one or more of the enumerated offices. There’s no requirement for these people to be elected or appointed, which in turn also means there’s no deadline for them become advisors before a convention.

The inescapable conclusion then follows that even if advisory attendees were allowed at a special convention, the CCMS statement directly contradicts a straightforward reading of the Statutory Bylaws about who is and is not an advisory attendee.

Once again, either the CCMS is legislating, or this statement is without meaning.

But wait, there’s more!


A Question of Quorum (Again)

Statutory Bylaw 9.07 states

“A quorum for a Convention shall consist of at least 25% of the eligible delegates.”

How many eligible delegates are there?

If one takes the “2021 LCC Synod Convention FAQ” as being authoritative, it’s a lot:

Question #3  – How big is the 2021 convention?

We estimate about 580 persons will be officially involved with the business of the convention including over 500 voting delegates from across Canada. For comparison, in 2017, the Synod convention included 109 voting delegates.

Let’s see here…. 500 * 25% = 125 delegates required to reach quorum.

2 delegates per church means at least 63 churches must have delegates they can send to this special convention in order to reach quorum.

How many delegates attended the 2017 convention? 109.

Assuming all 109 delegates to the 2017 convention were somehow grandfathered to be delegates to this October 2020 special convention, it still wouldn’t be enough.

On this question Synod should just admit they messed up and urge the church members to get their delegates appointed by the July 19, 2020 deadline. If that deadline is missed, then push the special convention back until 90 days after they have enough delegates appointed by its church members to attain quorum.


In Conclusion

There’s an old adage that if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

The more Synod’s pushed this, the deeper the hole they’re digging. I particularly think the members of Synod should be greatly concerned by the behavior of the CCMS. It is of grave concern that they didn’t know the definition of a delegate, their apparent attempt to unilaterally amend the governing documents, and statements that are out of line with what the Synod in Convention clearly passed.  Outside of the opinion about people continuing in office, I didn’t see anything I could grudgingly yield to the commission as an arguable point.

If Synod’s various agents continue to try and do these end-runs around the clear will of Synod in Convention, I’ll be here to point it out.

Here’s hoping that’s not necessary.


Update: 2020-07-16: Replaced ‘2014 Convention’ and “2014 delegates” with ‘2017 Convention’ and “2017 delegates” where appropriate.

 

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