In theology one has to take the totality of Scripture in order to properly understand any given part. An example is the doctrine of the trinity comes from integrating the doctrine of monotheism (there is only one god), with the three persons of the trinity (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) being not only distinct and co-equal, but also one god.
In order to “do doctrine right” one also has to accept that words mean things. Luther had any number of arguments with his adversaries over the definition of the word “is” in the context of Christ’s statement “This is my body, this is my blood”. Luther maintained that “is” meant the literal body and blood of Christ while his opponents argued that wasn’t possible so “is” must mean something else like “represents” or “contains”. (As good Lutherans we take Christ at His word that “is” means “is” and reject any other interpretation as heresy.)
Properly interpreting an organization’s governing documents requires a similar approach. One has to consider the totality of the governing documents using the clear meaning of its words in order to attain a proper understanding and interpretation of any portion of the documents.
This brings us to a real world example, namely Rev Clifford’s comment on LCC: Convention – Synod Wants Your Questions, In that comment Rev Clifford related a July 20, 2020 query he made about convention representation in response to a Survey Monkey email asking him to register as a delegate to the Oct 2020 convention.
On Aug 7, 2020, President Teuscher responded:
Apparently you did not read the material sent out as per the CCMS’ rulings concerning various aspects related to this matter; i.e., Statutory Bylaw 9.13 states that delegates to a Special Convention are those from the previous convention. That would make it the 2017 Convention, even though we are now in the new structure.
President Teuscher is understandably relying on the CCMS to “know what they’re doing” and give him accurate information to guide him. What President Teuscher should’ve done is take the Berean “see if this is so” (Acts 17:11) approach to clarify for himself what the governing documents state. Had he done so, he’d have seen that what the definition of a delegate in the 2014 handbook was completely changed in the 2017 handbook. He’d also have seen that the CCMS is asserting that the direct-member church representation model voted in by the 2017 convention is somehow overridden by Statutory Bylaw 9.13 about delegates continuing in their role until the next regular convention.
And like any errant interpretation, it doesn’t stop there – the CCMS directly contradicts the 2017 handbook by stating that any “(circuit) delegate vacancies” have to be filled by circuits as opposed to the 2017 handbook mandate that its member churches that select delegates!
This is the kind of sophistry that Christ railed against in Mark 7:9-12 –
And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)[a]— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
If this was re-interpreted to address the current controversy, I think it’d look something like this:
And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commands of Synod in convention! For Synod in convention said, “we’re going to give each church a direct say in Synod”, But you say, ‘only circuits get representation at the 2020 special convention, and “any vacant circuit delegate positions are to be filled by circuits and not member churches” – thus making void the direct mandate of Synod in convention that eliminated circuit delegate representation and implemented a member church delegate representation. And many such things you do.”
A “best construction” perspective of President Teuscher’s position is that he’s relying on the CCMS personnel to guide him. That dog will only hunt for so long before one would have to ask if something else is going on here. I could see a desire for an easy way out because doing the right thing would mean postponing the October 2020 special convention. The convention would have wait until a sufficient number of member churches had gotten their delegates in place. (Figuring out why this didn’t happen right after the 2017 convention is an exercise I’ll leave for the reader.)
Sadly, this “taking the easy way out” would be in keeping with Synod’s continued failure to hold anyone to account that were involved in ABC District misleading the membership with regards to the use of their funds.
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