28 June 2009

The Fatal Flaw in Missouri Synod Polity, Structure and Governance

There are plenty of things broken and bent out of shape in the current polity, structure and governance of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod; and even more things are wrong with the proposals being offered by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synodical Structure and Governance.

However, the number one fatal flaw in LCMS structure and governance, in my opinion, is the inordinate power that the floor committees have over synodical conventions; especially because those floor committees are ultimately hand-picked by the President of the Synod. That critique is not aimed at the current administration, but at the polity itself on principle.

The floor committees control what comes to the Convention for consideration and action; they control the order and priority of that business, and the manner in which it is presented; and they have the significant ability to speak at length to resolutions, to defend and promote them, above and beyond what any of the other delegates are permitted or able to say or do in response.

Personally, I think the power and authority of the floor committees should be curtailed, for one thing, and the process by which overtures from across the Synod are presented as resolutions to the Convention should be handled more objectively and far more equitably than it has been in recent years. Along with those reforms in our synodical polity, I would suggest that the floor committees, instead of being chosen by the President of the Synod, should be elected by the Districts of the Synod, in much the same sort of way that the nominating committee already is.

Without some such changes in the formation and function of the floor committees, I have little confidence that even improvements in the structure and governance will accomplish any good; although, frankly, it doesn't appear that improvements of any sort are presently in the works.


Josh Schroeder said...

Look up "Discharge a committee" in Robert's Rules of Order.

From time to time, certain members of the House (or Senate) will attempt a discharge petition to take a bill out of a committee so that they can vote on it on the house floor - when they really don't want the bill to die in committee or if they feel it needs to be passed in a timely fashion.

Pastor Peasant said...

I came up with this very idea last week at our District Convention and was toying with the idea of asking my congregation to submit it. Not sure it would ever see the light of day at the Synodical Convention, but maybe it could get called to the floor. Seems like this would be a good and helpful change in restructuring.

Rev. Larry Beane said...

I agree, Rick.

Our district convention works the same way.

Three years ago, my congregation proposed more memorials than any other congregation. Not one of them made it to the floor to even be considered, let alone voted on. The floor committees, who are the president's hand-picked gatekeepers, did not let even one come to the floor for consideration. Not one. It is a rigged system, a way to disenfranchise congregations at odds with the president.

I spoke before the floor committee in favor of one of our proposals. I used the full two minutes, citing Scripture and the confessions to make my case, and the glassy-eyed committee men and women listened politely. A pastor (who was a member of the synodical CCM) walked right behind me and said simply: "I'm _____ of ____ Lutheran Church, and I am against this proposal."

The resolution was killed.

I wasted my breath and time, and simply became aggravated for nothing. The fix was in.

Our synod is a banana republic.

We all stayed home this year, and it was time far better spent.

Scott Diekmann said...

Here's my idea which would eliminate all the partisanship of the floor committees: Yank pedestrians off the street in front of the convention hall and have them be the floor committee. That would eliminate any bias. If you want to involve the district in a less-than-random fashion, yank the pedestrians off the street a couple of weeks ahead of time, and they could be selected sort of like selecting jurors, which would (hopefully) result in the same unbiased floor committee.

Stan Slonkosky said...

I've never been to a synodical convention, but I've been a lay delegate at three PSD conventions and I dislike the fact that floor committees decide to rewrite overtures.

In 2003, several congregations submitted an overture to eliminate the 4 mission and ministry facilitators. The floor committee's version was to commend them.

Three years ago, I spoke with Pr. Cwirla about the tendency of some floor committees to write overtures that were the opposite of what was submitted to them. That year, he was the chairman of one of the floor committees and he didn't think that floor committees should do that and his committee didn't do that.

This year, Pr. Matt Richardt of Gloria Dei in Escondido wrote a strongly pro-life overture and his congregation submitted it. I don't know why, but the floor committee decided to rewrite it. Pr. Rickardt spoke from the floor and said he wanted the substitute original overture for the watered-down version written by the floor committee. It passed with a 77.8% majority.

One other problem with floor committees in this district is that the only opportunity anyone has to talk with the committee is one hour before the convention begins on a Sunday afternoon.