Saturday, August 13, 2016

My Take on the 2016 LCMS Convention

I wanted to take a little time to let all the stuff sink in. I didn't want to write immediately, because the cynic in me would have gone out with guns blazing. I hope I have a little more perspective on the whole thing now. Here is what I'm sending to the congregations in my circuit.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As the duly elected voting pastoral delegate of the Southern Illinois District’s Circuit 9 to the 66th Regular Convention of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, I felt it was my duty to offer some sort of summary of the convention to those who selected me. Anyone who is interested can find a number of viewpoints concerning the events of July 9-14, including a fairly comprehensive report on the results through Synod’s newspaper, the Reporter; however, this is mine. Before I go on, I must admit that I'm a little cynical about church politics—maybe more than a little cynical about church politics—so that will likely color my views of what took place.

The election of the President of the LCMS took place electronically in the month of June, and at that time the Reverend Matthew Harrison was re-elected to his third term. I believe President Harrison was the best candidate of the three available. He is both a gifted theologian and a responsible churchman. I don't always like his choices in delegating authority, but one can only use the tools one has in the truck.

Elections took place throughout the convention. I don't know most of the people who were elected. The nature of Synodical elections is that you vote based on the biographies provided by the candidates. If you're fortunate, you know some of the candidates personally. In some cases, you seek out those who have personal knowledge of the candidates. I will say that, concerning the candidates with whom I had personal knowledge, the one who were elected were people I trust. In the cases of people with whom I had no personal knowledge, the people who were elected were mostly viewed favorably by people I trust. As is the case with any other kind of election, one must pray for those elected and hope they serve with integrity under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

As far as the resolutions go, it was the usual mixed bag that marks every convention. We did a lot of navel gazing. We did a lot of self-congratulation. We patted a lot of backs. We as a church body like to make ourselves feel good and put a positive spin on our life together. We as a church body like happy news to fill the pages of the Reporter and to make us look good in front of whatever secular media outlets choose to cover the convention. Some of the resolutions caused some contention, and there were times when it seemed like some delegates were playing parliamentary games to unduly slow the proceedings. But for the most part, the convention conducted its business at a deliberate pace and with a great deal of agreement in most matters.

As I said, the results are a mixed bag. On a positive note, resolution 13-02a undid a travesty that has made the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod a heterodox church body since 1989. At the Synod convention that year, the delegates passed a resolution which approved the licensing of “lay deacons,” laypeople who would handle the functions of the Office of the Holy Ministry. While the motives were good—providing care for congregations that weren't in a position to support a pastor in a traditional sense—that decision did not square with Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession. Resolution 13-02a gives those men serving as lay deacons an avenue to become Ordained, which legitimizes them and their work. This caused more contention than it should have, but the result balances compassion and faithfulness to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. This should have passed unanimously, but that speaks to the divisions within the LCMS.

Another important and positive bit of business was that Synod in convention voted with a 91% approval to allow the women of our church body to claim conscientious objector status concerning their conscription into military service and serving in combat roles. However, as the Reporter states, “The consciences of women who 'have carefully considered their station in life and Holy Scripture on this issue who wish to voluntarily serve in our nation’s military' are also protected by the measures of this resolution.” On a somewhat related note, the delegates voted nearly unanimously to “reaffirm LCMS military chaplains’ right for free exercise of religion in face of LGBT inclusion in Armed Forces.” We respect the right of our chaplains to serve according to their faith, and we stand behind them.

On a less positive note, one resolution which failed that would have affected most of our Circuit was resolution 11-07a, which would have allowed parishes with more than one congregation to have a lay delegate for each congregation in the parish at district conventions. This bylaw change needed a 2/3 majority to pass, and it only received 66.42% of the vote.

Perhaps the resolution that caused the most contention at the convention was 12-01, which was meant to allow the Synod President to act in ecclesiastical oversight when a District President doesn't act. There was heavy opposition from the district presidents and a vocal minority of the delegates, and this was where the delay and parliamentary games happened. Finally a substitute resolution (12-14) was offered, supported by both President Harrison and the unanimous consent of the district presidents, which would give the district presidents input before the Board of Directors scripted the language for new bylaws. As a cynic and as one who has been burned by both the actions and inactions of more than one district president, I was not impressed with the compromise, as it seems to allow the district presidents to say how they will be held accountable by their ecclesiastical overseer. Still, our own district president has demonstrated his trustworthiness to me. I can only hope the rest will prove theirs.

The worship opportunities were excellent. Pastor William Weedon, the LCMS Director of Worship, put together an excellent collection of services to remind the delegates of the “one thing needful” in the midst of all the politics and bureaucracy. 

If you have any questions about the convention or how I voted, I would be happy to give an account. The peace of the Lord be with you. 

Respectfully in Christ,

Rev. Alan Kornacki, Jr.
Circuit 9 Pastoral Voting Delegate

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