In preparation for the upcoming annual convention of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod – a conservative counterpart to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, eight convention floor committees prepared a total of 115 proposed resolutions for delegates to consider at the July 10-15 event.
During the May 21 meeting, the board considered all 494 overtures submitted by congregations, circuits, districts, boards, commissions, faculties and other sources. The remaining 115 proposals will be voted on at the “One Mission ‘Ablaze!’… To the Ends of the Earth” convention in St. Louis.
The LCMS president Gerald B. Kieschnick explained to the board, "It is both my counsel to you and my prayer to God that every resolution you prepare for presentation to the convention of our Synod will reflect this mission theme and will enhance this mission accomplishment, to the glory of God and for the salvation of many of the people of the world who do not now confess the name of Jesus."
The following is the summary and basic guideline to the resolutions, as released by the LCMS news service:
Emphases on "reaching the lost" and involving all Synod members in outreach are reflected in most of the 10 resolutions prepared by Floor Committee 1 (Missions).
A good number of those resolutions are related to "Ablaze!," LCMS World Mission's effort to share the Gospel with 100 million "unreached and uncommitted" people worldwide by 2017, and to recommendations of the Mission 21st Century Task Force, which spent more than a year researching why the Synod has lost members and how those losses can be reversed.
The top two resolutions prepared by Committee 1 "affirm the Mission 21st Century response to the Great Commission" and promote the "mission outpost" attitude endorsed by the task force. Those resolutions call upon the Synod to:
* be "confessional and mission-minded in a world that continues to change";
* affirm the "priesthood of all believers";
* expand outreach in "numerous cultures and among various people groups"; and
* prepare laypeople for outreach among various cultures.
Resolutions that relate to the "Ablaze!" initiative ask the Synod to:
* "commit to the task of working together to share the Good News of Jesus with 100 million people" by 2017;
* support the "Ablaze!" fund-raising effort to raise $100 million by 2010; and
* set a national goal to start 2,000 congregations by 2017.
Other missions-related resolutions call for:
* increasing outreach efforts in urban areas and among ethnic groups;
* organizing "mission teams" in LCMS circuits;
* encouraging Synod members to take part in short-term mission opportunities; and
* encouraging "responsible contacts" with other Christian groups for theological discussions and for cooperative endeavors that "further our faithful witness to the love of Christ."
DISTRICT AND CONGREGATIONAL SERVICES
If delegates adopt a resolution proposed by Floor Committee 2 (District and Congregational Services), "Lutheran Service Book" and its Agenda being prepared by the LCMS Commission on Worship will become an official service book and hymnal for the Synod.
The 1998 convention encouraged the commission to start work on a new hymnal and "Lutheran Service Book" -- scheduled to be published in 2006 -- is the result.
Another Committee 2 resolution would have Scripture references in the translation of "Luther's Small Catechism" approved by the 1986 convention appear in the English Standard Version (ESV), with few exceptions. That catechism will be in the proposed "Lutheran Service Book." The worship commission, which has adopted the ESV for Scriptural passages throughout the hymnal, is recommending that the ESV be used for the catechism in future editions of the hymnal.
A separate resolution asks the convention to "affirm respect for diversity in worship practices as we build greater understanding of our theology of worship and foster further discussion of worship practices that are consistent with that theology."
A new task force is called for in another resolution, to decide "appropriate nomenclature" for ethnic groups, determine their ministry needs and make recommendations to the 2007 Synod convention.
One resolution recalls "many memorable events and achievements worth celebrating" in Black Lutheranism and asks the Board for Black Ministry Services to start preparing for the 130th anniversary of Black ministry in the Synod, in 2008.
Commending LCMS District and Congregational Services -- Youth Ministry for "many successful and spiritually uplifting Synod youth gatherings," a resolution urges that more regional youth gatherings be held as an alternative to the more costly national gatherings.
Also among the 14 resolutions drafted by Committee 2 are resolutions:
* reaffirming Lutheran educators and schools;
* changing a Synod bylaw to require that pastors and commissioned church workers on the Board for District and Congregational Services be parish-based;
* strengthening Lutheran doctrinal education;
* supporting parish-pastoral ministry;
* encouraging spiritual discipline in the church; and
* establishing a task force to study styles of parish governance which would report its findings to the 2007 Synod convention.
THEOLOGY AND CHURCH RELATIONS
Among the 15 resolutions Committee 3 (Theology and Church Relations) has prepared for convention action are calls to:
* declare altar and pulpit fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya;
* foster "peace, harmony and trust" within the Synod for the sake of Christ's mission;
* urge the continuation of Synodwide theological conferences that were initiated by the "model" theological conference in Phoenix in August 2002;
* affirm marriage as the "lifelong union of one man and one woman";
* continue theological discussions with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and
* pursue ecumenical dialogues with other Christian church bodies.
Another resolution asks the Synod's Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) to prepare a study on "biomedical issues related to unborn human life, with particular emphasis on birth-control methods."
Others ask delegates to commend, study or adopt various CTCR documents, including the recently released "Guidelines for Participation in Civic Events" and other CTCR reports on human cloning, the "divine call" and women's service in congregational and synodical offices.
PROGRAM AND FINANCE
"Stewardship Ablaze" is a unified stewardship-education initiative being proposed in a resolution from Floor Committee 4 (for Program and Finance). It calls for holding district stewardship-education conferences and would be a collaborative effort of LCMS District and Congregational Services and the Council of Presidents.
Another resolution directs the Synod president to appoint a "Funding the Mission" blue-ribbon task force to recommend to the 2007 Synod convention a model for increased levels of financial support for national ministries.
Two separate resolutions call for:
* continuing financial support for the 10 LCMS colleges and universities; and
* continuing and increasing financial support for the two seminaries.
The Board for Pastoral Education being proposed to the convention would conduct a study of funding models for the seminaries.
Two other proposed resolutions mandate uniformity in the articles of incorporation of all incorporated entities of the Synod and stipulate that all 12 Synod higher-education institutions have the necessary documents that make it clear their properties "shall be titled in the name of each institution subject to reversionary interests to their properties in favor of the Synod."
It is recommended that a Synod bylaw be amended in a resolution that gives the Board for Communication Services responsibility for the LCMS Web site, currently under the Synod's General Services department.
Separate proposed resolutions call for supporting Concordia Historical Institute and Hispanic ministry in the Synod. The latter resolution asks for recommitment to Hispanic ministry at all levels.
Houston would be the site of the 2007 Synod convention if another resolution is adopted.
Two other resolutions Floor Committee 4 is proposing call for:
* amending Synod bylaws regarding the duties of the Synod's Chief Administrative Officer; and
* stipulating that the Synod's Board of Directors never accept contributions that cannot be fully disclosed in its minutes.
The second resolution asks the convention to "rejoice in the generosity of the Marvin M. Schwan Charitable Foundation," which has given $64 million since 1998 to support Synod entities.
Of 66 overtures submitted on higher education, Committee 5 has developed 25 resolutions for convention action. Topping the list is a resolution that would require the education of all professional church workers to include courses in evangelism, outreach strategies (especially for use by congregations and in urban areas) and contemporary U.S. culture.
Other overtures call for:
* creating separate governing boards for LCMS seminaries and colleges/universities;
* increasing the number of Synod-certified teachers;
* including directors of family-life education on the "ministers of religion-commissioned" roster;
* researching how the Council of Presidents can be involved in the certification of pastors;
* developing a "core curriculum" for district lay-training programs;
* requiring seminary professors to have at least five years of parish experience; and
* supporting continuing education for all church workers.
Several other resolutions propose changes in the structures of the schools' boards of regents and in the Concordia University System Council of Members, and suggest various bylaw changes relating to higher education.
Noting that there are only 10 human-care overtures in the 2004 "Convention Workbook," Committee 6 (Human Care) proposes 12 resolutions.
Its first-priority proposal asks the Synod convention to "call for repentance for any misplaced priorities" and to commend study of LCMS World Relief and Human Care's document "Theology for Mercy."
That proposed resolution also encourages congregations to be involved in appropriate "cooperation in externals" with others who address human need and challenges every congregation to conduct at least one "work of care" in its community.
Another resolution acknowledges the need for choices to make the health-care plan for church workers flexible, asks the Board of Managers of the Synod's Worker Benefit Plans to make "reasonable health-care coverage a high priority," and calls on parish boards to adopt compensation policies that reflect the high priority Scripture places on church workers.
The floor committee proposes other resolutions:
* asking individuals and groups to identify and make contributions to help "Veterans of the Cross" -- retired church workers under the old Pension Plan for Pastors and Teachers;
* commending and asking support for Lutherans For Life;
* encouraging congregations to adopt "suitable guidelines" for safe environments for the interaction of church workers and children;
* urging the church to petition government offices to continue funding refugee-resettlement efforts and asking congregations to seek information and help for resettling at least one refugee family "as soon as possible";
* promoting health-and-healing ministries at all levels of the church;
* encouraging congregations to start and to support pregnancy-care centers;
* calling on the Board for Human Care Ministries to review birth-control products; and
* supporting quilting ministry, which provides hundreds of thousands of quilts each year for Lutheran World Relief to distribute among those in need.
STRUCTURE, PLANNING AND ADMINISTRATION
With 121 overtures to sort through, Committee 7, for Structure, Planning and Administration, may have had the toughest floor-committee assignment of all.
Most of the 20 resolutions prepared by the committee involve bylaw or structure changes or "reaffirmations" of existing bylaws or administrative structures. A number of the resolutions are aimed at clarifying the responsibilities of the Synod's Board of Directors and other officers, and reaffirming the role of the Commission on Constitutional Matters.
Committee 7 resolutions that ask for bylaw changes address topics such as:
* elections of Board of Directors members;
* Board and officer responsibilities;
* adoption of the revised Synod Handbook;
* indemnification of directors and officers;
* district membership of recognized service organization employees;
* selection of convention floor committees;
* equalizing tenures on the Board for Black Ministry Services;
* removal of boards of regents members;
* appointments by the Board of Directors;
* filling board and commission vacancies; and
Resolutions that pertain to the Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) reaffirm the function of the CCM and the selection of its members, and ask that the CCM publish all of its opinions.
* address concerns regarding the "advisory nature" of the Synod;
* authorize the appointment of a special blue-ribbon committee to study and make recommendations regarding delegate representation at future conventions;
* clarify "interim appointments" and review the appointment process;
* ask Synod members to continue to "use the Holy Scriptures in our dealings with one another" and "follow the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod"; and
* ask all Synod officers, officials and employees to "reaffirm and recommit themselves to the rules of confidentiality and due process."
ECCLESIASTICAL SUPERVISION AND DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Floor Committee 8 is recommending only five resolutions. But its top-ranked proposal, "To Amend Bylaws on Ecclesiastical Supervision and Dispute Resolution," at 26 pages in draft form, is the lengthiest offered by any floor committee.
The resolution recommends additions and clarifications to the bylaws regarding ecclesiastical supervision and the procedures for considering the expulsion of a congregation or individual (including Synod officers) from LCMS membership.
The committee said that before forming the resolution, it considered "all related overtures," the report of a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Ecclesiastical Supervision and Dispute Resolution appointed last year by Synod President Gerald Kieschnick, and input from members of the Synod Board of Directors.
Another proposed resolution affirms "the work and opinions" of the Commission on Constitutional Matters in the last three years regarding ecclesiastical supervision.
* thank God "for providing resources and guidance" during such tragedies as occurred on Sept. 11, 2001; and
* ask the convention "to reaffirm the need for charity in our life together."