[This may be late news to some of you, since the convention was held back in July. However, we generally publish a combined July-August newsletter, so I didn’t get a chance yet to write an article to inform you about what went on. So here goes…]
Although our synodical headquarters are in St. Louis, Missouri, the conventions of our synod are held in various locations around the country every three years. This year it was held in Houston, Texas from July 10-17. This was the 64th time our synod has met in convention since its inception in 1847.
Each circuit (a regional group of congregations) sends one pastoral and one lay delegate to the national convention. Our circuit is called the Mt. Baker Circuit. It encompasses the LCMS congregations of Bellingham, Blaine, Everett, Granite Falls, Maltby, Marysville, Monroe, Mt. Vernon, Oak Harbor, and Snohomish. Our circuit usually elects its delegates to the national convention at the previous district convention as the delegates (one pastor and one layman from each congregation in the district) caucus together at some point during the district convention. Pastor Kerry Reese of Shepherd of the Hills in Maltby was our pastoral delegate to the national convention this summer. Mr. Rex Watt of Redeemer in Bellingham was our lay delegate.
The two main actions taken by the convention were the election of a new synodical president and sweeping structural changes recommended by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance (BRTFSSG).
The Rev. Matthew Harrison was elected as our new synodical president. Pastor Harrison has been the executive director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care since 2001. Prior to that, he served congregations in Iowa and Indiana.
The end result of the structural changes is, in brief, twofold. First, more authority is given to the office of the synodical president. Second, all the current boards and commissions at the national level have been eliminated (with the exception of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations) and will be realigned into two ministry boards, the Board for National Mission and the Board for International Mission. These new boards will establish policies and procedures for their respective offices, both of which will be headed by a Chief Mission Officer who will be appointed by the synodical president.
Two other changes of note were also approved at the convention. Whereas the election of the synodical president has occurred at the convention by the delegates, in subsequent years the election will now take place prior to the convention by direct vote of the congregations of the synod. Also, the election of vice-presidents two through five will now be done on a regional basis to assure broader representation of the regions of the synod.
The dust is still settling on all these structural changes that were voted upon. It will be interesting to see how they will all be implemented, especially considering that our new president and the vast majority of the new officers elected were opposed to the structural changes that the BRTFSSG was proposing. Nevertheless, I was encouraged by Harrison’s first address to the synod immediately following his election where he said,
I wish to inform you that you have kept your perfect record of electing sinners as presidents of the Missouri Synod. I guarantee you I will sin and fail. I will fall short. I will sin against you. I wish also to say, that right now I forgive all who have in any way have sinned against me or anybody else, and plead your forgiveness for anything that I said or did that offended you. I beg of you your prayers, I beg of you your daily prayers and intercession. These are challenging times. I promise you that I will be as straight with you as I possibly can, to the best of my ability, guided by the Spirit of God. I pledge to you that I will not coerce you. I will do my best by the Word of Christ to lead with a generous Gospel of Jesus Christ, which forgives us all of our sins, and motivates us to love and care for our neighbor in mercy and compassion. And I will work as hard as I possibly can for unity around the clear and compelling Word of God and nothing else.
If you wish to read more about the convention and learn further details on the structural changes, you can read the articles in the Lutheran Witness, the Reporter, or the synod convention website. Below are the links if you have internet access.
In Christ’s service and yours,