As our circuit's pastoral delegate, I will be attending the LCMS convention in Houston next week. As I've told many, "I expect it to get hot in Houston, and the temperature should be pretty warm too!"
I plan to blog daily with news of the convention - particularly my insights and observations. Some of this might depend on internet availabilty. Will the hotel charge (or charge too much) for access? This is the biggest burning question I have right now. It would be nice to "live-blog" the convention, however, sadly, no electronic communication devices are allowed in the voting delegate section. Perhaps they will let me listen to my MP3 player, at least....
Anyway just some preliminary thoughts on how I am inclined, at this point, to vote next week:
Preus, 1st VP
...along with the usual cadre of more traditional candidates.
Generally against most things "Ablaze!" i.e., the assumption that our churches need to be "revitalized". What does this mean? I'm all for missions, but "Ablaze!" does not equal "Missions". Too bad those resolutions on "correcting the theology of Ablaze!" didn't make it into resolutions. I could support Ablaze! if it was made Lutheran.
2. District and Congregational Services
Nothing here excites or enrages me.
3. Theology and Church Relations
I am inclined to vote against fellowship with the AALC. I can be swayed, but my impression of them so far is that they are far more similar to the neo-evangelical wing of the LCMS than to the traditional Lutheran wing.
Some of the other requests for study seem ok (serial prayer, role of women), but I wonder if this is a "be careful what you wish for" situation...
4. Program and Finance
Much of this seems to be simple ratification of bylaw changes... about which I am not concerned. I will, however, be watching out for any whiff of a "membership fee" or "tax on congregations" proposal.
5. Seminary and University Education
The big one here is the SMP proposal. I have mixed feelings on this idea. I like the idea of cleaning up the mess of Witchita (lay ministers, etc...). But I am uncomfortable with the prospect of dumbed-down requirements for our pastors, or the thought of a two-tiered office. However, it might be an improvement even if it's not a perfect solution. My vote could go either way on this one.
Also generally NOT in favor of expanding boards of regents, especially by appointment. Boards can acquire the expertise they need without adding voting members, which would further dilute the authority of the Synod over the board.
6. Human Care
Mom and apple pie here. I expect the Stem Cell resolution to be the most notable one, and to pass overwhelmingly (as it should).
7. Planning and Administration
Red flag on 7-08, "..Removal of Individual Members from Board or Commission Membership" Whether intentional or not, this certainly smacks of a power-grab to keep those office-holders from the "opposition party" in line. Not good.
I would also like to see us revert to an earlier dispute resolution process... I am not satisfied with the latest version for a number of reasons (Too complicated, DP's as sole gate-keepers, legalistic face-to-face mandate, etc..) But I doubt that will happen.
8. Synod Structure and Governance
The big stumbling block here is the clause in 8.01, "In case of any conflict...such issues shall be resolved in accord with the provisions in the constitution and bylaws of the synod". This gets to the heart of much of the dispute surrounding the synod's Board of Directors in recent years. It is extremely foolish to codify that the LCMS rules trump the laws of the state.
I didn't sign the lawsuit, nor did I think it was the best idea. But I don't believe, as some on the other side do, that Scripture ALWAYS prohibits Christians from pursuing justice in a secular court. The resolved of 8-02 that makes LCMS dispute resolution the "exclusive and final remedy" is out of line with a Lutheran understanding of two-kingdom theology.
I am also against, generally, calling a special convention (res. 8-07) for several reasons (too costly, not happy with most of the changes that are proposed, not seeing the needed changes being proposed, etc...)
As a general observation, this being my second round as a delegate (I went in 2004): It seems this time there is a lot more legaleese to be dealt with. Has our synod taken a turn toward the profusion of bylaws and policies? I would rather these meetings wrestled with things that mattered more, debated theology more, and discussed legal minutae less.