Fall is the time for apple and pumpkin picking, fruit and gourd-related beverages, and it’s the season for politics.
While the balance of the house of representatives and senate may be on your mind it’s also important to remember your local elections. There are few ways to have more direct impact on the local electoral process than when it comes to your church body’s elections. The Lutheran Church—Missouri synod (LCMS) officially operates on a triennial (three-year) cycle and its next convention—a national gathering of elected church delegates, church leaders, and others—is set for next summer, July 29-August 3, in Milwaukee, WI. Although the gathering itself is the principal electoral body for the LCMS there is plenty you can do to get involved even if you don’t go to Milwaukee.
LEND YOUR VOICE TO THE SYNODICAL CONVENTION
By this point every delegate to convention has been elected at their local circuit forum per the deadline of October 29th. What does this mean? In the LCMS each electoral circuit (in distinction from merely a visitation circuit) is allowed two voting delegates to the national convention: one ordained person and one layperson. Commissioned folks such as a director for Christian education (DCE), teachers, and deaconesses may attend as advisory delegates, but not as voting delegates (more on pages 99–100 in the 2019 LCMS Handbook). Voting delegates to the convention have responsibilities for casting ballots for elected offices like the synod vice presidents and members of the board of regents of our schools. They are also responsible for voting on resolutions that come to the floor. For example, one resolution from 2019 (11-04A) has influenced the work of LRJ and the creation of more resolutions for racial progress.
You may be wondering, “Do I know my representatives for next summer’s synod convention?” You may not know them personally—but that doesn’t mean you can’t find out who they are and even contact them in a friendly manner! The LCMS Locator page includes information on every district, including the crucial information on who serves as district secretary. The district secretary is responsible for overseeing and receiving the proceedings and results of each circuit forum within the district. You may contact them directly to not only learn your circuit number and circuit visitor, but also who will be serving your circuit as voting delegates at convention. This is publicly available information and your voting delegates will probably be happy to hear from you and to hear your interest in the convention proceedings!
HELP CHOOSE THE NEXT LCMS PRESIDENT
There are other ways you may get involved that pertain to the selection—and election—of candidates for the office of synod president. According to the office of the secretary of synod, nominations for president, 1st vice president, and your regional vice president open October 29, 2022 and close February 28, 2023. That gives you four months to send in nominations of any LCMS rostered ordained minister of religion. Every congregation may participate in the nomination process. Learn more here.
Did you know every congregation or parish (which may include more than one congregation) has the right to two voters for the election of synod president? The election happens online the month prior to the 2023 convention and every congregation or parish is allowed to have one ordained and one layperson register to vote. This process is significant because it is more direct and democratic than the synod convention and because the synod president holds a lot of political power in the LCMS. The president has the right to appoint committees and members of committees. He also plays a significant role in the selection of Concordia University and seminary presidents, oversees the organization of the synod convention, and more (see more in the LCMS bylaws).
There is still plenty of time for you—yes, you—to be elected by your congregation to vote for synod president. Mailings with instructions on how to register as an elector from the LCMS' Secretary’s office went out to congregations just this week. Speak with your congregation’s pastor, another church worker, or council to get the ball rolling on representing your church.
Getting involved in church politics may not sound too exciting but think of it as a way to continue your good advocacy work for racial progress. Like it or not, the synod convention—and preceding nominations and presidential election—are how decisions get made in the LCMS.
If you want to make an impact, this is where it starts.
Rev. Matthew O. Staneck serves as pastor at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church—Glendale Queens, New York as well as an Associate Editor of The Lutheran Forum.
Lin Manuel Miranda, “The Room Where It Happens.”