Voice and Vote
One of the great things I learned in my years of preparation for fulltime education ministry back in the 70s at Concordia Teachers College, River Forest (apply whatever other name you may prefer) was the dynamic way in which I could be involved with, and have an impact on, the wider ministry of the church. It became evident after placement that there were multiple ways of applying what God had gifted me to be able to offer and to explore new opportunities for service. I encountered one area of involvement, however, which I have not been able to completely figure out (even after 45 years): the role of the Minister of Religion – Commissioned in the official decision-making and contributions to the LCMS.
Since its founding in 1847, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) has maintained a system of representation and voting that has protected the inclusion of all congregations and the balance between clergy and laity. Over the decades — as the number of teachers, DCEs, deaconesses and other rostered church workers (equally defined as “members of Synod”) increased — the capacity of the Commissioned Minister has remained advisory and we have not been allowed to officially vote at district or Synod conventions.
There have been numerous attempts through the past 150 years at conventions to resolve the issue of voting ability for Commissioned Ministers, but without success. (A detailed accounting of such attempts has been reviewed in the Report of the 2019 Res. 9-17 Committee on Voting Privilege in the LCMS.) The issue has passed from convention to convention with only an occasional vote and most frequently deferred to more study or through the infamous “Omnibus B.” The original intent of clergy/lay balance has led to the disenfranchisement of thousands of church workers each triennium (rostered teaches alone currently number 10,498 as per LCMS School Ministry statistics).
Is there any good news in all this? Yes! There are many ways for ALL Lutheran educators to be involved on an ongoing basis with district and synodical functions as well as at conventions. Here are some ways to participate:
- All educators who are members of LCMS congregations and NOT on the roster have the right be elected as voting members to conventions and as members of task forces and committees
- There are a number of special places on district and LCMS task forces and committees designated specifically for Commissioned Ministers
- Stay current of what is happening in your district and at the LCMS level
- ATTEND your district and Synod conventions
- If you are a Commissioned Minister, express your willingness to be selected as an advisory delegate at both the district and synodical levels
- Express your opinions and suggestions through publications, to leaders, and on the floor of conventions.
I have over the past 4 ½ decades concluded that my involvement in the wider church is defined by what I am willing to say and do. I have not given up on the ability for our church to modify its policy to be fully inclusive regarding voting, but in the meantime I have also exercised my right to speak and to be an active participant in decision-making in other ways. Let’s work at making some productive changes and developing a new future together!