Congressman William E. Dannemeyer
1979-1992
1105 E. Commonwealth, Box 13
Fullerton, CA  92831
Tel: 714-871-4318   Fax: 714-871-4221

LCMS CONVENTION 2004 – A LESSON IN HOW PRESIDENT KIESCHNICK PREVENTED ANY CONVENTION VOTE ON TWO VERY IMPORTANT ISSUES DEMANDING ATTENTION IN THE LCMS

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  July 27, 2004

 
            A wise man once observed that getting anything done in Congress or in a State legislature or a church convention is kind of like driving a bunch of unleashed cats through a fish market.  There are a lot of distractions in the nature of things.

             The difficulty of the task is compounded when the leader of the LCMS, President Kieschnick, before the convention, returned two Overtures, which stated two very important issues facing the LCMS, to the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Fullerton, California, claiming they each contained “material error or misrepresentations of truth.”

             Please know that no identification or explanation of the claimed deficiency in either of these Overtures was stated.  Pursuant to Matthew 18, efforts to meet with President Kieschnick to find an explanation for the claimed deficiencies long before the convention were not successful.  Indeed, neither of two separate letters addressed to President Kieschnick asking for a meeting ever produced a response to the Lutheran Church of Our Savior.  The first letter produced a response to President Stoterau suggesting that he meet with a representative of the Lutheran Church of Our Savior for possible discipline proceedings.

             The two very important issues facing the LCMS described in these two Overtures are:

(1)       THE NEED TO RESTRUCTURE HOW COMMITTEES ARE CONSTITUTED AT LCMS DISTRICT AND SYNODICAL CONVENTIONS.

(2)        THE NEED TO REDUCE THE BUREAUCRACY AT THE “DISTRICT, SYNOD AND OTHER LEVEL” IN THE LCMS. 

 
            These two Overtures were mailed to all the delegates to the 2004 LCMS Convention along with an explanation of the action by President Kieschnick.

             Both of these Overtures are attached to this report.  Hopefully, interested persons can read for themselves the stated need for these Overtures to be adopted.

             Both of these Overtures were referred by President Kieschnick to Committee #7.  The structure of all committees at the 2001 and 2004 Convention is attached to this report clearly showing that lay people are a distinct minority on all committees except Nominations.

             About four days before the convention started I received a written statement from the office of Rev. Schumacher, the chairman of Committee #7, that I would not be allowed to speak at the open hearing of all the committees of the convention including of course Committee #7.  This claimed disallowance to speak was later withdrawn after no one at the convention could come up with a reason as to why it should be enforced.

             As the President of the Lutheran Church of Our Savior, I appeared before Committee #7 at the open hearing on Saturday, July 10.

             After I made my five minute speech on these two Overtures, a pastor delegate from Wisconsin asked the chairman what recommendation he would make to the convention concerning their status.  The chairman stated both would remain in the committee.  Without saying so, the chairman in effect said these two Overtures would be deposited in the circular file.

             Many Overtures are submitted to any Church convention.  Typically, each committee will produce what is called an Omnibus Resolution.  Committee #7 produced Resolution 7-20 which contained 34 Overtures to be rejected.

             These two Overtures were considered to be so lacking in merit that neither of them were included in the list of the 34 to be rejected!

             This decision by the Chairman of Committee #7 seemed odd so later in the day on Saturday, July 10, I went to the convention office and asked to speak with the Parliamentarian.  I was told he wasn’t available and to try later.

             On the third trip to the convention office on that day each time asking to speak with the Parliamentarian I was told by the office clerk to place my request to the Parliamentarian in writing.  This I promptly did and delivered it to the office later on Saturday, July 10.

             I explained in my letter request that any committee of a convention is subordinate to the convention and has a duty to report to the convention what action a committee has taken on any Overture referred to it.

            The written opinion of the Parliamentarian on this question was one of the weirdest I have ever heard in my years in public life dealing with committees of the California State Legislature and fourteen years with the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.

             Believe it or not, in writing the Parliamentarian uttered these words:

             “As a courtesy he also shared them with the floor committee referenced in your note, but did not formally “refer” them to the committee for the reasons stated.

             Therefore it is my opinion that based on the bylaws referenced above that the floor committee is under no obligation to include these two overtures in either resolution 7-75 or to report them to the convention in any matter, they having never been officially referred to the committee as stated above.“

             When I related these words to a friend of mine at the convention, he responded that there are only two people in the world who can explain the difference between the verbs “to share” and “to refer.”  The Parliamentarian and Bill Clinton.

             This political decision of the Parliamentarian was not inadvertent or accidental.  It was specifically designed to prevent the inclusion of these two Overtures into the Omnibus rejection resolution of Committee #7.  Had these two Overtures been included in 7-20, then the request to remove one or both from the group could have been directed to the specific Overture to be taken up by the convention rather than go through our planned strategy, moving to remove a related subject matter Overture and then, if successful, offering an amendment.

             Which leads to the next question.  What is the option of the presiding officer when an amendment is offered on the floor to an Overture?  Simple, if you want to continue to bury the issue from the convention delegates you arbitrarily state that the proposed amendment is not an amendment but a substitute.  When the chair rules it is a substitute, the person submitting it then is advised that he has two minutes to explain why the convention time should be taken up with this substitute and the person is further advised, you may not discuss the substance of the substitute in the two minutes.

             This option of the presiding officer is the result of the Behnken Rule:  If you desire to prevent any convention of the LSMS, District or Synod, to be so structured that one person, the District or Synodical President can by the total discretion to structure a committee and hire a “discerning” parliamentarian, stop a convention from ever considering a very important issue facing the organized church, you couldn’t have devised a better system of roadblocks designed for one specific purpose, make sure the delegates at an LCMS convention never learn the Emperor wears no clothes.

             At this point some people might be inclined to observe that these two Overtures were considered by a committee of the convention, to be specific, #7, so isn’t the foregoing criticism nothing more than sour grapes?  Absolutely not.  Please note and reflect on the composition of Committee #7.  Eleven of the seventeen members, or  almost two-thirds, work for the organized church.  It is not realistic to ever expect that a large majority of persons who owe their temporal existence to an employer will ever vote on a committee to diminish the personnel structure of the organization which employs them or alter the power to organize the committee structure of a convention which will diminish their authority over the future.

             When Resolution 7-20, the Omnibus rejection resolution was to be taken up on the convention floor, a lay delegate from the PSWD planned to request approval to remove one of the 34 Overtures to be rejected and have the convention consider it separately.  He was then prepared to offer an amendment to the withdrawn Overture which contained the objective to return the 593 Pastors to the parish ministry over three years.

             This strategy was not allowed to be pursued because the Committee #7 Omnibus rejection resolution 7-20 never came up for action in the convention because time ran out.  The convention schedule called for adjournment at 1:00 PM on Thursday, July 15, and the convention adjourned without 7-20 being considered.

            The importance of the issues raised by these two Overtures is so important to the future of the organized church, the LCMS, that decisive and effective action needs to be taken.  Districts of the LCMS need to feel the heat in order for them to see the light.

             Every congregation in the LCMS should promptly study this report very carefully and prayerfully consider adopting a resolution and send it to its District office and to President Kieschnick which state as follows:

             Our congregation has considered the action taken by the leadership of the LCMS at the 2004 Synodical Convention in St. Louis concerning the two Overtures described in the report prepared by an officer of the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Fullerton, California, and you will please take notice that we will forthwith contribute no more funds to our District and/or Synod until the following steps are taken:

(1)      The committees of any future District or LCMS Convention will be organized as stated in the enclosed Overture.

 (2)      The District and Synod will over the next three years terminate the positions of those Pastors among the 593 who left the parish ministry between 1981 and 2001 who are now called or employed in a District or at Synod and suggest to these pastors that they accept calls into the parish ministry of the LCMS.

                                                                                                                                                                William E. Dannemeyer


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