The shorter memorial sent in by both of my congregations and Our Savior’s in Bagley, Minnesota, came up on the floor of the convention today. It had been assigned to the “miscellaneous” floor committee as part of their work. Their report did not contain very much in response to the memorial. Really, it was just one line: “Be it resolved that the memorial be declined.” There was no further description of the issue raised by the memorial, or reason for declining it.
When the floor committee’s resolution was read, and the chairman called for discussion, I kept an eye out over the whole floor for anyone raising their hands. There were none in the first few seconds, so I stood and raised my hand.
In my speech, I wanted to point out a reason for declining the memorial, while also telling how it had been written to address a genuine problem. I spoke in favor of declining the memorial, but said that the convention really ought to know the background behind it. Then I described the need for the memorial, and how the synod president had addressed it at the West Coast Pastoral Conference. He explained that the only floor committee not appointed by the president is given the task of reviewing his message and report. This committee has the important responsibility of reviewing his actions, and responding to them as they see fit. This was news to quite a few of us at the West Coast Conference, so we should be sure that the synod is aware of it. That was the essence of my speech. Then things got interesting. (Not because of my speech, but maybe even partly in spite of it.)
The pastor of Our Savior’s (a co-sponsor of the memorial) moved that the resolution be referred to the Synod Review Committee. Lively discussion followed in which I did not participate by speaking. In the end, this motion passed, so that instead of declining the memorial, the synod referred the issue to the Synod Review Committee, so that it might examine the issue and perhaps suggest an improvement to the synodical guidelines.
So let me recap the results of these two memorials. In each case, the issues they raised were referred to an appropriate standing board/committee, where they will be examined with the possibility of finding a solution. Wow. The congregations sponsoring these memorials have every reason to be happy with the results. I honestly expected both memorials to be declined without much explanation.
I’ll note one comment made on the floor about the shorter memorial. One of the speakers was deeply concerned about the wording of the “whereas” parts. If you read the text of that memorial (posted here first), you will see that three of the four “whereas” parts are really simple statements of fact that no reasonable person would argue against. The fourth (third in the order they were written) says something to which particular people might object. The speaker today said that it was “inflammatory,” stating that the synod president was guilty of some wrongdoing. I disagree. I think it was worded rather objectively and dispassionately. I admit that there were some provocative adverbs in it (“permanently and unilaterally”), but I do not think they were inflammatory.
Judge for yourself. If you think some of the words are too provocative, consider their accuracy. Do they describe what has been demonstrated in the ELS? You may want to refresh your understanding of their meaning, but I think they do. If something is inflammatory here, I don’t think it’s the memorial, but perhaps the synod’s experience to which it refers.
WHEREAS it has proven possible that both congregations and individuals may be permanently and unilaterally removed from membership in the synod by a single act of the synod administration, without explicit ratification by the synod, and,