You’re in bed in that dreamy space between wakefulness and sleep. And then you hear something. You start…but stay motionless. Then, after not hearing the sound again, you drift off to sleep. Waiting for the other shoe to drop is uncomfortable when it doesn’t happen.
The first shoe: it’s been nearly three years since the collapse of ABC District and its Church Extension Fund and its DIL investment fund – January 5, 2015. Thousands of people lost millions of dollars to a debacle of mismanagement and misinformation. No one, not even the people who were in charge say they know what happened. If they do know, they’re heeding legal advice and staying mum. And the church really is all about staying silent isn’t it? Of course not, that’s stupid – not withstanding the fact that it’s where Lutheran Church Canada’s leaders have lead us. LCC’s leadership has been, and continues to be, dumb to sin. Saint Paul was jailed FOR the gospel. LCC leaders are hoping to avoid jail by avoiding the gospel. The truth hurts boys.
The other shoe: each of LCC’s three districts gave Synod notice that – as a result of the CEF collapse in ABC District – Synod needed to restructure in order to avoid any future catastrophes. Synod hired a consultant (Rev. Les Stahlke) to work with CCMS (Committee for Constitutional Matters and Structure) to come up with a new structure of LCC. Two years later and the board of directors rejected the new plan. But LCC never fails, it doubles down. And the consultant on the restructuring project is none too pleased. In fact, Rev. Les Stahlke has written a letter, sent to all convention delegates, charging Synod of being in violation of its bylaws. This is serious.
Rev. Stahlke raises a major point on governance. CCMS as a Synodical committee isn’t answerable to Synod’s board of directors. CCMS is answerable to convention in order to maintain independence from the whims of administration. CCMS should have presented the plan to convention for a vote. Sure, the plan stood a good chance of being rejected by delegates, but that’s our process. Instead, what Rev. Stahlke is charging – and what appears to have happened (and yes, I missed it too) – is that the Synod Board of Directors usurped the authority of convention. This is worrying.
It’s bad enough that there has been zero transparency regarding the collapse of ABC District and its operations, and just as importantly, Synod’s oversight of Districts. Now we have a Synodical Board that appears to have overstepped its reach.
What happened is this: three district conventions told Synod to restructure itself. Synod handed off the responsibility to CCMS (rightly). CCMS then has to answer to convention since it’s not accountable to the president or the board of directors. But the Board of Directors has inserted itself between the committee and convention. Convention gives CCMS its authority, not the board. CCMS is parallel to the Board of Directors, and isn’t answerable to it. Naturally, this puts LCC in a state of constitutional crisis.
Crisis #1: authority of convention appears to have been usurped by the Board of Directors, which can only ever be advisory to CCMS
Crisis #2: No one in administration, or on the board noticed that the Board of Directors action was out of order (and not being a constitutional expert, I won’t pass definitive judgement, but a read of the constitution and bylaws makes a pretty compelling case for Rev. Stahlke).
Maybe Rev. Stahlke wants to mend what he preceives as a tarnished reputation. Fair enough. And what better way to restore your reputation as a constitutional expert than by showing your client that they’re in violtation of their own constitution and bylaws. The irony tastes like more (to be honest, I could do without a little less irony in LCC).
This is where things get wacky. Let’s ask the Lutheran question, “What does this mean?” If Rev. Stahlke is right it means CCMS can present its restructuring proposal to convention as planned. Synod should investigate the issue, but who should investigate? CCMS would normally investigate, and make a ruling, but the constitution committee can’t exactly judge itself…or can it?
My church can concoct a deeper, darker, morass than your church, any day.
Convention has to attend to this issue. Look, if LCC has an interest in procedural honestly it has to act. It’ll take balls of steel and gall of pure acid to ignore this charge. Ignoring the complaint is fraught with risk. It takes just one delegate to stand up say, “Point of precedence, there is a concern by a member of Synod that Synod itself is in violation of the bylaws bringing this proposal to the table. This matter must be investigated and resolved before we can accept any report from synod.” Then what…ignore a very serious charge? Nope. Just a few words from one small voice is going to detail the best laid machinations. If Synod were wise, it would convene an independent panel and resolve the issue before convention.
In less than one month, delegates are going to meet in Kitchener to decide what LCC looks like moving into the future. There’s been no public review (because in LCC consultation is a one-way street) a serious error) – and the leading consultant on the entire project says the process is, effectively, illegal according to our own rules of governance.
That’s what the other shoe dropping sounds like.
Andreas Schwabe is editor and publisher of SolaGratia.ca, and an Edmonton-based multimedia & communication strategist and producer. His focus for SolaGratia is on administration, governance, and issues of faith. For clients, he writes or produces just about anything.