Governance — 2019-2023

Overture Preparation and Submission

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod


The multi-step process by which an idea is honed by many minds and hands for presentation to a convention helps to ensure the best and most productive use of time together in convention. It does require and allow those interested — wherever they are in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod — to be engaged long before the convention.

The following questions and answers are intended to facilitate the submission of overtures to the Synod convention; similar procedures apply to the conventions of the districts, but timelines and specific instructions may vary. This is a test.

 

 

What is an overture?


Overtures are recommendations in the form of proposed resolutions requesting action on the part of the convention.

 

From overture to action


Overture InfographicThis poster illustrates how an overture becomes a resolution.

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How can an overture be put in the proper form for submission?


Each overture should be stated with one or more resolveds and a clear rationale that clearly state, respectively, what action(s) is/are proposed to be taken and why. Forms and instructions are available to assist congregations to submit overtures in a standard and readily useful form.

An electronic template and instructions are available to provide helpful guidelines and options for structuring an overture. Many of the details apply, at least by analogy, to overtures to the districts. The template aims to make formatting your overture easier as well as to expedite its processing once submitted electronically.

 

What can an overture deal with?


An overture can propose any action that is within the Constitutional and Bylaw authority of the respective convention. It can, for example:

  • propose that direction be given to officers and agencies of the Synod or of the district, compatible with their charges in the Constitution and Bylaws.

  • while avoiding “legislative or coercive powers” reflecting an “ecclesiastical government,” the Synod being, “with respect to the individual congregation’s right of self-government” “but an advisory body” (Const. Art. VII)—advise, admonish, and encourage the congregations and individual members of the Synod.

  • seek to establish a doctrinal resolution or statement to clarify the Synod’s witness or settle doctrinal controversy (Bylaw 1.6.2), in which case it must “conform to the confessional position of the Synod as set forth in Article II of its Constitution and shall ordinarily city the pertinent passages of the Scriptures, the Lutheran Confessions, and any previously adopted official doctrinal statements and resolutions of the Synod” (Bylaw 1.6.2 [a]).

  • propose the amendment of the Constitution (Const. Art. XV) or Bylaws (Bylaw Chapter 7) of the Synod, in which case it must clearly indicate the changes proposed.

NOTE: Overtures addressing matters in dispute resolution or which contain libel or slander or may subject the Synod or its officers to civil action for the same cannot be accepted. Overtures that contain information that is materially in error or misrepresent the truth cannot be accepted.

 

Who can submit an overture?


Bylaw 3.1.6.2 authorizes only the following to submit overtures:

  • member congregations of the Synod;

  • a convention or board of directors of a district;

  • an official district conference (Bylaw 4.8.2) of ordained and/or commissioned ministers (or a sectional conference thereof, if the conference meets in no more than five sections, Bylaw 4.8.2 [b]—note that this does not include “Winkels”);

  • the faculty of an educational institution of the Synod;

  • the Board of Directors of the Synod;

  • a board or commission of the Synod listed in Bylaws 3.2.2, 3.2.2.1, 3.2.3, and 3.2.3.1;

  • a committee established by a prior convention; or

  • the forum of a circuit (Bylaw Section 5.3).

It is important that each overture be submitted with an indication of which of the above adopted it for submission, and the signature of an appropriate officer attesting that it was adopted as an official act of the submitting body.

 

When are overtures due?


March 11, 2023, is the deadline for submitting overtures (proposed resolutions) to the 2023 Synod Convention. Any overtures submitted after that date can only be accepted for convention attention if approved by a special committee made up of the president, first vice-president and secretary of the Synod and only if thought to introduce an important issue not adequately covered by other submitted documents. (For overtures to the district conventions, each district will have its own deadline and similar procedure for late overtures.)

While March 11 is the official deadline, the Secretary’s Office encourages submission of reports and overtures by Feb. 10, 2023, to facilitate their inclusion in the 2023 Convention Workbook.

 

How is an overture assembled?


An electronic template and instructions are available to provide helpful guidelines and options for structuring an overture. The template aims to make formatting your overture easier as well as to expedite its processing once submitted electronically.

 

 

Where do I find the information needed to write a good overture?


Many resources detailing previous and current activities and decisions of the Synod, as well as ideas previously proposed and handled by past conventions, are available either through the Internet or by inquiry. While not all of the following will be germane to each overture, the following is intended as a summary of what is available and might in some circumstances be useful.

 

Background Information

  • Synod and District Handbooks: These contain the Constitution, Bylaws, and Articles of Incorporation of the Synod (or the Bylaws and Articles of a district) as most recently amended by the respective convention. These are referenced often in these instructions as the definitive rules for the governance cycle of the Synod and the districts, but also cover many other important topics related to the rights and responsibilities of congregations and ministers as members of the Synod.

    Example: .

    The Synod Handbook includes a foreword explaining recent changes and an index designed to guide the reader to related but not necessarily co-located Bylaws.

    The Handbook is a valuable resource for researching the duties of offices for which nominations are required and for understanding the Constitution and Bylaws that officers and agencies of the Synod are required to follow in their work.

    Where overtures propose a change that would conflict with the adopted Constitution or Bylaws, they need to propose an amendment to the relevant passages, as no resolution can be adopted that conflicts with the Constitution or Bylaws, neither can any officer or agency properly be directed to act contrary to them.

  • Synod’s Triennial Priorities and Goals: Congregations, Circuits, and Districts have, since 2010, been invited to review and adjust the Synod’s mission priorities, which in turn are intended to guide the districts, as well. The Boards for National and International Mission (Bylaws 3.8.2.2 and 3.8.3.2) have offered a document to assist congregations in working through their circuits and districts to evaluate progress and to offer ideas and guidance on the Synod’s triennial mission and mission emphases.

    Example:

  • Synod’s Annual Report and Board of Directors Minutes: Synod’s Annual Report provides an annual update on the mission operations and financial state of the Synod. For those seeking more detailed information on the financial and legal affairs of the Synod, the Board of Directors’ meeting minutes are also available on lcms.org. Even more detailed financial information is available to member congregations upon request (Bylaw 1.5.4).

  • Lutheran Witness and Reporter: These official publications of the Synod, including Reporter Online, contain official notices related to convention business. Reporter and Reporter Online also cover news relevant to the Synod and its internal and external work.

  • Minutes of the Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) and Commission on Handbook (COH), and reports of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR): These minutes and reports, related to the commissions that interpret the Constitution, Bylaws, and resolutions of the Synod, maintain the Handbook, and serve the Synod with respect to the understanding and discussion of doctrine and to its fellowship with other church bodies, are periodically posted on the Synod web site.

  • Synod’s Church Information Center: Staff of the Church Information Center are ready to assist with any requests for information that might be helpful to congregations in understanding the work of the Synod or their role in shaping it. They can be reached by calling 1-888-THE-LCMS (843-5267) or via the “Submit a question” form at lcms.org/contact-us.

 

Convention-Specific Information

  • Convention Workbooks: These contain the reports of officers, boards, and commissions on the work done for and on behalf of congregations by their districts and Synod, as well as insights, questions, and concerns about the future. These also contain overtures submitted by congregations, circuits, districts, boards, and other authorized sources, which are requests for a district or Synod convention to take some particular action.

    Example: Both the Synod and your district publish Workbooks ahead of their respective conventions. Synod’s Workbook is printed and posted to the Synod website at least 12 weeks prior to the opening of the convention.

  • Biographical Synopses and Statements of Nominees: The biographical information and statements of candidates for all offices, boards, and commissions are collected and shared in advance of the convention (sometimes as part of a district Workbook). Congregations may study the candidates and confer with their delegates and voters prior to elections. In some cases, floor nominations may also be possible at the convention.

    Example:  (Both the Synod and your district publish this material, though districts may incorporate it into their Workbooks rather than having a separate document.)

  • Convention Today’s Business: Overtures are assigned to floor committees, which evaluate and refine them into resolutions for presentation to the convention. The first edition of Today’s Business includes those resolutions, as well as final slates for election and perhaps late reports and overtures that didn’t make the Workbook. Subsequent editions of Today’s Business, published each day while the convention is in session, contain the minutes and updates to the elections and resolutions on which the convention is working.

    Example: (Both the Synod and your district publish this material, though districts may do so in a simpler form.)

    Synod’s Today’s Business is printed and posted to the Synod website as soon as possible after the meeting of floor committees on Floor Committee Weekend, or approximately 5 weeks prior to the opening of the convention.

  • Convention Proceedings report the resolutions adopted and persons elected by a district or Synod convention, indicating what came of all the overtures and nominations submitted and setting the course for the next triennium and beyond. Proceedings contain the directions the congregations, through their delegates, have given the officers, boards, commissions, and agencies of the Synod as well as the official advice and counsel that they have given each other, in the concluded convention.

    Example: (Both the Synod and your district publish this material after each of their conventions.)

Access to historical documents that are not generally available online (e.g., Proceedings of previous conventions) is available through the LCMS Office of the Secretary or Concordia Historical Institute.

 

How does one finally submit an overture?


Once the overture has been formally adopted in its final form by the body authorized to submit it (i.e., congregation, circuit, board, etc.), it must be submitted to the LCMS Office of the President so that it can be prepared for publication in the Convention Workbook and forwarded to the appropriate convention floor committee.

To expedite the processing of your overture, please submit an electronic copy via e-mail (Microsoft Word version is preferred) to overtures@lcms.org. Then, print and sign the document (signature by a congregation or circuit forum officer) and submit it to the LCMS Office of the President via U.S. mail.

Please use as a model the general overture format found in convention materials from prior Synod conventions. Contact information needs to be provided in case the Office of the President or Office of the Secretary need to reach you about your overture.

 

Are any overtures rejected or refused publication in the Workbook?


Overtures submitted to a district or Synod convention are screened by the respective president for any cause for which they could not be published and/or considered legitimately or responsibly (Bylaw 3.1.6.2 [b–c]). Overtures to be rejected or withheld from publication are those that:

  • deal with a case in which a member of the Synod has been suspended that is under formal proceedings;

  • could, upon advice of legal counsel, subject the Synod or corporate officers of the Synod to civil action for libel or slander;

  • contain libel or slander;

  • contain information that is materially in error; or

  • contain any apparent misrepresentation of truth or character.

Those submitting overtures should carefully avoid these pitfalls. As noted above, overtures submitted after the deadline for timely submission will be rejected unless specially accepted as noted.

 

What happens to an overture once submitted?


Overtures accepted according to the rules stated above are shared with the district or Synod in the Convention Workbook. On the basis of this publication, comment may be forwarded to the respective president’s office.

Overtures involving proposed changes to the Constitution or Bylaws of the Synod are reviewed by the Commission on Handbook, and all that in any manner relate to the Constitution, Bylaws, and Resolutions of the Synod are reviewed by the Commission on Constitutional Matters. These commissions provide further, specific comment in their respective areas of responsibility.

Overtures are then submitted, together with all such comments, to an appropriate floor committee, appointed by the respective president, for consideration, possible consolidation with other related overtures or other editorial work, and the making of a recommendation, in the form of a proposed resolution, to the respective convention for action on the matter(s) treated (Bylaw 3.1.7).

These proposed resolutions are published, generally in advance of the respective convention, in the first edition of Today’s Business. There is again an opportunity for input to the floor committees before a final proposed version is introduced to the floor of the respective convention.

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