First Plenary

Started by Richard Johnson, August 06, 2007, 10:24:20 PM

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Richard Johnson

The first plenary opened more or less on time, with prayer and the singing of "A Mighty Fortress." There was the obligatory practice using the automatic voting machines by responding to silly questions from the chair ("What were you doing during the 1987 constituting convention: press 1 if you were here as a delegate, press 2 if you stayed home, press 3 if you weren't a Lutheran then, press 4 if you weren't born yet, press 5 if you were getting elected Secretary"—the latter, of course, a nod to retiring secretary Lowell Almen. Only trouble is, 2% of the voting members said they were getting elected secretary. "Well," the bishop quipped, "I always thought it took more than one person to do that job.")

The bishop then walked through in some detail how the Assembly's business would be conducted. While many assemblies provide red and green cards to help the chair determine whether a speaker is "for or against the pending motion," here in Chicago they have set up red and green microphones, side by side, in various places of the assembly hall. Voting members have white cards to indicate they have some other purpose (such as a motion to end debate).

Bp. Hanson outlined (in excruciating detail) procedures for floor nominations, amendments, and other parliamentary matters. (At one point he stopped and mused, "I'm tempted to ask you to turn to your neighbor and explain what I just said." The man is comfortable presiding—one of several reasons why he will likely be elected to a new term.)

The bishop warned members not to use cell phones and other similar devices in the assembly hall. He reported that he has taken lessons from his high school teacher daughter how to recognize when someone is text-messaging with the cell phone in their lap and out of sign (it's in the muscle flexing), and warned that if he sees anyone doing this, they'll be asked to step out into the hall for thirty minutes.

(Right about now I'm thinking, "Why did I let Speckhard cover the LCMS convention, so that now I feel the need to report all this junk in such detail?")

The motion to adopt the Rules of Order was next made. This was the point where the opening session in Orlando spun into utter chaos, as attempts were made to change the proposed rules relating to discussion of the sexuality recommendations. There has been some speculation that this could happen again tonight. There were some in Lutheran CORE who were pushing for an effort to ask for a 2/3 vote on any motion to overrule the recommendation of the Memorials Committee to refer the "Goodsoil memorials" to the sexuality task force, but they were outvoted (likely wisely, since these parliamentary machinations are hard to follow and they often backfire).

A member from Indiana-Kentucky synod asked to remove for separate consideration a section on "speeches"—his amendment was to change the length of time for speeches from three minutes to two minutes, and the house adopted it by more than three-quarters. So no Rules controversies kept the Assembly in a late session the first night.

The agenda was adopted by a vote of 100%, though 4 voted "no." How does that work? Well, there are over 1,000 voting members, and for the "noes" to make it to one percent, there needs to be enough to reach one-half of one percent. Percentages are rounded off. That seems headed for trouble on any close vote that requires a 2/3 vote (i.e., 66.666666%), but maybe the machines will handle it if it comes up.

Next came the first ballot for Presiding Bishop, but there was a long delay when Secretary Almen announced that each bishop needed to confirm the number of voting members from his or her synod who were present and voting. Since this involved bishops and math, you can imagine the chaos. Finally Vice President Carlos Peña, who had taken the chair, had everyone stand and sing "Jesus Loves Me." We in the press couldn't sing, because we didn't have ELW's at our tables. (For the benefit of our LCMS readers, in the ELCA there is only one, count him, one Vice-President, who must be a lay person.)

The Veep discussed the constitutional and spiritual qualifications for Presiding Bishop, and explained the process for voting. The first ballot is a nominating ballot, and a pastor much receive 75% of the votes to be elected. That's a pretty high bar, but there is some possibility that Bp. Hanson might make it. The Veep stressed the need to be very careful about spelling names correctly, and noted that six years ago Lowell Almen's name was spelled six different ways, including "All Man" and "Almond." The Secretary, listening to this, was not amused. The Veep urged members to do whatever they needed to do to be perfectly clear for whom they were voting—full names including middle initials, synod, city, or some other identifying information "since many pastors in this church have similar names."

(This can be a real problem. Back a bunch of years ago, in the Sierra Pacific Synod, your reporter actually led by a handful of votes on a first ballot for bishop. It was a blast, but it was fluke. The second name, and ultimate winner, was Pastor Robert Mattheis.  But there were a number of folks who voted for Robert Matthias, and as it happened, there was a Robert Matthias in the synod, and the counters had to assume that is who they meant—although it almost certainly wasn't, since this guy was brand new in the synod and no one knew him. It was no doubt the spelling error that enabled your correspondent to get the most votes on that ballot, an error which was thankfully quickly corrected.)

Secretary Almen led in prayer, and the ballot was cast.

Metropolitan Chicago Synod Bishop Paul Landahl brought greetings. He urged the assembly members not to do anything that would feed into Chicago's reputation as the windy city. He also urged them not to follow the Chicago practice of voting early and often. The Assembly then adjourned for the evening.

The balloting for secretary, which, assuming the re-election of Bishop Hanson, is the most important decision this Assembly is likely to make, will begin after the bishop election is complete. Again this begins with an ecclesiastical ballot, so there are no nominees. I've heard three names in the halls: Bishop Andrea DeGroot Nesdahl, Bishop Chris Boeger, and Gettysburg Seminary President Michael Cooper-White. None of these are likely to strike joy in the hearts of evangelical catholic types. There is also some talk about a retiring member of the Church Council, Ken Ruppar (hope I've got that name right, and the rest of them too, for that matter), who seems to be a better choice on many counts. He is unfortunately not too well known, but he is co-chair of the Memorials Committee so that may get him some air time.

The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS


Quote from: Richard Johnson on August 06, 2007, 10:24:20 PM
Vice President Carlos Peña

Congrats on the little "tilde-thingy" over the "n".  I'm guessing that that took about a half an hour to figure out...


How did he do that ñ thing?



Didn't you know "Jesus Loves Me" by heart?  Why would you need a hymn book to sing that old beloved hymn? 



Richard Johnson

Actually it only took me a few seconds to figure out the tilde.

And the crack about Jesus Loves Me was a joke, dude. Of course I knew it, and sang it lustily and with courage. But I'm not sure Charles knew it, and I couldn't see if he was singing from where I was sitting. (KIDDING!!)
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS


Richard Johnson muses (re our lack of books for "Jesus Loves Me":
But I'm not sure Charles knew it, and I couldn't see if he was singing from where I was sitting. (KIDDING!!)

I say:
Yeah, I sang it from memory, improvising harmony - bass on one verse, baritone on another - and wondered why we took a page in ELW to include it.
Years ago, I spooked an eager Baptist at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (27,000 delegates) by lustily singing all the good ol' Gospel choruses while standing at the press table. It took him almost three days to get up the courage to ask how a reporter from that pagan "The New York Times" knew those songs.

Christopher Miller

I'm just thankful that plenary #1 didn't last as long as Orlando.  Parliamentary mumbo-jumbo isn't going to get the 'job' done.  Once we get to the meat of the issues, that's when we'll probably see sparks fly.


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