Governance — 2019-2023

Overview Guide to Participation

Congregation’s Governance Opportunities

This page explains how your congregation can contribute directly to the governance of its district and Synod throughout the triennial cycle, which has one year without convention, one year with district conventions (two years in the unique 2019–23 cycle) and one year with the Synod convention. Congregational leadership need to be aware of these opportunities well in advance:

  • to schedule items on the agendas of the right voters or other governance meetings so that action can be timely taken and

  • to announce those items ahead so that members of the congregation can prepare to offer input to each stage.

There are four broad categories of participation in Synod and district that are available to your congregation: Informed Participation (the foundation of all), Representation, Nomination, and Overture Submission.


Triennium Timeline    Specific Processes for Congregational Participation


The following is a broad and general summary; the specifics of each aspect during the district and Synod phases of the triennium and the circuit activities before each is detailed on

In each phase (1,2,3,4), specific actions (A, B, C, and D) are available to your congregation. Congregational leadership should plan ahead to make sure meetings are scheduled to address all these matters in the proper timeframe.

Giving regular attention to four general tasks (“Informed Participation,” “Representation,” “Nomination,” and “Overture Submission”) will help the congregation be prepared to wisely and timely exercise its rights and responsibilities to govern its district and Synod when the time comes for specific actions.

Bylaw references below are to the 2019 Synod Handbook, which has been mailed to each congregation and is also available online.

Congregational Contact – Now Primarily by Email

The Office of the Secretary and your district office will be attempting to keep your congregation and its leadership up to date on all these processes, providing helpful information and tools to ensure your congregation can participate to the fullest extent.

Please ensure that email contact information for lay leaders ( and church workers ( is kept up-to-date throughout the triennium.

Email contact is replacing the familiar postcards as the primary means of supporting congregational engagement in convention processes. We want to be able to reach your congregation!



Representation Overview

Your congregation or parish (that is, the number of congregations served by one pastor or pastor(s) as a multi-congregation parish, Bylaws 2.5.5–6) is represented:

  • at the visitation circuit forum (Action 1A; Bylaw 5.3.2);

  • at the electoral circuit forum (Action 3A; Bylaw [c]);

  • at the district convention (Action 2A; Const. Art. XII 10 a); and

  • in the election of the Synod president (Action 4A; Bylaw

by one pastoral delegate/voter (one of the called and installed pastors of your parish) and one lay delegate/voter (a member of your congregation it has “elected and deputed” to serve as representative). These can be the same or different persons for each of the above processes but must be officially designated ahead of time by the voters of the congregation or by a process the voters of the congregation have officially established.

If your congregation is part of a multi-congregation parish:

  • The parish should have an agreed-upon means of selecting its delegates and voters from among its pastor(s) and lay membership. Each parish selects one lay voting delegate/voter and one pastoral voting delegate/voter, not one voting delegate or voter per congregation.

  • If your congregation is not the congregation sending the parish’s voting lay delegate to a circuit forum or district convention, it may send an advisory lay delegate, with voice but no vote.

For the Synod convention, your congregation is represented, together with all the congregations of your electoral circuit, by a pastor of one of the congregations in the circuit and a layperson of another congregation of the circuit, both of whom are elected by the circuit (additionally, one pastor and one lay alternate are elected in case the delegates would be unable to attend).

Keep the role of representation before the congregation and/or parish so that representatives can be prepared and properly designated for each opportunity.



Nomination Overview

Your congregation has several opportunities to nominate individuals for service in the offices and on the boards and commissions of your circuit, district, and Synod.

In addition to opportunities for service in the areas of ecclesiastical oversight, evangelical counsel, and care of congregations, workers, and ministries of the district and Synod, open to ordained ministers, there are many important opportunities for commissioned ministers and congregational members, male and female, with the aptitudes and eagerness to serve as part of a governance or decision-making team on the behalf of the Synod, a district, or another agency.

Nominations are needed at different times through the triennium (see details below) for:

  • Circuit Visitor; submitted by the congregation. (Action 1B; Bylaw 5.2.2 [b])

  • President and Vice-Presidents of your district; submitted by the congregation. (Action 2C; See relevant district bylaws and communications)

  • Other Officers, Boards, and Commissions of your district; while each district has its own specific procedures, generally, any member of your congregation can obtain the proper form and submit a nomination to an elected nominating committee that will prepare slates of candidates for election at the convention. (Action 2B; See relevant district bylaws and communications)

  • In alternating conventions, half of the districts at a time supply either an ordained/commissioned minister or a layperson to serve on the Synod’s Committee for Convention Nominations. These district representatives are elected by the district convention, and nominations may be submitted as for other elected district positions (Action 2B; Bylaw

  • Lay delegate for your circuit (all circuit pastors are automatically on the ballot); submitted by the congregation. (Action 3B; Bylaw [e])

  • President and Vice-Presidents of the Synod (Action 4C; Bylaws 3.12.2, [a–b]); submitted by the congregation. Credentials and instructions will be sent to your congregation’s officers. (See Focus: Synod President and Vice-President Nominations)

  • Other Officers, Boards, and Commissions of the Synod (Action 4B; Bylaw; any member of your congregation can obtain the proper form and submit a nomination. The Office of the Secretary publishes information on the positions open for nomination, as well as the necessary forms and instructions, here: (See Focus: Synod Officer, Board, and Commission Nominations)

It would prove a blessing to the Synod if each congregation devoted even a little time each year to identifying and nominating individuals whose gifts uniquely suit them to serve well in these many capacities.

Keep the task of nomination before the congregation and/or parish so that names of capable individuals can be offered for service in the district and Synod.



Overture Submission Overview

Your congregation has many opportunities to submit an overture, that is, a suggestion for a convention to direct its district or Synod to take some action (Bylaws 3.1.6, It can do so through its circuit to the district (Action 1C) or Synod (Action 3C), through the district to the Synod (Action 2D), directly to the district (Action 2D) or directly to the Synod (Action 4D).

  • One form of overture every congregation should think about and contribute to through its circuit and district is an overture to suggest triennial mission emphases for the Synod and the districts.

  • Other overtures may treat all sorts of topics, limited only by the congregation’s insight and the challenges and opportunities that are apparent to it.

  • Overtures may even suggest amendments to the Bylaws and Constitution of the Synod. The multi-step process (See: Focus on Synod Convention Overture Submission; districts have distinct timelines but similar processes) 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 Synod—to be engaged long before the convention.

Make time for the congregation to discuss regularly the work of the district and Synod so it can be prepared to offer wise suggestions for improvement.



Informed Participation Overview

Your congregation is provided with information through various channels so it can be aware of and contribute to the governance of its district and its Synod. Leading up to conventions of the districts and Synod, your congregation will receive (or have access to through the Internet):

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: 2019 Handbook editions

    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 and 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.

    Download 2019 Triennium Report

  • 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 minutes of the Board of Directors meetings are also available online. 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, contain official notices related to convention business. The Reporter website ( also covers news relevant to the Synod and its internal and external work. As the Synod’s official magazine, The Lutheran Witness ( features stories and commentaries that interpret the contemporary world from a Lutheran Christian perspective.

  • 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 website (

  • “Life Together as Synod” video series: These short videos take a look at the Synod’s history; the church’s structure and governing documents; its boards, entities and institutions; how a rostered worker is called; and everything in between. New Lutherans or church workers with years of experience, will learn something new about Synod through this resource.

  • 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 1-888-843-5267 “1-888-THE-LCMS” or via the “Submit a question” form at

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: 2019 Workbooks (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.

    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: Today's Business editions
    (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: Convention Proceedings
    (Both the Synod and your district publish this material after each of their conventions.)

A congregation that keeps up on these periodic publications, or at least has leadership or delegates that do, is well-prepared to take an active role in governing its district and Synod so that they truly operate for and on behalf of the congregation and its sister congregations, as effective and efficient extensions of the congregations’ own God-given ministry.

An informed congregation is ready to make wise nominations, to discuss relevant issues with convention delegates, and to submit well-considered overtures to district and Synod conventions that will positively impact the life and work together of the Synod’s congregations for years to come.

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.

Keep the congregational leadership informed, and invite the broader membership to be informed, of the “doings and happenings in district and Synod so the congregation will be prepared to govern its district and Synod wisely.


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