After thorough discussion and with great reluctance, the Conference of Presidents (COP) has concluded that the district conventions, scheduled for early June, will be canceled due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 virus. Even though it might seem somewhat early to cancel the conventions, a decision needed to be reached now to enable districts to cancel their contracts with convention facilities with no penalty.
The COP did consider whether the conventions could be postponed until later in the summer or early fall. However, several districts would not be able to hold district conventions at a later date due to unavailability of meeting facilities and accommodations for delegates. The COP also discussed whether virtual conventions could be held, but several districts concluded that a virtual convention would not be practical. The COP agreed that if some districts could not hold conventions, none should.
On the positive side, a benefit of canceling district conventions will be a significant cost savings. This is in keeping with synodwide efforts already undertaken to reduce expenses in the coming year.
Even though we cannot hold “regular” district conventions as the bylaws state, we will continue to walk together in our common confession of faith and shared mission. It is our commitment to the truths of Scripture and our commitment to carry out God’s work that will guide us in times such as these—times that constitutions and bylaws could not have foreseen. Even without specific guidance from bylaws, we are committed to moving forward in a united way, striving to do all things in good order.
With no district conventions, normal elections will not be able to be held. Instead, we will plan to have elections for the district officers conducted electronically. The details of how this will be done are still to be worked out, but we have been assured that called worker delegates and congregational delegates will be able to participate.
Once the district officers are elected, we will follow the bylaw that gives responsibility to the district presidents, with input from the other district officers, to appoint people to serve in offices in which elections would have been held at the conventions. The district presidents will appoint those currently serving to continue in their positions until the next district conventions if they are willing to serve and if they have not reached the time limit for serving. For vacant offices in which there is no incumbent, the district presidents will make appointments using the information that the district nominating committees have assembled.
The decision regarding the proposed changes to the synod’s retirement program will likely be deferred to the 2021 synod convention. The planned discussion of the document “Male and Female in God’s World” also will not happen at the district conventions this summer; rather, discussions and study will continue in pastor and teacher conferences.
A digital version of the Report to the Twelve Districts as well as other important materials will be made available to each congregation and to district convention delegates.
We pray for the day when lives return to something like normal.
Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder