Memorials and Resolutions Guidelines from the Secretary of the ELCA's Office
I. What is the Difference between a Memorial and a Resolution?
In 1988, the Church Council voted that communications from synods to the churchwide organization and the Churchwide Assembly would be made pursuant to ELCA constitutional and bylaw provisions. Essentially, this action affirmed three avenues for communication: (1) Synod Assemblies may address the Churchwide Assembly through memorials; (2) Synod Councils may address the ELCA Church Council through resolutions; and (3) Synod Councils may address churchwide units or offices through the ELCA Church Council’s Executive Committee (including forwarding resolutions adopted by Synod Assemblies).
Although both memorials and resolutions are requests by a synod for action, they are intended to address different issues and are processed differently.
Memorials address broad policy issues and are passed by Synod Assemblies for consideration by the Churchwide Assembly. Synod Councils are not authorized to adopt memorials for submission to the Churchwide Assembly. One of the responsibilities of the Churchwide Assembly, in accordance with provision 12.21.c, in the Constitution, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is to “[r]eceive and consider proposals from synod assemblies.” Once received by the churchwide organization, they are referred to the Memorials Committee, which is appointed by the Church Council to review and make recommendations to the Churchwide Assembly, in accordance with bylaw 12.51.21. The Memorials Committee meets approximately six to eight weeks before the Churchwide Assembly.
Resolutions are requests from synods to the Church Council or units or offices of the churchwide organization. Either Synod Assemblies or Synod Councils may originate resolutions. Frequently, Synod Councils pass resolutions between meetings of the Synod Assemblies and forward them directly to the Church Council for consideration or to the Church Council Executive Committee if the desired action involves referral to a unit or office of the churchwide organization. As a practical matter, resolutions have a more narrow focus than memorials because they are requests for consideration or action by individual units or offices or the Church Council. Thus, for example, a request for the Church Council to recommend a parliamentary rule or action by a unit would be the subject of a resolution, but a request to change an ELCA policy should be a memorial.
A resolution and a memorial are not to be combined in one action. In addition, a synod should not address both the Church Council and the Churchwide Assembly on the same subject. The Office of the Secretary, with the concurrence of the Executive Committee of the Church Council, may treat a proposal characterized as a memorial as a resolution or vice versa. In these circumstances, the synod will be notified promptly of the re-classification.
It also is important to point out that resolutions and memorials cannot direct the churchwide organization to take action. They are proposals requesting the specified action.
Please note that memorials adopted at this year’s Synod Assemblies will not come before the Churchwide Assembly until 2016. If issues addressed by your Synod Assembly require a timely response, it would be appropriate to consider a resolution to the Church Council rather than a memorial to the Churchwide Assembly.
Interdependence, as well as stewardship of resources, requires care to avoid resolutions and memorials that impose unreasonable financial demands on synods and the churchwide organization. If a proposed resolution or memorial will impose an unfunded mandate if adopted, Synod Councils are requested to review the proposed action before submission to Synod Assemblies. Synods also are requested to advise their Synod Councils and Synod Assemblies that the churchwide organization may not be able to support requested resolutions or memorials for budgetary reasons and that, if adopted, such proposed actions may have adverse consequences on existing programs or ministries. As interdependent partners, it is important for synods and the churchwide organizations to work collaboratively. If questions exist regarding the potential implications of a proposed resolution or memorial, inquiries to the Office of the Secretary are encouraged.
II. Drafting Memorials and Resolutions
Provision S7.32. in the Constitution for Synods states: “Robert’s Rules of Order, latest edition, shall govern parliamentary procedure of the Synod Assembly, unless otherwise ordered by the assembly.” A comparable bylaw 12.31.09., is in the Constitution, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Both memorials and resolutions are forms of main motions under Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised (11th ed.), Section 10. A main motion is simply a motion that brings business before the assembly. It is the basic mechanism to present a matter to the assembly for possible action.
Resolutions and memorials frequently contain both “resolved” clauses and “whereas” clauses. “Resolved” clauses state the action to be taken by the assembly; “whereas” clauses constitute a preamble describing the reasons for the proposed action. “Whereas” clauses are not required; in fact, Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised (11th ed.), Section 10, page 107, discourages their use:
In general, the use of a preamble should be limited to cases where it provides little-known information without which the point or the merits of a resolution are likely to be poorly understood, where unusual importance is attached to making certain reasons for an action a matter of record, or the like.
If “whereas” clauses are used, there should be as few as necessary. They should be succinct and factual. They should not be argumentative. These should be reviewed to ensure that any “whereas” clauses comply with Robert’s Rules of Order.
“Resolved” clauses, if adopted, become the officially worded statement of an action taken by a legislative body and a request for further action by the churchwide organization or the Churchwide Assembly. This means that they should be concise, accurate, and complete. They also should be unambiguous and should state clearly the proposed action. Just as any main motion, “resolved” clauses should not employ offensive language that would be improper in debate, according to Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised (11th ed.), Section 10, page 104.
Some resolutions and memorials should not be considered. Any resolution or memorial that conflicts with the governing documents of this church is an “improper motion.” As stated in Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised (11th ed.), Section 39, page 343:
Motions that conflict with the corporate charter, constitution, or bylaws of a society, or with the procedural rules prescribed by national, state, or local laws, are out of order, and if any motion of this kind is adopted, it is null and void.
Synod Councils are encouraged to work closely with the Reference and Counsel Committee or Resolutions Committee to craft resolutions and memorials that do not conflict with the governing documents and meet the required criteria.
Memorials must include a final “resolved” clause asking the Churchwide Assembly to act (or refrain from acting) in a particular way. Here is a sample final paragraph of a memorial from a Synod Assembly:
RESOLVED, that the __________ Synod Assembly memorialize the 2016 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to . . . [clearly describe the proposed course of action].
The final “resolved” clause of resolutions will differ depending upon whether they are intended for the attention of the Church Council or a churchwide unit or office. Here are sample final paragraphs for resolutions:
RESOLVED, that the ________ Synod Assembly direct the Synod Council to forward this resolution to the Church Council for consideration and possible action.
RESOLVED, that the ________ Synod Assembly direct the Synod Council to forward this resolution to the Church Council’s Executive Committee for referral and disposition to the appropriate unit or office of the churchwide organization in accordance with the bylaws and continuing resolutions of this church.
RESOLVED, that the _______ Synod Council request the Church Council to . . . [clearly describe the proposed course of action].
RESOLVED, that the _________ Synod Council request the Church Council’s Executive Committee to . . . [clearly describe the proposed course of action by a Churchwide unit or office].