In my blog dated June 6, 2016, I identified three issues as the most important at this summer’s LCMS national convention. Here is a concise summary of the action taken on those issues along with some brief reflections.
Ecclesiastical supervision. The floor committee put forth a proposal to amend the Bylaws of the Synod to allow an individual making a complaint against a member of the Synod, whose complaint has been dismissed by the district president, to appeal that dismissal to the President of the Synod. After a somewhat contentious discussion on the floor, the issue was remanded to the Board of the Directors of the Synod (who, under certain conditions, may be empowered to amend the Bylaws), in consultation with the Council of Presidents.
It is my hope and prayer that these two groups of significant LCMS leaders can come to an agreement that 1) allows serious matters that arise between members of the Synod to be dealt with in the way faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, while also 2) protecting members of the Synod from the necessity of having to defend themselves in multiple, protracted proceedings.
Licensed Lay Deacons. The process of district presidents licensing laymen for Word and Sacrament ministry, under the supervision of an ordained pastor, which has been in existence for nearly 27 years in the LCMS, is being terminated as of January 1, 2018. Deacons currently serving are being offered several routes to ministry, while a “loophole” for the continued licensing of lay deacons after that date is in place, allowing for the Council of Presidents as a group to allow licensed lay deacons to continue to be appointed and function. The resolution adopted indicates that the action taken should not be interpreted in such a way as to deny any congregation a ministry of Word and Sacrament.
Because of the way we typically begin ministries among ethnic groups in Texas (with licensed lay deacons who then typically pursue alternate routes to ordination), it will be necessary to find new, creative ways to serve these typically small groups who require a ministry in their native language.
Commission on Constitutional Matters Opinion on Congregational Involvement in Foreign Mission Work. In response to query from the office of the President of the Synod, in September 2014 the LCMS Commission on Constitutional Matters issued an opinion regarding Bylaw 3.8.3 declaring, among other things, that Synod congregations may not call workers for service in foreign mission fields and may not decide, for themselves, where to send financial support for foreign mission work.
Though 8 districts (including Texas) and 21 congregations submitted overtures to overrule this opinion, a resolution was never brought to the floor, nor was a report given to the convention concerning the issues raised by the overtures.
As a Synod, in my view, we must find a way to encourage and promote congregational mission work, not restrict and control it. Systems and processes should be put in place that allow congregations freely to share the Word of God wherever they choose to do so, while coordinating that work with brothers and sisters in Christ across the LCMS.
Let us all pray that the actions taken at this summer’s convention drive us to the heart of the mission statement of our church body: “vigorously to make known the love of Christ by word and deed.”
By: Rev. Jon Braunersreuther
Mission & Ministry Facilitator, Area D