This summer’s national convention, gathering delegates from electoral circuits throughout the LCMS, is the principle legislative assembly of the church. As such, three issues loom large as the Synod seeks to work together.
LCMS President Matthew Harrison appointed a task force on ecclesiastical supervision. Its report proposes changes to synod bylaws that would permit a complainant to appeal to the Praesidium of the Synod a district president’s dismissal of charges against a rostered church worker or congregation. The task force contends such an appeal is necessary so that the president of the Synod can have an additional means at his disposal to guard the doctrine and practice of the LCMS. The Texas District Board of Directors, seven other districts, and 18 congregations have submitted overtures questioning the constitutionality of the proposal and arguing that placing the accused in double jeopardy is unfair.
CCM Opinion Regarding Congregational 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.
The Texas District, among seven other districts and 21 synod congregations, have submitted an overture to overrule this opinion as unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a congregation to self-governance guaranteed by Article VII of the synod’s constitution. The Texas District, along with 4 other districts and 8 congregations, have also submitted an overture to amend the bylaws of the Synod to clarify the right to congregational self-governance in these matters.
Licensed Lay Deacons
In 1989, the convention of the synod authorized district presidents to license men to preach and administer the sacraments under the supervision of a pastor in situations that demanded such a ministry. In practice, these ministries are typically, small, isolated, and/or ethnic in nature. Controversy has followed this practice and the 2013 convention of the synod mandated a task force to study the matter. The task force concluded that licensed lay deacons violate Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession and recommends that the Synod end the process of licensing lay deacons.
The Texas District Board of Directors has submitted an overture to the Synod convention questioning the theological basis of the task force’s proposal and supporting the continuation of the licensing of lay deacons. Additional overtures supporting licensed lay deacons were signed by 69 congregations and 19 districts (some congregations and districts submitting multiple overtures).
The convention workbook, contains the above-mentioned reports, overtures and opinions.
Please pray that the convention might make God-pleasing decisions regarding these important issues.
By: Rev. Jon Braunersreuther
Mission & Ministry Facilitator, Area D