Dear Friends,

Because we know the Gospel of full forgiveness by the blood of Jesus, we also recognize the voice of our Savior in Holy Scripture. “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27). Saying “yes” to the Gospel in faith and to His voice in Holy Scripture, we must also say “no” to what is not true and to what the Scriptures reject (Titus 3:10).

At this moment, I would invite all of you to note what you, the church, expect of all members of the Synod, including review panels, and of the Synod’s President. What follows are excerpts showing how our church has put into practice (however imperfectly) the infallible directions of Scripture (including freedom and love).

Note especially the following words about the president’s duties.

(c) [The President] shall call up for review any action by an individual officer, executive, or agency that, in his view, may be in violation of the Constitution, Bylaws, and resolutions of the Synod. [LCMS Bylaw 3.3.1.2 c.]

Also:

2. It is the President’s duty to see to it that all the aforementioned [officers, employees, individual districts, and district presidents of Synod] act in accordance with the Synod’s Constitution, to admonish all who in any way depart from it, and, if such admonition is not heeded, to report such cases to the Synod.

3. The President has and always shall have the power to advise, admonish, and reprove. He shall conscientiously use all means at his command to promote and maintain unity of doctrine and practice in all the districts of the Synod. [LCMS Constitution, Article XI, B. Duties of the President]

Note also that the bylaw on “dissent” from the doctrine of Synod does not grant any church worker the right to teach contrary to the Synod’s public doctrine.

1.8.1 While retaining the right of brotherly dissent, members of the Synod are expected as part of the life together within the fellowship of the Synod to honor and uphold the resolutions of the Synod.

1.8.2 Dissent from doctrinal resolutions and statements is to be expressed first within the fellowship of peers and then brought to the attention of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations before finding expression as an overture to the convention calling for revision or recision. While the conscience of the dissenter shall be respected, the consciences of others, as well as the collective will of the Synod, shall also be respected. [LCMS Bylaws]

What follows, for your study and consideration, are the pertinent words from our Synod’s Constitution and Bylaws, as they appear within their larger context.

Matt Harrison

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LCMS Constitution, Article II (Confession)

The Synod, and every member of the Synod, accepts without reservation:

  1. The Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament as the written Word of God and the only rule and norm of faith and of practice;
  1. All the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God, to wit: the three Ecumenical Creeds (the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed), the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, the Large Catechism of Luther, the Small Catechism of Luther, and the Formula of Concord.

LCMS Constitution, Article III (Objectives of Synod)

The Synod, under Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, shall—

  1. Conserve and promote the unity of the true faith (Eph. 4:3–6; 1 Cor. 1:10), work through its official structure toward fellowship with other Christian church bodies, and provide a united defense against schism, sectarianism (Rom. 16:17), and heresy;
  1. Strengthen congregations and their members in giving bold witness by word and deed to the love and work of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and extend that Gospel witness into all the world;
  1. Recruit and train pastors, teachers, and other professional church workers and provide opportunity for their continuing growth;
  1. Provide opportunities through which its members may express their Christian concern, love, and compassion in meeting human needs;
  1. Aid congregations to develop processes of thorough Christian education and nurture and to establish agencies of Christian education such as elementary and secondary schools and to support synodical colleges, universities, and seminaries;
  1. Aid congregations by providing a variety of resources and opportunities for recognizing, promoting, expressing, conserving, and defending their confessional unity in the true faith;
  1. Encourage congregations to strive for uniformity in church practice, but also to develop an appreciation of a variety of responsible practices and customs which are in harmony with our common profession of faith;
  1. Provide evangelical supervision, counsel, and care for pastors, teachers, and other professional church workers of the Synod in the performance of their official duties;
  1. Provide protection for congregations, pastors, teachers, and other church workers in the performance of their official duties and the maintenance of their rights;
  1. Aid in providing for the welfare of pastors, teachers, and other church workers, and their families, in the event of illness, disability, retirement, special need, or death.

LCMS Constitution, Article VI (Conditions of Membership)

Conditions for acquiring and holding membership in the Synod are the following:

1. Acceptance of the confessional basis of Article II.

2. Renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description, such as:

a. Serving congregations of mixed confession, as such, by ministers of the church;

b. Taking part in the services and sacramental rites of heterodox congregations or of congregations of mixed confession;

c. Participating in heterodox tract and missionary activities.

3. Regular call of pastors, teachers, directors of Christian education, directors of Christian outreach, directors of family life ministry, directors of parish music, deaconesses, certified lay ministers, and parish assistants and regular election of lay delegates by the congregations, as also the blamelessness of the life of such.

4. Exclusive use of doctrinally pure agenda, hymnbooks, and catechisms in church and school.

5. A congregation shall be received into membership only after the Synod has convinced itself that the constitution of the congregation, which must be submitted for examination, contains nothing contrary to the Scriptures or the Confessions.

6. Pastors, teachers, directors of Christian education, directors of Christian outreach, directors of family life ministry, directors of parish music, deaconesses, certified lay ministers, or candidates for these offices not coming from recognized orthodox church bodies must submit to a colloquium before being received.

7. Congregations and individuals shall be received into membership at such time and manner, and according to such procedures, as shall be set forth in the bylaws to this Constitution.

LCMS Constitution, Article XIII (Expulsion from the Synod)

  1. Members who act contrary to the confession laid down in Article II and to the conditions of membership laid down in Article VI or persist in an offensive conduct, shall, after previous futile admonition, be expelled from the Synod.

LCMS Constitution, Article XI. B. (Duties of the President)

The President has the supervision regarding the doctrine and the administration of

a. All officers of the Synod;
b. All such as are employed by the Synod;
c. The individual districts of the Synod;
d. All district presidents.

  1. It is the President’s duty to see to it that all the aforementioned act in accordance with the Synod’s Constitution, to admonish all who in any way depart from it, and, if such admonition is not heeded, to report such cases to the Synod.
  1. The President has and always shall have the power to advise, admonish, and reprove. He shall conscientiously use all means at his command to promote and maintain unity of doctrine and practice in all the districts of the Synod.
  1. The President shall see to it that the resolutions of the Synod are carried out.
  1. When the Synod meets in convention the President shall give a report of his administration. He shall conduct the sessions of the convention so that all things are done in a Christian manner and in accord with the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod….

LCMS Bylaws on the Duties of the President

3.3.1.2 The President shall oversee the activities of all officers, executives, and agencies of the Synod to see to it that they are acting in accordance with the Constitution, Bylaws, and resolutions of the Synod.

(a) He shall at regular intervals officially visit or cause to be visited all the educational institutions of the Synod and thereby exercise oversight over their administration as it relates to adherence to the Constitution, Bylaws, and resolutions of the Synod.

(b) He shall meet regularly with the Council of Presidents and, as deemed necessary, with individual district presidents or small groups of district presidents, to see to it that their administration is in accordance with the Constitution, Bylaws, and resolutions of the Synod. He shall receive regular reports on this subject from the district presidents.

(c) He shall call up for review any action by an individual officer, executive, or agency that, in his view, may be in violation of the Constitution, Bylaws, and resolutions of the Synod.

(1) If he deems appropriate, he shall request that such action be altered or reversed.

(2) If the matter cannot be resolved, he shall refer it to the Synod’s Board of Directors, the Commission on Constitutional Matters, and/or the Synod in convention as he deems appropriate to the issues and party/parties to the matter involved.

(3) This provision in no way alters the President’s constitutional duty to report to the Synod those who do not act in accordance with the Constitution and do not heed his admonition, as prescribed in Constitution Art. XI B 2.