A Historical Review of the Relationship Between District and Synod, by August Suelflow, Summarized by Dr. Ken Schurb

Pastor Charles Henrickson passed along this timely summary of a report given to the synod back in 1961 when structural changes were being considered. It was written by LCMS historian August Suelflow and is summarized for us here by Dr. Ken Schurb, formerly the assistant to synodical president Al Barry.

As you read Dr. Schurb’s summary of this report notice how things have changed in our synod. Notice that there was formerly much more emphasis on doctrinal supervision. Notice how the role of the circuit counselor (originally called the “circuit visitor”) has morphed from a doctrinal supervisor to an administrative promotional man for the district and synod, a great loss indeed. Notice too that the synod formerly paid the salaries of its college and seminary teachers. These days, they have all been forced to support themselves financially setting the stage for individualism and a lack of unity. It used to be the case that each district was responsible to pay dues to the synod so that the proceedings of their district convention, particularly the doctrinal paper, be sent to all other members of synod so that all would know what was going on in each district. (Notice that those doctrinal papers were reviewed by the St. Louis Seminary faculty for doctrinal purity. Today we have a beauracratic board – the CTCR – doing the work that should be done by our seminaries.) This practice of inter-district communication has long been lost. As a matter of fact, district conventions do not even have doctrinal papers presented anymore. Look for these and other changes as you read this insightful paper.

The synod of the past was far from perfect but there is a clear sense that the synod of old made doctrinal purity and theological unity top priorities. Let’s remain vigilant by learning more about what is going on in the synod today so that we can be informed participants. BJS will be providing more resources along these lines in the weeks to come.

Be sure to check out comment #16 on the “Being Steadfast Includes Being Vigilant” string for some more excellent resources on LCMS structure. Thanks to Rev. Jack Bauer for pointing these out for us. Pastor Wilken has given a firm endorsement for the “Three Walls” article listed there.

Also, if anyone has any news about proceedings at the convocation in St. Louis, please post your news and reflections here.

Pastor Rossow

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


A Historical Review of the Relationship Between District and Synod, by August Suelflow, Summarized by Dr. Ken Schurb — 2 Comments

  1. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    The new organization “Congregations Matter” has been arguing for the doctrinal independence of LC-MS districts since the recent premier of its website. The following essay by the LC-MS most revered historian, August Suelflow, ably summarized by Dr. Ken Schurb, tells the facts on the history of the relation of districts to synod. This will be necessary reading for delegates to this summer’s district conventions, since “Congregations Matter” looks to be intending to propagate its distorted history for political purposes.

    Here is the BJS post: https://steadfastlutherans.org/2008/08/a-historical-review-of-the-relationship-between-district-and-synod-by-august-suelflow-summarized-by-dr-ken-schurb

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  2. Thank you, Dr Noland, for the heads-up. It sounds like this group will use autonomy as license to do what is right in their eyes. Gee, where have I heard that before?

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