Word of God Determines Doctrine, Not Commission on Constitutional Matters

Another issue of the Lutheran Clarion is out from the Lutheran Concerns Association. Here is the lead article from the magazine:

 

LCA-logoThe Formula of Concord, in the Lutheran Confessions, mentions Doctor Luther as asserting that “the Word of God is and should remain the sole rule and norm of doctrine, and that no human being’s writings dare be placed on a par with it, but that everything be subjected to it.” (Preamble to Resolution 3-01, 1973 LCMS Convention at New Orleans). [endnote 1]

[Editorial Comment: Resolution 3-01 of the 1973 Convention, adopting “A Statement,” and Resolution 3-09 “To Declare Faculty Majority Position in Violation of Article II of the Constitution,” are defining actions in the history of Confessional Lutheranism and the Synod. Both resolutions are posted at www.lutheranclarion.org.]

Synodical convention delegates in July 2013 will be given the opportunity to overrule the LCMS Commission on Constitutional Matter’s (hereafter CCM) ruling on syncretism. I encourage the delegates to do so. The resolution they should adopt is #4 -09, titled “To Overrule Commission on Constitutional Matters Opinion ‘Interpretation of Constitution Article VI 2 b’ (11-2598 CW pp. 300-303).” It is found in Today’s Business: Proposed Resolutions 2013. [endnote 2] The parenthetical reference is to the “opinion” of the CCM #11-2598 in three pages of the 2013 Convention Workbook. [endnote 3] I put “opinion” in quotes, because CCM decisions are binding and mandatory, not merely an opinion. I encourage you, the reader, to take some time to read these documents, whether or not you are a delegate.

“…reception of the Lord’s Supper, by itself, does not constitute ‘taking part in the services and sacramental rites’ of a congregation…” [CCM Opinion 11-2598]

Say what?!!

Here is a brief background to Resolution 4-09. On September 8, 2011, the President of the Rocky Mountain District asked the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (hereafter CTCR) whether it is “appropriate for a rostered LCMS pastor (active, emeritus, candidate, or non-candidate) to commune regularly at the altar of a congregation of a heterodox (ELCA [Evangelical Lutheran Church of America]) church body?” [endnote 4] The district president was dealing with a case in his district where this was the issue.

The CTCR correctly ruled that “it would not be appropriate to attend the Lord’s Supper in [such] a church,” and “‘communing regularly at the altar of a heterodox (ELCA) church body’ is ‘church fellowship with the adherents of false doctrine,’ such action is unionism.” [endnote 5] According to LCMS Constitution Article VI.2, “renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description” is one of the “conditions for acquiring and holding membership in the Synod.” [endnote 6] So according to the CTCR ruling, a rostered member of synod doing such things forfeits his membership.

Comes now the CCM. In its Opinion 11-2598, it rules on the same question, “No, reception of the Lord’s Supper, by itself, does not constitute ‘taking part in the services and sacramental rites’ of a congregation, as that phrase is used in Article VI, paragraph 2 b of the Constitution.” [endnote 7] Say what?!! You can read the convoluted argumentation for yourself. I won’t try to duplicate it here, because it doesn’t make any sense to me.

What is going on here? Here are some clues. At the beginning of Opinion 11-2598, it states that the CCM received four questions by a pastor of the synod requiring an interpretation of Article VI 2b. Notice that this did not come from a Reconciler, Dispute Resolution Panel, Appeal Panel or Review Panel under the procedures given in Bylaw 1.10.8.1 (h). [endnote 8] This meant that the person asking the question could determine the wording of the question, even if they were an interested party to a case. The wording of a question is often critical for determining the outcome from the CCM. According to the LCMS bylaws, any member of synod may ask for an Opinion from the CCM and “an opinion rendered by the commission shall be binding on the question decided unless and until it is overruled by a convention of Synod” (Bylaw 3.9.2.2 (c)). [endnote 9]

The CCM Opinion 11-2598 is now a binding LAW that all synodical officers have to follow, unless and until it is overruled by the convention. Thus the convention needs to pass Resolution 4-09 in order to uphold the Constitution of the Synod. If the convention does not pass Resolution 4-09, then the CCM ruling stands and any rostered member of synod can, I presume, take the Lord’s Supper anywhere and with anyone.

If no one realized this previously, now it is obvious that the entire Constitution and Bylaws of the synod could be amended by one person asking questions to a compliant CCM. The synod was warned about the problem of binding CCM opinions almost 20 years ago [endnote 10] and has ignored that warning.

For the present convention, there are a few resolutions before the delegates that could improve CCM functioning and should be adopted: Resolutions 6-04, 6-16, 7-11, and 7-12. [endnote 11] Resolution 4-07 should also be adopted, as it clearly states that LCMS rostered workers should not commune at heterodox altars. [endnote 12]

For the long term, the synod needs to rethink the functions of the CCM and how its members are appointed. It is too easily used as a “final-and-friendly court of appeal” in adjudication cases by parties who know how to use it. It is too easily used, as the present case demonstrates, as a way of avoiding “supervision over the doctrine, life, and administration of office” by the authorized church officer. [endnote 13] Furthermore, the CCM should never be involved in CTCR matters. Doctrine should be decided on the basis of Scripture, not constitutionality.

Rev. Dr. Martin R. Noland
Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, Evansville, Indiana

 

Endnotes —

1 See page 127 in Proceedings of the Fiftieth Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, New Orleans, Louisiana, July 6-13, 1973 (St Louis: LCMS, 1973).

2 See pages 93-94 in Today’s Business: Proposed Resolutions 2013, 65th Regular Convention, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Saint Louis, Missouri, July 20-25, 2013 (St Louis: LCMS, 2013). Online version is available here ; accessed May 31, 2013.

3 See pages 300-303 in Convention Workbook: Reports and Overtures 2013, 65th Regular Convention, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Saint Louis, Missouri, July 20-25, 2013 (St Louis: LCMS, 2013). Online version is available here ; accessed May 31, 2013.

4 See Convention Workbook: Reports and Overtures 2013, 83.

5 See Convention Workbook: Reports and Overtures 2013, 84.

6 See 2010 Handbook, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (St Louis: LCMS, 2010), 15. Online version is available here ; accessed May 31, 2013.

7 See Convention Workbook: Reports and Overtures 2013, 300.

8 See 2010 Handbook, 55.

9 See 2010 Handbook, 141.

10 See Martin R. Noland, “Law and Due Process in the Kingdom of the Left and the Kingdom of the Right,” in God and Caesar Revisited: Luther Academy Conference Papers No. 1, Spring 1995, No. 1 (Shorewood, MN: The Luther Academy, 1995), 47-58; and Martin R. Noland, “District Presidents and their Council: Biblical and Confessional Limitations,” in Church Polity and Politics: Papers Presented at the Congress on the Lutheran Confessions, Itasca, Illinois, April 3-5, 1997 (Crestwood, MO: Luther Academy, 1997), 156-172). These monographs can still be purchased in print versions online here and here ; accessed May 31, 2013.

11 Today’s Business: Proposed Resolutions 2013, 129, 142-143, 158-159, and 170-171.

12 Today’s Business: Proposed Resolutions 2013, 92.

13 LCMS Constitution XII.7; see 2010 Handbook, 20.

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