It’s time . . . to start submitting overtures regarding the issues confronting the LCMS.
The following are four overtures that address, in my opinion, some of the most significant issues that need to be dealt with at the LCMS 2016 convention in Milwaukee, July 9th-14th. I am issuing these overtures now so that interested persons may be able to submit them to their 2015 district conventions, in the form of an overture directed to the national convention for action.
Persons submitting these overtures to their district or synod may modify them as they please, although they need to realize that Constitutional and Bylaw amendments have been carefully worded to effect the needed change. Don’t forget that nominations for synodical office are now also open, until October 9, 2015. Information and forms for nominations may be found here.
Click here for the LCMS Handbook from LCMS.org. A PDF version of the DOC file available on that page (titled “2013 Handbook (Updated Nov. 19-20, 2014)”, named 2013_Handbook_January_12_2015_v2.doc) is available here.
OVERTURE ONE – TO SUPPORT PROPER ECCLESIASTICAL SUPERVISION IN SYNODICAL DISTRICTS
Whereas, in a recent case, charges of false doctrine against the accused party, who is a professor of theology at a private Lutheran university and a long-standing-and-vocal critic of the public doctrine of the LCMS, were dismissed; and
Whereas, his ecclesiastical supervisor, i.e., his district president, was responsible for this dismissal because he refused to initiate formal proceedings, but instead referred the case to a Referral Panel (Bylaw 2.14.5) that dismissed it; and
Whereas, this action was a dereliction of duty, since serious doctrinal charges need to be heard by the proper adjudicatory authorities, i.e., in this case the Hearing Panel (Bylaw 2.15.7); and
Whereas, the most important work of a district president is to see that the doctrine of the Synod, as described in Article II of its Constitution, is upheld by all rostered church-workers under his supervision; and
Whereas, a district is the Synod “in that place,” thus making a district president an officer of the Synod and accountable to it; and
Whereas, this recent action requires the President of the Synod to report such cases to the Synod (Constitution XI.B.2), but neither the Constitution nor Bylaws provide a means by which dereliction of ecclesiastical supervision can be addressed, other than expulsion from the Synod (Bylaw section 2.15), which may be too severe a punishment in such cases; therefore, be it
Resolved, that, in full accordance with Constitution XI.B.2, when a district president refuses to act according to the Synod’s Constitution, and refuses to heed the admonishment of the president of the Synod, that the president of the Synod will report such cases to the Synod in its national convention, with all significant details in documentation for the delegates only, giving them sufficient time to review the matter; and be it further
Resolved, that such cases will be resolved by the national convention itself through a simple impeachment process, whereby the district president in question shall have the opportunity to defend his actions (or failure to act) before the convention, and only members of the Council of Presidents shall have the opportunity to engage in a rebuttal or affirmation of that defense, with a simple majority of the convention voting to impeach; and be it further
Resolved, that such impeachment only entails removal from office, not expulsion from the Synod; and be it further
Resolved, that if the convention decides not to impeach, then the matter terminates and cannot be reviewed or appealed on the basis of the same actions (or failure to act) of that district president; and be it further
Resolved, that if the convention decides to impeach, then the president of the Synod who was elected (or re-elected) at the convention will appoint an interim district president for the vacated office—such interim district president: 1) must be an ordained minister; 2) must be a member–at the time of the synod convention–of the district whose president was impeached; 3) will be eligible for election in the normal way at the next district convention; and 4) will end his term of office in the normal manner if he is not re-elected; and be it further
Resolved, that this impeachment process may be utilized at the 2016 convention of the Synod; and be it finally
Resolved, that the Bylaws of the Synod be amended accordingly by the Commission on Handbook to include this impeachment process.
OVERTURE TWO – TO STANDARDIZE ADMISSION TO THE LORD’S SUPPER IN SYNOD CONGREGATIONS
Whereas, there is a wide diversity of practice in admission to the Lord’s Supper in Synod congregations, therefore be it
Resolved, that Constitution Article VI be amended to insert the following point between present points 2 and 3 as a new point:
“Congregations and pastors shall admit to the Lord’s Supper only persons who are communicant members in good standing of Synod congregations or who are communicant members in good standing of Lutheran congregations in altar fellowship with the Synod. Exceptions to this rule may be made by pastors or chaplains in cases of: 1) imminent death–or the possible threat of the same, 2) emergency, 3) war, 4) severe illness, 5) intense personal crisis, or 6) individuals who are in a “state of confession”; but only for Lutherans who were at some time communicant members of a Lutheran congregation. In such cases, the pastor or chaplain shall make an examination of such person’s understanding of the Lord’s Supper prior to communing him or her, if that is possible.”
OVERTURE THREE – TO PROVIDE FOR DOCTRINAL REVIEW OF NON-SYNODICALLY APPROVED WORSHIP AND CATECHETICAL MATERIALS
Whereas, there is a wide diversity in the worship and catechetical materials used by the congregations of the Synod and there is no provision for the doctrinal review of such materials that are non-synodically approved, therefore be it
Resolved, that present Constitution Article VI.4 be amended by adding this paragraph at the end of present point 4:
“The doctrinal purity of official agenda, hymnbooks, and catechisms shall be determined by the national convention of the Synod. The doctrinal purity of non-synodically approved worship and catechetical materials shall be decided by the individual congregations using such materials. Any communicant member in good standing of a Synod congregation may challenge the doctrinal purity of non-synodically approved worship or catechetical materials, whether those materials are used by his or her own congregation, by another congregation of the Synod, or by an entity or agency of the Synod. Such challenge shall be in the form of a written appeal to the Commission on Doctrinal Review, which shall issue its ruling to all relevant parties in a timely manner.”
OVERTURE FOUR – TO PRESERVE THE USE OF THE HISTORIC LUTHERAN LITURGY AND HYMNS IN SYNOD CONGREGATIONS
Whereas, there is a wide diversity in the worship materials used by the congregations of the Synod, and in many cases, the historic Lutheran liturgy and hymns have been completely neglected in regular use, therefore be it
Resolved, that present Constitution Article VI be amended to insert the following point between present points 4 and 5 as a new point:
“Congregations and pastors shall exercise their responsibility for training children, youth, and inexperienced adults in the Lutheran religion by making regular–but not necessarily exclusive–use of: 1) the historic Lutheran liturgy for communion services; and 2) the hymns which have been published in the official hymnbooks of the Synod. Although the order of the elements in the historic Lutheran liturgy may be varied, the following elements shall be retained in such regular use, in order to demonstrate a congregation’s unity with the ancient church and the Synod: 1) the Kyrie; 2) either the Gloria in Excelsis or “This is the Feast”; 3) the Lessons; 4) one of the three ancient, ecumenical creeds; 5) the Sermon; 6) the Sanctus; 7) the Lord’s Prayer; 8) the Words of Institution; 9) the Agnus Dei; and 10) the Distribution of the Body and Blood of our Lord. No particular musical setting or instrument is hereby recommended. Everything in Lutheran worship is to be done reverentially and faithfully, and in a manner which best serves good order, evangelical decorum, Christian discipline, and the edification of the church (FC SD X, 7 & 9).”