Resolution To Memorialize Synod To Return to a Pastoral-Based Model of Governance

Convention fast approaches.  A good thing some District Presidents and Synod President Harrison have done is to emphasize the need for administrators to stay connected to the local parish.  This resolution helps to set that goal for all administrative positions.


To Return to a Pastoral-Based Model of Governance.

2016_SynodConvention-side2Whereas, regarding church governance, we confess, “Therefore the Church can never be better governed and preserved than if we all live under one head, Christ, and all the bishops equal in office (although they be unequal in gifts), be diligently joined in unity of doctrine, faith, Sacraments, prayer, and works of love, etc., as St. Jerome writes that the priests at Alexandria together and in common governed the churches, as did also the apostles, and afterwards all bishops throughout all Christendom, until the Pope raised his head above all.” (Smalcald II:IV, par 9) and

Whereas, the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod (LCMS) has accepted C.F.W. Walther’s Church and Ministry as a correct explanation of our Lutheran Confessions, in which we state, “The holy ministry, or the pastoral office, is an office distinct from the priestly office, which belongs to all believers…. The ministry is the highest office in the Church, from which, as its stem, all other offices of the Church issue.” (C.F.W. Walther, Church and Ministry, Theses 1&9) and

Whereas, the Lutheran Church, in her official confession, makes the following complaint against the Roman Church, ” they neither are, nor wish to be, true bishops, but worldly lords and princes, who will neither preach, nor teach, nor baptize, nor administer the Lord’s Supper, nor perform any work or office of the Church…” (Smalcald III:X, par 1) and

Whereas, over the years, the LCMS has allowed District Presidents to leave the pastoral office in the congregation in order to serve as “Ecclesiastical Supervisors”, which means that we remove men from “the highest office in the church”, giving them so many worldly, duties that they are no longer officially connected to the pulpit, font, and altar of a congregation, which means that they do not have opportunity to regularly “preach, nor teach, nor baptize, nor administer the Lord’s Supper”, but rather must serve in an office that is first and foremost beholden to the bylaws of synod, rather than the Word of God, and

Whereas, the Apostles themselves rejected this practice, choosing instead to labor in the word and prayer, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” (Acts 6:2) and

Whereas, our synod president has set an admirable precedent by accepting a call to a local parish to serve as a pastor, thereby continuing to preach, teach, baptize and administer the Lord’s Supper, as our confessions admonish us to do, and

Whereas, a majority of districts have at least one, and often several, pastors who have been asked to leave service at the altar and pulpit of a congregation in order to serve as synod officers or executives, and the national synod allows for the same exclusively extra- congregational service, and

Whereas, the Word of God, in Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, extolls the reverse of this practice and admonishes against our current practice, therefore be it

Resolved that the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod begin the process of returning to a parish based model of governance, and be it further

Resolved, that a temporary Blue Ribbon Commission on Synod Administration (BRCSA), be formed, which will be considered an ad hoc committee for purposes of synod service, and that this Commission be empowered to evaluate the duties of the officers of synod, and to recommend such changes as are necessary so that they can continue to fulfill their constitutional and bylaw required duties while also serving faithfully in a congregation; the Commission to be composed of seven persons chosen by the President of the Synod, according to the following manner : One District President serving full time, One District President who, at the time that this resolution is approved be serving both as a District President and as a parish pastor, a Vice President of the Synod, a parish pastor, a faculty member from the Concordia University System who teaches business or administration, a member of the Commission on Constitutional Matters or Commission on Handbook, and a layperson, and be it further

Resolved that the BRCSA report will recommend the necessary operational changes such that Bylaw 2.11.1 may be amended at the 2019 convention, by deleting sub paragraphs (d), (e), (f) & (j), and that the following words from subparagraph (k) “An executive or professional staff member ” be replaced with “a deployed missionary or teacher” and be it further

Resolved that the final report of the BRCSA, with recommendations for returning to a pastoral-cased model of governance, be delivered to the synod no later than the beginning of the first District Convention in 2018, for consideration at the synod convention in 2019, and be it finally

Resolved that nothing in this resolution be so construed as to apply to emeritus members of the synod.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


Resolution To Memorialize Synod To Return to a Pastoral-Based Model of Governance — 16 Comments

  1. This resolution would be utterly impossible. What does it serve? We are already pastoral based in reality, district only serves as advisory anyway.
    First of all, does the NID president have to leave totally his parish (not sure of the exact rules), could he not retain an assistant call?

  2. How does this resolution fit in with this announcement: The FiveTwo StartNew process was officially unpacked by Rev. Bill Woolsey at the All Pastor’s Conference and is the Michigan District’s new approach to mission and ministry starts. StartNew is a two-year process and the first step is an online preassessment. To get started, click here and view a short video. If you have any questions regarding the StartNew process, contact Rev. Dr. Robert Kasper at [email protected] or 734.655.3791 ext.230

  3. Maybe the DPs can get “honorary pastorates,” just like honorary doctorates are doled out and treated like the real thing.

  4. Baby steps. This resolution will not pass. What is needful, and will not happen, is to return to the episcopal form of church government – with the bishops also serving as pastors – rather than trying to mimic the Presbyterians.

  5. Here is the problem, we like being this way; truly many do not want change.

    01) How many Churches and Pastors (both confessional and so called non-confessional) simply ignore the DP and district, because those people are of different mind.
    02) Come on, who really wants a bishop to come and tell us what to do. We know what to do! That would be the answer from many.

    Does not really matter what you do to Synod, they are only advisory. Sure, the DP can with Synod revoke a pastor, and perhaps force a Church out of Synod; but as we know, the Church can retain the pastor, etc. Per our theology of the call (all you Walther men).

  6. Anyone who says “temporary Blue Ribbon Commissions on Synod Administration (BRCSA)” are the solution rather than profound symptoms of how far we’ve wandered from our Confessional roots (and for Carl’s sake, into “Americanishe Probelherrshaft”) has lost me, period.

  7. In my district, the DP is also a pastor. The district covers the cost of a vicar so that the DP is free to travel as necessary, but is still firmly grounded in his congregation.

    I find it odd that such a scenario seems untenable to many.

  8. @Mary Moerbe #7
    I do not think it is untenable, truly depends on the district. In the case of the NID, knowing President Gilbert, he could retain a call to a parish, but truly would have absolutely no time to help there in a realistic capacity.
    Seeing some of the stuff that goes on in district, he has his hands full.

    As for leaving a vicar there, who then is the supervising pastor while the DP is off and about?

  9. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    First, thanks to Norm for finding and publishing this overture. It is worth considering. It was the way things used to be in the LCMS, even up until the 1960s in most districts.

    The pastor who baptized me (Dr. Arthur Brohm) was a full-time pastor without associate or vicar, and he was also full-time district president of the C-N-H district, which extended from Crescent City, CA on the north, to Bakersfield, CA on the south, from Wendover, NV on the east, to Wahiawa, Oahua, HI on the west. He had these two positions for twenty to thirty years, was very competent, and was well loved.

    Part of the issue today are all the duties that the bylaws require of the district presidents, both at the synod level and the district level. You really can’t ask them to serve a congregation AND do all of that stuff.

    The Lutheran Concerns Association has been talking about the issue of the duties and powers of the District Presidents. They came up with another overture to consider, which you can find here (scroll to bottom, see Overture Three):

    An article by myself that explains these three overtures can be found here: Folks who subscribe should be getting this issue in the mail soon.

    If you don’t subscribe to the Lutheran Clarion, you can get a print or digital subscription here (scroll to bottom for info): That page also has free back issues to download.

    So much good stuff can be found on the web, for free!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  10. @Mary Moerbe #7

    In my district, the DP is also a pastor. The district covers the cost of a vicar so that the DP is free to travel as necessary, but is still firmly grounded in his congregation.

    Just the other day we were told that your vicar should not be preaching, especially in the Pastor’s absence. (I assume that is what he is there for, at least in part?)

    Seems we have a collision of ideas here. [An “alternate route” man, with less education, but Ordained, would no doubt be acceptable to some?] 😉

  11. Isn’t the benefit here that the Synod President as well as DPs will have more doctrinal authority? Being a WELS outsider, I don’t know the inner workings of LCMS policies, but as it’s been explained to me, the SP has no power to remove false teachers because he is not viewed as a pastor or spiritual head, just an executive.

  12. Dear Jonathan (comment #11),

    I am not sure that the overture Norm posted would give either synod president or district president more authority over doctrinal matters. I didn’t see anything in its Resolveds that would do that.

    The LCMS synod presidents and district presidents have always had the powers and duties to remove false teachers, but each in their own sphere of operation.

    The district presidents are responsible for doctrinal oversight of the pastors, teachers, and other rostered workers who are in their districts (see LCMS Const. XII.7).

    The synod president is specifically responsible for doctrinal oversight of: all officers of the synod, all employees of the synod, the individual districts of the synod (i.e., their conventions and corporate agencies), and all district presidents (see LCMS Const. XI.B).

    The bylaws have confused some of these relationships, which is one reason the LCA has developed Overture Three (see ).

    The bylaws also have nothing clearly stated about how a synod president may remove a district president from office without removing him from synod membership entirely. That is why the LCA has developed Overture One (see ibid.).

    District presidents who have been usurping the rights of congregations in call matters is the concern of Overture Two (see ibid.).

    Neither synod presidents nor district presidents are “just an executive.” They are that, but also more than that.

    I hope this helps a bit.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  13. @Martin R. Noland #12

    The bylaws also have nothing clearly stated about how a synod president may remove a district president from office without removing him from synod membership entirely. That is why the LCA has developed Overture One (see ibid.).

    It seems to me we have too many by-laws and they are supposedly more important than Scripture and the Confessions’ They seem to be referred to more often.
    Perhaps any DP who needs to be removed from office is sufficiently un-Lutheran so that he should be removed from Synod as well?

  14. @helen #10
    Dear Helen and other BJS bloggers,

    Once again, be careful, an ordained man is just that, “ordained”. Education is a component of that, and education is an ongoing thing.

    I can tell you, some MDIVers are pompous, entitled, etc. men; even though they have the paper. Others are wonderful and use their education and go on for more.

    Many alternate route men toil, go on for more education, have some life experience that is brought into the parish. And yes, some are replacing parish pastors wrongly.

    I am sort of getting a bit tired of the bashing. Please be respectful of the pastors that toil in the parish ministry, bringing Word and Sacrament to His people.

  15. @#8 from Pastor Prentice. The Oklahoma district is a small one, which I’m sure is why we have been able to sustain such a practice.

    Admittedly, President Henke also has an associate (or assistant) pastor.

    @#10 from Helen. I’m not sure I know what you are talking about–it seems like you are making allusions. Vicars can still make visits, help in schools, etc. I’m sure they are a tremendous asset during the week as well as on Sundays. In Oklahoma, President Henke also has another pastor on staff, so the congregation is never without a pastor, even when Rev. Henke is traveling to COP meetings or something.

  16. @Mary Moerbe #15

    #10 from Helen. I’m not sure I know what you are talking about–it seems like you are making allusions.

    I was talking about a discussion of limitations on the activities of vicars here (which I didn’t entirely agree with, BTW). It was not clear that your DP had another Pastor as well as a Vicar to cover in his absences. In that case, ignore the comments above as irrelevant.

    @Pastor Prentice #14

    I can tell you, some MDIVers are pompous, entitled, etc. men; even though they have the paper. Others are wonderful and use their education and go on for more.

    It’s true that some men are more “self congratulatory” than others. 🙂
    I wouldn’t limit that to MDiv’s; those I’ve known haven’t been conspicuous about that trait. But you “brothers” may be more likely to show that to each other than to me. That’s not uncommon among brothers, is it? 🙁

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