Checks and Balances are a good thing for governance

I am a Senior Pastor.  I not only am responsible by Divine Call for preaching, teaching, baptizing, absolving, and communing, but according to human arrangement I am also to lead, develop, supervise, and other things of an administrative nature.

With regards to all of these tasks, I am no lord over the congregation.  There are checks and balances on my authority.  That is good.  I am a sinner.  Even if a situation happens where I don’t sin, I don’t have all the wisdom in the world and may not be making the best decision.  The checks and balances of congregational membership and the various boards of my congregation (especially the Board of Elders) are GOOD for me and for the congregation I serve.

Government in a fallen world requires checks and balances.  Sinners sin.  They mess up.  They need correction.  We don’t always have all the wisdom of the world working in our favor so we can often err.  We have that in American government.  We have that in the congregation’s government as well.

There has been much outcry against the improvements being suggested to the Dispute Resolution Process, especially the return to being allowed to appeal things to the Praesidium of the Synod (Synod President, First Vice-President, 5 Regional Vice-Presidents).  Those crying out are upset that a decision by a District President can be appealed.   I said “return” because this was a part of the process that had been available in one form or another for 50 years before 2004.  But now, this return is being decried as a form of power-struggle and so forth.  Much of this outcry has come from District Presidents who of course stand to have a traditional check and balance restored to their office.

Again I repeat the Praesidium’s answer:

What does Resolution 12-01 actually propose?

Resolution 12-01 proposes to restore the right of an accuser to appeal to the Praesidium, if the district president declines to act. This, in fact, was the arrangement that Synod had for decades, from before 1956 up to 2004, based on the President’s general responsibilities articulated in Article XI of the constitution. During the time this option for appeal was available, it was actually used quite rarely.

If Resolution 12-01 is passed, will it take away from district presidents the ability to exercise ecclesiastical supervision of individual members in their districts and concentrate it instead in the Office of the President or the Praesidium?

No. The district president still has full ecclesiastical supervision over all of the congregations and rostered church workers of his district, as well as the full authority to take appropriate action. If, however, a district president fails to take action in a matter involving doctrine, the accuser then would have the right to appeal to the full Praesidium (not the President). The Praesidium would then decide whether the case should be closed or should move forward.

I am not a District President.  I am a Senior Pastor.  I am a sinner who needs checks and balances.  District Presidents are sinners also.  What would you think if your pastor was afraid of checks and balances upon his work in the parish?  What are we to think of District Presidents who do not want to allow appeals to another group?

 

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.

Comments

Checks and Balances are a good thing for governance — 7 Comments

  1. I too am a senior pastor and I have made mistakes and will again. My checks and balances first and foremost are my Board of Trustees and Board of Elders.

  2. Josh,
    Excellent analysis. I really liked your point that we are just returning to the former practice that served us well. The seven people that will hear these appeals are elected by the entire synod in convention. It seems like such a broad based group will serve the church well in the rare cases where they are needed to hear appeals.

  3. @Tim Klinkenberg #1

    Pastor Klinkenberg,

    As the First Vice President of the Pacific Southwest District, what is your position regarding checks and balances with respect to closed communion?

  4. Dear Pastor Scheer,
    Excellent post! Again I direct the readers to my history of LCMS adjudication given to the ACELC at Nashville in April 2016 (see http://www.acelc.net ), in print and video. The synod always gave its members the right of appeal in dispute cases and adjudication cases up until 1992, when it eliminated the Commission on Appeals. Then as you note in 2004 it gave the district presidents the power to dismiss with no right to even have the case heard, much less appealed to the CTCR or CCM. The right to appeal is a basic democratic right, although it is not found in episcopal forms of government. Restoring the right of appeal will restore the rights of LCMS members. I think that’s a good thing.
    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  5. @Tim Klinkenberg #1

    Rev. Klinkenberg,

    As First Vice President of the Pacific Southwest District, what is your position regarding checks and balances with respect to an admitted serial adulterer and resigned XXXA pastor, who also operated an unlicensed Las Vegas wedding chapel minister performing marriages the state did not recognize, who with the help of PSW DP Larry Stoterau in May 2013 made it through Step 8 of 14, supposedly including a district security check, in the Pastoral Colloquy: Application Process before the Synod 1st VP sheepishly stated, when warned, that the application materials submitted to the colloquy committee had nothing about Henney’s disreputable history, and yet, despite all this and not being on the LCMS roster of ordained ministers, who still serves for the last four years as a “pastor” of the PSW’s Lamb of God Lutheran Church (LCMS), Las Vegas?

  6. @Martin R. Noland #4
    …1992, when it eliminated the Commission on Appeals. Then as you note in 2004 it gave the district presidents the power to dismiss with no right to even have the case heard, much less appealed to the CTCR or CCM. The right to appeal is a basic democratic right….
    And (as you did not say), having made the DP’s “mini-popes” the dismissal of confessional pastors could proceed apace, since the men had no defender and no recourse whatsoever.

    And it did.

    Not that appealing to the CTCR or CCM would have helped in that decade.

  7. There have been a couple comments that I trashed because they were coming from an invalid email address, but they had some good content – they were clarifying the relationship of “Senior” vs. “Pastor”. The first, “Senior” is by manmade distinction. The second, “Pastor” is by divine call.

    In the parish I serve both parish pastors make that distinction very clear, evenly sharing the divinely given tasks and properly distinguishing the human ones according to the division of labor.

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