Back to Basics – The conditions of congregational membership in the LCMS

This is part 2 of 3 in the series Back to Basics

From the original constitution of the LCMS.

II. Conditions under which a congregation may join Synod and remain a member.

1. Acceptance of Holy Scripture, both the Old and the New Testament, as the written word of God and as the only rule and norm of faith and life.

2. Acceptance of all the symbolical books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (these are the, three Ecumenical Symbols, the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, the Apology, the Smalcald Articles, the Large and the Small Catechism of Luther, and the Formula of Concord) as the pure and unadulterated explanation and presentation of the Word of God.

3. Separation from all commixture of Church or faith, as, for example, serving of mixed congregations by a servant of the Church; taking part in the service and Sacraments of heretical or mixed congregations; taking part in any heretical tract distribution and mission projects, etc.

4. The exclusive use of doctrinally pure church books and schoolbooks. (Agenda, hymnals, readers, etc.) If it is impossible in some congregations to replace immediately the unorthodox hymnals and the like with orthodox ones, then the pastor of such a congregation can become a member of Synod only if he promises to use the unorthodox hymnal only under open protest and to strive in all seriousness for the introduction of an orthodox hymnal.

5. Proper (not temporary) calling of the pastors and orderly election of congregational delegates by the congregation. The life of both minister and delegate must be beyond reproof.

6. Provision of a Christian education for the children of the congregations.

7. Exclusive use of the German language in the synodical conventions. Only guests may use a different language if they cannot speak German.

8. Strangers cannot become members of Synod unless they can prove themselves to be thoroughly, orthodox in respect to doctrine and, life.

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.


Back to Basics – The conditions of congregational membership in the LCMS — 4 Comments

  1. #4 is fascinating. Note that word “pure” and the words “culturally relevant” have vastly different semantic meanings, only overlapping at some points.

    #7 is also really interesting… I wonder what degree of theological weight was attached to this one. It’s strange that it’d be in the same list as the rest of these.

  2. @K #2

    #7 made perfect sense when it was written; they didn’t want to shut the older German speakers out of congregational discussions.

  3. @helen #3

    Here’s a bit of an extension on your query/point. (and the issue is much more complex than this) The two synodical conventions to keep in mind as pivotal toward the use of English in official synodical business are 1935 and 1938. Pres. Behnken, himself a theological conservative, did see the need to encourage the use of the English language which was becoming more prominent in the U.S. among German-speaking Lutherans. Of course, this also fell between the United States’ involvement in the two world wars and amid the depression era. So, the climate supported this change.

    Of course, theologically, this was very trying since most of our good doctrine textbooks, including Pieper’s Christian Dogmatics and much of Luther’s writing were in the German language. So, as more and more men entered the seminaries without German fluency, lectures and textbooks had to be provided in English. And unlike today, that was a really slow process were it to be done carefully.
    Of course, there were positive developments due to the prevalent use of English such as the Lutheran Hour and the overall early programming of KFUO broadcasting Lutheran teaching to a whole swath more people. Negatively, the double thrust of less doctrinally pure English textbooks (sometimes borrowed from condensed or nonLutheran sources) and a growing prominence of professors receiving postgraduate training from higher critical sources in Germany created a hotbed of friction that was part of the fire that exploded in the era of Seminex.

    Point 7 in the list, however, does remind us of how we do need to be thorough and careful in our teaching/preaching and devotional material in our midst. And, while German is not the lengua franca of the synod, our pastors should be continually in the original languages of Holy Scripture so as to exegete, interpret and apply its richness for us today. Thank God for folks at CPH or who work adjunct with them and other presses such as Dr. Ben Mayes, Dr. McCain, Pastors Petersen and Freese, et al who are getting more and more writings of the Lutheran fathers into English at a greater prevalence in the past couple decades. Of course, a large portion of Luther’s writing is most accessible through the volumes of Luther’s Works, American Ed. first edited by Lehman and Pelikan and recently taken up again by others.

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