Congregations matter. For several years we have been silent, letting our Synod drift into the trouble we see at every hand. We have been focusing on local matters and serving the Lord in the harvest field. As we have worked, our Synod leadership has lost its focus. Synod’s first responsibility is to serve congregations and assist them in their work for the Kingdom of God. That’s not happening now.
Silence Doesn’t Mean We Agree
We have been silent — and our beloved Synod has drifted off course. Our Synod’s elected leadership is not focused on their historic roles. Instead, more and more power and decision-making responsibility is in the hands of fewer and fewer — and there is less and less opportunity for other voices to be heard.
Our current leadership will not listen to our elected District Presidents. Our Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) is supporting our Synodical President in his efforts to change our Synod despite overwhelming evidence from our history and precedence from CCM rulings of the past. The responsibility for this change for the worst lies chiefly in the Synodical President’s office. It’s time for a change.
We have let our beloved synod drift. No longer will we stand by and let our Synod suffer. We need a change of leadership if we are to return our Synod to her rightful work and advance the Kingdom of God.
Congregations Matter© is a movement of churches, laypeople and pastors committed to the restoration of our Synod to its historic roles of strengthening and supporting congregations. That’s what our LCMS Constitution so plainly describes in Article III and VII:
Article III Objectives:
The Synod, under Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, shall—
- Conserve and promote the unity of the true faith (Ephesians 4:3–6; 1 Corinthians 1:10), work through its official structure toward fellowship with other Christian church bodies, and provide a united defense against schism, sectarianism (Rom. 16:17), and heresy;
- Strengthen congregations and their members in giving bold witness by word and deed to the love and work of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and extend that Gospel witness into all the world;
- Recruit and train pastors, teachers, and other professional church workers and provide opportunity for their continuing growth;
- Provide opportunities through which its members may express their Christian concern, love, and compassion in meeting human needs;
- Aid congregations to develop processes of thorough Christian education and nurture and to establish agencies of Christian education such as elementary and secondary schools and to support synodical colleges, universities, and seminaries;
- Aid congregations by providing a variety of resources and opportunities for recognizing, promoting, expressing, conserving, and defending their confessional unity in the true faith;
- Encourage congregations to strive for uniformity in church practice, but also to develop an appreciation of a variety of responsible practices and customs which are in harmony with our common profession of faith;
- Provide evangelical supervision, counsel, and care for pastors,
teachers, and other professional church workers of the Synod in the performance of their official duties;
- Provide protection for congregations, pastors, teachers, and other church workers in the performance of their official duties and the maintenance of their rights;
- Aid in providing for the welfare of pastors, teachers, and other church workers, and their families, in the event of illness, disability, retirement, special need, or death.
Article VII Relation Between Synod and Its Members
- In its relation to its members the Synod is not an ecclesiastical government exercising legislative or coercive powers, and with respect to the individual congregation’s right of self-government it is but an advisory body. Accordingly, no resolution of the Synod imposing anything upon the individual congregation is of binding force if it is not in accordance with the Word of God or if it appears to be inexpedient as far as the condition of a congregation is concerned.
- Membership of a congregation in the Synod gives the Synod no equity in the property of the congregation.
That is the full extent of what our brothers and sisters in Christ in years gone by desired from our Synod. Advice. Encouragement. Protection. Preparation of Church Workers. Resources. Help. That’s not what is always coming from our Synod leaders.
It’s Time for a Change — And Our Action
Instead of serving the Church, our Synod leadership has tried to turn that around, expecting congregations to serve Synod. It’s time to change that. Our work is simple — and hard:
Congregations Matter© is a movement within the LCMS that wants to restore the Synod to its historic role of providing congregations with advice, encouragement, and resources to carry out their evangelical role of teaching and baptizing in their communities, as they see best fit for their own circumstances.
Our Synod has gotten away from its historic role and is more focused on concentrating all authority, direction, and control in the International Center in St. Louis and in the hands of a few. That is not healthy for our Church. The health of our Church is our local congregations.
We Need Your Help
If you would like to join the movement, here are some things to do:
- Sign up for our email list and receive new posts from this site to become more informed on the issues.
- Make sure your congregation passes resolutions to district conventions and national conventions that support this effort. We must turn our LCMS leadership back to its historic role.
- Elect local delegates to the District and National conventions who will vote for the primacy of congregations, not the primacy of the Synodical President and his administration.
And one more thing. You have the responsibility to nominate men and women to serve as our leaders in Synod. Let’s choose leadership that will support congregations, not use congregations to support them.
So Why Don’t the Articles in Our Congregations Matter Newsletter Identify the Authors?
Some of our readers, including some pastors, have asked if we could indicate the names of the authors of particular articles. There are some valid reasons for this suggestion:
- It is too easy to be loose with criticism, and indulge in hyperbole, under a cloak of anonymity. One only has to read the “comments” on some popular blogs to see how people get carried away when they don’t have to identify themselves.
- Pastors are taught in our Seminary to ignore any anonymous flaming letters they receive. (And yes, even some Lutherans sometimes write flaming comments in the heat of the moment.)
- Bearing false witness is a sin, and if CM authors cross that line, they should be held to account.
Why does Congregations Matter Largely Publish Articles Without Naming the Authors?
First, we can assure our readers that we have given this some thought, and have reached a considered decision to generally not identify authors, unless, of course, an author specifically asks to have their name attached to a particular piece. Because we take this seriously, we should share our reasoning with you.
The first reason is simply logistical: Most of our articles are the product of a joint effort involving several authors, or at least are the result of input and discussion among several people. It would not be accurate, in that circumstance, to identify only one person as “the” author.
By contrast, it may also be misleading to list all individuals who have had a hand — or pen — in an article, from providing some actual language, or only review and comments, or just oral input. On balance, it is simpler not to identify anyone, rather than to draw fine lines.
A second reason is that the typical goal of identifying an author is to provide a locus of responsibility for the opinions or information in the article. That need is obviated, however, in the case of CM’s articles, because CM stands behind them, and is the source. Our website clearly identifies our mission, and our Advisory Team. If an article is misleading, or inaccurate, CM should be held accountable, and take responsibility for correction and, when appropriate, for apology.
Thirdly, CM avowedly seeks changes in the leadership of our Synod, and our reasons for doing so sometimes involve pointed criticism of our current leadership. Either our current leadership must change the way it works or we must change our current leadership.
Thus, to many members in our church body, our organization — and the articles we publish — are controversial.
New Ecclesiastical Supervision Issues
Some of our authors and supporters, however, are in sensitive positions in our church bodies, such as the pastors, where they are responsible for the spiritual needs of all their congregants. They have good reasons for not wanting to be publicly identified as an author of possibly controversial opinions concerning Synod leaders and Synod matters, out of a concern for bringing those Synod matters into their roles in their congregations.
Additionally, with the Synod President seeking and receiving the new right of direct ecclesiastical supervision, authors identifying themselves could easily become targets in peril. However, some nevertheless feel strongly about the issues that CM addresses, and feel that they should add their insights and opinions, for the good of our Synod.
Weighed on the Merits of Their Arguments
Those who seek a leadership role for themselves, of course, should be expected to discuss their views and their reasons for seeking leadership positions, publicly, openly and forthrightly. But others should be able to offer their views to be accepted or rejected on the merits of their arguments, without being tied to a particular personality, and without having their important roles as spiritual leaders affected.
That brings us to our last point, the value that advocacy has for its own merit, without being supported — or opposed — because of who it is identified with, beyond the identification with CM itself.
The Federalist Papers “Publius”
That value has an eminent history in our country dating from our earliest days of revolution against the British crown, when anonymity was often a matter of survival, but also in the ensuing political debates in our young nation. A familiar and important example is The Federalist Papers, published in the newspapers of the time to persuade states to ratify our new Constitution, but published under the pseudonym “Publius” for the avowed reason that the authors wished their arguments to be considered on their own merits, without regard to their own prominent and sometimes controversial identities.
That effort was successful, and it was not until some time after ratification that the authors became known: James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay.
Our efforts through Congregations Matter do not rise to the level of Constitutional ratification in our secular world, but we feel are important to our Synod and our Church body, and we want to offer our advocacy in the most effective way we think we can.
We don’t expect that everyone will agree with our approach, but we ask your indulgence, and your prayerful consideration of what we offer.