The History, Theology and Practice of Congregational Self-Governance in the LCMS In terms of governance and order, the Missouri Synod has throughout its history balanced power between the baptized and the ordained. We have made our decisions at conventions through votes mediated by an equal representation of clergy and laity. These votes were not to be viewed as mandates, but as carefully crafted and thoroughly dialogued advice. In a fun, tongue-in-cheek essay, the Editorial Staff of Congregations Matter has provided another brief history of the LCMS on one issue: Congregational Self-Governance as opposed to the current Synod trend towards hierarchialism. The essay reviews our history, theology, and the unfortunate, current tendency of our Synod to move from prizing the Priesthood of All Believers and Congregational Polity toward a foreign, non-Lutheran emphasis on maintaining and growing the structure itself and fulfilling its needs at the expense of the our “first love”:
Our Concordia’s are asking for support from LCMS congregations. They want Synod to change the governance model of our university system to allow greater flexibility in the selection of members of their Boards of Regents. Congregations Matter also believes our university system will benefit from more regional regent representation. As a result, Congregations Matter proposes two overtures for your District Convention to consider. They address changes to the way members of Boards of Regents are chosen. Both support local governance. Both oppose the current model which gives more centralized control to the Synod President and a St. Louis hierarchy. First, An Overture for Localized Control of Regent Size All nine Concordia University System (CUS) schools endorse these changes to their outdated 1992 governance model. Click here to download the overture “To Modify the Governance of the Colleges and Universities of the Concordia University System.” In November, Congregations Matter introduced an
At Congregations Matter, we would like to keep you up to date with our latest articles, blog posts, and events. To better serve you and the congregations of the LCMS, we launched a Facebook page: Congregations Matter. There is an ever-increasing move towards a hierarchical structure for our national church body. It is clear that our founding fathers never envisioned this for our Synod. Power and control should not be centered in the Synodical Office Building. Such hierarchical control hampers the local congregation’s mission and ministry. Synod should support the local church, not control congregations. NOW more than ever it is imperative for pastors and congregations to stay up-to-date and informed about what’s going on in the National Office — and what we can do about it.
We all expect, even demand our “rights” – right to life, liberty, civil rights, human rights, women’s rights, rights of the unborn. As Americans, we have a “Bill of Rights.” As followers of Jesus and members of the LCMS, we have rights within our Synod. That is, until someone tries to take them away. “The Congregation’s Rights” in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod also demands our attention. Our Synod has a history of drifting away from our foundations, a tendency in our history to lift up the human organization of Synod, or the clergy, or Synod leadership above the congregation. Sometimes there’s a group – or an individual – pushing us down that road away from an advisory Synod. It is happening now. We need to push back. Executive Summary Before the Synod was formed in 1847, the Saxon immigrants under Pastor (later “Bishop”) Martin Stephan had a polity in
From the beginning of our Synod, we struggled with big questions of relationships and governance polity. Should the laity have authority over the clergy? Should the clergy have authority over the laity? Should a “bishop” have authority over the congregations? Questions like those formed the chaotic beginning of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod! This essay will follow the decisions our Synod has made from its beginnings with quotes from C.F.W. Walther and our own LCMS Constitution. Top-down or bottom-up? What is right-side up?
Sadly, our Synod is moving toward a greater centralization of power. Despite the LCMS being historically a Synod of congregations bound together by a common confession and walking in love, we are more and more ruled by an administration in the International Center bent on control. If we resign ourselves to a Synod with centralized control, we will never have freedom from fear as workers in the harvest, freedom from church-political agendas that limit the Gospel — and we will never be free to be the Church our Lord has called us to be, nor fulfill His commission for us as followers of Jesus.
Congregations Matter© is a movement of laypeople, congregations, pastors and other church workers within the LCMS trying to return our Synod to its historic polity of the national Synod supporting congregations in their work for the Kingdom. Congregations are the Synod — and they matter. Because we believe this so strongly, in the coming days you will find names of men and women listed on these pages we believe you should consider for nomination and election by our Synod. If we are to change our Synod for the better, it is time to change our leaders — either in name or in attitude and spirit. Why? Because not everyone in our Synod believes and acts on our historic, Scriptural and Confessional stance that congregations truly matter — not Presidents, not Secretaries, not International Centers and national offices, not National or International Boards or Boards of Directors. The LCMS is not a denomination with
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