Local congregations have been heavily involved in mission work, local and world-wide, for generations. This has been going on without interference from the Synod in St. Louis. Congregations used to be thankful that they belonged to a grouping of like-minded, confessional Lutherans who believed congregational autonomy was Biblical — and important — and who were strenuously opposed to any interference from a Synod hierarchy. Sadly that’s no longer true.
As 2016 drew to a close and Synod President Matt Harrison’s salary ballooned to $252,573 from $210,156, Harrison ended his lucrative year by laying the blame for declining LCMS membership in the laps of what he considers not-pregnant-often-enough LCMS women.
In the past months, several District presidents wrote powerful pastoral letters in opposition to the recent Ecclesiastical Supervision contrived and enacted by the Harrison administration. Use these links to review each of their letters. Council of Presidents Chairman, Rev. Ken Hennings, President of the Texas District. Past Council of Presidents Chair, Rev. Larry Stoterau, Current President of the Pacific Southwest District Rev. John Denninger, President of the Southeastern District Other District Presidents have done the same. More and more LCMS leaders are voicing their opposition to the unconstitutional change to Bylaw 2.14. President Harrison sought this power. But Harrison couldn’t do it alone. With the support of the United List majority of the Synod Board of Directors (BOD), President Harrison and Secretary Sias bypassed the Council of Presidents and the expressed will of the Milwaukee Synodical convention.
Why should congregations, pastors, and church workers care about ecclesiastical supervision? Because a new bylaw put into effect by the Board of Directors of the Synod has a detrimental effect and impact on every congregation, every pastor and every church worker in the Synod now and in the future. It is a demonstration of the trend towards centralization of power with hierarchical governance. Walther: We Must Fight To Preserve Freedom of Congregations In his 1879 essay at the Iowa District convention, CFW Walther stated that a congregation is not a community under clerical control, but a community of members of Christ, united by an evangelical, gentle bond of love. So a Synod is a community of congregations, pastors, and church workers that are not under clerical or hierarchical control. Walther said, “Throughout the existence of the Missouri Synod we have had to battle arduously to preserve freedom of the congregations;
Congregations Matter will provide sample overtures for congregations, circuits and districts to consider in the coming months. The first of these overtures is about Synod finances. Click here to download a PDF copy of this proposed resolution. An overture is a proposal from a congregation to support or express concern about an issue, change a Synod bylaw or procedure, etc. Such overtures are presented at tri-annual conventions of your district or our national body. Our recommended overtures will all be about important issues our Synod needs to consider. Current Synod Leaders Ignore Convention Direction Despite Synod Convention resolutions that require clear financial reporting (like 2010 Synodical resolution 4-03), the International Center shares little about Synod finances with congregations. Our Synod leaders say even less about Synod’s dire financial state. Here’s some examples of problems: Did you know…. In February 2017, Synod leaders reported to the Synod Board of Directors (BOD) we
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.
Last summer, District President (DP) Larry Stoterau of the Pacific Southwest District wrote a powerful pastoral letter in opposition to the recent Ecclesiastical Supervision bylaw change. You can download a copy of it here. Several District Presidents have addressed their concern with the centralization of control in the Synodical President’s office, especially as it relates to the recent changes in the area of ecclesiastical supervision. Pacific Southwest District President Larry Stoterau’s letter to his District clearly outlines their cause for concern. IT IS TIME TO ACT More and more LCMS leaders are voicing their opposition to the unconstitutional change to Bylaw 2.14. First, Council of Presidents Chair, Texas DP Hennings stood his ground against this dangerous development in Synod. DP Hennings was voted by a majority of the Council of 35 District Presidents, the Synodical President and the Regional Vice Presidents as their trusted leader. You can read the Congregations Matter article
Congregations Matter is proud to introduce our Advisory Team. These individuals want to restore our Synod to its historic role of providing congregations with advice, encouragement, and resources. By their lives and service, they have long supported the message of Congregations Matter: “The health of our Church is our local congregations.” These four veteran LCMS leaders will serve as a public face for Congregations Matter. The team will provide accountability for the truth and Christian charity and fairness of website postings. Our Synod leadership has gotten away from its historic role. Recently, it is more focused on 0concentrating all authority, direction, and control in St. Louis. That is not healthy for our Church. Now, via this web site, our Advisory Team joins Congregations Matter in a grassroots and nation-wide effort to restore our Synod. Dr. Viji George, Former CUS College President Dr. Viji George served as President of Concordia College,
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
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.