Sunday, April 27, 2008

The First LCMS Constitution

Does your congregation -- or church body -- have a constitution? Have you ever read it?

The current constitution of The Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod has gone through quite a few renditions over the years. In this blog, I have included only a few excerpts, but the first LCMS Constitution in its entirety is much shorter than the current version which looks more like canon law than a constitution and bylaws.

The text comes from the April 1943 edition of the Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly.

Constitution of the German Evangelical Lutheran
Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States

I. Reasons for forming a synodical organization.

1. The example of the Apostolic Church. (Acts 15:1-31.)

2. The preservation and furthering of the unity of pure confession (Eph. 4:3-6; 1 Cor. 1:10) and to provide common defense against separatism and sectarianism. (Rom. 16:17.)

3. Protection and preservation of the rights and duties of pastors and congregations.

4. The establishment of the largest possible conformity in church government.

5. The will of the Lord that the diversities of gifts be used for the common good. (1 Cor. 12:4-31.)

6. The unified spread of the kingdom of God and to make possible the promotion of special church projects. (Seminary, agenda, hymnal, Book of Concord, schoolbooks, Bible distribution, mission projects within and outside the Church.)

IV. Business of Synod.

1. To stand guard over the purity and unity of doctrine within the synodical circle, and to oppose false doctrine.

2. Supervision over the performance of the official duties on the part of the pastors and teachers of Synod.

3. Common protection and extension of the church.

4. Publication and distribution of a church periodical.

5. Conscientious examination of candidates for the ministry and teaching profession.

6. To provide for ecclesiastical ordination and induction into office.

7. The preparation of future preachers and teachers for service in the Church.

8. To provide for congregations with out pastors, if the former apply to Synod.

9. To give theological opinions, also to settle disputes between single persons or between parties in the congregations. But the latter is to take place only in cases where all persons involved have applied to Synod for arbitration.

10. To strive after the greatest possible uniformity in ceremonies.

11. To have concern for the faithful execution of all the duties of the ministry, especially of the truly evangelical cure of souls in all its branches; in this respect also to help advance sound catechumen instruction above all, and especially with reference to the false doctrines of the prominent sects; also to institute and maintain catechizations every Sunday for the, confirmed youth.

12. To support indigent congregations who are members of Synod, that they may obtain the regular service of a pastor.

13. To gather church statistics within Synod and also to start a chronicle of American Lutheranism.

14. To establish connections with the Lutheran Church in foreign countries, especially Germany.

V. Execution of synodical business.

(1. - 7. . . .)

8. It is the duty of Synod to discuss and investigate in its annual convention which articles of church doctrine to emphasize or further especially, also against which heresies and weaknesses in life testimony is to be given and the manner in which this is to be done. In accordance with this, Synod is to pass judgment on the work of the editor of the synodical paper and to give him instructions for his future activity. In like manner also Synod is to discuss the needs of the spiritually neglected Lutherans and to supply such needs by supporting those men who out of free Christian love go out among these neglected Lutherans to prepare the way for the organization of sound Lutheran congregations. These visitors are to be trained for their work and examined as to their fitness before they go out, and commissioned with prayer and benediction. The Visitor is to keep a diary and is to submit to the President detailed reports, who is to include them in his annual report to Synod. Synod also holds itself responsible, as much as it is able, to help in the conversion of the heathen. But in no wise shall Synod take part in the unionistic mission projects which are now prevalent.

. . .

14. Synod holds in accordance with the 7th article of the Augsburg Confession that uniformity in ceremonies is not essential; yet on the other hand Synod deems such a uniformity wholesome and useful, namely for the following reasons:

a. because a total difference in outward ceremonies would cause those who are weak in the unity of doctrine to stumble;

b. because in dropping heretofore preserved usages the Church is to avoid the appearance of and desire for innovations; Furthermore Synod deems it necessary for the purification of the Lutheran Church in America, that the emptiness and the poverty in the externals of the service be opposed, which, having been introduced here by the false spirit of the Reformed, is now rampant.

All pastors and congregations that wish to be recognized as orthodox by Synod are prohibited from adopting or retaining any ceremony which might weaken the confession of the truth or condone or strengthen a heresy, especially if heretics insist upon the continuation or the abolishing of such ceremonies. Where private confession is in use, it is to be kept according to Article 11 of the Augsburg Confession. Where it is not in use, the pastor is to strive through teaching and instruction to introduce it. Yet in congregations where the total abolishing of general confession and absolution is hindered by unsurmountable obstacles, general confession may be kept along with private confession. The desired uniformity in the ceremonies is to be brought about especially by the adoption of sound Lutheran agendas (church books).

VI. Rights and duties of the officers and other members of Synod.

The officers of Synod are to assume those rights only which are expressly assigned them by Synod, for all of which the officers are responsible to Synod as also for the fulfilling of their duties. Synod, therefore, may demand that the officers give an account of their official actions at any time.

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