Thursday, May 20, 2010

History Revisited

Dr. Al Collver, on his blog ABC3s of Miscellany, recently reported on a 1944 Synod Special Committee that recommended that Article VII of the LCMS Constitution be amended so that member congregations would be forced to carry out resolutions of the Synod. That recommendation is not unlike the one being pushed by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance (BRTFSSG) today, which adds to Article VII the following:

B. Relation of the Members to the Synod

In their relation to the Synod, all members of the Synod, by voluntarily subscribing to the Confession (Article II) and the Constitution of the Synod, make a confession of faith, a joint commitment to God’s mission, and a mutual covenant of love. In so doing, they

1. Bind themselves to the confessional basis of the Synod (Article II);
2. Agree to abide by, honor, and uphold the collective will of the Synod as expressed in its Constitution, Bylaws, and convention resolutions;
3. Pledge their active involvement and support of the Synod’s efforts to carry out its mission and purpose; and
4. Promise that, if they find themselves to be in disagreement with the Synod’s actions or positions, they will so advise the Synod in a loving and evangelical manner, and if necessary follow the Synod’s authorized procedures for expressing dissent.

This current recommendation seems to mirror the attitude of the current Synod President, who said this when speaking to the 2006 Texas District Convention:

You are free to disagree, everyone is free to disagree, but let me say this: You, pastors, are NOT free to publicly teach or preach that Synod is wrong on ANY given issue. I'll say it again, you are NOT free to teach in a bible class or preach from the pulpit that Synod is wrong on any issue.

An overture opposed the 1944 Special Committee’s recommendation, saying:

     …Art. VII of our Constitution is very simple and needs no further interpretation. It expressly states that Synod shall not be an ecclesiastical government. Synod shall not have legislative powers passing resolutions having the character of laws. Synod has .no power to coerce, to enforce the performance of its resolutions and decisions by its officers nor by recourse to the law-enforcing agencies of the State. The Constitution expressly states that each church shall remain a self-governing body and that the resolutions of Synod have no binding force if they seem inexpedient to the congregation. Synod shall advise. Synod shall have the power to exhort, admonish by the power of the Word of God.
     A high court stated relative to this Art. VII: "The defendants stress the fact that the synods are to 'advise' as distinguished from 'command.' When the spiritual nature of this organization is considered, it is clear that the use of the expression 'advise' by the framers of the organic instruments under consideration was intentional and is to be commended and enforced and not belittled. The words selected are easily to be understood and followed."
     The history of this Art. VII shows that the founding fathers were clear in their minds, that they did not want a synodical government, a church government, but that they wanted to be and remain independent, self-governing bodies. Their experience with the tyranny of the church governments made them fearful of svnodical associations, and only after Art. VII was added to the constitution guaranteeing them independence were they willing to affiliate with Synod.
     …Such supersynodical government wants to deal with force, compulsion. It becomes tyrannical and oppressive. The history of church governments clearly shows this. Free speech, the right to properly criticize the action of Synod, of its officers and appointees, is the means whereby we preserve our purity of doctrine and correctness of practice. This would be destroyed by church government. We have with us already the condition that persons are afraid to voice their honest opinions because of fear of official reprisals.
     On these and other grounds we ask that the resolution above referred to be rejected.

Fortunately, the Committee’s proposed revision of Article VII did not occur. Similarly, it would be in the best interest of the Synod to reject the BRTFSSG’s proposed change for Article VII. Instead, we should continue to rely on the power of God’s Word to exhort and admonish, rather than the power of an iron fist.

For further information, see “Bursting the BRTFSSG Bubble, Part 2: Conscience-Bound.”


Christopher Gillespie said...

Ironically, overtures to synod will be rejected if they use the word "reject" in terms of current LCMS policy.

Fallhiker said...

I wonder if Martin Luther would nail any updated theses to Kennett Castle's Door (a castle owned by Union Pacific for a retreat in St Louis Missouri), I am sure he would since his soul source of authority on church government was the Bible itself, not a synod constitution. Would he also have to justify himself at the Diet of Missouri?

Anonymous said...

Not only did President K make that statement in Texas, he also made the same statement in the Rocky Mountain District. He also became angry with a Pastor who drew him aside to tell him that his statement was beyond his authority as the President!

Anonymous said...

What will change under a Harrison administration? Would he be able to undo years of damage to confessional Lutheranism. Would future president Harrison make things right while awakening the sleeping giant (LCMS) in the process. I would hate to see Harrison get elected and then watch the status quo continue....

Scott Diekmann said...

It will take decades to restore the LCMS to the doctrinal integrity that it once enjoyed. Electing a confessional President is a much needed first step.