Delegates approve bylaw changes on ecclesiastical supervision, dispute resolution

ST. LOUIS  — After discussion spanning two sessions and drawing a steady stream of delegates to microphones, the 62nd Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod today (July 13) passed a resolution changed and clarified Synod bylaws regarding ecclesiastical supervision of congregations and professional church workers and resolution of disputes between workers.


The 26 pages of bylaw changes apply to the rights of Synod members and the procedures for dealing with disputes or involving charges that could lead to their being expelled from Synod membership.  (Members of the Synod include congregations and ordained and commissioned ministers who are on the synodical roster.)


Those changes are based on the findings of a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Ecclesiastical Supervision that President Gerald Kieschnick appointed last year.


There are three “significant” differences in the bylaw changes approved today, according to Dr. John Brunner, LCMS Eastern District president and chairman of the task force.


The bylaws previously said “anyone” could bring charges against a congregation or professional worker, Brunner said. Now such charges, except in cases of sexual misconduct or criminal activity, must be filed by another member.


Second, Brunner said that the changes “more clearly delineate the processes for dispute resolution and ecclesiastical supervision,” which he said, “intersected more than once” in the bylaws before today.


The third change lays out a process if charges are brought against the president of the Synod.  Previously, there was no separate process. The process leading to his being cleared of the charges or losing Synod membership could involve a majority vote of the 35 district presidents; two hearing panels, each made up of three district presidents; another vote of the district presidents (this time by a three-fourths majority); and, finally, a majority vote of at least a one-fourth of all Synod congregations.


Similar, but less-extensive, involvement of district presidents would also be involved in the termination process for any member of the Synod and for a district president.


Yesterday, Brunner traced the developments leading to the bylaw changes. Among principles he cited as applicable to those bylaws:


* “The bylaws are to be as fair as possible regardless of who applies them or to whom they are applied.


* “The 8th Commandment always applies.


* “Care should be given to determine when and where Matthew 18 procedures apply, which is almost always, repeatedly and primarily for the purposes of restoration (Gospel) and not expulsion (Law).”


Posted July 13, 2004



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