By Roland Lovstad
A “Response to Expressions of Dissent,” dealing with four broad areas of Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) reports and convention actions, was approved for distribution by the CTCR during its Dec. 5-6 meeting in St. Louis.
The report deals with dissent regarding clergy participation in civic events, ecclesiastical supervision and dispute resolution, the service of women in congregational and synodical offices, and laymen performing functions of the pastoral office.
CTCR Executive Director Samuel H. Nafzger expects the report to be distributed to congregations and rostered workers by the end of January. He said the report also will be posted in the CTCR section of the LCMS Web site (www.lcms.org).
Dissenters claimed that two convention resolutions (2004 Res. 3-06A and 2001 Res. 3-07A) — by commending the CTCR’s “Guidelines for Participation in Civic Events” and “Lutheran Understanding of Church Fellowship” and the CTCR report on the synodical discussions — encourage joint prayer and worship with non-Christians. Their claims are “contradicted by the clear language of these documents themselves,” according to the CTCR response. Quoting from 2004 Res. 3-06A, the commission report adds that joint prayer and worship with non-Christians are clearly forbidden by the Synod “even in events that may be portrayed as primarily or partially ‘civic’ in nature and purpose.”
Noting the distinction between humanly-instituted ecclesial procedures and divinely-mandated instructions, the CTCR addressed dissent about Bylaw changes for resolving disputes. Adopted by the 2004 convention, one change requires a face-to-face meeting before the public rebuke of a public sin such as teaching false doctrine. Another change establishes hearing panels composed of district presidents.
Dissenters said meetings, such as described in Matt. 18:15, are not biblically mandated before a public sin can be publicly rebuked. The CTCR agreed, adding, “However, when it comes to the Synod’s humanly-devised procedures for expulsion from membership in the Synod or dispute resolution, it is legitimate for the Synod to expect a face-to-face meeting.”
Other dissent questioned the composition of hearing panels with only clergy, since the Synod has historically emphasized a balance of laity and clergy on panels judging doctrine. Again, the CTCR agreed, stating, “It would also be in continuity with [C.F.W.] Walther’s position that lay persons are accorded both a seat and a vote together with clergy on ecclesiastical courts and councils. But to argue that Scripture requires that the Synod structure itself in this way is going beyond what the Scriptures (and the Lutheran Confessions and Walther’s ‘Theses on the Ministry’) actually teach.” (Emphasis is from the CTCR.)
CTCR, CCM opinions
Applying the same principle to dissents about opinions from the CTCR and the Commission on Constitutional Matters, the commission stated that agreement among members to uphold the Synod’s Constitution and Bylaws does not elevate them to the level of Scripture. “In cases of dispute resolution and ecclesiastical supervision, questions sometimes arise about the Synod’s doctrinal position on a given issue or about the official polity of the Synod,” the CTCR writes. “Some person or group has to answer these questions in order for the Synod to carry out its own procedures.”
In Res. 3-08A, the 2004 convention affirmed a 1994 CTCR report that said the Scriptures clearly teach that women may not serve in the office of pastor. The report said women may serve in humanly established offices as long as those offices do not make them eligible to carry out official functions of the pastoral office. Dissent was registered that the CTCR had ignored the order of creation in its decision.
“… The order of creation argument has not been ignored by the Synod or by the CTCR,” according to the commission response. The CTCR said it believes, “… that we are bound to Scripture alone as the norm when it comes to making doctrinal judgments about the specific implications and applications of the order of creation for the service of women in the church.” It said the dissenters failed to provide scriptural evidence to show that a woman violates the order of creation by serving in certain capacities where she does not carry out functions of the pastoral office.
Service of laity
On a fourth topic, regarding the service of laity, the CTCR dealt with two areas of dissent — laymen performing functions of the pastoral office and a 2004 convention resolution (Res. 5-09) affirming district programs that equip laity for ministry.
Since 1989, synodical conventions have adopted and changed guidelines for laypersons who are performing pastoral duties in congregations. Frequently these are situations in rural congregations, remote settings or ethnic ministries that cannot obtain the services of an ordained minister. A major concern is that the Lutheran Confessions state that no one should preach or administer the sacraments without a proper call.
Saying that it recognizes that discussion will continue regarding the nature of exceptions, the commission responded, “… the LCMS has understood that the Lutheran Confessions (Treatise 67-68, Tappert 331) recognize that there may be situations where those who are not called and ordained may carry out pastoral functions.” Yet the CTCR underscored its awareness that discussion needs to continue regarding such exceptions.
The CTCR said it does not believe that 2004 Res. 5-09 pertains to laity performing functions of the pastoral office. “The intent of this resolution is to ‘affirm the role of laity in expanding the mission of the church and recognize the need to further equip laypersons for mission work,’ with appropriate assistance and resources from the Council of Presidents, the Board for Pastoral Education, and the seminary faculties,” the response stated. “It does not have to do with laymen performing the distinctive functions of the pastoral office.”
Posted Dec. 28, 2006