The commission on fellowship between The Association of American Lutheran Churches (AALC) and The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod agreed on an initial operating agreement — concerning the movement of members between the two church bodies — during its fourth meeting, May 19 in St. Louis.
When the 2007 conventions of the AALC and the LCMS declared full altar and pulpit fellowship, the protocol document signed by the leaders of the church bodies called for a Commission on AALC/LCMS Fellowship “for the purpose of monitoring relationships between our two church bodies.” The commission began meeting Nov. 20, 2007.
At the conclusion of the May 19 meeting, AALC Presiding Pastor Franklin Hays commented on the progress being made by the commission, saying, “We’re moving along at a very good speed, considering the implications of what we are deciding for both church bodies.”
Other AALC members on the commission are Administrative Assistant to the Presiding Pastor Fred Balke and Commission on Doctrine and Church Relations Chairman Phillip Hofinga. LCMS representatives are First VicePresident William Diekelman, Secretary Raymond Hartwig, Commission on Theology and Church Relations Associate Executive Director Joel Lehenbauer, and Minnesota South District President Lane Seitz.
During its first four meetings, the commission has studied and discussed church-body governing documents and processes, congregation and church-worker rosters, existing protocol and related documents, and specific fellowship situations requiring early response. The preparation of formal operating agreements to govern the movement of members between the church bodies and to facilitate necessary day-to-day relationships and cooperation remains the commission’s most important responsibility.
“Operating Agreement I, The Movement of Members between Church Bodies” — the document that fellowship commissioners agreed on during the May 19 meeting — thanks God for the altar and pulpit fellowship declared by the church bodies’ conventions and anticipates that positive relationships and cooperation will continue to increase. It also “recognizes that on occasion there will be movement of members between the official rosters of the partner church bodies due to necessity or personal interest” and states as its purpose to “provide good order to such changes of official membership.”
That operating agreement first addresses the transfer of membership of congregations to the partner church body, requiring that interested congregations first notify appropriate ecclesiastical supervisors from both church bodies to resolve any obstacles to the transfer of their membership and to receive information about membership expectations of the receiving church body. The congregations are then directed to follow the receiving church body’s process for reception of new congregations into membership.
The operating agreement also addresses the transfer of membership of pastors whose congregations transfer membership to the partner church body and pastors called by congregations of the partner church body. In the latter case, the agreement outlines a process for including the names of such pastors on call lists and for transferring membership when they accept such calls. All other transfers of pastors between the two church bodies will be governed by the existing policies and practices of the receiving church bodies.
“Operating Agreement I, the Movement of Members between Church Bodies” will be available on request from the ecclesiastical supervisors and secretary’s offices of both church bodies.
The Commission on AALC/LCMS Fellowship will continue to meet regularly to address needs for additional operating agreements in areas such as ecclesiastical supervision, voting privilege, and temporary pastoral service. Its next meeting is scheduled for July 28 in St. Louis.
As the May 19 meeting was adjourned, LCMS District President Lane Seitz said that all members of the fellowship commission “have approached this task in an extremely collegial manner and have enjoyed getting to know our partners in ministry.”
Posted May 29, 2008