The AALC/LCMS Commission on Fellowship finished work on the first of several planned operating agreements between The American Association of Lutheran Churches and The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod at a Nov. 11 meeting in St. Louis.
The commission has seven members — three leaders from the AALC and four from the LCMS.
“When altar and pulpit fellowship was declared by [and between] the two church bodies in 2007, the protocol document formalizing the declarations of fellowship advocated the free movement of members between the official rosters of the church bodies,” states a joint news release issued by both churches after that meeting.
Titled “Operating Agreement I, The Movement of Members Between Church Bodies,” the agreement aims “to provide good order to such movement of membership,” according to the release.
“Each church body will make its roster information readily available to the ecclesiastical supervisors of the partner-church body,” it continues, “especially in the case of pastors who were at one time rostered by the partner church body. Separate processes will govern the movement of memberships under differing circumstances.”
The agreement stipulates that “a congregation may move its membership to the partner church body, so long as its request is supported by involved ecclesiastical supervisors from both church bodies and its Articles of Incorporation, Constitution, and Bylaws are approved by the appropriate authority of the receiving church body,” the news release continues. “Pastors of such congregations may also request the movement of their memberships to the partner church body. All such requests will be governed by specific processes provided in the operating agreement.
“A pastor’s membership is also necessarily moved to the partner church body when he accepts a call from one of its congregations according to a specific process provided in the operating agreement,” the release states. “In all other cases, each church body’s existing policies and practices will govern the movement of pastors between the two church bodies.”
LCMS President Gerald B. Kieschnick and AALC Presiding Pastor Franklin Hays have signed the operating agreement, which is available on request from the secretary’s office of both church bodies.
The fellowship commission has started work on “Operating Agreement II,” which will address “ecclesiastical supervision, vacancy service, and voting privilege issues resulting from the movement of congregations and pastors between the partner church bodies. In the meanwhile, the commission continues to monitor situations that arise on a case-by-case basis,” according to the news release.
At the end of the Nov. 11 meeting, Hays commented on the commission’s task.
“It is one thing to say we are colleagues,” he said. “It is another to work out the details of working together.”
Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, executive director of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations, agreed with Hays. “What we are seeking to do is assist in developing policies and practices that will help us to live out the unity of altar and pulpit fellowship with fellow Christians close by, in a manner that is helpful to pastors and congregations,” Lehenbauer said.
Joining Hays on the fellowship commission for the AALC are Rev. Fred Balke, administrative assistant to the presiding pastor, and Rev. Philip Hofinga, chairman of the Commission on Doctrine and Church Relations. Other than Kieschnick and Lehenbauer, LCMS commission members are First Vice President William Diekelman, Secretary Raymond Hartwig, and Minnesota South District President Lane Seitz.
Posted Dec. 18, 2008