National Lutheran News

LCMS leaders differ over who has final authority in synod

Board of Directors at odds with constitution commission, Synod president on key issues.

A division between conservative and moderate views within the second-largest U.S. Lutheran body is playing itself out in differences between the denomination’s governing board, a commission that governs interpretation of the church’s constitution, and the national president.

A majority of members on the Board of Directors of the Lutheran Church—Mis-souri Synod (LCMS) have decided to set aside several opinions set forth during the past year by the denomination’s Commission on Con-stitutional Matters (CCM). LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick is siding with CCM and questioning the Board’s right to act as it has.

At issue is a series of eight opinions offered by the CCM between June 2002 and September 2003. A majority of Board members voted on November 21, at a Miami, Florida, meeting, to declare the opinions “of no effect.”

Three of the opinions declare that membership in the Missouri Synod cannot be terminated for an action taken with the knowledge and approval of a member’s ecclesiastical supervisor.

The other five deal with who has the authority to direct how funds are spent in the LCMS. Groups whose budgets are affected are the Concordia University Sys-tem, the communication unit of the church, the President’s office, church-owned radio station KFUO, and the national leadership newspaper, Reporter.

Four members of the Board of Directors have dissented from the majority’s view that the CCM cannot rule as it has.
A Synod bylaw states that CCM “shall interpret the Synod’s Constitution, Bylaws and resolutions.” It also indicates that an opinion rendered by CCM “shall be binding on the question decided unless and until it is overruled by a synodical convention.”

Synod President Gerald Kieschnick said the bylaw makes clear the Board cannot modify or revoke actions or policies of a Synod group if the action would be in conflict with a CCM opinion.

Said Kieschnick, “According to the Bylaws of the LCMS, opinions of the Commission on Constitu-tional Matters must be followed in the Synod.”

The Board majority said they took their action to protect Synod congregations from liability in lawsuits.

An independent LCMS group, “Jesus First,” is encouraging delegates to the 2004 Synod Convention to replace the Board members who are at odds with CCM.