Introduction to LMS-USA

Lutheran Ministerium and Synod - USA

(A Synodical Forum by Subscription)

I. A New Lutheran Synod

At the Second Indianapolis Conference held April 24-25, at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Indianapolis, IN, the formation of the new Lutheran Ministerium and Synod - USA was announced. Major theological emphases of the new entity include:

  1. a view of Holy Scripture as "divinely inspired, inerrant, and infallible"

  2. the complete autonomy of the local congregation

  3. a practice of liturgical worship

  4. an understanding of the Holy Spirit as working with the Church "solely through Word and Sacrament"

The LMS-USA traces its roots to four American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC) pastors, who met in Chicago in March of 1994 to organize an effort to counteract the inroads of neo-orthodoxy and charismatic renewal movement theology in the AALC. These four pastors, with backgrounds, evenly divided in the former ALC and LCA, formed the AALC Forum" as an instrument of reform within that Synod. At the June 1994 convention of the AALC, it became evident that all such efforts were futile. Following that convention, the Forum added another pastor and congregation and subsequently organized the first Indianapolis Conference on Inerrancy which met in Indianapolis in August of 1994. The result of that conference was the Indianapolis Statement on Holy Scripture, which was given final form and adopted as the position of the new LMS-USA at the Second [1995] Indianapolis Conference.

The Lutheran Ministerium and Synod - USA is a "coming together" of those who will covenant to "walk together" through the "signing under" of a series of doctrinal statements. Initial "subscription" was to: The three Ecumenical Creeds, Luther's Small Catechism, The Unaltered Augsburg Confession, The Annotated Indianapolis Statement on Holy Scripture, and The LMS-USA Constitution. Since then other Subscriptional Documents have been added which can be found elsewhere on this web site. The LMS-USA is also an 'ongoing Forum' for theological discussion for clergy and laity.

The Rev. Ralph Spears, pastor of St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Indianapolis, IN, was the first President of the Synod. Congregations involved in the formation of the LMS-USA were located in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Pennsylvania.

The LMS-USA has been organized to provide: A recommended list of clergy, an opportunity for fellowship, ministry and mission for biblical, Confessional and traditional Lutherans, a Forum for theological discussion for laity and clergy, and for the publication and / or recommendation of good, biblically sound, and theologically solid educational materials for Lutherans "A Confessional Lutheran Body"

What is the LMS-USA?

We begin with a High View of Holy Scripture. Affirming that Scripture alone is the inerrant and infallible Word of God.

We also begin with a stance of "Subscription" to basic doctrines and documents that have achieved consensus in light of Holy Scripture and in light of the Lutheran Confessional writings.

We begin with an understanding of the Ecumenical Creeds, The Unaltered Augsburg Confession, and the Small Catechism of Martin Luther, [and as of Synod Convention action of 1998, the entire Book of Concord] as the correct exposition of the doctrine of Holy Scripture and reject the notion that these are only authoritative "in so far as they agree with the Gospel."

We also hold that the Holy Spirit of God achieves his proper work solely through the ministry of Word and Sacrament. We believe that this is the normative means of Grace and that while the Holy Spirit may indeed upon occasion work through extraordinary occurrences that all such should never become a sought after norm of ministry and life in the Church.

We hold to the historic and traditional liturgical order or format of Christian worship as the norm for worship in our churches. While we are not opposed to contemporary usages we believe that these must be used very cautiously and should not supplant the historic Christian Liturgy.

We hold that the congregation is the basic place and setting for ministry in the Church and view the congregation as the sole owner of all property and assets of the Church.

We view the Synod and the Ministerium components of our Church body as functioning in an advisory and helping capacity to the congregations and pastors. Our Church body holds that we must persuade one another based upon Scripture alone and the Confessions alone and thus eschew authoritative force or imposition.

Our principle of decision making at the Synodical and Ministerium levels of the Church is based upon consensus in light of Holy Scripture and in light of the Lutheran Confessions. In conserving love we provide for each congregation to write and adopt its own constitution tailored to its own setting of ministry.

Further, our pastors are not viewed as congregational "hirelings" or as "community facilitators" but as persons who called by God and whose act has been affirmed by the call of a congregation.

These above mentioned stances clearly mark us as conservative Christians in these current times. We believe, however, that these and other aspects of our being "conservative" are very good qualities and solid strengths for our life together as a Synod and Ministerium.

We believe the designation 'conservative' also points to the LMS-USA as not being "lukewarm" or "of double mind" on issues. We may in the future years make a change in our stand on certain issues. However we will not be rushed on studying and reflecting on the many theological issues and doctrines of our time. We are organized around the sense of being a Forum (a setting , place, community for discussion and deliberation) of congregations (Synod) and pastors (Ministerium). Each year we will progressively and intentionally study various theological, doctrinal, and ministry issues. We intend for this process to include the laity and congregations as well as the clergy of LMS-USA.

Statements of our stance upon a particular doctrine or issue will result when our study in light of Holy Scripture and in light of the Lutheran Confessions achieves a consensus among our pastors, congregational representatives, and congregations. In this day and age of fast paced life and speedy decisions this may seem an antiquated, slow and even outmoded approach but we believe that it will better serve the church, for to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther's word as declared at the Diet of Worms: "Unless we are convince based upon Scripture and reason we stand." Additional items will become subscriptional (signed by our pastors and representatives of our congregations) when they have, in light of Scripture and in light of the Lutheran Confessions, achieved consensus among us. This we believe will work well to keep our Church body in balanced consideration of all issues that will come before us down through the years.

Thus in terms of specific doctrinal areas we affirm wholeheartedly all of the basic doctrines set forth in the Ecumenical Creeds and the Lutheran Confessions.

However, in other matters of practice where official subscriptional statements have not been developed we are essentially biblical, confessional, historical, and traditional in our practice. There are areas that will remain open questions for us, until God in His grace gives us opportunity for study, reflection, and consensus in light of Scripture and the Confessions.

What follows is the present consensus, on several matters, of the Ministerium component of LMS-USA.

I. Regarding Worship and the Sacraments.

We have difficulty with descriptive terms such as 'open', 'close', or 'closed' when referring to the Lord's Supper. Rather we would spell out our position in this manner:

While institution the LordÕs Supper, Jesus took bread and and gave it to his disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.' And of the cup from which they all drank, Jesus said, 'This is my blood which is shed for many.' (Mark 14:22-24).

Therefore, we believe that in the receiving of the bread and wine we receive the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which he sacrificed on the cross to take away all sin. (Matthew 26:28).

While instructing the early Christian Church about the proper use of the Lord's Supper, St. Paul urges people to examine themselves when receiving the Lord's Supper, for eating and drinking in an unworthy manner will lead to God's condemnation in the Sacrament, rather than blessing. (I Corinthians 11:27-30).

An examination of ourselves reveals that we are all sinners in need of the forgiveness of sin. For this reason we attend the Lord's Supper. At the same time a sincere Christian is determined to give up one's sinful ways, and to lead a godly life according to God's Word.

When we attend the Lord's Supper we proclaim the Lord's death till he comes (I Corinthians 11:26). We all confess our faith in the one and only Lord. Our celebration is a 'communion of the body of Christ' (I Corinthians 10:16). Therefore our Holy Communion Service is a united confession of faith at the LordÕs table (I Corinthians 10: 17-22).

We also hold to the good and time-honored practice of instructing our young people in the chief teachings of the Christian faith before they receive the Lord's Supper.

II. Regarding Fellowship.

As a Lutheran church body, we have the fervent wish to extend to all the hand of Christian fellowship. We strive to do this according to Christ's command by teaching all nations all things commanded by Christ, and baptizing all nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19,20).

We have no hesitancy Worshiping with other Christians, participating in joint marriages, joint baptisms, or other joint special events. We also are not in opposition to inviting clergy of other Christian denominations to preach or speak to our congregations. We believe that the best defense of the Lutheran Confessional understanding is solid and continuous catechesis of the laity and that the truth of God's Word as witnessed in our Lutheran Confessional understanding will best be shared with others as we are in contact with others. Nonetheless we are not unionistic nor bent on ecumenicity for the sake of worldly institutional unity. We will embrace only true unity that is grounded in Scripture and in light of the Lutheran Confessional writings.

III. Regarding Ordination.

We currently have only a male clergy. (This is an area in which we have not yet had opportunity to develop a consensus Statement).

Our Clergy roster is open to the admission of pastor's who have suffered from the ravages of marital divorce but who evidence a sincere repentance and a fervent desire to serve the Lord as a Pastor of the Church.

IV. Regarding the involvement of Women in the leadership of our congregations.

We encourage and affirm women in leadership roles within our congregations. Women exercise the right to vote on all matters of business before the assembly of believers and are eligible for election to positions of leadership.

V. Regarding dealings with organizations outside the Christian Church such as scouts, 4-H, volunteer fire companies, lodges and fraternal life insurance groups.

We affirm groups such as the scouts, 4-H, etc. as worthwhile and helpful as long as they do not take the place of the Church in the lives of their members.

We believe that the best stance of the church is good and regular catechesis of the members. We are not of the world but we are in the world and we thus believe that Christ calls us to witness to our neighbor in the midst of the wider community, not in isolation from the wider community.

We are open to receiving matching funds and grants provided by the various Lutheran Fraternal organizations. We find nothing detrimental to the mission of our Savior through this support. Indeed in many and various ways we have found our ministries and the organization of our Synod and Ministerium greatly strengthened by the support from the respective branch organizations of the various Lutheran Fraternal groups.

VI. In the matter of Benevolence remittances to Synod

LMS-USA does not request or assign apportionment amounts by congregations. National LMS-USA expenses are kept to a minimum and are funded strictly by Free-will offerings from the congregations and individual members and friends of the Synod and Ministerium. The Synod and Ministerium makes recommendations(s) to congregations of special missions and ministries that are deemed to be worthy of support but congregations are then free to give direct support to the missions and ministries of their choice.

VII. Regarding Pension Plans and Pastor/Family Health Plans

LMS-USA does offer a self management pension plan to pastors and congregations. No one (congregation or pastor) is required to participate, however, and pensions are not bundled with health care. The pension accumulations are regarded as owned by the respective pastors. We do not offer a health plan but our Director of Financial Programs and benefits will give assistance in the acquiring of a health plan for pastors and their families.

If there are issues of special concern to you that we have not addressed, please do not hesitate to contact us as directed elsewhere in our Web site and we will welcome the chance to share our perspective with you concerning the issues or specific areas that you may raise for our attention.

Collect for Peace

O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed: Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee, we being defended from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.