Congregations and pastors raise questions about their desire to remain members of the Synod when they protest LCMS convention resolutions by declaring themselves “in a state of confession” and refusing Communion to those who support the synodically adopted actions, according to a document prepared by the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR).
Responding to questions from the Synod president and vice presidents, the CTCR approved the document on “in statu confessionis” during its April 14-16 meeting.
The CTCR found in statu confessionis does not have a consistent meaning in the Lutheran tradition. The term, or similar terms, has been used in the past to protest a government practice or policy imposed on the church, government impositions on the state, and one church body’s protest toward another.
“It is our understanding that certain pastors and congregations are using the phrase in statu confessionis at this time to describe their relationship to the Synod in light of their conviction that the Synod has taken actions that are contrary to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions,” the document said.
The CTCR concludes that a declaration of in statu confessionis when used in this way seems to result in several actions:
- unwillingness or refusal to follow convention resolutions with which they disagree;
- viewing the disputed resolutions as “promotion and defense of false doctrine on the part of the Synod and its officials”;
- refusing Communion to synodical and district officials, pastors and congregations who support the synodically adopted actions; and,
- feeling compelled, unless the disputed resolutions are rectified, to sever synodical membership or to form a church body defined by a particular confession within the synodical structure.
When pastors and congregations become members of the Synod, says the CTCR, they agree to follow synodical procedures for expressing dissent. “The synodical procedures for dissent are intended to preserve and uphold the truth of the Gospel and all its articles on which our fellowship in the Synod is based.
“The agreements for how we operate together as a Synod do not include provisions for issuing a confessional protest as a way of dealing with disagreements about doctrine and practice,” states the CTCR. “The suspension or withholding of Communion to fellow members of the Synod is by definition a severing of church fellowship. …
“It is also important to be consistent in dealing with those who stand on both sides of the line,” the CTCR said. “The approach taken in dealing with those who declare themselves in statu confessionis with the Synod and refuse to commune district or synodical officials should be the same approach taken in dealing with those who ignore or oppose the Synod’s position on close(d) Communion and thus choose to practice open Communion in violation of their commitment to the Synod.”
The CTCR stated that it was not making a judgment whether those who enter a state of protest are right or wrong with regard to the positions they hold. “Instead, we are encouraging that we work together toward the goal of confessing together the truth of God’s Word in the Synod, and that we do so in accordance with our agreed-upon procedures for resolving our disagreements.”
CTCR Executive Director Samuel Nafzger said, “Notice has been served that two members of the Commission intend to submit minority reports on in statu confessionis to the Commission at its next meeting in September.”
In response to a 1994 Atlantic District request, the CTCR also approved a document that reviews recent research on authentein, the Greek term from 1 Timothy 2:12 where St. Paul writes that he does not permit a woman to have authority over a man. The word authentein appears only once in the New Testament and, until recently, scholars were hampered by a lack of evidence of the use of this term in ancient Greek literature.
On the basis of a review of recent studies of the newly discovered usages of this term, the CTCR concludes that the term authentein most probably means to “exercise authority,” not to “usurp authority.” According to the Commission’s report, these recent studies confirm the translation of authentein in this general sense (to exercise authority), as was stated in the Commission’s 1985 report Women in the Church.
In other action, the CTCR adopted a revised policy for responding to dissent to the doctrinal position of the Synod. In the future the commission’s response to the submission of dissent will be accompanied by a presentation of the scriptural and confessional bases for its conclusion. The conclusion and bases for decisions will be sent to the dissenter and reported on the Synod Web site and in the commission’s report to the synodical convention.
The CTCR also:
- approved posting on its Web site descriptions of the history and beliefs, plus a Lutheran perspective, of 15 religious organizations and movements, with more to be added in the future;
- drafted questions for discussion at the model theological conference planned for August in Phoenix; and,
- discussed a possible Bible study dealing with the “Left Behind” series of books and movies.
Posted April 28, 2005