From the Preface:
Dr. Walther's second classic on the doctrine of the Church, The Proper
Form of an Evangelical Lutheran Congregation Independent of the State, describes
the ideal Christian congregation. The ideal Christian congregation is, first
of all, such a one as is described in paragraph 1, one which adheres to the
pure doctrine. The Christian congregation which rejects portions of the
Scripture truth has constituted itself on an unnatural, unlawful basis. It has
assumed a form which God does not sanction. The Lord requires all His churches
to preach His Word in its purity according to the Confessions of the Lutheran
The ideal Christian congregation, furthermore, keeps itself independent of
the State (║ 2). The church which permits the State to regulate its internal
affairs is in an abnormal condition. The church thrives best under the
separation of Church and State.
Finally, that is the ideal Christian congregation and the ideal Lutheran
congregation which fully understands its rights and duties and employs such
methods, organs, and forms as best serve the proper exercise of its rights and
the proper performance of its duties. (║ 3 -66).
Who originated the ideas back of this Proper Form of a Lutheran
congregation? Not Walther. The original is found in Luther, and Luther found
the principles in Scripture. Luther knew very well what form a Christian
congregation should have. A study of the writings of the fathers of the
Lutheran Church 'shows that, even though the Lutheran Church existed in those
days as a State Church, these men, guided by their doctrine of the Church, the
Ministry, Church Government, etc., conceived of exactly such a form of a local
church independent of the State as is presented in this book [The Proper
form....].' (Preface p. IV.)
The full application of their idea was a new thing in the Lutheran Church,
but Luther himself had advocated the more important forms and succeeded in
introducing a number of them. He charted the course which was eventually
followed. How much of Walther's Proper Form is out of date? Very little. Those
forms which are directly called for by Scripture are never out of date. Those
that come under the head of adiaphora are subject to change. The Christian
congregation adjusts these matters to fit changed conditions. But it so
happens that present conditions call for hardly any change in Walther's plan.
He was a wise builder. Do not be hasty in changing his specifications. The old
model is not antiquated. If you want to build an ideal congregation, stick as
closely as possible to the Proper Form.
The Proper Form was submitted at the session of the Western District in
1862 and published in 1863.
║ 1. An Evangelical Lutheran local congregation is a gathering of
believing Christians at a definite place, among whom the Word of God is
preached in its purity according to the Confessions of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church and the holy Sacraments are administered according to Christ's
institution as recorded in the Gospel, in whose society, however, false
Christians and hypocrites will always, and manifest sinners may sometimes, be
║ 2. A congregation is independent of the State when the State leaves it
to such congregation in all things to govern itself.
║ 3. In order to learn what constitutes the proper form of an Evangelical
Lutheran congregation independent of the State, it is necessary to ascertain
from the Word of God chiefly two things: first, wherein its rights and duties,
and secondly, wherein the proper exercise of such rights and duties, consist.
Of the Rights of an Evangelical Lutheran Local Church
Independent of the State
║ 4. All the rights which an Evangelical Lutheran local congregation
possesses are included in the keys of the kingdom of heaven, which the Lord
has originally and immediately given to His entire Church, and in such manner
that they belong to each congregation, the smallest as well as the largest, in
like measure, Matt. 18:17-20 ("Tell it unto the church.... Whatsoever ye
shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven"), 16:19; John 20.22, 23.
║ 5. Additional Scripture-proof for the teaching that with the keys of the
kingdom of heaven every Evangelical Lutheran local congregation has the entire
church power which it needs, that is, the power and authority to perform
everything that is requisite for its government: the true members of such
congregation, viz., the believing Christians therein contained, are called
"priests and kings before God," or "the royal priesthood"
(1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6), "anointed" (1 John 2:20,27), Christ's
affianced bride (2 Cor.11:2), "the body of Christ," in and among
whom Christ dwells (1 Cor. 12:27; Matt. 18:20); they are described as equal
brethren (Matt. 23:8-11), as the possessors of all things (1 Cor. 3:21-23:
"All things are yours"). Furthermore, the ministers are called their
"stewards" and "servants" (1 Cor. 4:1; 2 Cor. 4:5).
Finally, the congregation itself is represented as the supreme tribunal
(Matt.18:118: "Tell it unto the church").
Of the Duties of an Evangelical Lutheran Local Church
Independent of the State
║ 6. It is the duty of the congregation carefully to see to it that the
Word of God may richly dwell and have full and free scope in its midst. Col.
3:16: "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly," etc.
║ 7. It is the duty of the congregation to care for the purity of doctrine
and life in its midst and to exercise church discipline in these matters.
Matt. 18:15-18: 'If thy brother shall trespass against thee, . . . let him be
unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." Rom. 16:17: "Mark them
which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have
learned, and avoid them." 1 Cor. 5:1-13: "Know ye not that a little
leaven leaveneth the whole lump? . . . Put away from among yourselves that
wicked person." 1 Cor.6:1-8; 2 Cor.2:6-11. Gal. 6:1: "restore such
an one in the spirit of meekness." 1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Thess. 3:6,14,15. 2
John 10,11: "If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine,
receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed," etc.
║ 8. It is the duty of the congregation to concern itself also with the
temporal welfare of all its members that they may not suffer want of the
necessaries of life nor be forsaken in any need. Gal.6:10: "Let us do
good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of
faith." Deut. 15:4. Rom. 12:13: "Distributing to the necessity of
saints." Gal. 2:9,10; Jas. 1 :27; 1 Thess. 4:11,12.
║ 9. It is the duty of the congregation to see that in its midst "all
things be done decently and in order," 1 Cor. 14:33, 40, and to
"provide for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord but also in
the sight of men," 2 Cor. 8:21. Col. 2:5.
║ 10. It is the duty of the congregation to be diligent "to keep the
unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" also with all parts of the
orthodox Church, Eph. 4:3; 1 Thess. 4:9,10; Rom. 15:26, 27; 2 Cor. 8:19.
║ 11. It is also incumbent upon the congregation to do its part in
building up and promoting the welfare of the Church at large. Amos 6:6; Acts
11:21-23 ("Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church
which was in Jerusalem; and they sent forth Barnabas that he should go as far
as Antioch," etc.); 15:18.
Of the Performance of the Rights and Duties of an
Evangelical Lutheran Local Church Independent of the State
A. Of the Meetings of the Congregation
║ 12. In order that a free local congregation may execute its rights and
privileges in a conscientious, profitable, and God-pleasing manner, it is
necessary to have public meetings, properly arranged and conducted, for the
purpose of transacting its business as a self-governing body. Matt. 18:17:
"Tell it unto the church." 1 Cor. 5:4: "When ye are gathered
together." Acts21:17-22: "The multitude must needs come
together." Chap. 6:2; 15:30; 1 Tim. 5:20.
║ 13. All the adult male members of the congregation are entitled to
active participation in the transactions of such meetings by way of speaking,
deliberating, voting, and resolving. Matt.18:17, 18; Acts 1:15, 23-26; 15:5,
12, 13, 22,23: "It so pleased the apostles and elders with the whole
church... The apostles and elders and brethren ' 1 Cor.5:2; 6:2;
10:15; 12:7; 2 Thess.3:15. But women and the young are excluded from such
participation. 1 Cor. 14:34,35: "Let your women keep silence in the
churches." 1 Pet.5:5.
║ 14. The external management of the meetings rests with those who in
general supervise the congregation or to whom the external government of the
congregation has been entrusted as a special office. Acts 15:6 ("The
apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter"); 1
Tim.5:17; Rom.12:8; 1 Cor.12:28.
║15. Subjects of deliberation and action in such meetings are matters of
doctrine (Acts 15), election or appointment of church officers (Acts 1:15-26;
6:14; 2 Cor.8:19); church discipline (Matt.18:17-20; 1 Cor.5:1-5; 2 Cor.2: 11;
1 Tim. 5:20), public offenses (Acts 21:20-22), quarrels among members (1 Cor.
6:1), matters of good order and ceremonial (1 Cor. 14:260; 16:1, 2), and the
║16. In matters of doctrine and conscience there must be unanimity, all
giving assent to the teaching of God's Word (Is. 8:20: "To the Law and to
the Testimony") and to the Confessions of the Church. Adiaphora , matters
neither commanded nor prohibited by God's Word, are ordered according to the
principles of love and equity; after the matter has been fully and orderly
discussed, it is decided by a majority vote (1 Cor. 16:14: "Let all your
things be done with charity"; 14:40: "Let all things be done
decently and in order"; Col. 2:5). In case anything should have been
decided and determined by the congregation contrary to the Word of God, such
decision is null and void, must be so declared, and revoked.
║17. Good order and a due regard for the rights of all require that the
meeting, having been previously announced, be held at a suitable time. Those
who fail to appear thereby waive their right of vote. For the sake of love and
peace and needful prudence it is advisable that important resolutions
concerning matters which admit of postponement should be considered valid only
when they have been confirmed in a subsequent meeting.
║ 18. An exact record of the important transactions should be made by the
secretary, read to the meeting at the close for necessary corrections, and
adopted as corrected. These minutes should be again read at the beginning of
the subsequent meeting, Acts 15:23-31.
║ 19. The pastor opens and closes the meeting with prayer. In case of his
absence a prayer is read by a person thereto appointed. Matt. 18:19; Acts 6:4:
"But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of
B. Of the Performance of the Duty of the Congregation to See that the
Word of God may Richly Dwell and Have Free Scope in Its Midst
║ 20. The performance of this duty consists, first of all in the
establishment and maintenance of the public ministry in the congregation.
Titus 1:5: "For this cause left I thee in Crete that thou shouldest set
in order the things that are wanting and ordain elders in every city, as I had
appointed thee." Eph. 4:11, 14.
║ 21. In order to perform the highly important act of choosing and calling
a minister properly, according to the provisions of God's Word, the
congregation proceeds in this wise: Imploring God's blessing and guidance, it
secures, if possible, the advice and presence of one or more experienced
ministers of the Church, entrusting to them the direction of the public
election, Titus 1:5. Cp. Acts 1 :15-26; 6:1-6; 14:23. Every voting member has
the right to propose a candidate. Inquiring after the qualifications (1
Tim.3:2-7: "A bishop, then, must be blameless," etc.; Titus 1:6-9; 2
Tim.2:15,24-26) of the persons proposed, the congregation acknowledges those
as candidates who have been found eligible and recognizes and accepts the
candidate who receives all or a majority of the votes as the person whom God
has called through the congregation. The diploma of vocation, approved by the
congregation and signed by the proper officials (1 Cor. 16:3), pledges him to
adherence to the apostolic and prophetic Scriptures of the Old and the New
Testament as the Word of God, as also to the Confessions of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church and to the faithful administration of the holy office in all
its parts (Col.4:17: "Say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which
thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it"; cp. Acts 15:23;
26:22; 20:21, 26, 27; 2 Tim. 1 :13, 14, 8; 4:2, 5; 1 Pet. 5:1-4) and carries
the promise of the congregation to recognize him as its shepherd, teacher, and
overseer, to receive as the Word of God the divine word preached by him, to
obey him, love him, be at peace with him, honor him, and provide for his
sustenance, Luke 10:16; 1 Thess. 5:12; 2:13; Heb.13:17 ("Obey them that
have the rule over you and submit yourselves"); 1 Thess.5:13; 1 Tim.
5:17; Luke 10:7 ("The laborer is worthy of his hire"); 1
Cor.9:13,14; Gal.6:6. Upon his acceptance of the call he is, according to
apostolic usage (1 Tim. 4:14; Acts 6:6; 13:2,3), ordained or, in the case of
an ordained minister, publicly and solemnly installed into his office. (The
rite of ordination [installation] is the solemn and public ratification of the
call and includes the solemn and public ordination vow.) Those who would serve
in the ministry must be "proved" (examined), 1 Tim.3:10.
║ 22. In order that the Word of God may have free scope in a congregation,
public services on Sundays and the customary festivals, as also on certain
week-days, especially during Advent and Lent, annual days of humiliation and
prayer, harvest-feasts, thanksgiving days, and other holy-days (Luke 11:28:
"Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it"; Acts 2:46;
Heb. 10:24, 25 Acts 2:11), and public catechization of the young (2 Tim. 3:15:
"From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures"), should be
introduced and earnestly, though not as under legal constraint (Gal. 4:10, 11,
Col. 2:16, 17: "Let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink or in
respect of an holy-day," etc.), observed.
║ 23. In order that the Word of God may have full scope in a congregation,
it is furthermore incumbent upon the congregation that its members have their
children baptized without delay by their minister, as the steward of the
mysteries of God (I Cor.4:1; Mark 10:13f7.); that they have the youth prepared
by him for the full enjoyment of the means of grace and in due time publicly
confirmed (Matt.21:15,16); that they frequently ask, and receive of him, the
comfort of absolution and the Sacrament of the body and blood of Christ (John
20:23; 2 Cor. 2:10, I Cor. 11:20,26: "As often as ye eat this bread and
drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come") and that after
previous exploration and confession (Heb. 13:17: "They watch for your
souls as they that must give account"; cp. 1 Cor. 4:1; Matt. 7:6); that
they have him publicly solemnize and bless the marriage of the betrothed (1
Cor.7:39; 1 Tim.4:3); that in sickness and death and other afflictions and
tribulations they have him instruct and console them from the Word of God
(Jas. 5:14,15); and, finally, that they give their dead a Christian burial
║ 24. In order that the Word of God may richly dwell in a congregation,
the congregation should furthermore, if possible, establish an Ev. Lutheran
school for children and for this purpose call in Christian order an orthodox,
godly, and competent teacher (Matt. 18:10; Eph. 6:4: "Ye fathers, provoke
not your children to wrath but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of
the Lord"; Gen. 18:19; Deut.6:6,7; 2 Tim.3:15: "From a child thou
hast known the Holy Scriptures"; Rom. 2:20), pledge him to adherence to
the divine Word of the Old and the New Testament and the Confessions of the
Lutheran Church, and place him under the supervision of the public ministry (1
John 2:13; Heb. 13:17; Acts 20:28: "Take heed therefore unto . . . all
the flocks over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers").
║ 25. In order that the Word of God may have full scope in a congregation,
the congregation should lastly tolerate no divisions by way of conventicles,
that is, of meetings for instruction and prayer aside from the divinely
ordained public ministry, 1 Cor. 11:18; Jas. 3:1; 1 Cor. 12:29; 14:28; Acts
6:4; Rom. 10:15: "How shall they preach except they be sent?"
C. Of the Performance of the Duty of the Congregation to Care for the
Purity of Doctrine and Life and to Exercise Church Discipline in These Matters
║ 26. All the members of the congregation must strive to grow, and be
enriched, in all utterance and in all knowledge (2 Pet.3:18; I Cor.1:5) that
they may not remain children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every
wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14; Heb. 5:12) but try and judge by the Word of God
the doctrine preached to them (Acts 17:11: "They searched the Scriptures
daily whether those things were so"; Matt. 7:15,16; I John 4:1:
"Beloved, believe not every spirit but try the spirits whether they are
of God"; I Cor. 10:15).
║ 27. The congregation should establish in its midst also the office of
such elders as do not labor in the Word and doctrine (I Tim. 5:17) but assist
the minister, who has the office of the Word, in governing the Church and in
maintaining discipline and good order (Rom. 12:8: "He that ruleth, with
diligence"; 1 Cor. 12:28). What is set down Acts 6:3 ("Look ye out
among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and
wisdom"), 1 Tim. 3:8-12 concerning the eligibility of deacons (almoners)
applies also, and even in a higher degree, in the case of regular elders
║ 28. The congregation must see that none but pure church- and
schoolbooks, recognized by the orthodox Church, be introduced and tolerated in
its midst (1 Thess. 5:21; 2 Tim.1:13: "Hold fast the form of sound
words") and that the confessional ceremonies be retained (Gal. 2:4, 5).
║ 29. Such only are to be admitted to membership by the congregation as 1)
are baptized (Eph. 5:25, 26; 1 Cor. 12:13); 2) if adults, make profession of
their faith that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament are the
Word of God and that the doctrine contained in the Confessions of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church, especially in Luther's Small Catechism and the
Unaltered Augsburg Confession, is the pure Christian doctrine (Gal. 2:4; 2
Cor. 6:14,15,17; 2 John 10,11; Eph. 4:3-6: "One Lord, one faith, one
Baptism"); and, 3) lead an unoffensive Christian life (I Cor. 5:9-13:
"If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator or covetous; . .
.with such an one no not to eat"; 10:21; Matt. 7:6).
║ 30. It is the duty of the congregation to investigate in public meeting,
according to the Word of God and with hearing of witnesses (2 Cor. 13:1), the
cases of those members who are reported as having been disobedient to the Word
of God in doctrine or in life and who, having been admonished according to
Matt. 18:15,16 in private as well as in the presence of witnesses, refused to
hear the brethren, or of those whose false doctrine or sin is open and known
to every one; to convince of their error or sin, and to admonish and reprove,
those who have been found guilty (2 Cor. 2:6; 2 Thess. 3:14,15; 1 Tim. 5:20;
Gal.2:14); publicly to expel from the congregation, excommunicate, through the
minister of the Word, pursuant to a unanimous resolution, those who will not
hear the congregation and impenitently and obstinately persist in fundamental
error or manifest mortal sin (Matt. 18:17-20: "If he shall neglect to
hear them, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church; let
him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican"; 1 Cor. 5:1-5; Rom.
16:17: "Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the
doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them"; Titus 3:10,11; cp.1
Cor.5:9-13; 2 Tim.2:17-21); to hold them no longer as brethren, but as heathen
men and publicans, deny them the rights of a brother, and sever all fraternal
relations with them; and to proceed with Christian discipline against such as
refuse to consent to such excommunication (1 Cor. 5:1, 2). But those in whom
the excommunication has achieved its purpose and who penitently return the
congregation must publicly absolve and readmit (2 Cor. 2:6-11).
║ 31. The congregation is not permitted, and dare not arrogate to itself
the right, arbitrarily to depose its minister and others who hold an
ecclesiastical office in its midst. But if such men fall away into pernicious
error and, having been by due process of investigation (1 Tim. 5:19:
"Against an elder receive not an accusation but before two or three
witnesses") found guilty, spurn the admonition of the congregation and of
the orthodox ministers who have been called in; or if they stand revealed as
obstinately impenitent sinners, or if they have transgressed in such a way
that they no longer have "a good report of them which are without"
(1 Tim. 3:7) and have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme,
the congregation will in Christian order (which may under certain
circumstances be that of preliminary suspension) remove them from office as
such whom God himself has deposed (Matt. 7:15: "Beware of false prophets,
which come to you in sheep's clothing," etc.; Hos. 4:6; John 10:5).
║ 32. Lastly, the congregation will see to it that neither the
congregation nor any individual member thereof may become guilty of syncretism
by entering into ecclesiastical union or fraternal fellowship with unbelievers
or such as adhere to false doctrine. (2 Cor. 6:14-18: "Be ye not
unequally yoked together with unbelievers.... Wherefore come out from among
them and be ye separate"; 2 John 10,11: "If there come any unto you
and bring not this doctrine, receive him not." Cp. Rev. 14:9-11.)
D. Of the Performance of the Duty of the Congregation to Look after the
Temporal Welfare of Its Members
║ 33. In the first place, it is the duty of the congregation to provide
according to its ability for the maintenance of the pastor that he may have
food, clothing, and a dwelling for himself and his family (the dwelling to
contain a room for study and for meeting his people in undisturbed privacy),
Matt. 10:9,10; that he may have the means of practicing hospitality, 1 Tim3:2;
Titus1:8; that he may be able to live of the Gospel exclusively, 1 Cor. 9:14
("Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the Gospel should
live of the Gospel"); that he be not compelled to neglect his studies, to
forego social and fraternal intercourse, or to entangle himself with the
affairs of this life, 1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 2:3, 4; Eccles. 38:26, 27.¨This
applies also in due measure to the teachers of the young.
║ 34. It is likewise the duty of the congregation to provide food,
raiment, housing, and other necessaries for the poor, the widows and orphans,
the aged and infirm, who are unable to procure these themselves and have no
relatives whose special duty it would be to make such provision, 2
Thess.3:11,12; 1 Tim. 5:16. Cp. 1 John 3:17; Matt.25:35, 36,40,42,45;
Jas.1:27. The congregation should also relieve the need and distress
consequent upon special calamities, such as fire, dearth, famine, robbery,
etc. (2 Cor. 8: 13,14: "That now at this time your abundance may be a
supply for their want"; Rom. 12:15; 1 Cor. 12:26), so that no brother or
sister may be tempted to appeal to the mercy of them that are without, to the
dishonor of the Gospel, or even to join secret societies for the sake of the
aid promised (1 Thess. 4:11,12). For these purposes the congregation should
appoint special almoners, Acts 6:1-7.
║ 35. The congregation must see to it that the sick receive the necessary
help, are cared for by day and night, and made comfortable, Matt.25:36:
"I was sick, and ye visited Me"; cp. v. 43; 1 Tim. 5:10: "If
she have relieved the afflicted."
║ 36. The congregation should make provision for the decent, honorable,
and Christian burial of each, even the poorest, of its deceased members, Matt.
14:12; Acts 8:2; Jer. 22:18,19; Tob. 1:20.
E. Of the Performance of the Duty of the Congregation to See That All
Its Things be Done Decently and in Order
║ 37. In addition to what already has been mentioned incidentally the
following points come under this head: The pastor should keep and have in his
custody two books, a register containing the names of all the members of the
congregation, voting and non-voting members, and the church record, in which
he should enter the ministerial acts, baptisms, confirmations, publishing of
the banns,: marriages, burials, and communions, stating names, dates, places,
and other important circumstances. Both books should be furnished by, and
remain the property of, the congregation.
║ 38. All the papers and documents which concern the congregation or have
been directed to it or go out from it should, together with the minutes, be
preserved, in the originals, if possible, or in certified copies, by the
stated secretary of the congregation.
║ 39. The proper management of the financial affairs of the congregation,
the collection and payment of salaries, etc., call for the service of a
treasurer. For this office a competent person of good Christian character
should be appointed. The treasurer should submit monthly or quarterly reports
in public meeting, and his accounts should from time to time, at regular and
irregular intervals, be carefully audited by a committee appointed for such
purpose, 2 Cor. 8:20, 21.
║ 40. For the proper care of the poor, the widows and orphans, the aged,
infirm, sick, etc., of the congregation almoners should be appointed, who are
to see that no one be neglected in the ministration and aid required in each
case, Rom. 12:8 ("He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; . . . he
that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness"); Acts 6:1-7; 1 Tim. 3:8-13.
║ 41. The congregation should, if it has the means, acquire realty suiting
the needs of the congregation, such as a well-equipped church of sufficient
size, a schoolhouse, parsonage, burial-ground, etc., and choose men who shall
not only represent the congregation as trustees in its dealings with the State
in matters of property, but also have the supervision of such property and see
that it may not be damaged but kept in good condition and that the necessary
improvements and additions, etc., be made.
║ 42. The congregation should procure all the requisites for public
service, such as a church Bible, hymn-book, liturgy, baptismal and Communion
vessels, official vestments, etc., and appoint a sexton who is to have them in
custody, keep the church clean and in proper order, make the necessary
preparations for Baptism and Communion, and render other services to the
pastor during public worship. The pews should not be rented, but special seats
should be assigned to those who hold an office in the congregation, and a
sacristy should be provided for the pastor.
║ 43. The time of opening for all the meetings of the congregation should
be definitely fixed and strictly observed.
║ 44. In the meetings of the congregation no important matter should be
put to a vote at once, without previous discussion, explanation, and
║ 45. As a rule, all matters not determined, enjoined or prohibited, by
the Word of God, should be decided by a majority vote, a rule which
"nature teaches," 1 Cor. 11:14. But if it should become apparent
that forcing the decision of the majority might, because of the infirmity of
many, cause a breach or some other harm, the majority should, for the sake of
love and peace, yield to the minority, 2 Cor. 10:8.
║ 46. The chairman of the assembly must enforce the rule that but one
speaker may speak at a time, 1 Cor. 14:30, and only after the previous speaker
has finished, so that every one has an opportunity to express his opinion and
the discussion does not turn into a brawl, 1 Cor. 11:16.
║ 47. Before taking the votes at an election, the roll of the voting
members should be called and those answering cast their vote at once, absent
voters being permitted to vote by ballot only.
║ 48. All citations to appear in the meeting of the congregation should be
in writing and be delivered by a responsible person.
║ 49. All those who, besides the pastor, hold an office in the
congregation should be under a written instruction drawn up by the
congregation and precisely determining the extent and limits of their powers.
Every member should, if able, be willing to accept an office for which he has
been chosen. 1 Pet. 4:10,11: "As every man hath received the gift, even
so minister the same one to another as good stewards of the manifold grace of
║ 50. If the congregation adopts a written constitution, the latter should
contain only what is most necessary and has already stood the test of
congregational life, and no provision therein embodied concerning things
neither enjoined nor prohibited in the Word of God should be unalterable, but
all such provisions should be subject to alteration or repeal at any time, in
due order, and by a considerable majority.
║ 51. While every member of the congregation must recognize his duty to
contribute his proportional share to the maintenance of church and school and
the support of the needy members (Matt. 10:10; 1 Cor. 9:41; 2 Cor. 8:l2:
"According to that a man hath and not according to that he hath
not"), it must be left to the conscience and the voluntary charity of
every one to determine how much he should give in proportion, 2 Cor. 9:7:
"Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give: not
grudgingly or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver."
F. Of the Performance of the Duty of the Congregation to Endeavor to
Keep the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Love and Peace Also with Other
Parts of the Orthodox Church
║ 52. The congregation should be diligent in jointly offering prayer for
all saints, Eph. 6:18.
║ 53. As every true Ev. Lutheran local congregation has the same public
confessions of faith with the entire Ev. Lutheran Church, so it should also
give all diligence to be one with it in point of life and to "speak the
same thing, in the same mind, and in the same judgment," I Cor. 1:10.
║ 54. Each congregation should come to an agreement with the adjacent
congregations concerning the local limits of their respective territories
(Titus 1:5; Gal. 2:9), and no congregation should receive as members those who
reside in the territory of other congregations, I Pet. 4:15; 5:2 ("Feed
the flock of God which is among you"); Heb. 10:25.8)
║ 55. The congregation should demand from those who come to it from other
orthodox congregations a testimonial (letter of dismissal) issued by the
latter and recognize such testimonial. And it should give such testimonials to
those who remove to other congregations, Acts 18:27; 3 John 8-10.
║ 56. The congregation should not receive as members such as have been
rightfully excommunicated by orthodox congregations, 1 Tim.1:20; cp. 2
║ 57. The congregation should receive as brethren such as have been exiled
or have been wrongfully excommunicated or come as guests from other
congregations and care for them as for their own members, 1 Pet.4:9 ("Use
hospitality one to another without grudging; Heb. 13:2; Rom.16:1,2; 1
Cor.16:10,11; John 16:2; cp. 9:22-39.¨ Matt.25:35.
║ 58. If the congregation calls the pastor of another congregation, it
should ask the latter to give its consent to the pastor's accepting the call,
endeavoring to bring about a mutual agreement as to its being a divine call.
If its pastor is called to another congregation, it should examine such call
according to the Word of God and willingly release the pastor if the call
appears as being of God, 1 Tim.3:13.
║ 59. In grave cases a congregation should seek the advice of one or
several sister congregations and, when asked for such advice, be ready to give
it according to its ability. Cp. Acts 15.
║ 60. The congregation should regard the distress of sister congregations
as its own and give them all the aid and assistance possible, 1 Cor.16:1,2
("Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to
the churches of Galatia, so do ye"); 2 Cor.8:1-14; 9:1-15.
║ 61. The congregation should be willing to have its minister, if at all
possible, serve as an affiliated charge a neighboring congregation which
cannot by itself establish a ministry in its midst nor be merged with the main
G. Of the Performance of the Duty of the Congregation to Do Its Part in
Building Up, and Fostering, the Church at Large
║ 62. The congregation should see that gifted boys and young man be
consecrated to the service of the Church and that they be enabled to prepare
themselves for such service, 1 Cor. 12:7.
║ 63. The congregation should make provision that the Bread of Life be
broken to such of its brethren in the faith as suffer spiritual want and
should therefore support those who are performing this work of love, Acts
║ 64. The congregation should zealously engage in the work of Bible
distribution, 1 Thess. 3:27; Col. 4:16; cp. 1 Thess. 1:8.
║ 65. The congregation should join in the work of bringing the Gospel to
those who still sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to the poor
heathen and Jews, Matt. 28: 18-20 ("Teach all nations"); 1 Pet. 2:9
("Ye re a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a
peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called
you out of darkness into His marvelous light"); 2 Cor. 11:8; cp. Acts
║ 66. The congregation should be ready to unite with the Ev. Lutheran
congregations of this country when there is opportunity for such union and
this tends to serve and promote the glory of God and the upbuilding of His
kingdom, Eph. 4:3-6 ("Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the
bond of peace"); 1 Cor. 12:7 ("The manifestation of the Spirit is
given to every man to profit withal"). Cp. Acts 15.