The Proper Form of an Evangelical Lutheran Congregation Independent of the State
By Dr. C.F.W. Walther
Translated by Dr. Th. Engelder

Walther and the Church
By Dau, Engelder, and Dallmann

 

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 Church.

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 How much of Walther's Proper Form is out of date?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 Those forms which are directly called for by Scripture are never out of date.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.


PRELIMINARY REMARKS

║ 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 found.

║ 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 like.

║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 the Word.

 

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 (Acts 8:2).

║ 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 (wardens).

║ 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 deliberation.

║ 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 God."7)

║ 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 Tim.4:14,15.

║ 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 congregation.

 

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 11:21,22.

║ 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 13:1-5.)

║ 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.


Copyright 1938, Concordia Publishing House.
Used by permission.