Preamble to the Constitution
Our Shepherd Lutheran Church
Purpose of the Constitution
The church constitution "constitutes" the church, enabling the church to put into practice what it believes to be true. The constitution enables the church to accept members, conduct ministries, resolve disputes, elect leaders, and perform a myriad of other functions. The constitution also serves as rally point, a statement of agreement not only on how the church will conduct itself, but on the identity of the church itself. To that end, we have drafted a document intended to unite the members of Our Shepherd together for the common purpose of learning the truth with love for all.
Partnership with Others
Our purpose as a church is not to live in isolation, but to partner with others, especially with like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ, for the sake of bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. Accordingly, our constitution reflects our desire to constitute ourselves in a manner consistent with state and federal law, denominational agreement, our confessions, and most importantly, God's Holy Word. Consistent with our desire to partner with others is our membership in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and her partner churches throughout the world. We support our beloved synod, which has faithfully confessed the Gospel for over 150 years. Nevertheless, we have sought to make clear that our partnerships are bound only by full doctrinal agreement according to the confessional standard of the writings found in the Book of Concord from 1580.
Membership in the Church
Likewise, we have sought to make clear that the association of individual members to Our Shepherd is bound by our agreement to the teachings of Scripture, which are summarized in Luther's Small Catechism. Since we teach that reception of communion is a public confession of agreement in faith, we welcome to our altar those who willingly subscribe to the teachings of Scripture as summarized in the Catechism. This confession is the basis for entrance to our altar and "associate" membership in our church. Christians who agree with us can expect to commune with us.
At the same time, we recognize another level of fellowship that is characterized by the devotion of the disciples described in Acts 2:42, who "devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." The same disciples met together often and contributed "to anyone as he had need" (Acts 2:44-47). Our constitution describes this level of fellowship as full membership, which expects a commitment to attend worship regularly, make a yearly pledge of time, talents and treasures, and to attend Bible study.
Full members of the church can expect to receive spiritual care from the pastors and elders, to receive financial assistance as needed from scholarships and our benevolence funds, to participate in the elections of the church leadership, and to receive constant respect, encouragement and prayer from fellow members.
Organization of the Church
While drafting the constitution, we considered several passages from Scripture that describe how the members of the early church conducted their affairs. First, church members (both men and women) in the first century gathered together to elect church leaders and decide the affairs of the church (Acts 1:12-26 and Acts 15:22; Acts 6:1-7). The constitution establishes the gathered company of members, known as the voters, as the "final authority" for temporal and spiritual decisions in the church. The "final authority" exercised by the voters is understood within the context of Christ's authorization to his disciples to "bind and loose" both on earth and in heaven (Matthew 18:15-20). All authority on heaven and earth remains Christ's alone, but through his authority he has commanded the church to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:16-20) and otherwise conduct on the ministries of the church. Accordingly, the constitution establishes the voters as the "final authority" for the temporal and spiritual affairs of the church, including but not limited to the disposition of church property, the election of ministers, the acceptance of doctrine, and the granting of church membership.
Second, during the first century the apostles and elders together conducted and made decisions regarding the spiritual affairs of the church (Acts 15:1-21). Our research of this topic informed us that:
a) The term "elder" in New Testament meant "called and ordained pastor" and was interchangeable with other terms for the pastoral office, including "shepherd," "overseer" and "bishop." Our use of the term "elder" does not mean "called and ordained pastor," but lay member who assists the pastor, and by extension, serves in the "pastoral office."
b) Uniformly, Scripture reserves the role of spiritual leader, including the priesthood of the Old Testament and pastoral office of the New Testament, to men (1 Timothy 2:11-14).
c) The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has defined several distinctive roles of the pastoral office that should be reserved for men. They are: 1) the preaching in the formal public services of the congregation; (2) leading the formal public services of worship; (3) the public administration of the sacraments; and (4) the public administration of the office of the keys.
Accordingly, the constitution charges the pastoral office to devote itself to the spiritual care of the congregation and limits the performance of the distinctive functions of the pastoral office to men. Following the advice of Jethro to Moses (Exodus 18), we have extended the role of the pastoral office to "elders," lay men of good repute who have been trained to assist the pastors in conducting the distinctive functions of the pastoral office at Our Shepherd.
Third, church members in the first century elected deacons (and later deaconesses) to conduct the secular affairs of the church (Acts 6:1-7), so that the apostles could devote themselves to the spiritual affairs of the church. This is not to say that they deacons and deaconesses were excluded from spiritual ministries. Rather, they were often directly involved in evangelistic work with the other members of the church, contending alongside the apostles "in the cause of the Gospel" (Acts 6-8; Philippians 4:2-3; Romans 16:1-16).
Accordingly, the members of the Church Council, composed of both men and women, conduct the secular affairs of the church. Their work enables the pastors and elders to concentrate their labors on the spiritual care of the members, while also "contending alongside" the pastors and elders to advance the Gospel by witnessing and teaching the faith.
Vision of the Church
We are a Missouri Synod Lutheran church founded on the absolute truth of God's Word, believing in the sanctity of human life and traditional family values. While striving to be "all things to all people" (1 Corinthians 9:22), we accept that Christians at Our Shepherd are part of the larger body of Christ (the invisible church) that includes Christians in other churches and organizations. We accept that even as each Christian makes unique contributions to build up the kingdom of God in the local church (Ephesians 4:11-13), each church makes unique contributions to build up the kingdom of God in the larger community. Within this context, we recognize Our Shepherd's unique calling as a church located on the border of Birmingham and Royal Oak that unites learning the truth about Jesus with love for all people. Our identity includes a passion for learning and education, a focus on the Truth and Bible-based worship, a culture that promotes decency and respect for everyone, outreach to the community, and actions that communicate love for our Savior, for our members, and for all others. In one simple statement: Learning the Truth with Love for All.
We praise God for His work among us, fully aware that we are but his servants and He alone is worthy of all glory and honor. May the Lord, who has begun a good work among us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Soli Deo Gloria!
Third Sunday after Pentecost, 2010
OUR SHEPHERD LUTHERAN CHURCH,
Our Congregation, which is a domestic non-profit corporation, shall be known as: Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, Birmingham, Michigan. For the purposes of this Constitution, Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, Birmingham, Michigan, includes our various church and school ministries as have been established and as shall be established from time to time.
Our Congregation accepts without reservation all the revealed and verbally inspired canonical Books of the Old and New Testament as the inerrant written Word of God and the only rule and norm of faith and practice, and further accepts without reservation all the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church contained in the Book of Concord of 1580 as a true and sound exposition of Christian doctrine taken from, and in full agreement with the Holy Scriptures. The Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church that are included in this Confessional Standard are:
1. The Three Ecumenical Creeds: the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.
2. The Unaltered Augsburg Confession.
3. The Apology of the Augsburg Confession.
4. The Smalcald Articles.
5. The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.
6. The Small Catechism of Martin Luther.
7. The Formula of Concord.
All doctrine, preaching and teaching of our Congregation shall conform to this Confessional Standard.
Statement of Purpose
The purpose of our Congregation and its ministries is to give honor and glory to the Triune God; to carry out His will; to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world; to manifest the unity of our faith in Jesus Christ as God and Savior; to foster Christian fellowship and love; to extend a helping hand in human need; to provide religious and secular education; and to achieve our objectives by the preaching of the Word of God, the administration of the sacraments, and the religious instruction of children and adults according to the Confessional Standard set forth above.
Our Congregation shall be a member of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, as long as the Synod conforms to the Confessional Standard set forth above, as determined by a majority vote of the Voting Members present at a properly convened Voters' Meeting called solely for that purpose.
The membership of our Congregation shall consist of the following:
A. Baptized Membership
Baptized Members are all members who have been baptized with water in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and are under the spiritual care of this Congregation, including all those who have not yet been confirmed.
B. Communicant Membership
Communicant Members are those Baptized Members who conform to the following additional requirements:
1. accept all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as the only divine rule and standard of faith and life;
2. accept and confess that the teachings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church are faithful and true to the Word of God;
3. participate in divine worship services faithfully at Our Shepherd Lutheran Church;
4. seek to grow in faith and the knowledge of the Triune God through the study of the Word of God;
5. partake of the Lord's Supper faithfully at Our Shepherd Lutheran Church;
6. contribute regularly and faithfully their time, talents and treasures to Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, as God has prospered them;
7. strive to lead a righteous and godly life, and permit themselves to be admonished and corrected in a spirit of Christian love when they have erred;
8. are not members of an organization whose religious principles and practice conflict with the Word of God; and
9. are received through the rite of Confirmation, by transfer from another Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregation, or by profession/reaffirmation of faith.
C. Associate Membership
Associate Members are those Baptized Members who conform to the following additional requirements:
1. accept all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as the only divine rule and standard of faith and life;
2. accept and confess that the teachings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church are faithful and true to the Word of God;
3. are not members of an organization whose religious principles and practice conflict with the Word of God;
4. desire to affiliate with Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, but are not eligible for Communicant Membership status or who do not desire to have Communicant Membership status; and
5. have been designated Associate Members by the Board of Elders.
D. Voting Membership
Voting Members are those Communicant Members who have reached the age of eighteen and have read and have agreed to adhere to this Constitution and the By-laws of our Congregation.
E. Privileges and Duties of Voting Members
Voting Members shall have the right to vote in all matters properly presented before the Voters' Meeting. It shall be the privilege and duty of a Voting Member of our Congregation to:
1. Conscientiously and prayerfully exercise his/her right of suffrage in all measures that will advance the work of Christ's Kingdom both locally and in the church-at-large;
2. Willingly serve in any office or capacity for which his/her talents and abilities equip him/her and for which he/she is eligible; and
4. Faithfully attend meetings of the Voting Membership.
F. Release From Our Congregation
Release of an individual's Communicant Membership from our Congregation shall be granted for any of the following reasons:
1. Transfer to Another Congregation
Persons desiring to transfer their Communicant Membership to another Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod congregation, shall present their request to the Pastoral Office, who will forward the request to the Board of Elders for approval.
2. Joining Another Church
In cases where Communicant Members have joined another congregation outside of our own fellowship, they shall, upon the recommendation of the Pastoral Office and upon the approval of the Board of Elders, be considered as having terminated their membership and their names shall be removed from the Communicant Membership roster.
3. Inactivity of Membership
When a Communicant Member, of his or her own choosing, fails to participate in the worship life of the Congregation for a prolonged period of time, proper efforts shall be made by the Board of Elders and Pastoral Office to reactivate the Communicant Member to regular participation in Word and Sacrament. If the individual chooses to remain inactive, upon recommendation by the Pastoral Office and as approved by the Board of Elders, the individual will be removed from the Communicant Membership roster.
4. Whereabouts Unknown
The names of Communicant Members, whose whereabouts are unknown and cannot be established for one year, shall be released from the Communicant Membership roster upon recommendation by the Pastoral Office and as approved by the Board of Elders.
(a) Any member who conducts himself or herself in an un-Christian manner, lives in open sin, and shows no sign of repentance, or otherwise knowingly violates this Constitution, shall be ministered to according to the guidelines of Matthew 18:15-20.
(b) If he or she persists in impenitence, and/or refuses to attend meetings called by the Board of Elders, or designated appointees, to discuss his or her case according to the steps prescribed in Matthew 18:17, he or she shall be excommunicated. A 75% vote of the Voters' Meeting shall be required for such action of excommunication.
6. A person whose Communicant Membership has been terminated for any of the above reasons will forfeit all rights as a member of our Congregation and all claims upon the property of the Congregation as such, or upon any part thereof, so long as he or she is not reinstated into membership.
Delegation of Administrative Leadership and Spiritual Leadership
A. Authority of the Congregation
Our Congregation shall govern and manage its affairs through a properly convened Voters' Meeting. The Voting Membership is the final authority on all issues, including issues of doctrine, as limited by the Confessional Standard set forth above and as consistent with the Holy Scriptures. The Congregational Chairman and Vice-Chairman are responsible for calling, convening and chairing Voters' Meetings. However, the Chairman of the Board of Elders shall chair that portion of the Voters' Meeting that addresses spiritual matters, which shall include the Divine Call process and determining issues of doctrine.
B. Delegation of Administrative Leadership to the Church Council
1. The administrative leadership of our Congregation is delegated to the Church Council, whose duties and responsibilities shall be the funding, administration, and operation of the church and school. The members of the Church Council shall consist of the Congregational Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Treasurer, Recording Secretary, Chairman of the Board of Elders, and the chairs of the other permanent administrative boards as set forth in the By-laws. All members of the Church Council and all other elected officers shall be Voting Members of this Congregation.
2. The Church Council shall be responsible for the performance of such duties as the Voting Membership may delegate to them from time to time. The Congregational Chairman, with the advice and consent of the Church Council, may appoint such task forces and committees as are deemed necessary to assist in the performance of their delegated duties. The length of service for these appointments shall be determined by the Congregational Chairman.
3. As the legal representative of our Congregation, the Congregational Chairman, with the advice and consent of the Church Council, shall determine who signs legal documents, executes contracts, represents the Congregation in court, and hires, supervises and terminates non-called workers. The corporate officers of our Congregation shall consist of the Congregational Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Treasurer, and Recording Secretary.
4. The Church Council and all other elected or appointed officers of our Congregation shall have no authority beyond that which has been specifically delegated to them by the Constitution, By-laws, or the Voting Membership. The Church Council and all other elected or appointed officers shall be accountable to the Voting Membership.
5. The Congregational Chairman shall select a nominating committee for the elected officers of not less than five (5) Voting Members. The Nominating Committee will prepare a single slate of candidates (i.e., one candidate per elected position) drawn from the Voting Membership. The Pastoral Office shall be an advisory member of the nominating committee.
C. Delegation of Spiritual Leadership to the Pastoral Office, the Board of Elders, and the
As a called and ordained minister(s), the Pastoral Office is responsible for the spiritual overseeing and shepherding of our Congregation, which shall include the following functions: (1) the preaching in the formal public services of the congregation; (2) leading the formal public services of worship; (3) the public administration of the sacraments; and (4) the public administration of the office of the keys. Consistent with the teachings of Scripture only men may hold the Pastoral Office
The spiritual leadership of our Congregation is delegated to the Pastoral Office, the Board of Elders, and the Elders, whose duties and responsibilities are the spiritual well-being of the entire congregation (individually and corporately) and all called and non-called staff and volunteers, and the supervision of everything pertaining to congregational worship. The Board of Elders shall be responsible for assigning the tasks and reviewing the spiritual leadership of those men in the Pastoral Office. The Chairman of the Board of Elders, with the advice and consent of the Board of Elders, may appoint such assistants, task forces and committees as are deemed necessary to assist in the performance of their delegated duties. The length of service for these appointments shall be determined by the Chairman of the Board of Elders. The Board of Elders shall be accountable to the Voting Membership. All members of the Board of Elders and all Elders shall be Voting Members of our Congregation. Consistent with the delegation of spiritual leadership, only men may be members of the Board of Elders and Elders.
Issuance of the Divine Call
A. The Divine Call
Our Congregation only shall issue the Divine Call to Ministers of Religion - Ordained and Ministers of Religion - Commissioned. Candidates for such offices shall profess and adhere to the Confessional Standard set forth above.
B. Right of Calling
The right of calling Ministers of Religion - Ordained or Ministers of Religion - Commissioned shall be vested in the Voting Membership and shall never be delegated. The Chairman of the Board of Elders shall select a call committee of not less than five (5) Voting Members. The call committee will prepare a slate of candidates who are synodically eligible for the Divine Call. The Pastoral Office shall be an advisory member of the call committee. The Divine Call shall only be issued by a two-thirds majority vote at a Voters' Meeting.
C. Removal of Call
Any called Minister of Religion - Ordained or Minister of Religion - Commissioned may have their call removed by a two-thirds majority vote at a Voters' Meeting, by written ballot, in Christian and lawful order, for any of the following reasons: persistent adherence to false doctrine, scandalous life, inability to perform his/her official duties, or willful neglect of his/her official duties.
Organizations may be established by or affiliated with the Congregation only with express approval of the Voting Membership, and all such organizations shall be under the supervision of the appropriate Administrative Board under whose jurisdiction such organization is assigned and functions. Only Voting Members of this Congregation shall be the elected officers of such organizations that have been established by the Congregation.
If at any time a separation should take place within this Congregation, the advice of the officers of District and Synod shall be sought. If, despite all efforts to resolve differences in peace and love, a division into factions of our Congregation shall occur, the property of our Congregation and all related benefits shall remain with those members who continue to adhere to the Confessional Standard set forth above and who continue to adhere to the practices of this Constitution.
In the event our Congregation should totally disband or dissolve, all property and ownership rights of our Congregation shall be transferred to the Michigan District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
Validity of Resolutions
All congregational matters shall be decided by a simple majority of the qualified Voting Members present at a properly convened Voters' Meeting, except as otherwise provided in this Constitution or the By-Laws.
Our Congregation may adopt such By-Laws as are needed from time to time to accomplish its mission and ministry. The By-Laws may be amended by a two-thirds majority of the Voting Membership present at a properly convened Voters' Meeting. The By-Laws shall not conflict with the Confessional Standard set forth above or this Constitution.
Amendments to this Constitution may be made provided they do not conflict with the Confessional Standard set forth above.
This Constitution may be changed or amended by a two-thirds majority of the votes cast in a regular assembly of the Voters' Meeting, provided that the intention to amend the Constitution and the wording of the amendments proposed shall be communicated in writing to the Congregation assembled for worship on two successive Sundays prior to the date upon which the amendment is presented for action.
Only such hymns, prayers, and liturgies that conform to the Confessional Standard set forth above shall be used in the public service of our Congregation.