Greenville County, South Carolina
July 7, 2013
The Congregation is founded for the purpose of strengthening its members in Word and Sacrament. As a result, we should have an eager desire to spread the Good News of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ with the communities where we live and work, sanctifying the Lord God in our hearts, and always being ready to give a defense to everyone who asks us the reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). We are a “church,” not a “business.” We are centered in Word and Sacrament.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
This document serves a dual purpose. It is required by law to have a “constitution” in order to incorporate as a not-for-profit organization in the State of South Carolina. But, more importantly, these Fundamental Canons and By-Laws serve to set our theological course as an Evangelical Lutheran Congregation. The Congregation will, in the course of time, hire and dismiss workers and will incur operating expenses (salaries, insurance policies, mortgages, utilities, supplies, and the like). It is desirable that we meet our responsibilities in a timely fashion, in accordance with the will of the Congregation. However, the Fundamental Canons and By-Laws do not serve to establish the Congregation as a “business.” Therefore, matters such as the steady rate of membership growth, the value of assets, and the like, are of lesser importance than the confession of the true doctrine.
We are God’s house of living stones,
Builded for His habitation;
He through baptismal grace us owns
Heirs of His wondrous salvation.
Were we but two His name to tell,
Yet He would deign with us to dwell,
With all His grace and His favor.
text, Nicolai F. S. Grundtvig, 1837
We have recognized the faith in one another and have formed this Evangelical Lutheran Congregation. Our purpose is to glorify God, to serve His people with His gifts, and to proclaim His Word to the world (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-18).
The Name of This Congregation
Section 1. All members of this Congregation acknowledge and accept without reservation the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the verbally inspired and inerrant Word of God and the only rule and norm of Christian doctrine and practice.
Section 2. The name of this Congregation shall be Saints Peter and Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church (Unaltered Augsburg Confession [U.A.C.]), located in the County of Greenville, South Carolina. (The Fundamental Canons and By-Laws use the words Congregation and Parish interchangeably.)
The purpose of this Congregation is to gather together a Eucharistic community for the honor and glory of the Triune God.
Our purpose is to remain steadfast and confident as an Evangelical Lutheran Congregation unreservedly holding to the Book of Concord (1580).
Articles of Faith
All members of this Congregation acknowledge and accept, without reservation, the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church contained in the Book of Concord (1580) as the true and faithful exhibition of the Word of the Holy Trinity, as correct statements of the teaching of Holy Scripture and of the faith of this congregation. These Symbolical writings are:
- The Apostles’ Creed
- The Nicene Creed
- The Athanasian Creed
- The Unaltered Augsburg Confession
- The Apology of the Augsburg Confession
- The Smalcald Articles
- The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope
- Luther’s Small Catechism
- Luther’s Large Catechism
- The Formula of Concord (Epitome and Solid Declaration)
Section 3. No doctrine or practice shall be taught or tolerated in this Congregation that is, in any way, at variance with the Holy Scriptures and these Symbolical Books.
Section 4. All controversies that may arise in this congregation shall be decided and adjudicated according to the aforesaid norm of doctrine and practice (Sec. 3 above).
Saints Peter and Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church is an independent church. Currently the Congregation and its Pastor have Altar and Pulpit Fellowship with the other independent Congregations also affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America (ELDoNA) and other Congregations affiliated with any Lutheran body in Altar and Pulpit Fellowship with the ELDoNA. The pastor bears particular responsibility for informing the parish of the doctrinal integrity of the parishes with which it is joined in fellowship.
Section 1. The membership of this congregation includes the following:
Baptized members are all who have been baptized “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost” and who are under the spiritual care of the Pastor of this Congregation, including the children who have not yet been confirmed.
Communicant members are those baptized members who have been confirmed in the Lutheran faith, accept the confessional standard of Article III of the Fundamental Canons, are well familiar with Luther’s Small Catechism, and are not members of organizations whose principles and conduct conflict with the Word of God. These organizations include all lodges (Freemasons, Moose, Elks, etc.). Potential new communicant members coming from other Lutheran bodies will be examined and, as necessary, instructed by the Pastor to ensure doctrinal integrity and unity at the Lord’s Table.
All potential new members coming from outside the Lutheran faith who wish to become members of this Congregation will be thoroughly instructed and examined before becoming communicant members through the Rite of Confirmation.
All new members, whether received by Affirmation of Faith or by the Rite of Confirmation, shall, by their signatures, avow agreement with these Fundamental Canons and By-Laws (Appendix B).
A Letter of Peaceful Release or a Letter of Transfer will be required of new members, when possible.
Section 2. Membership will be terminated upon request, whether by peaceful release or transfer, excommunication, or death. Former members shall forfeit any and all claims to Parish property.
Church discipline shall be exercised in this Congregation according to Saint Matthew 18:15-20 as interpreted and set forth in the Augsburg Confession, Article XXVIII, “Church Authority”; Apology XXVIII, “Church Authority”; and the Large Catechism, the Eighth Commandment; as contained in the Book of Concord (1580), toward those who err from the proper interpretation and application of the faith they have confessed or who have given offense in other ways (including, but not limited to, willful neglect of the Means of Grace and patently divisive activities), and who are unrepentant in such.
At all times church discipline will be done in the spirit of the Gospel; namely, to regain the erring as brothers and sisters. Those members who become evident as impenitent sinners and finally must be excommunicated and those who have excluded themselves from the Congregation by evading Matthew 18:15-18 or by willful and persistent violation of the Third Commandment, thereby despising the Word and Sacraments, lose all their rights in the parish.
To be a communicant member, one must receive the Sacrament at least four times per year, that is, at least once every three months. The Pastor will give due consideration where exceptional circumstances have prevented regular reception of Holy Communion. Excommunication will be exercised by the Pastor through the Office of the Keys (the loosing and binding of sins) after consultation with, not permission from, the Congregation.
The Life of the Congregation
Section 1. In all matters of Christian faith and life, the Word of the Holy Trinity, as it is set forth in the unchanging Holy Scripture, is supreme (Psalm 119:105). The Word shall be interpreted only through the doctrinal standard set forth in the Book of Concord. (See Art. III above.)
Section 2. No group or society may be organized within the Congregation without the approval of the Pastor. The Pastor shall be assured that the aims of such groups or societies are in complete harmony with the Congregation’s aims and the articles of faith contained in Article III before approval is granted (1 Corinthians 1:10; 12:25).
It is this Congregation’s purpose and desire to enter into a fellowship which is episcopally structured (Apology 14).
The Pastoral Office
Section 2. A Divine Call shall be extended through the members of the Congregation, acting in consultation with and receiving assistance from the ministerium, which will ordain and/or install the called Pastor.Section 3. Length of Call. In the absence of any one, or a combination thereof, of the three Scriptural causes for dismissal from the pastoral office (see Art. XI, Sec. 2), the length of call of the Pastor shall be the remainder of his life, or until the Holy Trinity calls him to another location.
Officers of the Congregation
Section 1. This Congregation shall elect officers and committee members to aid the Pastor in the administrative affairs of the Congregation.
Section 2. The particulars of the board, committees, guilds, etc., of this Congregation are detailed in the By-Laws.
Section 3. Boards.
Removal from Office
Section 1. Anyone holding an elected or appointed office in the Congregation who willfully neglects his duty or holds, supports, or promotes, publicly or privately, doctrine and/or practice contrary to that which is established by the referenced standards in Article III above, will be subject to admonition by the Pastor. If that officer does not, after due, clear, and repeated admonition, amend his error, the Pastor shall bring it to the attention of the Congregation and he shall be removed from office and another elected or appointed in his place.
Section 2. The only sufficient and urgent causes for removing a rightly called Pastor are (a)persistent adherence to or the promotion of false doctrine, that is, any doctrinal practice or position in contradiction to the standard of Article III above; (b) scandalous life as defined by Holy Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9); or (c) persistent and willful neglect of his duties, as defined in his call document. Revocation of the Divine Call will only occur after sufficient cause has been established and documented by members of the Congregation, in consultation with another Pastor of the ministerium who is faithfully adhering to the aforesaid standards of doctrine and practice, or in consultation with the Bishop of the ELDoNA.
This Congregation shall have the right to acquire, own, and dispose of property as is necessary for faithfully accomplishing its stated purpose: the spread of the Gospel unto the ends of the earth(Matthew 28:19-20).
This Congregation may from time to time adopt By-Laws as are necessary to accomplish the purpose of this Congregation. They must be fully consistent with Article III of these Canons and be approved by a three-fourths majority decision of the eligible voters present at a special meeting of the Congregation.
Section 1. The Preamble and Articles II, III, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, XI and XIII shall not be abridged, amended or changed by any individual, committee or assembly of voters.
Section 2. Articles I, XII, and XIV may be repealed, revised or altered by the unanimous decision of the eligible voters present at a special meeting of the Congregation.
Section 3. Articles IV and X maybe be repealed, revised or altered by the three-fourths majority decision of the eligible voters present at a special meeting of the Congregation.
Section 4. The date and time of a special meeting shall be published and disseminated on two preceding Sundays, as shall the text of the proposed repeal, revision, or alteration.
Saints Peter and Paul
Evangelical Lutheran Church
(Unaltered Augsburg Confession)
Greenville County, South Carolina
The Name of This Congregation
The name of this Congregation shall be Saints Peter and Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church (Unaltered Augsburg Confession), located in the County of Greenville, South Carolina. (The Fundamental Canons and By-Laws use the words Congregation and Parish interchangeably.)
The purpose of this Congregation is to gather together as a Eucharistic community for the honor and glory of the Triune God. We believe the Holy Bible (the 66 books of the received text, Old and New Testaments alike) is the only authoritative and error-free source for doctrine. We remain steadfast and confident as an Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, unreservedly holding to the Book of Concord (1580). We subscribe the Book of Concord not in so far as but because it is an accurate presentation of Scriptures’ teaching that Jesus is the center of Scripture and the only way to eternal salvation, and that the Holy Spirit uses the Gospel alone (the Word of God and the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion) to bring people to faith in Jesus as Savior and keep them in that faith, strengthening them in their daily life of sanctification.
Our organization is organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, and other charitable purposes. Net earnings may not inure to the benefit of any private individual or shareholder. No substantial part of our activity shall attempt to influence legislation or intervene in political campaigns. The organization’s purposes and activities intend to be compliant with the laws of the State of South Carolina and Federal laws.
- Meetings shall be held quarterly on the first Sundays of March, June, September, and December. The Pastor shall chair the meeting. In his absence the Presiding Trustee shall chair the meeting.
- Special Parish meetings. Special meetings may be called by the Pastor of the Congregation or the Vestry. The date and time of the special meeting shall be announced in the most expeditious manner, normally two Sundays in advance. Only the business item(s) for which the special meeting is called shall be discussed. The Pastor shall chair the meeting. In his absence the Presiding Trustee shall chair the meeting.
- The Vestry shall meet on the first Sunday of each month. The Pastor shall chair the meeting. In his absence the Presiding Trustee shall chair the meeting.
- Order of business.
- The meetings of the Parish and Vestry shall be conducted in accordance with the Fundamental Canons and By-Laws and shall include an opening devotion, approval of minutes of the previous meetings, reports of officers and standing committees, unfinished business, recommendations of the Vestry, other business, and adjournment with appropriate Word of God and/or prayer.
- Only items of business announced to the Congregation during the two Sundays immediately prior to a Parish meeting may be voted upon during the said meeting. Any other item of business discussed during said meeting shall be tabled to become a business item at the next meeting. Announcements must be made available to all voting members in writing and/or email. This applies to regular and special Parish meetings.
Voting in the Congregation
- Eligibility. All communicant members who have reached the age of 18 years and are not currently under church discipline are eligible to vote.
- Expectation of eligible voters. It is the expectation that eligible voters shall attend the parish meetings regularly and willingly accept responsibility according to their ability. Persons who have lost their voting privileges may apply for readmission to voter status with the Pastor, who, after consultation with the Vestry, may restore them to voting status, to be effective at the quarterly voters meeting following the next regularly scheduled quarterly voters meeting.
- New communicant members. Persons, age 18 and older, who have been received into membership will be considered eligible voters and will not be required to have communed at least once per quarter during the first year after reception into membership.
- Decisions. All voting, except as stated in Article XIV of the Canons and Article XIV of the By-Laws, shall be decided on a three-fourths majority of all present eligible voters with the exception of the approval of the annual budget and the election of officers, which shall require a 60-percent majority.
- Absentee voting. Absentee and/or proxy voting is not permitted. Eligible voting members absent from a meeting for whatever reason waive the right to vote at that meeting.
- The Congregation shall elect from its confirmed membership:
- One Recording Secretary
- One Treasurer
- One Financial Secretary
- Two Assistant Financial Secretaries, minimum (“counters”)
- Two Trustees, minimum, one of whom serving as Presiding Trustee.
- All Parish officers shall be communicant members of the Congregation and shall have reached the minimum age of 18 years.
- All offices of the Congregation are open to both men and women.
- Terms of office. All offices are up for re-election annually with no specified term limit.
- No member shall hold the offices of Treasurer and Financial Secretary, Treasurer and Assistant Financial Secretary, or Financial Secretary and Assistant Financial Secretary simultaneously.
- The Recording Secretary shall record the proceedings of the Parish and Vestry meetings and submit them for adoption at the next regular meeting.
- The Recording Secretary shall be the custodian of all official parish records and at the end of his or her term of service shall deliver them to his or her successor.
- The Treasurer shall pay all the bills authorized by the Congregation. He or she shall keep accurate records of the receipts and disbursements of the Congregation in books that shall be and remain the property of the Congregation.
- These books shall be audited annually and a report of such audit shall be submitted to the Parish Vestry at its February meeting and to the Congregation at its March meeting.
- The Financial Secretary shall receive, record, and deposit in the Congregation’s designated depository all parish monies, including offerings, contributions, special collections, loans, subsidies, bequests, etc.
- A written report of such receipts shall be made to the Treasurer weekly.
- The Financial Secretary and his or her assistants shall constitute the Finance Board.
- All offerings shall be counted weekly in the presence of at least two members of the Finance Board and a written report given to the Financial Secretary and the Treasurer.
The Trustees shall be charged with the supervision of Parish property and financial affairs. To that end they shall:
- have custody of the property of the Congregation and make such rules and regulations as they deem expedient for the maintenance and improvement of it;
- upon proper authorization by the Congregation, sell, mortgage, lease, or otherwise convey and dispose of the property of the Congregation;
- sign legal documents, make contracts, and represent the Parish in courts of law when necessary;
- supervise and direct the work of all Parish employees and, within budgetary limitations, authorize the purchase of all supplies necessary for the efficient operation of the Parish;
- and be the people whose counsel the Pastor actively seeks.
- Budget Committee.
- The Budget Committee shall consist of the Parish Vestry.
- The Pastor and the various Boards and Committees shall submit financial projections to the Vestry for its consideration at their September meeting.
- The Budget Committee shall prepare an annual budget and distribute it to the Congregation by the first Sunday in November.
- Budget approval shall take place at the December Parish
- Audit Committee.
- The Audit Committee, which shall consist of at least two persons, shall be appointed by the Parish Vestry.
- Neither the Treasurer nor the Financial Secretary, or their spouses or other persons with whom there is a generally known close relationship, shall be members of the Audit Committee.
- Nominating Committee
- The Nominating Committee, which shall consist of at least two persons, shall be appointed by the Congregation at their September meeting.
- The committee shall present a slate of candidates for all the Parish officer positions at the December meeting of the Congregation. Additional nominations may be made from the floor. No person shall be nominated without his or her consent.
Vacancy in an Elective Office
In the event of a vacancy in an elective office, the Vestry shall appoint a qualified successor to fill the unexpired term. With the appointed officer’s consent, he or she shall assume office immediately. This action is to be reported to the Congregation at its next scheduled meeting.
Confidentiality of Offerings
Information concerning the monetary offerings or gifts of individual congregational members shall not be divulged to other members of the Congregation.
The Congregation maintains its property rights while still desiring episcopal structure.
- Separation: Members who sever their connection with this Congregation, whether by transfer or release to another Congregation, by moving away without leaving an address, or are removed by self-exclusion, forfeit all claims to the property of the Congregation.
- Excommunication: Excommunicated persons and persons who separate from the Congregation and support thereof, immediately forfeit all claims to the property of the Congregation.
- Doctrinal Dispute: If at any time a separation based on doctrinal disagreement should occur, the property of the Congregation and all benefits connected thereto shall remain with those members who faithfully adhere to the Confessional Standard of Article III of these canons.
- Dissolution: In the event of the dissolution of this Congregation, all property shall be dispersed by the Congregation members, after all Congregation debts have been paid. The dispersal of remaining assets shall be done in a manner consistent with the purpose of this Congregation as stated in Article II of these By-Laws.
These By-Laws may be amended in a properly convened meeting of the Congregation by a three-fourths majority of all voting members present, provided the proposed change has been announced at least two weeks prior to the meeting in which the amendment comes up for approval. Announcement shall be made available to all voting members in writing and/or email.
Acceptance of the Fundamental Canons and By-Laws of the Congregation
Communicant members of the Congregation shall, after receipt and review, as an affirmation of acceptance, sign the signature page found in Appendix B of the Fundamental Canons and By-Laws.
Niles Theses and Malone Theses
Points of Agreement on Controverted Issues of the Day
Agreed in Niles, Michigan
21 July A.D. 2005
Amended: 6 June A.D. 2006
We all agree:
Office of the Ministry
1) The office of the ministry is not merely a function in the church but the divinely established office in the church. Its holders represent Christ to the church and give God’s gifts to God’s people.
2) The office of the ministry is not derived from baptism; rather it is conferred through call and ordination within the church.
3) Women cannot hold the office of the ministry, nor presume to function in it, in the church catholic.
4) Ordination is not an adiaphoron. It is part of a right understanding of a proper call.
Pulpit and Altar Fellowship
5) The practice of closed communion is biblical and confessional, and the true practice of Christian love.
6) Worship together with non-Christians is a violation of the Christian faith and a gross sin against the Triune God.
7) Participation in an event of joint public prayer, that is, taking part in a religious service in which many different gods are invoked is participation in universalistic worship and is clear violation of scripture.
8) Calling such participation acceptable because it is “serial” is deceptive and a violation of Scripture.
9) Being in pulpit and altar fellowship with any particular member of the Lutheran World Federation, or any other such organization, puts one in fellowship with all members of the LWF or any other such organization.
The Lord’s Supper
10) The use of grape juice or any other element but natural wine for the blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper is a violation of Christ’s institution, as is the use of anything other than natural bread for the body of Christ.
11) We recognize that it is preferable from the Scriptures, Confessions, and catholic practice that pastors offer the Lord’s Supper to the flock each Lord’s day, and that the divine service of word and sacrament is the normal service for the Lord’s day.
12) The term “catholic” is not the possession of any particular church body, including the Church of Rome. To say that the church is “catholic” is to confess that it is the one true and universal church, which teaches the Word of God in its truth and purity and administers the Sacraments according to Christ’s institution. Therefore any church body which teaches false doctrines and/or corrupts the sacraments, even if it claims catholicity, is not catholic.
13) The teaching of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession (i.e. that of all the Concordia ) is the true catholic doctrine. The church that faithfully adheres to and confesses this historic, apostolic faith, drawn from the unchanging Holy Scriptures, is a truly catholic church. To be truly Lutheran is to be truly catholic.
14) The Lutheran Church continues to express its catholicity through our use of the liturgy of the ancient and undivided Church, as it was purified at the time of the Reformation, traditional vestments for the divine service and various prayer offices, and retention of the historic church year.
15) The Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God.
06 June A. D. 2006
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Building upon the Niles Theses of A.D. 2005, we, the undersigned, wish to further clarify our common beliefs concerning controverted issues facing the Evangelical Lutheran Church in our day. We all agree that these stated positions are our firmly held convictions, and in conformity with Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, and we wish to have fellowship with all others who teach and confess the same.
It is our desire to see Lutherans adopt a more fully liturgical, sacramental, and historic divine service. We wish to promote a more truly catholic practice among the saints entrusted to our care, and clearly distinguish ourselves from the ‘Protestantizing’ practices which dominate so much of the American Lutheran church. Therefore, we all agree that:
1) We seek to achieve a high degree of uniformity in the liturgical expression of our theological agreement among the parishes of our signators. Significant deviation in liturgical practice between parishes is confusing to the members of the Church. Therefore, we commit ourselves to endeavor over time, by common consensus, to minimize local deviations from common practice.
2) We recognize that Lutherans in other countries observe different elements in the rite of the divine service. Lutherans in traditionally Eastern Orthodox lands may have different liturgical traditions from Lutherans in the West. However, we reject any effort to institute Eastern elements which would violate Formula of Concord article 10, that is, which give the appearance of doctrinal unity where no such unity exists.
Office of the Ministry
It is our desire to fully re-establish the confessional understanding of the office of the ministry within the Lutheran Church. Therefore, we reject all ‘functionalist’ misconceptions of the office of the ministry. Therefore, we all agree that:
3) Laymen ought not preach or read sermons at the divine service. Laymen are not to administer the sacraments of the Church. Emergency baptism is the only exception to this rule. (AC 14)
4) The Church, corporately, possesses the office of the ministry. Our Lord Jesus Christ gave the office of the keys to the whole Church. That office is conferred upon men by the Church through call and ordination.
It is our desire to conform ourselves to the dominant practice of the Church throughout all time on the issue of polity. We wish to distinguish ourselves from the democratic mind-set that is dominant in the Lutheran churches in America. It is the overwhelming witness of the church catholic that Episcopacy has been the accepted polity in the Church. Therefore, we all agree that:
5) We recognized that a truly Evangelical Episcopacy is set forth as the preferred polity of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as taught in the Augsburg Confession (XXVIII), the Apology (XXVIII), and the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope.
6) We seek the restoration of the historic, preferred polity—that is, the offices of Bishop, Presbyter, and Deacon—within the one divinely-established office of the ministry as local circumstances warrant.
The variations in terminology used to refer to occupants of the ministry and various lay officers in congregations has led to increasing confusion on the Church. While there is no law to be made regarding the terminology by which we reference offices and officeholders not established by God’s Word, uniformity of usage would contribute to the teaching and preservation of correct doctrine throughout the Church. Therefore, we agree that:
7) We will endeavor to use terminology/nomenclature in the same way both in our teaching and in our parish structure.
As pastors, we take seriously our responsibility to serve as “stewards of the mysteries of God.” No matter how ‘interesting’ and ‘clever’ new theories may be, we reject and avoid practices that are completely unknown to the history and practice of the Church of the Augsburg Confession. Therefore, we all agree that:
8) We reject the practice of infant communion. We reject the practice of the Eastern churches which commune infants at the time of baptism. We also reject the practice of communing small children who have not been examined and absolved. We hold to article 25 of the Augsburg Confession, which says, “The custom has been retained among us of not administering the sacrament to those who have not previously been examined and absolved.”
9) We reject infant communion because it undermines the pastoral responsibility to examine those who present themselves for communion. It also does not help the communicant learn the practice of self-examination. We further reject it because it has no Lutheran precedent. And finally, the erosion of pastoral examination of communicants involved in infant communion is the same as that erosion caused by the practice of open communion.
10) We also encourage the maintenance of, or restoration into our parishes of, private confession and absolution (AC XI) as a helpful practice in preparation for reception of the sacrament.
It has become sadly evident that there is a need to make a clear distinction between the doctrine and practices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the churches of Eastern Orthodoxy. Our fellowship eschews any appearance of “Easternizing.” Therefore, we all agree that:
11) We reject the teaching that icons or statues or any sort of image are means of grace.
12) We, as Lutherans, embrace images as tools for piety and aids in the honoring and worship of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are also valuable tools in honoring of the saints. Images—especially the crucifix—have always been an important part of the life of the Church.
13) We recognize that in the Western Church, statuary and paintings have been an important part of the life of the Church. We encourage the use of statuary and paintings in the Church in order that they may help draw the Christian’s mind to our Lord and His grace.
14) We recognize the recent use of Eastern style icons in the worship life of the Lutheran Church as an alien element in Western Lutheran churches. We reject the veneration of icons or images in the Lutheran Church.
15) We agree with the conclusions of the Blessed Martin Chemnitz regarding the Seventh Ecumenical Council and its advocacy of adoring images. He condemned this council’s decree on adoration of images, whether icons or other types of images: “The chief point is that at this synod it was decreed, contrary to the clear statement of Scripture, and contrary to the unanimous testimony of all antiquity, that sacred images are to be honored, venerated, saluted, embraced, kissed, worshiped, and adored.” (Ex. pp. 115-116.)
These theses, and those agreed to in Niles, Michigan, are not seen by us as additions to our vows to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, which vows are unconditional. These theses may change as the issues are further clarified. However, we do see them as defining the limits of our fellowship with regard to these issues until such time as we are convinced otherwise from the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions, or until further clarification is needed. We are keenly aware of the fluid nature of such statements. We are also keenly aware of the clear lines of distinction they draw among those who call themselves Lutherans, and we intend to draw such lines.
Many of the matters addressed by these theses are not matters that are divisive of fellowship (episcopacy, liturgy, etc.). We, in our fellowship, voluntarily agree to abide by these theses for the well being of our parishes. These theses are not a declaration of fellowship. Those inside our fellowship voluntarily agree with these theses and support them. But we also wish to have these theses function as a marker of agreement between Christians who are not yet necessarily in fellowship. Therefore, we invite all who agree with these theses to express their agreement without necessarily committing themselves to fellowship.
We hope and pray that these theses will be yet another building block in establishing a more healthy and orthodox Lutheran Church in our time, and in this country. With this hope, we with joy and profound thanks to our triune God, accept and confess these theses.