Most public Libraries have access with computers to the World Wide Web. LMS-USA has an official web site on the Web or the WWW. Thus through the library or through personal computers folks desiring much more extensive detailed information can go to the following World Wide Web address "http://www.lmsusa.org".
All it takes is dedicated people willing to gather weekly around God's Word and Sacraments.
One congregation began with only 7 people and just 3 years later was pushing past 130 members. An initial congregation can begin as a Bible Study group meeting in homes or simply as a gathering of interested persons sharing informaiton and exploring the possibility of a mission start. When a core of interested persons is identified, they can begin an interim organization: choose a Board or a Council, choose a name, and plan where and when to begin to hold public worship.
Like the early Christian congregations large buildings and facilities are not needed to begin a church. All it takes is people willing to gather around God's Word and the Means of Grace.
Groups that already exist can decide to organize as an LMS-USA congregation. When a group is feeling ready or desirous of organizing as a congregation, the leader(s) then contact the officers of LMS-USA. A representative of LMS-USA then will meet with the group, and plans for congregational organization are begun.
Congregations can be organized through advertising efforts or, and especially if a Bible Study group or study class is already meeting regularaly, through word of mouth. If you know of any such already existing study groups or study classes that might have interest in becoming an LMS-USA they may contact the LMS-USA National Ofice [Pastor Ralph Spears, 2837 East New York Street, Indianapolis, Indiana 46201 (Tel. 317-637-8870)].
LMS-USA has congregations able to support full time Pastorates but also is blessed to have a good number of its pastors able and willing to engage in Tent Making Ministry. This means that the pastors are willing to work at a full time or part time secular job while also serving a congregation. It truly is amazing how quickly a small congregation can build up its resources and not only come to be able to fully support its pastor but also to acquire property and build a church of its own.
Small congregations that are being encouraged to close down and consolidate with other congregations are especially encouraged to be in touch with us. We think our approach with the right pastor in place can make small congregations come alive once again.
LMS-USA has been experiencing a significant growth in the number of pastors available for congregations. We have pastors currently serving independent and/or non-Lutheran congregations who are eager to accept calls to Lutheran congregations.
The first Seminary graduate was ordained in June of 1997 and began work at launching a new Mission congregation. We are willing for our seminary students to attend a variety of seminaries as long as one of our LMS-USA pastors can meet regularly with the seminary student for mentored study and reflection.
We have given initial thought of modeling our own future Seminary along the lines of Muhlenberg, whereby students would spend time in residence at several congregations and in addition to Biblical and Theological studies would get first hand experience over the course of study time in actual parish ministry. This would eliminate the need for a special year of Internship time. A considerable attraction of this approach would be that the lay members of these congregations would also share in the teaching of the future pastors.
There are no restrictions to searching for a Pastor. The President of the Ministerium and Chairman of the Synod may recommend the names of persons for the congregation's consideration but the Call process would be open and congregations would be free to interview any pastor of their choosing. Likewise pastors would be free to submit their names to any vacant congregation. Because of our Subscriptional nature of organization, it is trusted that the congregations would seek out Pastor's who believe in the basic subscriptional documents of LMS-USA. Freedom in Christ is basic to our understanding of church organization.
No there are no restrictions. Pastor's and congregations may freely choose to no longer be subscriptional members of LMS-USA. We have no desire to compel pastors or congregations to remain members of LMS-USA if they no longer desire to do so. Congregations are guided solely by the stipulations of their own constitutions. Each congregation is free to adopt and develop a constitution to suit its own situation provided it accepts the Biblical/ Theological Subscriptional items of LMS-USA. It is even conceivable and allowable that a congregation could remain a member of LMS-USA while its pastor would not, or vice versa.
Yes indeed ! Most Lutheran Church bodies make provisions for their congregations to be able to vote to leave and to join another Lutheran church body. Congregations follow the procedures set forth by their respective present Church body.
For example: A congregation desiring to leave the ELCA in order to join LMS-USA would be free to invite LMS-USA officials in to speak to their membership when initial interest would be so expressed. All ELCA congregations are required to have two consecutive votes with approval by a super majority (2/3). Between the first and 2nd votes the ELCA Synod officials have the right to speak to the membership and leadership of the congregation. If, however a second vote by a 2/3 majority of the congregation indicates approval to leave the ELCA and to join LMS-USA then that congregation may leave the ELCA with its property and assets in order to join LMS-USA (an acknowledged National Lutheran Church body) if the congregation was formerly an American Lutheran Church (ALC).
The process is similar but has an added step if the congregation seeking to leave was formerly an LCA congregation or it the congregation had been organized as an ELCA Mission. Then the congregation must make application to the Synod Council for approval to transfer its membership to the LMS-USA in order to leave with its property and assets.
Should the ELCA Synod Council refuse to acknowledge the two consecutive votes of the congregation desiring to leave as well as its official request for approval to leave the congregation can then follow ELCA constitutional appeal channels until it gains approval to transfer to LMS-USA. There would be a number of steps a congregation could follow in order to gain a peaceful release. A congregation would not automatically loose its property simply by voting its desire to leave the ELCA. The congregation's action to transfer would not be formalized until acceded by the Synod Council.
This same model would apply in other Lutheran church bodies known organized as what is known as "Connectional " Churches. Most other Lutheran Church bodies are "Congregational" oriented in organizational structure and the congregations in those bodies would need only to hold congregational votes as stipulated.
In congregational oriented church bodies the vote of the congregation is the final word. LMS-USA is a congregational oriented Lutheran Church body.
LMS-USA now has a mutually reciprocal agreement with the ELCA Board of Pensions so that pastors moving from one Church body to the other may now transfer their Pension fund accumulations to the Pension Plan of the other Church body. This process has already worked very smoothly for a number of pastors and we are thus optimistic that congregations desiring to transfer in either direction will be facilitated in that desire.
LMS-USA congregations are free to choose the Hymnal that they feel best suits their local needs and as long as the order of worship is recognizable as a basic Lutheran order of worship.
Most of the current LMS-USA congregations use the old Red Service Book and Hymnal (SBH). Another congregation uses the Missouri Synod version of the green Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW) and another congregation uses the Ambassador Hymnal, the Hymnal published by the Association of Free Lutherans. The choice of hymnal is up to the local congregation.
We are open to the use of various worship styles as long as the historic Lutheran understandings of worship: Word and Sacrament are maintained andrecognizable. Because the contemporary does bring with it a large infusion of secular understanding into the church's worship we do urge cautious reflection and Biblical understanding when using contemporary pieces.
Aside from the ELCA, all of the other Lutheran Church bodies in the United States are either of the "Conservative to Ultra Conservative variety" or move off into an extreme position regarding certain special issues or doctrines. The LMS-USA was founded to fill that gap and to offer a Church Body that is Biblical, Confessional, Evangelical, Liturgical, and Congregational in its emphasis.
Pastors transferring to the Conservative Church bodies were and are in most cases expected to undergo up to a full year of further Seminary training in addition to a probation period for observation prior to and after becoming a member. Congregations joining the conservative bodies while not subjected to quite the same rigorous examination are likewise treated in a probationary way. In these other Conservative bodies there is a sense of never becoming a fully accepted pastor or congregation.
In addition it is very difficult for even those who considered themselves as fairly conservative in the LCA, AELC, ALC or ELCA to feel totally at ease with a goodly number of the Biblical, Theological and Practical matters adhered to by the Conservative to Ultra Conservative Lutheran Church bodies. Thus there seems to be a need for a church body that takes a position such as that taken by the LMS-USA.
No we don't have Bishops . The highest offices in our LMS-USA are that of President of the Ministerium and Chairman of the Synod. The President of the Ministerium is the chief spokesman of the Church Body. All pastors who are officers are expected to be pastors serving congregations. Lay leaders may serve as the presiding chairman of the Synod. All officers and indeed the Synod Convention itself is given authority only to advise. We know that the word "Bishop" is a good Biblical title but we are also aware that the title acquired much monarchical re-definition from the time of the Emperor Constantine onward and that the title tends to go to the head of church leaders thus re-inventing the same or reminiscent abuses that Luther and the Reformation leaders so fervently objected to.
Teaching authority in LMS-USA is exercised by the pastors collectively in and through the Ministerium. The Ministerium meets at least annually. In this arrangement we have followed the model of Muhlenberg. The Ministerium deals with matters of Doctrine and makes recommendations to the Synod. Ministerium and Synod thus walk together in the advise and recommendations given to individual pastors and congregations. The officers of the Ministerium exercise supervision but may only convince, admonish, etc. based upon Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. This is the same model as is practiced in actuality in most congregations of all denominations. The pastor may preach and teach etc. but may not impose. Some parish pastors get away with imposition in various matters but for the most part most pastors convince based upon Scripture and the the Lutheran Confessional teachings.
A pastor may not , for example, visit a family of parishioners and impose upon them what he thinks to be best. This is the same model we seek to apply to our life as a church body. The Synod and the Ministerium exist to serve the congregations and parish pastors not vice versa.
We have no apportioned Benevolence as a Synod! That's right, you heard it clear, there is NO APPORTIONED BENEVOLENCE. Congregations may of course freely choose to send funds to the central treasury for support of basic expenses. We make the basic expenses known and the response is a Free Will response.
Since our Officers and staff are not salaried and are not envisioned to become salaried this keeps our expenses as a National Synod and Ministerium very minimal. As a Synod we recommend to congregations various Missions and special Ministries that we deem worthy of support and then each individual congregation chooses which of these it desires to support. The Congregation's send their Mission support directly to the respective Mission or Special Ministry rather than through the Synod treasurer. We feel this helps keep Mission and special Ministries very close to the people of the local congregations and to the local parish pastor's.