constitution and By laws
WHAT IS A LUTHERAN?
Lutherans subscribe to the authority of the Scriptures, the Lutheran Confessions and the three Ecumenical Creeds (Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed). These confessional writings and creeds are recorded in the volume, The Book of Concord, the very purpose of which was and still is to seek "harmony" ("Concord") among those who call themselves "Lutheran."
According to the Confessions, Lutherans believe, teach and confess that the Bible is the Word of God and that it is the "sole rule and norm of all doctrine." Along with this understanding of Scripture, it is uniquely Lutheran to believe, teach and confess that all of Scripture is divided into either Law or Gospel. Along with the Scriptures, Lutherans subscribe to the Confessions as normative for faith and life because they are an interpretation of the Word of God. And this confession is made by both people and pastors who call themselves "Lutheran."
General Lutherans are free to view the of Concord from either the "quia" or the "quatenus" perspective. Those who hold to the "quia" perspective believe the Book of Concord is a faithful exposition of Scripture. Those who hold to the "quatenus" perspective subscribe to the Book of Concord insofar as the Book of Concord is faithful to the Scriptures.
Lutherans are "evangelicals" meaning what Lutherans believe, teach and confess as part of their public witness to the world for the sake of the Gospel of our salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. That witness sends Lutherans into the world as they respond to the Scriptural dictate to "Go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:18-20).
We declare and establish this Constitution and these Bylaws to preserve and perpetuate the principles of our common Christian faith and to govern this body in an orderly and Biblical manner. These Bylaws will seek to preserve the liberties of each individual member and the freedom of action of this body to accomplish its God-given purpose.
ARTICLE 1. NAME
The legal name of this organization shall be the General Lutheran Church, Inc. and shall also be known as the General Lutheran Church, Inc.
ARTICLE 2. PURPOSE
To stand for Christ-centered, morally sound, Biblical Christianity which comprises the Christian faith: the faith and practice of the Apostles and the early Disciples of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
ARTICLE 3. STATEMENT OF UNITY AND FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS
Recognizing the unity of the Church of Christ in all the world, and knowing that we are but one branch of Christ's people, while adhering to our particular faith and order, we extend to all believers the hand of Christian fellowship, upon the basis of those great fundamental truths in which all should agree. With them we confess our belief in one God, whose nature is love, revealed in one Lord Jesus Christ, by one Holy Spirit of grace. We believe that Jesus came in the flesh, died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures. Affirming now our belief that those who thus hold to these fundamental truths together constitute the one universal Church, the several households of which, though called by different names, are the one body of Christ, and that these members of his body are sacredly bound to keep "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, “we declare that we will cooperate with all who hold these truths. We believe that, beyond these fundamental truths, there can be unity in diversity and diversity in unity in other particulars of faith within the body of Christ.
ARTICLE 4. STATEMENT OF FAITH
The General Lutheran Church values the Lutheran Confessions as expressed in the Book of Concord, other works by Martin Luther, and the writings of Samuel Simon Schmucker as theological guides, and allows its ministers and congregations the liberty of conscience to interpret and apply the teachings of the Lutheran Confessions. The church also supports the right and duty of private judgment in the interpretation of the Scriptures. The denomination does, however, expect congregations and ministers to abide by the Heidelberg Profession of Faith and the following set of beliefs:
*Belief in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. -- John 1:18
*Belief that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of all. -- First Corinthians 15:22
*Belief that the Bible is the Inerrant and sufficient guide for faith and practice. -- Matthew 4:4
*Belief in two Sacraments: Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. -- Mark 22:14-20
*Belief in the just retribution for sin. -- Colossians 3:25
*Belief that there is a wideness in God's mercy. -- Ephesians 2:4-7
The denomination bases its belief on universal salvation from Martin Luther's statement, "God forbid that I should limit the time of acquiring faith to the present life. In the depth of the Divine mercy, there may be an opportunity to win it in the future," and from the New Testament: "And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself"(John 12:32), "Everyone will see the salvation of God" (Luke 3:6), and "Our hope is set on the living God, who is the savior of all people, especially those who believe" (1 Timothy 4:10).
PRINCIPLES OF UNITY
WE ARE PROTESTANT CHRISTIANS
We are not an “Evangelical Catholic” community in the sense of having the desire to unite back to the Roman Church. We are an “Evangelical Catholic” community as we adhere to the generally accepted principles, dogmas, and doctrines of the Protestant Faith within Christianity as stated in the Lutheran Confessions.
WE ARE A LUTHERAN COMMUNITY
The General Lutheran Church, Inc. is a community of Christians who acknowledge and embrace Traditional Lutheranism.
WE ARE A CHURCH OF EQUALS
Conferences have been held in the Christian Church since its beginning. Mutual consultation and collaboration are integral to becoming an effective community. The Church is a community of mutual sharing, support, encouragement, and collaboration.
PRINCIPLES OF VISION
The ancient Christian faith can be a relative expression of the universal truth that all life is sacred and united.
The Church denounces discrimination based on gender, race, sexuality, nationality, language, culture, religion, disability or other distinguishing features.
Participating in the "Great Commission" (St. Mark 16:15) requires demonstration of the liberating message of the Gospel, not just its proclamation. We must practice what we preach.
The Gospel message of Jesus Christ compels all believers to struggle for justice and peace among all people and to become dedicated advocates for the broken, the battered and the bruised
The Christian faith includes reverence and care for the Earth and all created things.
The Christian faith is a journey of spiritual development and requires a commitment to continuous learning.
ARTICLE 5. MEMBERSHIP
QUALIFICATIONS FOR MEMBERSHIP. Membership shall consist of persons who agree with the Statement of Faith and who will abide by the Constitution and Bylaws of the General Lutheran Church, Inc.
MEMBERS COVENANT OF CONDUCT The fundamental principles of the General Lutheran Church, Inc. are based upon the Word of God. Therefore, every member is expected to live according to its teachings and avoid and refrain from that which is destructive to the Christian life and dishonorable to God. Every member is earnestly admonished to:
Maintain high ethical and moral values in all their dealings, personally and professionally.
Respect one another's difference in religious beliefs, including the differences in doctrine, style and personality of other Christians as they follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit.
Only speak in edifying ways in regard to others, including Christian ministers, ministries, and the Body of Christ at large.
Treat all with whom they come into contact as they would like to be treated.
All members and ministers of the General Lutheran Church, Inc. are responsible for his or her own actions. The General Lutheran Church, Inc. assumes no legal responsibility for any of its members or associated ministers. Membership and Ministerial standing in the General Lutheran Church, Inc. will be revoked upon proven behaviors unbecoming Christians and Ministers.
ARTICLE 6. GOVERNMENT AND OFFICERS
The government of the General Lutheran Church, Inc. is semi-congregational. The central governing and regulatory body of the General Lutheran Church, Inc. is the National Leadership. The National Leadership is composed of the Dean, Deputy Dean, the Provost of the Institute of Pastoral Ministry, and the Recording Clerk. No salaries are to be paid to any officer of the General Lutheran Church, Inc.
The Dean is the presiding officer, executive administrator, and spiritual leader of the denomination. The Dean is invested with the responsibility of ensuring the purpose and mission of the General Lutheran Church are carried out and that the Statement of Faith and the general principles of the Christian faith are adhered to.
Responsibilities include overseeing and regulating issues related to the administrative, legislative, ministerial, evangelistic, educational, missionary, benevolent and other interests of the denomination.
The Dean oversees the work of the church as a whole. As Pastor, he provides leadership to regional and non-geographical parish Ordained Ministers. Serving as chief spokesperson for the General Lutheran Church, Inc. the Dean promotes missions, programs, ecumenical outreaches and the ongoing education of our clergy. The Dean serves in perpetuity.
The Deputy Dean is appointed by the Dean and serves to assist, advise, and counsel the Dean. The Deputy Dean has no decision-making powers. All final decisions regarding polity and procedure belong exclusively to the Dean.
The National Leadership exercises no control or authority over individual congregations or pastors and only serve in an advisory capacity. The National Leadership assists pastors in crisis situations or by request.
State Directors: The State Directors are Superintendents of their assigned State or Province.
The duties and responsibilities of the State Directors are to assist, encourage, elder, support and mentor Churches, Ministries, Ministers, and Pastors. It is the duty of the State Director to ensure each local association, pastor, ministry, minister, congregation and other affiliations of the General Lutheran Church, Inc. adhere to the Statement of Faith, and the principles of the Christian Faith. Local associations, pastors, ministries, congregations and other affiliates report any problems or concerns directly to the State Directors. State Directors are encouraged to resolve any problems or concerns at the state and local level before contacting the Dean.
The General Lutheran Institute of Pastoral Ministry offers free certificate courses in systematic theology, Lutheran history, pastoral counseling, biblical languages, pastoral theology, and the Lutheran confessions to meet the academic requirements for ordination as a General Lutheran minister. The courses are taught by qualified faculty who all hold degrees from institutions accredited by agencies recognized by the United States Department of Education or hold accredited status in their respective countries.
The General Lutheran Church is opposed to same-sex marriage, the ordination of practicing gays and lesbians, and abortions not medically necessary. However, engaging in abusive or malicious behaviors towards the gay and lesbian community, all immigrants, and those who have made the difficult decision to have an abortion are prohibited. The denomination condemns racism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, and all other types of hate and discrimination at all levels.
ARTICLE 7. THE MINISTRY
The General Lutheran Church, Inc. recognizes that God calls all members of the church to be ministers and witnesses to the Gospel in their lives and in society. It also recognizes that God calls some to be missionaries, evangelists, shepherds, overseers, pastors, and teachers, as servants to prepare His people for service to others and for the building up of the Body of Christ. Ordination by the General Lutheran Church, Inc. is the rite whereby one so called is recognized and authorized to perform those ministerial duties under the auspice of the General Lutheran Church, Inc.
As a “free church’ denomination, our churches are congregationally- governed and the only role the National Leadership has is that of advising and recommending with one exception: Holy Ordination.
All ordinations must be approved by the Credentials Committee. All candidates for ordination must provide the results of a comprehensive background check and clinical mental health evaluation based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) at their own expense.
Credentials will be issued by the Credentials Committee which maintains a list of rostered clergy who not only serve in General Lutheran congregations but also congregations in other denominations. We also appreciate the importance and history of groups of Christians gathering regularly for worship and fellowship in non-traditional settings.
The final judgement for ordination stands in the Dean. The Deputy Dean and the Provost can only make suggestions related candidates for ordination.
CREDENTIALS IN THE GENERAL LUTHERAN CHURCH, INC.
Credentials in the General Lutheran Church, Inc. are open first and foremost to ordained Lutheran clergy of other Lutheran bodies who agree with our tenets of faith and want to unite with us. Ordination is by simple transfer after background investigations and references have been checked.
Ordained ministers of other denominations are welcome to apply as well.
Non-ordained persons who have reached the age of 25 may also apply for credentials but must meet other criteria as prescribed by the Credentials Committee.
The Church prefers candidates for credentials hold graduate theological degrees from accredited institutions. Non-accredited schools, and individual knowledge of the theological tenets held by the General Lutheran Church, Inc. will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Theological Instruction on Lutheran Theology, History, the Lutheran Confessions as well as our belief on Universal Redemption will be given at The General Lutheran Institute of Pastoral Ministry. Other courses on Biblical Languages and Pastoral Counseling will also be offered.
Candidates who are not Lutherans must attend liturgical Lutheran worship services for three months and provide verification, complete a course in the Lutheran Confessions, become thoroughly familiar with any Lutheran Book of Worship and The Book of Concord.
All non-ordained candidates for credentials will be ordained in a laying-on-of-hands ceremony in a local congregation. However, all credentials will be issued by the Dean and the Credentials Committee.
The Church will accept background checks conducted within six months from the date of the application.
ARTICLE 8. DISSOLUTION
The General Lutheran Church, Inc. does not own property, solicit nor disburse funds, does not have a treasurer, bank account, or any other assets on hand. Therefore, upon dissolution, the Church will simply cease to exist with no assets on hand to disburse.
ARTICLE 9. AMMENDMENTS
Members of the General Lutheran Church, Inc. may propose amendments to this Constitution and Bylaws. Such proposed amendments shall be submitted to the Council for discussion. The Dean makes the final determination of whether to adopt the changes.
These bylaws are duly adopted by and govern the affairs of the General Lutheran Church, Inc.
By-law Section 1 - Membership
B01.01. The General Lutheran Church, Inc. is a small denomination of churches and, subject to the provisions of the constitution of The General Lutheran Church, Inc. and these by-laws, the voting delegates of this Church will be the National Conference with the Dean having sole authority in all matters of the Church if he so desires.
B01.02. The church is a community of baptized believers gathered around Word and Sacrament. It serves as God's people in the world, nurturing its members and reaching out in witness and service to the world. Each member church of this Church shall adopt governing documents and govern itself in such a way as to involve its members in fulfilling the definition, purpose, and functions of the member church. This Church does not direct, control, or supervise the affairs of individual member churches except as specifically provided in the constitution.
B01.03. The General Lutheran Church, Inc. will recognize, receive, and maintain a list of its member churches and other ministries. Member churches shall:
Preach the Word and administer the Sacraments in accord with Holy Scripture (Old and New Testaments) and with the Confessions of the Lutheran church (Book of Concord)
Uphold and subscribe to the constitution of this Church
Agree to call pastors who actively uphold and subscribe to the constitution of this Church
Support the life and work of this Church by their practice, their governing documents, and by written commitment to this Church in any of the following ways:
A member church terminates its relationship with this Church by following such internal procedures as are required by that member church and gives written notice to the General Lutheran Church, Inc. that it no longer desires to be a member of the General Lutheran Church, Inc.
A member church ceases to exist when a member church takes action to dissolve.
By-law Section 2 - Ministry
B02.01. Member churches of this Church are authorized to call and ordain pastors pursuant to such standards as the National Leadership may adopt from time to time; however, all ordinations must be recognized by the General Lutheran Church, Inc. and credentials must be issued by the General Lutheran Church, Inc. in order to be valid. Credentials shall be in the form of a certificate and identification card.
B02.02. Pastors of this Church shall approve of and subscribe to the Statement of Faith of this Church and ministry standards as established by this Church. Any discipline plan will contain appropriate rights of appeal to the National Leadership. Any action taken by the National Leadership in such matters may be overridden by the Dean.
B02.03. Pastors of this Church may belong to clergy rosters or lists of another fellowship, association, or church. Such pastors shall notify the Dean of any dual or multiple clergy memberships.
By-law Section 3 - Statement of Purpose
B03.01. The mission of the General Lutheran Church, Inc. is
To reach out to the broken, the battered and bruised with the liberating message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
By-law Section 4 - Organization
B04.01. As a denomination of churches and other ministries, the General Lutheran Church, Inc. will offer oversight (episkope) to its member churches through the Dean and National Leadership and its delegates.
B04.02. Member churches, in their sole discretion, may also join together in alliances and associations (affiliations) and may adopt governing documents, budgets and other procedures that will allow such affiliations to support the mission of the members of this fellowship.
B04.03. Affiliations shall have such powers to promote and accomplish the objectives of this Church that are specifically granted to those affiliations by member churches and not otherwise prohibited by these bylaws or the constitution of this Church.
B04.04. Unless otherwise prohibited by these bylaws or the constitution of this Church, churches will be free to organize in a manner deemed most effective by those churches in support of the purpose and objectives of this fellowship.
By-law Section 6 – The National Leadership
B06.01. Subject to the limitations of the constitution or the by-laws of this Church, the business and affairs of the General Lutheran Church, Inc. will be managed by the National Leadership with the Dean having veto powers.
B06.02. There shall be four members of the National Leadership. The Deputy Dean, the Provost and the Clerk. The Dean holds the office in perpetuity. The Dean shall have the power to reappoint any member of the National Leadership. Only Parish Ministers shall serve as a member of the National Leadership.
B06.03. Meetings of the National Leadership shall be held at the call of the Dean or at the request of a member of the National Leadership and may be held by any means agreed upon. Notification of a called meeting shall be by mail, telephone, electronic mail or in person.
B06.04. A majority of the National Leadership currently holding office is a quorum for the transaction of any business.
B06.05. Vacancies on the National Leadership due to death, resignation, or removal may be filled by appointment by the Dean.
Bylaw Section 7 - Officers of the General Lutheran Church, Inc.
B07.01. Officers of the General Lutheran Church, Inc. shall be the Dean, the Deputy Dean, the Provost and the Clerk.
B07.02. The Dean holds the office in perpetuity. The Dean is the spiritual leader of the General Lutheran Church, Inc. and is the pastor and teacher providing spiritual leadership for the life and witness of the Church. The Dean preaches, teaches, and administers the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion in accordance with the faith of this Church. The Dean oversees the overall work of the church. As Pastor, the Dean provides leadership to regional and non-geographical Ministers. The Dean has veto power over any and all decisions made by the National Leadership.
B07.03. Should the Dean die or become incapacitated, or resign, the Deputy Dean will be the successor.
B07.04. The National Leadership consists of three members, the Deputy Dean, the Provost and the Clerk. The duties of the members of the National Leadership are to assist the Dean in the daily affairs of the Church, approve all ordinations, approve Minister appointments, and any and all other duties assigned by the Dean. The dean has the final decision on approval of ordinations.
B07.05. In the event a member of the National Leadership resigns, is removed, or otherwise can no longer serve, the successor shall be appointed by the Dean from among the Ordained Ministers of the Church. The successor shall complete the term of the preceding member of the National Leadership.
B07.06. The Parish Ordained Minister shall administer and oversee all the affairs within his Parish. Parish Ordained Ministers are responsible for their respective states and come under the authority of the National leadership and the Dean. The Parish Ordained Minister serves until resignation or removal.
B07.07. In the event of a Parish Ordained Minister vacancy, his replacement will be chosen by the National leadership and the Dean from among a Parish minister within the state.
By-law Section 8 - Amendment of Bylaws
B08.01. These bylaws may be amended by 2/3 majority vote of National leadership with veto power exercised by the Dean should he or she so desire.