This summer our national church body, the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod (LCMS) is holding its triennial convention in Milwaukee. Since St. Paul’s has a lot of members who are relatively new to Lutheran- ism generally and the LCMS in particular, this is a good time to explain a little bit about how our denomination is structured.
We aren’t the only or even the biggest Lutheran church in the United States. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is larger and much more theologically liberal. We’re the second largest and are considered more conservative because we insist that the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God. There are also lots of much smaller synods, most notably the Wisconsin Synod, which is also very conservative, and North American Lutheran Church, which is fairly new and small and tries to occupy a moderate position between the ELCA and LCMS. But in general most Lutherans in the U.S. belong to either the ELCA or the LCMS.
The Missouri Synod* has about 6,000 congregations nationwide, with a little over two million total members. Our headquarters is in St. Louis and the current Synodical President is Rev. Matthew Harrison. The Synodical President gets elected every three years, so President Harrison is up for re-election this summer, though there are some other people on the ballot, too.
The synod is divided into 35 districts. Ours is the Indiana District (which includes part of Kentucky) and has 237 congregations and headquarters in Fort Wayne. Our District President is Rev. Daniel May.
Each District is then divided into Circuits of 6-14 congregations. Seeing as we are in the very corner of the state, ours is Circuit 1 and includes the western half of Lake County. So our circuit includes Trinity and Concordia in Hammond, Redeemer in Highland, Peace in Schererville, Grace in Dyer, and Trinity in Lowell. Each circuit has a Circuit Visitor who oversees pastoral vacancies and calls, handles any conflicts or concerns that might come up between members of different congregations, and organizes the election of delegates to the national convention. Our Circuit Visitor is our own Pastor Emeritus, Rev. Eric Stumpf.
The voters at the convention every three years are elected by each circuit. Every circuit sends one pas- tor and one layperson as voting delegates, but they can’t be from the same congregation. This year our own Bob Jensen will be our circuit’s lay delegate and Pastor Kleinschmidt from Redeemer Lutheran in Highland is our pastoral delegate.
Our synod operates a publishing company (Concordia Publishing House, or just CPH, which is where we get things like our hymnals and catechisms), two seminaries for the training of pastors, one in St. Louis and one in Ft. Wayne, ten colleges and universities scattered around the country (all called Concordia as well), and oversees many missionaries serving in other countries, sponsors chaplains in the U.S. military, and puts together social statements on various contemporary issues. So there is always plenty for the delegates to vote about.
This fall we’ll report in the newsletter about whatever the convention in Milwaukee decided. If you have any questions about our national church body, how we’re different from the ELCA, or would like to get more information about all the things we as a church body do and how you can be involved, please feel free to talk to either of the pastors.
*Yes, it is a goofy name. The denomination was officially incorporated by immigrants in 1847 as The German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States, but since that is a mouthful in any language everyone just called it the Missouri Synod. So at the 100th anniversary convention in 1947 they officially changed the name to the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Every convention there is a proposal to change the name of the synod to something less confusing to outsiders, but every year it gets voted down because everyone is so used to it.
Rev. Peter Speckhard, Senior Pastor at St. Paul's Ev. Lutheran Church, Munster, Indiana