This could as easily be under the Synod topic, but I’d like to consider it more as a look at Christian doctrine in general, as seen in the history of our synod.
I had promised to post some material from ELS history on the subject of synodical decisions and power. Here’s an interesting paragraph from Bjug Harstad just after the formation of the ELS. He’s giving an example of encroachment upon the rights that a congregation has by virtue of possessing the Keys.
Similar abuse and encroachment have evolved in more recent times even in our Lutheran free church here in this country. They have come from another direction, namely, from the Reformed church which has always wanted to have a finger in the governing of public affairs. When prosperity increased among us, it happened, unnoticed by many, that the presidents were not to have any pastoral call but were only to be presidents. In that way people got a kind of ecclesiastical prelates who were over pastors and congregations. What their right and authority are, really now consists most nearly in whatever is pleasing to that individual. In practice, some have espoused the belief that if a pastor does not want to belong to the large church body to which his congregation belongs, then the congregation is thereby either without a pastor and can only proceed to the election of another, or the pastor is to be dismissed even if there is no other complaint against him than that he cannot swear loyalty to their church body.
President Moldstad quoted from the same address in his own address to the 2006 synod convention. It was a really good quote, calling us to analyze whether we are doing well to provide for the Christian education of children. Just before the quotation that President Moldstad used is this, somewhat more pertinent to our present topic:
If one of the equal brethren is elected to be president, then everyone must know that he has only received a human appointment to the office of servant, which everyone also otherwise actually has according to the Master’s example to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the insight, knowledge and experience with which he can be equipped. At all times, however, he is only an advisor, and as other Christians, is in duty bound to point to what is written.
He himself is to guard himself against the conceit that he is now a head higher than the others and also always remember that he has no other duty or authority than diligently to serve the others in the things with which they have charged him, either in the constitution or in other mutually agreed upon arrangements. Such an office, I believe, ought to be discharged by everyone in turns, if possible.
Bjug Harstad and his contemporaries in the Norwegian Synod of the American Evangelical Lutheran Church (called the “little” Norwegian Synod) were sensitive to some things concerning synodical organization. It’s good to review these writings whenever we can.