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Status in Lutheran Church–Canada of the documents of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations

Lutheran Church–Canada's Commission on Theology and Church Relations was formed when LCC came into being in 1989. The purpose of the commission is outlined in the Synodical Handbook. Bylaw 2.107 states that one of the tasks of the commission is to provide guidance to the Synod in matters of theology and church relations. One of the ways that the CTCR fulfils this mandate is through the publication of documents on issues that have been requested by Synod in convention, the district conventions, or the district or national pastors' conferences.

The public doctrine of Lutheran Church–Canada is to be found in the Holy Scriptures as exposited and exhibited in the Lutheran Confessions, that is, The Book of Concord. From time to time, issues arise in the world or in the Christian Church on earth that need to be addressed by the clear teachings of Scripture. The CTCR may be asked to prepare documents that address these issues.

Following the example of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, LCC's commission may present its documents at a synodical convention to be received by the convention for "study and response" or for "reference and guidance." If a document has been received for "study and response," this means that that the commission has prepared the document for study by the congregations and workers of the Synod and is inviting input from the Synod. If a document has been received "for reference and guidance," it means that the Synod recognizes it to have stated the truth and that when we study an issue this document can be trusted to be in conformity with our church body's confession. It thus reflects our public teaching, but is not in itself a statement of our public doctrine. Our two major documents, on the role of women and on closed communion, were first received for study and response, and subsequently for reference and guidance. Others have simply been received for study and response and have gone no further. At its 1990 convention, LCC received all LCMS documents, by convention vote, according to the status by which the LCMS originally received them.

It may be that a document that has once been received for study and response may be presented at a later convention (usually the next one) for reference and guidance. When documents are presented, the convention does not "accept" them as the teaching of the church, but rather "receives" them. This is done in order that the documents not be perceived in any way to be the "official" position of Synod on the subject. Nevertheless, they can be of service to the church in providing guidance as the Church and its people study these issues, and can assist the Synod in its confession before the world on the issues at hand.

The commission, being composed of professors, pastors, and laity of the Synod, is fully committed to teaching of the Scriptures and the Confessions. Therefore the documents reflect and confess that teaching, and serve the church by relating that eternal truth to the issues of today.

It may be that on occasion the church may see the need to come out with a more formal and extended doctrinal statement, particularly if there is an issue of great controversy that needs this. Such statements, while not having the status of confessional subscription, nevertheless would be considered part of the public doctrine of the church. The procedure for preparing and accepting such a statement involves acceptance by Synod in convention and a subsequent vote of acceptance by two-thirds of the congregations of Synod (Handbook, bylaw 1.03).

To summarize, the commission provides guidance to the Synod in matters of theology and church relations, according to handbook bylaw 2.107. Each document of the LCC CTCR is put forth to help foster discussion on the relevant issues. There is nothing in bylaw 2.107 that says that the CTCR documents are to be considered the public doctrine of the church. Arguments on doctrine are only to be decided by Scripture as exposited in the Lutheran Confessions. Any discussion about membership conditions and whether or not individuals are violating those conditions can only take place on the basis of Article VI of the constitution.

It is the commission's prayer that the documents it prepares may be of salutary use to the people of God, the workers and the members of the congregations of Synod, in their study of the issues the church confronts in the world today, and that these documents will be of assistance to them as they make that bold confessional stand before Christendom and the world for the sake of the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ.

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