Full Text for Dogmatics 4- Volume 63 - What is the difference between bishops and presidents as leadership in a church body? (Video)

No. 63. >> Some Lutheran churches have bishops as the supreme leader of the church. Whereas we, in the Missouri Synod, have a president. Obviously there are some differences in the structure of the church and her arrangement of governance and polity. Can you explore this a bit for us? >>DR. KLAUS DETLEV SCHULZ: Yes. I want to begin by referring us back to the beginning days of our Synod. You recall that I have spoken of somebody by the name of Martin Stephan. He came across with the first Lutherans on a boat, a few of them, to Perry County. And they established a Lutheran community there. When these first Saxons came over, they came over with Stephan, who was hailed as their bishop. They had voted him as their bishop. And he functions as that. However, during certain things that occurred in Perry County and in St. Louis, bishop was ousted from that office. And now the question was: Should we continue with the Episcopal structure? Or should we continue to find something else? And we have a lawyer, ***Byvaza is his name, who stood up and compiled a certain polity structure. Some say it was more arranged with the political structure, the democratical system of the United States. But nonetheless, it devised something that said clearly: We will now have the congregations assume a greater role. Christians, as well, in those congregations. That anything to be decided upon is not being -- is not being delegated only to one individual person like the bishop. But that we would like to keep it, also, within the congregation and its members. A convention and a Synodical structure was placed. And there was a district president and a president over them. So a multiple tiered structure came into place that did not invest only one individual with all kinds of authority. I think they were sceptical of mistakes being repeated that had happened in the first few days of their stay in the United States. Now, the role of a district president, however, is also one that may be termed Episcopal at least in its meaning. It means that the district president, too, must reside over the doctrinal issues. He can delegate that to somebody, that role, to a committee or so forth. And the convention may approve of it. So that there's also the doctrinal side being covered. Also, the handling of church issues, of governmental issues, can also be delegated to somebody else or to a committee. The district presidents, too, I think have a strong Episcopal nature. If I read the Constitution of the Missouri Synod correctly, I know that therein is mention made of visitation rights that the incumbent president of the district needs to maintain. He may go and visit a congregation, listen to the pastor, supervise him, advise him on how to improve his ministry. Listen into what the congregation might have to say over their pastor to compliments or to complaints. And if such relationships between pastors and congregations no longer work out, he will have to step into the process of healing that relationship or either asking himself whether it would not be better to place the pastor into other congregation. So one sees that the Episcopal concerns. Though the name bishop is never used in our Synod it doesn't necessarily fall away. In fact, it is still strongly maintained. And that the Constitution of our Synod really wants to ensure that oversight over congregations and pastors is still maintained, even though the terminologies for such polity have changed. The historical evidence in the early church, if you read the postulators and later examine the situation of the early church after the apostolic times, we, perhaps, could come to a fairly safe conclusion that the Episcopal structure that the church had then is one that was devised, also, as a form of polity by Christians, by human right. Because we saw in the book of Acts and the postulators in Timothy, that the real persons who followed the ministry of the apostles were those who would be considered pastors. Those who were placed in congregations to serve. There was no supervising power over them as we would, perhaps, expect. With the going of the apostles, it, again, became a question: Who will function as supervisor over a number of congregations? And so it was, again, decided in the early church to implement an Episcopal office, that of a bishop. But again, as I would say, the ministry in its truest form finds itself expressed in the context of a congregation in the ministry of Word and sacrament. And those who act as supervisors, such as bishops, were then elected as a consequence of concerns that may have arisen between congregations. And that there was a need for those to function -- to act as supervisors or somebody who would oversee situations that exceeded the capacity and the powers of a single congregation.