Saints Peter and Paul
Evangelical Lutheran Church
(Unaltered Augsburg Confession)
Greenville County, South Carolina
July 7, 2013
The Congregation is founded for the purpose of strengthening its members in Word and Sacrament. As a result, we should have an eager desire to spread the Good News of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ with the communities where we live and work, sanctifying the Lord God in our hearts, and always being ready to give a defense to everyone who asks us the reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). We are a "church," not a "business." We are centered in Word and Sacrament.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
This document serves a dual purpose. It is required by law to have a "constitution" in order to incorporate as a not-for-profit organization in the State of South Carolina. But, more importantly, these Fundamental Canons and By-Laws serve to set our theological course as an Evangelical Lutheran Congregation. The Congregation will, in the course of time, hire and dismiss workers and will incur operating expenses (salaries, insurance policies, mortgages, utilities, supplies, and the like). It is desirable that we meet our responsibilities in a timely fashion, in accordance with the will of the Congregation. However, the Fundamental Canons and By-Laws do not serve to establish the Congregation as a "business." Therefore, matters such as the steady rate of membership growth, the value of assets, and the like, are of lesser importance than the confession of the true doctrine.
We are God's house of living stones,
Builded for His habitation;
He through baptismal grace us owns
Heirs of His wondrous salvation.
Were we but two His name to tell,
Yet He would deign with us to dwell,
With all His grace and His favor.
"Built on the Rock the Church doth Stand"; The Lutheran Hymnal,Concordia Publishing House, 1941; No. 467:3;
text, Nicolai F. S. Grundtvig, 1837
We have recognized the faith in one another and have formed this Evangelical Lutheran Congregation. Our purpose is to glorify God, to serve His people with His gifts, and to proclaim His Word to the world (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-18).
The Name of This Congregation
Section 1. All members of this Congregation acknowledge and accept without reservation the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the verbally inspired and inerrant Word of God and the only rule and norm of Christian doctrine and practice.
Section 2. The name of this Congregation shall be Saints Peter and Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church (Unaltered Augsburg Confession [U.A.C.]), located in the County of Greenville, South Carolina. (The Fundamental Canons and By-Laws use the words Congregation and Parish interchangeably.)
The purpose of this Congregation is to gather together a Eucharistic community for the honor and glory of the Triune God.
Our purpose is to remain steadfast and confident as an Evangelical Lutheran Congregation unreservedly holding to the Book of Concord (1580).
Articles of Faith
All members of this Congregation acknowledge and accept, without reservation, the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church contained in the Book of Concord (1580) as the true and faithful exhibition of the Word of the Holy Trinity, as correct statements of the teaching of Holy Scripture and of the faith of this congregation. These Symbolical writings are:
Section 3. No doctrine or practice shall be taught or tolerated in this Congregation that is, in any way, at variance with the Holy Scriptures and these Symbolical Books.
Section 4. All controversies that may arise in this congregation shall be decided and adjudicated according to the aforesaid norm of doctrine and practice (Sec. 3 above).
Saints Peter and Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church is an independent church. Currently the Congregation and its Pastor have Altar and Pulpit Fellowship with the other independent Congregations also affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America (ELDoNA) and other Congregations affiliated with any Lutheran body in Altar and Pulpit Fellowship with the ELDoNA. The pastor bears particular responsibility for informing the parish of the doctrinal integrity of the parishes with which it is joined in fellowship.
Section 1. The membership of this congregation includes the following:
- Baptized members are all who have been baptized “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost” and who are under the spiritual care of the Pastor of this Congregation, including the children who have not yet been confirmed.
- Communicant members are those baptized members who have been confirmed in the Lutheran faith, accept the confessional standard of Article III of the Fundamental Canons, are well familiar with Luther’s Small Catechism, and are not members of organizations whose principles and conduct conflict with the Word of God. These organizations include all lodges (Freemasons, Moose, Elks, etc.). Potential new communicant members coming from other Lutheran bodies will be examined and, as necessary, instructed by the Pastor to ensure doctrinal integrity and unity at the Lord's Table.
- All potential new members coming from outside the Lutheran faith who wish to become members of this Congregation will be thoroughly instructed and examined before becoming communicant members through the Rite of Confirmation.
- All new members, whether received by Affirmation of Faith or by the Rite of Confirmation, shall, by their signatures, avow agreement with these Fundamental Canons and By-Laws (Appendix B).
- A Letter of Peaceful Release or a Letter of Transfer will be required of new members, when possible.
Section 2. Membership will be terminated upon request, whether by peaceful release or transfer, excommunication, or death. Former members shall forfeit any and all claims to Parish property.
Church discipline shall be exercised in this Congregation according to Saint Matthew 18:15-20 as interpreted and set forth in the Augsburg Confession, Article XXVIII, "Church Authority"; Apology XXVIII, "Church Authority"; and the Large Catechism, the Eighth Commandment; as contained in the Book of Concord (1580), toward those who err from the proper interpretation and application of the faith they have confessed or who have given offense in other ways (including, but not limited to, willful neglect of the Means of Grace and patently divisive activities), and who are unrepentant in such.
At all times church discipline will be done in the spirit of the Gospel; namely, to regain the erring as brothers and sisters. Those members who become evident as impenitent sinners and finally must be excommunicated and those who have excluded themselves from the Congregation by evading Matthew 18:15-18 or by willful and persistent violation of the Third Commandment, thereby despising the Word and Sacraments, lose all their rights in the parish.
To be a communicant member, one must receive the Sacrament at least four times per year, that is, at least once every three months. The Pastor will give due consideration where exceptional circumstances have prevented regular reception of Holy Communion. Excommunication will be exercised by the Pastor through the Office of the Keys (the loosing and binding of sins) after consultation with, not permission from, the Congregation.
The Life of the Congregation
Section 1. In all matters of Christian faith and life, the Word of the Holy Trinity, as it is set forth in the unchanging Holy Scripture, is supreme (Psalm 119:105). The Word shall be interpreted only through the doctrinal standard set forth in the Book of Concord. (See Art. III above.)
Section 2. No group or society may be organized within the Congregation without the approval of the Pastor. The Pastor shall be assured that the aims of such groups or societies are in complete harmony with the Congregation’s aims and the articles of faith contained in Article III before approval is granted (1 Corinthians 1:10; 12:25).
It is this Congregation’s purpose and desire to enter into a fellowship which is episcopally structured (Apology 14).
The Pastoral Office
Section 1. The Call to the Pastorate of the Congregation shall be conferred only upon men who are ministers or ministerial candidates who shall:
a. without reservation, publicly profess their acceptance and adherence to Article III of these Canons. Such acceptance and adherence shall be required of them in the letter of call extended by the Congregation (Ephesians 4:11-16, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9, Colossians 4:5-6);
b. teach only that which is in complete doctrinal and confessional accord with Article III of these canons and have been examined and accepted for service in the holy ministry by the ministerium of our fellowship and members of the Congregation;
c. be ordained into the office of the holy ministry, either prior to, or upon beginning his pastorate at Saints Peter and Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church (U.A.C.);
d. and lead an exemplary life, as set forth in Holy Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1-7).
Section 2. A Divine Call shall be extended through the members of the Congregation, acting in consultation with and receiving assistance from the ministerium, which will ordain and/or install the called Pastor.
Section 3. Length of Call. In the absence of any one, or a combination thereof, of the three Scriptural causes for dismissal from the pastoral office (see Art. XI, Sec. 2), the length of call of the Pastor shall be the remainder of his life, or until the Holy Trinity calls him to another location.
Officers of the Congregation
Section 1. This Congregation shall elect officers and committee members to aid the Pastor in the administrative affairs of the Congregation.
Section 2. The particulars of the board, committees, guilds, etc., of this Congregation are detailed in the By-Laws.
Section 3. Boards.
a. The Parish Vestry. The membership of this board shall consist of all officers of the Congregation and the Pastor. The board is chaired by the Pastor. The Vestry shall meet regularly.
b. The Finance Board. The membership of this board shall consist of the Financial Secretary and the two Assistant Financial Secretaries ("counters").
Section 4. The Pastor is a member of all boards and committees, but shall not serve as an offering counter with the Finance Board. He may, at his discretion, attend any or all meetings related to Congregation activity of any kind.
Removal from Office
Section 1. Anyone holding an elected or appointed office in the Congregation who willfully neglects his duty or holds, supports, or promotes, publicly or privately, doctrine and/or practice contrary to that which is established by the referenced standards in Article III above, will be subject to admonition by the Pastor. If that officer does not, after due, clear, and repeated admonition, amend his error, the Pastor shall bring it to the attention of the Congregation and he shall be removed from office and another elected or appointed in his place.
Section 2. The only sufficient and urgent causes for removing a rightly called Pastor are (a) persistent adherence to or the promotion of false doctrine, that is, any doctrinal practice or position in contradiction to the standard of Article III above; (b) scandalous life as defined by Holy Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9); or (c) persistent and willful neglect of his duties, as defined in his call document. Revocation of the Divine Call will only occur after sufficient cause has been established and documented by members of the Congregation, in consultation with another Pastor of the ministerium who is faithfully adhering to the aforesaid standards of doctrine and practice, or in consultation with the Bishop of the ELDoNA.
This Congregation shall have the right to acquire, own, and dispose of property as is necessary for faithfully accomplishing its stated purpose: the spread of the Gospel unto the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:19-20).
This Congregation may from time to time adopt By-Laws as are necessary to accomplish the purpose of this Congregation. They must be fully consistent with Article III of these Canons and be approved by a three-fourths majority decision of the eligible voters present at a special meeting of the Congregation.
Section 1. The Preamble and Articles II, III, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, XI and XIII shall not be abridged, amended or changed by any individual, committee or assembly of voters.
Section 2. Articles I, XII, and XIV may be repealed, revised or altered by the unanimous decision of the eligible voters present at a special meeting of the Congregation.
Section 3. Articles IV and X maybe be repealed, revised or altered by the three-fourths majority decision of the eligible voters present at a special meeting of the Congregation.
Section 4. The date and time of a special meeting shall be published and disseminated on two preceding Sundays, as shall the text of the proposed repeal, revision, or alteration.