1: A commitment for walking together in The Lutheran Orthodox Church, as a Lutheran Rite Catholic Community.
As a community of Christian brothers and sisters, it seems wise to us to establish a clear and concise Rule by which we will freely bind ourselves together under Christ and His Holy Scriptures. In so doing we do not add to, nor subtract from, the Word of God—nor do we propose that the rules of men be taught as the doctrine of God. However, since Christian communities are bound together by common cause and common love, for the sake of good order, we choose to walk together in a pattern of faith, hope, and love that honors our Lord and serves our neighbor in community. For this reason, our Rule is divided into three primary categories, according to the three great and abiding gifts the Spirit has left to Christ’s Church.
2. Of Faith—our Common Confession:
As an ecclesial fellowship of Orthodox Lutherans, our common confession of the faith, once for all delivered to the saints, arises from the inspired and inerrant canonical Holy Scriptures, above which there is no higher authority.
As the Holy Scriptures have been breathed out by God, His Holy Spirit working through His holy Prophets and Apostles, and reflecting the glory of the Word Made Flesh, Jesus Christ, they are our only infallible rule of doctrine. We also recognize the faithful witness to Christ and His Holy Scriptures, traced through the ages of the Church in the witness of great saints and martyrs, doctors and fathers of the Church. Where they agree with the Holy Scriptures, we honor and follow them. Where they err from the Holy Scriptures, we gently set them aside. In this way, we receive the writings of the Church Fathers, and of the Seven Ecumenical Councils.
We further recognize that faithful witness, in the writings of the Lutheran Reformers, particularly in the 1580 Book of Concord. Because they are a true witness to Christ and the Holy Scriptures, in harmony with the faithful witness of centuries past, we receive these writings among us as standards of catholic orthodoxy. They include: the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds; the Unaltered Augsburg Confession of 1530 with its Apology; the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope; the Smalcald Articles; the Large and Small Catechisms of Martin Luther; the Epitome and Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord. In this Christian, historic, catholic, evangelical, orthodox Lutheran confession, we bind ourselves to walk together under Christ and His Holy Word.
3. Of Hope—our Common Grace Bound together in a common confession of the faith, we bind ourselves together in a common hope, brought forth by the grace and promise of Christ. As individuals and as a fellowship, we recall the promise of God made manifest in the Cross of Christ: that Jesus has come to seek and to save the lost. In this common hope and common grace, we recognize the great truth Martin Luther brought forth from the Apostle Paul, that every Christian is at the same time both Saint and Sinner. By our common nature inherited from our parents, we are sinful creatures, inclined toward evil passions, desires, and actions. By our common rebirth from above by Water and Spirit, we also have a new nature given by the Holy Spirit, grafting us into the Vine of Christ, which resists the evil nature and struggles in faith toward holiness.
In our dual natures, we are in constant need of the preaching of both Law and Gospel, which shows us our sin and reveals to us our Savior. We also live out this hope in the traditional Sacramental life of the Church:
Holy Baptism- The Sacrament of Salvation, given by Christ, with the promise that all who believe and are baptized, will be saved. (Mark 16, Matthew 28, Augustana IX, Small Catechism)
Holy Eucharist- The Lord’s Supper, given to us by Christ, with the promise that it is indeed His true Body and Blood, given and shed for us, for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 6, I Corinthians 11, Augustana X, XXII, XIV, Small Catechism)
Holy Confession and Absolution- The power to forgive sins, given to the Church by Christ and exercised by the pastors to whom the Office of the Keys is given, with the promise that whoever repents and believes will hear the Absolution as from the very lips of Christ Himself. (Matthew 16, John 20, Augustana XI, XII, XXV, Small Catechism)
Holy Orders- The pastoral Office of the Keys, given to the Church by Christ, for the proclamation of the Word of God in both Law and Gospel, and the administration of the Sacraments according to Christ’s command. Historically, this office in the Church has been exercised in the specific orders of Deacons, Priests or Presbyters, and Bishops. (Matthew 28, Mark 16, John 20, Acts 1-6, 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus, Augustana XIV, XV, XXIII, XXVIII)
Holy Matrimony- Marriage, given to mankind by God in the Garden at Creation, is the lifelong union of one man and one woman, for procreation of, and care for, children. It is the mystery that God gives which continues the human race, as He exercises His continuing divine power of creation through mothers and fathers. St. Paul also refers to Christian marriage as a mystery which foreshadows the relationship of Christ and the Church. (Genesis1-2, Ephesians 5)
Holy Confirmation or Chrismation- Jesus told His disciples, that if you confess Me before men, I will confess you before My Father in heaven—but if you deny Me before men, I will deny you before My Father in heaven. The public confession of faith, and confirmation of that faith in the Church, is retained with proper catechesis and instruction in the faith, once for all delivered to the saints. (Matthew 10, Romans 10)
Holy Unction, or Anointing with Oil- The gift of Christ given to the Church by His Word, that we are to pray for one another, particularly when our brothers or sisters are in distress or need. St. James tells us that we are to bring the sick to the elders (presbyters) of the Church, that hands may be laid on them, they may be anointed with oil, and that God working through the prayers of the faithful may heal the sick according to His will. (Acts, James 5) As sinner saints, saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, we bind ourselves together in the Lord’s Word and Sacraments, recognizing our common sinfulness and our common grace, suffering with each other’s failures, and calling each other to be holy, as our Saving Lord is holy.
4. Of Love—
Our Common Walk Knowing that our Lord has called us to unity, and to take up our cross to follow Him, we hear also these apostolic truths: that of the three great and abiding gifts of the Spirit to the Church, the greatest is love; and that love covers a multitude of sins. It is divine love that caused the Father to send His Son to die for the sins of the world; divine Love that held Jesus to His Cross; divine Love that raised Jesus again from the dead; divine Love that sends the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of Christ out into the world through His Holy Gospel; divine Love that keeps the saints of God even unto eternal life. It is this divine Love that we are called to reflect to one another. In fraternal love that reflects divine Love, we bind ourselves together: to suffer the weaknesses of our brothers and sisters in patience and compassion; to prefer to be wronged, rather than to pursue vengeance; to seek our neighbor’s good, and protect them from evil; to build our neighbor’s reputation, and protect them from slander; to respect the authority and gifts of those called into all offices of the Church (bishops, priests, deacons, and laity,) and protect them from abuse, division, undermining, or defamation; to pray for one another without ceasing; to use our gifts and resources to help our neighbors in need; to outdo one another in giving honor, preferring humility and resisting pride; to resolve conflicts in Christian charity according to the example of Holy Scripture, resisting any temptation to schism or division; to see in every Christian marked by Faith and Repentance under Christ and His Holy Scriptures a brother or sister indeed, regardless of earthly affiliations, bound together with us in One Baptism, with One Lord, and One saving Faith; to see the world through the eyes of Jesus, who comes to seek and to save, sending us to carry His life-giving Gospel to every creature; to maintain the bonds of affection in the unity of peace.
5. Our Pledge
This is our Rule, and the way we freely bind ourselves together, for the sake of a firm confession of Christ and His Holy Word, of the harmony and fellowship of the saints in this community, and for the sake of Christ’s mission to the world. May God bless us with fidelity and grace, to complete what we are unable to do, living out our lives in Jesus our Savior, marked by Faith, Hope, and Love. Amen.