Commission on Constitutional Matters

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Commission on Constitutional Matters consists of six voting members. Three are ordained ministers and two are lawyers — all nominated by district boards of directors, selected as candidates by the Council of Presidents, appointed by the President of the Synod, and ratified by the Council of Presidents. The Secretary of the Synod serves as the remaining voting member.


Who We Are

  • The ordained minister members of the commission for the 2016–2019 triennium are Gerhard H. Bode (Hutchison, Minn.); George J. Gude (Dorsey, Ill.); and Larry A. Peters (Clarksville, Tenn.).
  • The lawyer members of the commission are Thomas Deadrick (Platte, S.D.) and R. Neely Owen (Keswick, Va.).
  • The Secretary of the Synod, Rev. Dr. John Wollenburg Sias, serves as the secretary of the commission.


What We Do

The Commission on Constitutional Matters:

  1. interprets the Constitution, Bylaws, and resolutions of the Synod upon written request of a member congregation, ordained or commissioned minister, or official or agency of the Synod;
  2. examines all governing instruments of the Synod and its agencies to ensure that they are in accord with the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod; and
  3. examines all convention reports, overtures, and resolutions that ask for amendments to the Synod’s Constitution and Bylaws to determine their agreement in content with the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod.


When We Meet

The Commission on Constitutional Matters meets four or more times a year and as needed to carry out its responsibilities.



  • Handbook
  • At its triennial conventions, the Synod endeavors to structure its walk and work together by adjusting its Constitution and Bylaws to enable it to carry out its mission statement most effectively:

    In grateful response to God’s grace and empowered by the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacraments, the mission of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is vigorously to make known the love of Christ by word and deed within our churches, communities, and world.

    The CCM consults with the Commission on Handbook in the revision of the Handbook of the Synod following each national convention to bring it into harmony with convention actions.

    While each triennial Handbook contains some changes and adjustments, the 2010 convention adopted significant changes to the structure and governance of the Synod, resulting in equally significant changes to the Handbook.

    2016 Handbook

    The 2016 Handbook of the Synod (as finalized by the Board of Directors acting under Bylaw 7.1.2 and 2016 Res. 12-14) has been published electronically, as of May 23, 2017, as the “May 2017” edition. It includes a completely redesigned index, is available in Adobe PDF and Microsoft Word versions, and is accompanied by an “update” edition, indicating all the changes made since the 2013 Handbook.

    The print edition of the 2016 Handbook was delayed to accommodate the changes that have now been finalized; it is now underway. The electronic edition found here may be updated periodically as the Commission on Handbook incorporates minor corrections and other non-substantive changes as part of its responsibility for the ongoing maintenance and management of the Handbook.

    Please report suggestions for correction or improvement, particularly regarding the new index, to the Office of the Secretary.

    Previous editions


  • Selected Opinions
  • Not all CCM opinions are of consequence to the entire Synod. Those opinions of broad significance are provided in the Convention Workbook that is published before each national Synod convention. The following PDF files contain the selected prior CCM opinions since the 2001 convention.



  • Helpful Documents
  • Standard Operating Procedures Manual

    The Bylaws of the Synod require the Commission on Constitutional Matters to provide comprehensive procedures manuals for the dispute resolution and expulsion from membership processes in the Handbook of the Synod.

    Accordingly, a revised Standard Operating Procedures Manual incorporating 2016 convention bylaw changes has been prepared for Bylaw Section 1.10 (Dispute Resolution), Bylaw Section 2.14 (Membership Expulsion: Congregations or Individuals), Bylaw Section 2.15 (Membership Expulsion: District President or Officer), Bylaw Section 2.16 (Membership Expulsion: President of Synod), and Bylaw Section 2.17 (Membership Expulsion: Individuals) after consultation with the Council of Presidents of the Synod.

    • 1.10 – Dispute Resolution — Word  |  PDF
    • 2.14 – Membership Expulsion: Congregations or Individuals — Word  |  PDF
    • 2.15 – Membership Expulsion: District President or Officer — Word  |  PDF
    • 2.16 – Membership Expulsion: President of Synod — Word  |  PDF
    • 2.17 – Membership Expulsion: Individuals (Sexual Misconduct / Criminal Behavior) — Word  |  PDF


    Guidelines for the Constitution and Bylaws of a Lutheran Congregation

    Congregations become members of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod only after their constitutions and bylaws have been approved by the constitution committee of one of the Synod’s 35 districts. Changes to constitutions and bylaws of existing member congregations also are to be reviewed and approved, with revised documents considered by Synod to be in effect only after they have been approved by a district constitution committee.

    Because a high degree of uniformity is desirable, the Commission on Constitutional Matters, as a service to the Synod, has issued guidelines for the proper composition of congregations’ constitutions and bylaws.


    Frequently Noted Concerns and Aberrations

    The Bylaws of the Synod require the Commission on Constitutional Matters to examine the articles of incorporation, bylaws, and policy documents of all agencies of the Synod to ascertain that they are in harmony with the Constitution, Bylaws, and resolutions of the Synod.

    Agencies that intend to make amendments to their articles of incorporation or bylaws must make such intentions known and receive approval of the changes from the commission before taking official action.

    The commission believes that a high degree of uniformity in the verbiage of these documents is desirable. In its review of agency documents, the commission has noted frequent recurrences of minor departures from the norm established by the Synod when preparing its documents.

    Rather than call attention to each of these details individually and repeatedly, the commission has prepared a checklist of these “Frequently Noted Concerns and Aberrations” to alert document preparers and editors to language and grammar departures from the norm established by Synod's Handbook.


  • Addressing Published Opinions
  • The process for addressing the published opinions of the CCM requesting clarification, expressing dissent or requesting reconsideration:

    The 2013 Convention of the Synod adopted Resolution 6-16A, a portion of which directs the Commission on Constitutional Matters to “provide resources to educate members of the Synod on how to address its published opinions, including requests for clarification and expressions of dissent.”

    In response, the commission has developed the following guidelines to assist members of the Synod in understanding the appropriate ways to address published opinions of the commission, including instances when a member of the Synod questions the correctness of a published opinion:

    • Just as any member of the Synod (congregation, ordained or commissioned minister), official, board, commission or agency of the Synod may submit a written request for the commission to interpret the Synod’s Constitution, Bylaws and resolutions (Bylaw, so also may any of these present a written request to the commission asking for clarification or reconsideration of a published opinion of the commission.
    • When asking for a clarification, the petitioner should identify those portions of the opinion or the Constitution and Bylaws which seem to be inconsistent and unclear.
    • When asking for a reconsideration because the member making the request is convinced the opinion is in error, the petitioner must point out on the basis of the Constitution, Bylaws and resolutions of the Synod where the opinion is in error, or where the petitioner believes the commission went beyond its authority as it interpreted the Constitution, Bylaws and resolutions of the Synod.
    • If, after reconsideration, the commission concludes that the published opinion was the correct interpretation of the Constitution, Bylaws and resolutions of the Synod and if the petitioner is still convinced that the published opinion does not correctly interpret the Constitution, Bylaws and resolutions of the Synod, then those authorized to submit overtures to the conventions of the Synod may submit an overture to the convention of the Synod requesting the opinion be overturned. In this overture, it is necessary to demonstrate where, on the basis of the Constitution, Bylaws and resolutions of the Synod, the opinion is incorrect or demonstrate where the commission has gone beyond its authority.
    • If it is eventually recognized that the opinion is indeed correct, but a perception of a problem with the conclusions of the opinion remains, then a solution would be to submit an overture to the convention of the Synod, by those authorized to do so, calling for a change in the Constitution or Bylaws of the Synod to resolve the problem.

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