Legal Resources

Churches and schools face the daunting task of navigating complex legal issues. From child safety concerns to property matters, employment law, church governance and more, they are responsible for understanding and acting in accordance with applicable legal requirements.

As our churches and schools come under increased scrutiny, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is dedicated to helping pastors, church workers, church administrators, lay leaders and others learn how to better protect their church or school from potential legal challenges.

In collaboration with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a legal guide has been developed in this regard. Protecting Your Ministry is a legal guide for LCMS congregations, schools and ministries. Please read through this entire booklet carefully to understand the full scope of the issues and how you can protect various ministries.

Legal Representation

The LCMS Board of Directors is charged with serving as the legal representative of the Synod. The Board accomplishes this work through the Synod’s Chief Administrative Officer with appropriate guidance by the Synod’s duly appointed outside legal counsel.

While these parties are unable to offer legal advice to LCMS members, congregations, schools, pastors or church workers, this site aims to provide general legal resources to individuals and organizations within the LCMS.

You are encouraged to engage a qualified attorney who is licensed to practice law in the particular state or jurisdiction where you are located to assist with legal matters. One potential resource to consult is the Lutheran Legal League. Please read our legal disclaimer.

For more information, please contact:

Frank Simek
Chief Administrative Officer
314-996-1350
Frank.Simek@lcms.org

Deaconess Kim Schave
Director, Project and Policy Administration
314-996-1352
Kim.Schave@lcms.org

Church Administration

Church Administration

Beyond conducting Word and Sacrament ministry, churches are charged with carrying out various administrative procedures and adhering to legal requirements set forth by multiple entities.

Parish administration responsibilities include managing position descriptions, administering various forms, maintaining employee records, managing finances and overseeing risk management, among others.

The church office administration resources provided offer information and support for Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod congregations and pastors in managing church operations and in understanding and applying sound employment principles.

 

Copyrights and Intellectual Property

Contact:

LCMS Church Information Center
888-THE LCMS (843-5267)
infocenter@lcms.org

 

Statements

Protecting Your Ministry provides the following sample statements and policies for LCMS churches, schools and ministries.

 

Employees and Volunteers

  • LCMS Employment Resource Manual
  • ADF Section 2.0Religious Employment Criteria
  • Background ChecksProtect My Ministry is an employment and volunteer background screening company established to assist churches, schools and other faith-based organizations in implementing and maintaining a thorough background screening process. Background screening can help you select the right people for ministry, prevent any new or further child abuse, avoid potential legal risks and minimize your financial liability.

 

Taxes

  • Taxes and Ministers — The booklet is a resource on tax issues for ordained and commissioned ministers.
  • Congregational Treasurer’s Manual — The manual provides information on various aspects of the duties of congregational treasurer.
  • Application for Synod’s Tax-Exemption — The complete set of documents related to Synod’s acquisition of tax-exemption is available for public inspection here in accordance with Section 6104(e) of the Internal Revenue Code.
  • Application for Synod’s Group Tax-Exemption — The complete set of documents related to Synod’s acquisition of a group tax-exemption for its subordinate units covered thereunder (Group Exemption Number 1709) is available here for public inspection in accordance with Section 6104(e) of the Internal Revenue Code.
  • IRS Form 990-T — The last 3 years of IRS Forms 990-T filed by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod are available here for public inspection in accordance with Section 6104(e) of the Internal Revenue Code.

•  2013

•  2014

•  2015

 

Contact:

Karen Sansone
Director of Tax and Compliance
314-996-1441
Karen.Sansone@lcms.org
Facility Usage

Church Property Management

Your church’s ministry should not be confined to the property you own, but the property you own should be considered a vital part of your ministry. Ideally, your facility is set apart to worship God and hopefully even be a witness to Christ in your neighborhood.

There are many aspects to being a good steward of your property, and the LCMS Church Property Management Guide provides each church an overview of topics connected with property ownership.

 

Cellular Tower Lease

 

Zoning/Land Use

Schools and Education

Schools and Education

LCMS schools reach out to children and families with the love of Jesus Christ and are a rich and vital component of the church body.

They provide witness and mercy opportunities for students by serving the needs of their surrounding community and the world. They also serve as a conduit for community connections where the Gospel message is shared.

Lutheran schools are known for providing quality Christian education. To safeguard the rich tradition that the LCMS has enjoyed as the largest Protestant school system in the United States, it is necessary that schools take precautions to avoid unhelpful and potentially costly legal claims.

To this end, helpful guidance is offered for schools to include procedures relating to admission through dismissal.

Communicating in a clear manner the philosophy, objectives and standards of education that your school maintains is vital for the protection of your school ministry.

Sexual Misconduct

Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct on the part of church workers can lead to devastating consequences for all involved, including the congregation and school, if applicable.

Referring to the relevant Scripture passages, the Council of Presidents explains:

When God leads people into called church worker ministry, they are entrusted with positions of great responsibility and influence. It is therefore imperative that professional church workers carry out their ministries with integrity and care, recognizing that their way of life and conduct must be of an especially high standard, in keeping with expectations delineated in the Holy Scriptures (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, et al.) and as required for membership in the Synod (Constitution Art. VI, 2013 Handbook, p.15).

Allegations of gross personal or professional misconduct brought against professional church workers are therefore serious accusations which ultimately call into question a worker’s fitness for continued ministry. They will be addressed promptly and thoroughly by his or her ecclesiastical supervisor, the district president or the President of the Synod. (Council of Presidents Manual, April 2016, p. 122)

The Council of Presidents of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, based on these Biblical expectations, has the policy that all ministers of religion, both ordained and commissioned, found guilty of engaging in sexual intercourse with someone other than their spouse shall be removed from the rosters of the Synod (“zero tolerance”). Similar consequences pertain for sexual misconduct involving minors (Council of Presidents Manual, April 2016, pp. 75ff).

For these reasons, whenever allegations of sexual misconduct are raised, the ecclesiastical supervisor (district president) of the ordained or commissioned member of Synod MUST be notified. He is responsible to care for both the member of Synod and the congregation or school, including the victim, and will have the resources necessary to respond appropriately in a manner faithful to the Word of God.

Other Topics

Other Legal Topics

Legal Disclaimer

Please note: The information offered on this Web page is not intended to provide specific legal advice. This material is provided by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod for informational purposes only.

You are encouraged to contact your legal advisor, insurance provider and other experts to determine what policies and procedures best fit your congregation or school situation. No endorsement of referenced companies or organizations in these materials is implied or intended.

Web site addresses listed were current as of June 2016.

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