About the Bible
- We believe the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments are God’s Word, which is His revelation of himself and his will to humanity.
- We believe these books in their original manuscripts are Inspired by God, Inerrant, and Infallible, and that through the work of the Holy Spirit, this Word will be preserved forever (Psalm 119:89, 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21).
- We believe the Bible is the final source and guide for the life of the Christian, and as such, its teachings are the center of our ministries.We hold the Lutheran Confessions (The Book of Concord) to be a faithful interpretation of God’s Word.
- We believe in a “Triune” God, or One God who exists in three Persons–The Father, The Son & The Holy Spirit (Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 3:16-17, Matthew 28:19, 2 Corinthians 13:14, John 1:1-3, John 15:26).
- We believe that each Person of the Trinity is worthy of our worship and praise (1 Chronicles 16:23-31, John 5:23).
- Though One in their purpose and work, the Three Persons work together, but in that working possess unique roles.
- The Father, with the working of the Son and the Holy Spirit, is primarily associated with the Creation of the Universe (Genesis 1-2).
- The Son, being sent by the Father and anointed by the Holy Spirit:
- exists from eternity past (John 8:58)
- was conceived in the womb of Mary (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:18, John 1:14)
- was born fully God and fully man (Luke 2:1-8)
- suffered under the Jews and Pontius Pilate (Mark 15:1-15)
- was crucified for the sins of the world (Luke 23:26-43, Colossians 1:22, 2:15)
- was buried (Luke 23:50-56)
- descended into hell to proclaim victory (1 Peter 3:18-20)
- rose from death (John 20:1-18)
- ascended to the Father’s side (Acts 1:6-11)
- will return to judge the living and the dead (Revelation 22:20).
- The Holy Spirit, proceeding from both the Father and the Son:
- was an active and present agent at creation (Genesis 1:2)
- rested upon Christ at his baptism (Matthew 3:16-17)
- was the helper and comforter promised by Jesus to his followers (John 14:26)
- came upon all believers at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4)
- empowers believers in the Christian life as God’s witnesses (Acts 1:8)
- is given to live within believers in their baptism (Act 2:38, 19:2-6)
- We believe that God created man in His Image (Genesis 1:27).
- We believe that through the first man’s (Adam’s) fall into sin, all humanity fell under the curse of sin which separates us from God and brings about death (Genesis 3, Romans 5:12).
- We believe that humanity cannot escape this guilt and curse, nor can it achieve a right relationship with God on its own (Romans 8:7-8, 1 Corinthians 2:14).
- Despite humanity’s sinful condition, God who is rich in mercy, desires to bring to each person redemption from this curse (1 Timothy 2:4).
- God desires that “all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
- In Jesus, the sin which separates humanity from God has been paid for through the blood of Christ (Colossians 1:20, Ephesians 1:7). The Bible calls this good news “the Gospel.”
- All who believe (i.e. have faith) in the Gospel are forgiven of their sin, saved from eternal death in hell, assured friendship with God and adoption into his family, given the Holy Spirit to guide and lead them, and are promised a bodily resurrection brought about at Christ’s return, and are granted eternal life (John 3:16, Ephesians 1:3-14).
- On its own, humanity cannot acquire the faith in Christ necessary for salvation, but rather God grants faith as a gift through the hearing of his Word (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 10:17; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2).
About the Church
- We believe the Church (note the captial “C”) consists of all true believers in Christ throughout all time and in all places.
- We believe members of the Church express their walk with Christ through participation in a local congregation where they are fed spiritually by the corporate hearing of God’s Word, established and strengthened in faith by participation in the Sacraments, drawn closer to God in prayer and encouraged by the generosity and fellowship of other Christians (Acts 2:42-47, Hebrews 10:25).
About the Sacraments
- We believe Scripture teaches of two Sacraments, namely Holy Baptism and Holy Communion (a.ka. The Lord’s Supper), which were instituted by Christ in God’s Word, and convey God’s grace to the recipient.
- In baptism, God’s Word is connected to the visible means of water. Through it God works to bring about a “washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5), a new birth (John 3:5), and a burial of the sinful nature, and a resurrection of the new nature (Colossians 2:11-12). In short, baptism brings about the forgiveness of sins by granting faith, and grants the gift of the Holy Spirit to the believer (Act 2:37). Baptism is necessary for all believers (Mark 16:16). We practice the baptism of infants as they too are under the curse of sin (Psalm 51:10) and they too can be granted faith in God’s promises (Psalm 22:9, Matthew 18:3-6)
- In the Lord’s Supper (a.k.a. Holy Communion), God works through the means of bread and wine. This gift was given by Christ himself on the night of his arrest, when he commanded his disciples to eat and drink of his Body and Blood (Matthew 26:26-29). In these words of Christ, he makes clear that he is really present in, with and under the bread and wine, and that through it forgiveness of sins, life and salvation are given to the believing recipient.
About the the Christian Life
- “If anyone is in Christ, the old has gone; the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- In Christ, believers have the gift of the Holy Spirit which enables them to do the good works which God has planned for them (Ephesians 2:10).
- The life of the Christian should be marked by love for God and love for neighbor.
- Christians are uniquely equipped to spread the love of Christ in caring both for the physical and spiritual needs of the people around them. Most often, this happens in ordinary ways through the callings we each receive from God, in our homes (i.e. the role of parents and children, husbands and wives), in our communities (i.e. the role of citizens), in our work (i.e. the role of nurses, teachers, etc.) and in the church (i.e. the role of teaching Sunday school, going on missions trips, volunteering in visitation ministry, etc.).
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.
We, the undersigned members of the Ruthfred Lutheran Church, sensible of our spiritual needs and mindful of our Christian duties, in Jesus’ name and with the hope of His blessing, adopt the following constitution:
Name of Incorporation
- The name and title of this congregation shall be the Ruthfred Lutheran Church, Patterson and South Park Roads, Ruthfred Acres, Bethel Park, Pennsylvania.
- This congregation is incorporated in its own name as a corporation not for profit under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
- This congregation accepts the Canonical Books of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the only infallible authority in all matters of faith and life, and subscribes to the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures that is laid down in the Augsburg Confession and Small Catechism of Luther.
- This congregation regards unity in doctrine and practice the necessary prerequisite for church fellowship.
The object and purpose of this congregation shall be to glorify God and to help in the extension of His kingdom among men for their salvation by promoting and disseminating the Christian religion as expressed in the doctrine and practice of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
For the better attainment of its object and purpose, this congregation and its pastor shall hold membership in the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations. Should the congregation at any time see fit to sever this connection, this shall be effected in an orderly and Christian manner as follows: a two-thirds majority vote of all voting members present at a regularly called meeting shall be required to dissolve such church affiliation, the action to take effect, however, only after the president of the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations has been notified and a subsequent meeting of the congregation has ratified the previous action by a two-thirds majority vote.
Power of Congregation
- In all matters of Christian faith and life, the Word of God is the highest authority.
- In all matters left undecided in Holy Writ and not subject to civil laws, the congregation itself, and not any individual or group within it or the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, shall have the right of ultimate decision.
- All schools, societies, and other organizations within the church must be organized with the consent of the congregation and labor under its control.
- All baptized children and adults in this congregation and all baptized by the pastor in this congregation shall be baptized members of the congregation.
- All adults and children who have been baptized in the name of the Triune God; who have been received into this congregation by confirmation, baptism of adults, and/or profession of faith; who by God’s grace strive to remain true to their baptismal covenant and therefore, make diligent use of the means of grace; and who lead a Christian life, submit to this constitution, and support the congregation with their means and talents shall be communicant members of this congregation.
- All communicant members of this congregation shall be voting members, entitled to active participation in all congregational meetings and to vote at all elections.
The Church Council
- The pastor(s) and the following officers of the congregation shall constitute its church council: president, vice president, 6 elders, 4 deacons, 4 trustees, treasurer, financial secretary, Sunday school superintendent,recording secretary
- By virtue of his office, the pastor(s) shall be regarded as the leader(s) of this congregation and shall have the responsibility to ensure that all preaching and teaching in the congregation shall conform to Article II Section 1 of the constitution. The presidentof the congregation shall be the chairman of the church council.
- The duties of the church council shall be: to counsel and assist the pastor(s) in the spiritual oversight of the congregation, to see that all of the rules and regulations of the congregation are rightly executed, and to assure that discipline is properly exercised in all cases in which offense is given to the congregation and its members.
- A majority of the members of the church council shall constitute a quorum at its meetings.
- The church council shall have the oversight of the benevolence works of the church.
The Indoctrination of Children
- We recognize our duty to rear our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and to have them carefully and conscientiously instructed in the articles of our holy Christian faith as they are set forth in The Catechisms of Luther.
- In order that the children may be adequately taught in the faith of the church and trained in the fear and love of God, thorough instruction to prepare them for their confirmation shall be given by the pastor with all diligence and faithfulness.
- The congregation alone shall have the power to call its pastor(s). Before doing so, the officers of the congregation shall seek the advice and help of the president of the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations.
- Only such pastor(s) shall be called as is or will become a member and a rostered pastor, in good standing, of the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations.
- The pastor(s) of this congregation must preach and teach purely Lutheran doctrine, which is in full accord with the Word of God and with the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
- The pastor(s) shall lead a Christian life and possess the qualifications required by St. Paul in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:7-9.
Legal Ownership in Case of Division
Should disagreement among the members bring about a separation in this congregation, which God forbid, all property shall revert to those who adhere to this constitution.
In order to preserve and maintain intact the doctrinal and confessional position of this congregation, to bind its pastor, likewise, to faithfulness thereto in the administration of his sacred office, and to secure and preserve the rightful possession and use of the church property unto all those of the congregation who remain faithful to this constitution, Articles II, III, IV, V, VIII, IX, X, and XI cannot be repealed or altered.
Bylaws and articles of this constitution, except those that are made unchangeable in Article XI of this constitution, may be changed or repealed, or new ones may be added, at the annual meeting of the congregation or at a special meeting of the congregation called for and approved at the annual meeting by a vote of no less than two-thirds (2/3rds) of the voting members present; provided, however, that the subject matter of said bylaws or articles (or bylaws and articles) be published to the congregation at the regular services on two Sundays preceding the annual or special meeting of the congregation at which said subject matter is to be voted upon and by mail to each voting member at least two weeks prior to said meeting.
Note: The Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, referenced in Article IX section 3, include: the Schmalcaldic Articles, the Catechisms of Luther, the Formula of Concord, and the Augsburg Confession.
The Pastoral Call
- After the congregation has elected a pastor by a majority of at least two-thirds of the votes cast, a written call, signed by the members of the church council and attested by the chairman of the meeting or the president of the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, or both, shall be transmitted to the pastor-elect.
- By this call the pastor shall be held to teach, reprove and comfort in accordance with the confession of faith and the regulations of this congregation.
- In the call, the congregation shall bind itself, in accordance with the Word of God, to receive the pastor-elect as its pastor and spiritual advisor, to tender him Christian respect and obedience, to pray for him, and to show him all manner of good will. It shall also supply his temporal wants in such a manner that he may be able as much as possibleto devote all his time and talent to the performance of his official duties.
- The pastor of the congregation shall neither arbitrarily leave nor shall he be arbitrarily dismissed.
- If the pastor deems it advisable to accept a call to another pastorate, he shall seek to gain the consent of the congregation at a properly convened meeting.
- If the congregation deems a change of pastor advisable, the matter shall first be discussed with the pastor at a meeting of the church council. If this fails to resultin a peaceable adjustment of the situation to the satisfaction of the congregation and of the pastor, they shall consult with proper officials of the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations.
- Sufficient cause for a pastor’s removal shall be: persistent adherence to false doctrine and practice, immoral behavior, inability to fulfill his pastoral duties, or unfaithfulness in his office.
Persons who wish to be received into this congregation shall make their desire known to the pastor. Thereupon the name of such applicant shall be submitted to the church council.
- The annual congregational meeting shall be held the third Sunday of January.
- Special congregational meetings may be held at the call of the pastor or the church council, or may be called at the written request of twenty-five (25) or more communicant members of the congregation.
- Ten percent (10%) of the communicant members determined as of December 31 of the previous year shall be considered a quorum at any congregational meeting.
- The time, place, and agenda of congregational meetings shall be announced in the bulletin for one or more regular Sunday services immediately preceding the meeting and by written notice, to include emailing, the members of the congregation.
- The officers of the congregation shall be elected by a majority of the votes cast by written ballot at the annual congregation meeting. Their term of office shall be fora period of two years.
- All voting members, who meet the requirements of Section V Subsection A below and have been a member for at least 2 years and are at least 18 years of age, are eligible to hold office.
- Officers shall be nominated by the nominating committee chosen by the council. The nominating committee shall report the first Sunday in January. Candidates may be recommended in writing to the nominating committee by the first Sunday in November. Any person at present serving on church council who has served consecutively four years or more cannot be nominated for re-election.
- Members shall be elected in this manner:
- President…..every 2 years
- Vice President…..every 2 years
- Financial Secretary…..every 2 years
- Treasurer…..every 2 years
- Recording Secretary…..every 2 years
- Sunday School Superintendent…..every 2 years
- Elders…..three each year
- Deacons…..two each year
- Trustees…..two each year
- The nominating committee shall serve as tellers for the annual congregational meeting.
- Any vacancy occurring in the church council during the term of office shall be filled by council to serve the balance of the term.
Duties of Officers
- General Duties: The officers of this congregation shall give a good and Christian example to the other members of the congregation by regular participation in the church at worship and the church at study, by doing God’s Word, and by frequently partaking of the Lord’s Supper.
- Specific duties of officers:
- Elders: Shall be men who assist the pastor in the guidance of the congregation, in church discipline, in all worship services, in the maintenance of the pure preaching and teaching of the Word of God, and in visitation among God’s people in their hour of need.
- Trustees: Shall have the oversight of the property of the congregation.
- Deacons: Shall provide ushers for all church services, shall be men charged with allexternals of worship insuring that all things are done decently and in order.
- Recording Secretary: Shall keep the minutes of the congregational and church council meetings and take care of the congregational and council correspondence.
- Financial Secretary: Shall keep a record of the envelope contributions of the congregation.
- Treasurer: Shall receive, deposit and disburse all monies of the congregation subject to the approval of the council.
- President: Shall preside over the regular and special church council meetings and the regular and special congregational meetings.
- Vice President: Shall assume the duties of the President in his absence and also chair the personnel committee.
- Sunday School Superintendent: Shall oversee the operation of the Sunday school programs.
Church Organizations & Facilities
- The Sunday school and all of its departments shall be under the supervision of the pastor and church council.
- All other organizations now existing or hereafter to be organized by this congregation shall be under the supervision of the pastor and church council.
- Any constitution adopted by such organizations must be in accord with this constitution and these bylaws.
- We believe that the term “marriage” has only one meaning and that is marriage sanctioned by God which joins one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture. The Sanctuary and premises of Ruthfred Lutheran Church may only be used for weddings and ancillary celebrations that adhere to this Biblical definition of marriage.
- All persons partaking of holy communion shall announce their presence by properly filling in a communion card. Communicants must be baptized and confirmed in the Christian faith.
- Communion services shall be led by an ordained Lutheran pastor.
- The church shall maintain an accounting system to track offerings in support of the budget and special funds. The offerings received will be paid into the church treasury. The accounting system will also provide a record of member giving.
- The congregation shall adopt a budget each year. The procedure for adopting a budget shall be as follows:
- An initial draft of a budget shall be prepared by a standing finance committee. The standing finance committee shall include the church treasurer, the financial secretary, one trustee, one elder, one deacon and three members of the congregation at large; appointed by the church council. The chairperson of the standing committee to be appointed by church council. Members chosen from among the congregation shall serve a maximum of four consecutive years. Terms to begin in February to coincide with newly elected church council’s first meeting.
- The draft budget prepared by the finance committee shall be approved by the church council for submission to the congregation.
- The budget as approved by the church council shall be voted upon by the congregation at a meeting held on a Sunday in November, as designated by Church Council. Copies of the proposed budget shall be mailed (or emailed, with member’s consent) to the congregation prior to the congregational budget meeting.
- During any calendar year, the church council shall not make cumulative expenditures in excess of ten percent (10%) above the total annual budget for current and building fund expenses without obtaining the prior approval of the congregation at a special meeting called for that purpose.
- All income earned on bank accounts and other assets owned by the church shall be expended solely for benevolences except for special fund accumulations whose interest church council may designate to be retained in the special fund.
- Disbursement of church funds shall be only through church accounts that are directed and supervised by church council.
- Any debt incurred must be approved at a congregational meeting except for leases of personal property not to exceed a term of 5 years.
- Members who live in open sin shall be disciplined according to Matthew 18 and Article VII Section 3 of the constitution.
- Open and impenitent transgressors, who are expelled from the congregation, lose all rights and privileges of a member except that of hearing the Word of God.
- Any member who refuses to receive holy communion at least once a year shall be placed on an inactive list prepared by the pastor and the church council.
- Any member(s) with a grievance or complaint against the pastor(s) or other member(s) of the congregation shall employ the following procedure based on Matthew 18:15-17. The discontented member will first approach the subject member and tell him or her the nature of the complaint. If the discontented member does not wish to approach the subject member alone, he or she may contact the pastor or a current elder to accompany them when he or she approaches the subject member. If the member’s complaint is against a pastor, that member should initially be directed to consider their duty to the pastor according to Luther’s explanation of the fourth commandment in the Large Catechism so that they do not unknowingly violate that commandment.
Luther writes, “there are also the spiritual fathers…who govern and lead us by means of God’s Word” and “there is need to impress upon the people that those who want to be known as Christians owe it to God to regard those that watch over their souls as “worthy of double honor” (1 Tim. 5:17), to treat them well, and to provide for their well-being.”
If the discontented member does not wish to be present at the meeting with the subject member, the pastor or a current elder will offer to approach the subject member on behalf of the discontented member, but the discontented member will not be permitted to remain anonymous. Should the discontented member not approve of any of these options, the matter will be considered closed. If a meeting takes place and either the discontented member or the subject member are unsatisfied with the results of the meeting, that party may request a second meeting and bring one or two witnesses, along with the pastor or a
current elder. If after this meeting there is still no agreement, both parties shall meet with the elders to resolve the issue. The elders shall have the final authority to determine how any issue is resolved. If one or the other member refuses to abide by the decision, that member may be subject to further church discipline as recommended by the elders and approved by the church council.
A Scriptural Overview
As in Christ’s example, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness.” (Matt. 4:23), we should seek to further the kingdom through our giving. It is important to note that, throughout the Gospels, Jesus links his physical healing and ministration with the message of who he was. Also, he allowed his “little ones” to see their deep spiritual need. Before his healing, the man with leprosy acknowledged Jesus as “Lord” (Matt. 8:2). The centurion was said to have “great faith” not found elsewhere in Israel (Matt. 8:10). Jesus cast out demons and healed the sick in order to fulfill the prophet Isaiah’s utterance, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…” (Isa. 53:4). As the Apostle John gave witness, even his first miracle of turning water into wine was so that his disciples could see his glory and put their faith in him (John 2:11).
Because the recipient of our benevolences may only see the donor in our giving, it is critical that we give in a manner that points people to Christ and his wonderful provision for our spiritual needs as well as our physical needs. Or that we give to ministries, who in turn will use our gifts in Christ’s name to further his kingdom by meeting spiritual as well as physical needs. “As it is written, man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Father.” (Matt 16:18). We must point men and women, boys and girls, to Christ, otherwise they will see only us and no glory will accrue to the author of our good deeds. Instead, we glorify ourselves and dishonor Christ.
Giving by Christ’s Church without the message of his great love and sacrificial death on the cross for the recipient is of no real benefit, “for what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” (Matt. 16:18).
Finally, let us not forget our own. Acts 6:1-7 admonishes us to look around the family of faith and make sure that widows, orphans and others with great needs are not neglected. Let us make every effort to meet the spiritual and physical needs of those in the pews beside us. Young men from our fellowship, who have devoted their lives to full-time ministry, cannot be overlooked as well. St. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:14-20 “I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.”
The world can only address man’s physical needs. As wonderful as many secular organizations are, they cannot minister to a man’s spiritual needs. Let us be the Church and minister to the whole man, body, soul, and spirit as this is our calling, this is our mission. “Go ye into the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15).
Benevolence Review Committee
Purpose: To review the various ministries which receive benevolence funds from our church to evaluate their on-going purpose and to ascertain that these ministries are in harmony with our Benevolence Guidelines.
- Consideration for inclusion in the church benevolence budget will be given to Christian ministries with a clear statement that these ministries seek to introduce Christ to the lost; who use their gifts to glorify Christ; who seek to minister to the soul as well as to the body.
- The Committee will consist of 5 members. The Chair, who will be appointed by Council; 3 communing members of the congregation appointed by the Chair, who are not members of Council at the time of their appointment; and the sitting Vice President of Council. All Committee members serve at the pleasure of Council.
- Official meetings will be held quarterly at dates & times designated by the Chair and announced at least one week prior in the Bulletin. Organizational and informal preparatory meetings may be called by the Chair at any time by notifying all Committee members.
- The ministries selected for review at Benevolence Committee meetings will be announced in advance by notice in the church bulletin. Meetings shall be open and members of the congregation are encouraged to attend. Members with pertinent information concerning current benevolence giving or with requests that other ministries be considered for giving are encouraged to attend Benevolence Committee meetings.
- An annual August meeting will be called with the Pastor(s) and recommendations for a Benevolence Budget will be presented to the Finance Committee for submission to Church Council.
- BENEVOLENCE GUIDELINES REVISION 2 07/09/2010 AS APPROVED BY RLC COUNCIL 08/09/2010