The General Synod is the highest legislative and administrative body of the EELC. It consists of the Archbishop, bishops, the Chancellor, assessors and deans, who are members by virtue of their office, as well as three representatives from each deanery, elected by the respective deanery synod. The General Synod is elected for a term of four years and its meetings are called by the Archbishop at least twice a year.
The Consistory is the executive body of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, responsible for implementing the decisions of the General Synod and managing daily affairs of the church. The Consistory comprises the Archbishop, bishops, the Chancellor and two to four assessors. The General Synod elects the Chancellor and the assessors for a term of four years and each assessor is put in charge of one or several fields of work by the Archbishop. The office of the Consistory is located in Toompea, in the ‘Bishop’s House’ opposite to the Tallinn Dome Church. The house was built in the final decades of the 17th century.
The Episcopal Council assists the Archbishop in dealing with governance tasks and handling important matters of church life, as well as in developing doctrinal positions. It comprises the Archbishop, bishops, deans, two representatives of chaplaincy services appointed as members of the General Synod by the Archbishop, and two members of the General Synod elected by the Clerical Conference. An Archbishop emeritus or a Bishop emeritus can participate in the meetings of the Episcopal Council with the right to vote. The Episcopal Council is responsible for making decisions on doctrine and liturgy, for issuing recommendations to the Consistory and other bodies of the church for improving the management and administration of church life, and for resolving disputes related to issues of faith or morals.
The Clerical Conference comprises members of the clergy of the EELC. The Clerical Conference is responsible for reviewing doctrinal principles and for approving liturgy manuals and doctrinal ecumenical agreements before a final decision is adopted by the Episcopal Council or the General Synod.
The congregations of the EELC are divided between twelve deaneries in Estonia and five deaneries abroad; each deanery is managed by a dean. A dean is elected for a term of four years by the synod of the respective deanery and the appointment of an elected dean is confirmed by the Consistory.
The elected members of a deanery synod comprise two lay members elected for a term of four years from among the council members of each congregation. The dean, the pastors and assistant pastors and deacons of the congregations in the deanery and substitute clergy subordinated to the dean are members of the synod by virtue of their office. The Archbishop, a bishop or a representative appointed by them has also the right to participate in a meeting of a deanery synod with the right to vote.
Congregation councils and management boards
Clergy members are assisted by the management bodies of congregations in managing a congregation. The general meeting of a congregation elects a congregation council from among its members to make strategic decisions. A council can include 7-30 elected members. The pastor and assistant pastor of the congregation are members of the council by virtue of their office.
The council then elects a management board for organisation of daily affairs of the congregation. In many congregations, the chairman of the management board is the principal work partner of the pastor, helping to organise both spiritual and financial affairs.