Ecclesiastical Supervisors as the Devil’s Accomplices

It is just another normal day as yet another pastor is thrown out by the congregation God has called him to serve. Is he being ousted for Biblical reasons? Is he being thrown out because he is teaching heresy? Is he being thrown out because he is openly living contrary to the Word of God? No, no, and no. He is being thrown out because the congregation has simply decided that they don’t want to hear God’s Word from their called pastor any longer.

This is where a faithful ecclesiastical supervisor would step in and call the congregation to repentance, reminding them that the pastor speaks Christ’s Word to them on Christ’s behalf – “The one who hears you hears me.” (Luke 10:16) This is where a faithful ecclesiastical supervisor would step in and call the congregation to repentance, reminding them that rejecting Christ’s called pastor is rejecting Christ – “The one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects Him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)

However, when you don’t have faithful ecclesiastical supervisors, the congregation is not called to repentance. The congregation is affirmed and hardened in their sin. The congregation is led to believe that what they are doing is perfectly acceptable in the eyes of God and that throwing their pastor and his family out onto the street is even pleasing to God and good for the church.

Would it surprise anyone to know that the pastor’s predecessor was also thrown out? Of course not. They went through a short period of vacancy and then our ecclesiastical supervisors sent them a seminary candidate. That’s typical and common.

Some readers might get the idea that they know which congregation I’m writing about, but this is so characteristic that it could at the same time be about any number of congregations. Faithful pastors being thrown out of their congregations or their lives being made miserable and being pressured to resign are hallmarks of Lutheranism today.

On the other side of the same coin, it is the faithless pastors who are too often supported by our ecclesiastical supervisors. For instance, a neighboring pastor to the one being thrown out. Open communion? Check. Grape juice for communion? Check. Methodist hymns? Check. Teaching heresy? Double check. Telling people to remain in sin instead of repenting? Interfering with other pastors’ ministry by telling their members not to repent when their own pastor has called them to repentance? Communing the unbaptized? Telling people who don’t want to eat Christ’s body to touch it to their tongue and then throw it in the garbage? Check, check, check, check, check.

Faithless pastors are leading people astray, while faithless ecclesiastical supervisors watch on. Such ecclesiastical supervisors are the devil’s accomplices. Instead of overseeing sinners called to repentance, they are overseeing sinners being hardened in their sin. They are overseeing the devil leading people to hell, and by their lack of action and discipline and by their affirmation of people’s sin, they are the devil’s accomplices.

What to do? If you want to file charges against a faithless pastor, our system immediately turns to secrecy. The one laying charges is muzzled and is not permitted to talk about the situation or the heretic being charged, while the heretic keeps on teaching false doctrine and practicing every vile practice. You cannot warn the sheep you have been called to protect and care for. And to top it off, nothing is ever resolved anyway. Heretics are never thrown out of office. They retire or leave as they themselves see fit.

O Lord, look down from heav’n, behold
And let Thy pity waken;
How few are we within Thy fold,
Thy wretched saints forsaken.
Thy Word men shall not let remain,
And faith is well-nigh sought in vain
Among all Adam’s children.

They teach a false and idle word
Which their own wits have founded;
Their hearts are not with one accord
On God’s pure doctrine grounded.
Each seeks in his own way to guide,
And so Thy people they divide,
Though fair be their appearance.

God surely will uproot the ones
Who with their lies enclose us
And who with bold and haughty tongues
Say, “Who would dare oppose us?
We have the right and might alone,
What we determine shall be done,
Who then shall be our master?”

Therefore saith God, “I must arise,
The poor see devastation
And unto Me have come their sighs,
I’ve heard their lamentation.
My saving Word upon the plain
Shall fight My foes with might and main,
The poor with strength upholding.”

As silver sev’n times tried by fire
Is found right purely shining,
So doth God’s Word our trust require
Until its full refining.
When through the cross it shall be tried,
Then shall its strength and light abide
As in all lands it shineth.

Preserve Thy Word e’er pure and free
From this vile generation,
And keep us subject unto Thee,
Safe from their infiltration.
The godless ev’rywhere abound,
Where’er such wicked men are found
Exalted midst Thy people.

Martin Luther’s Ach Gott vom Himmel, sieh darein from lutheranchoralebook.com

 


Comments

Ecclesiastical Supervisors as the Devil’s Accomplices — 41 Comments

  1. Good work, Ps. Nieminen. But the situation you describe is the price you pay when you adopt a congregationalist polity.

  2. Luther said that if a Pastor was removed without cause [three reasons he could be, I think] no other pastor should “step into his shoes” and deprive him of a living.
    Allowing that is where leadership is at fault. But the individual who accepts a call from such a congregation is also at fault.

    Sending a seminarian, newly ordained, to such a congregation is asking for trouble for the seminarian.

    If it’s all up to the congregations, why do we have (and pay for) district offices with their layers of bureaucracy!?

  3. Exactly, Pr. Nieminen! And, oh, how deep and thick (like layers of manure in the barnyard) are those layers of bureaucracy! Also, to add to “Heretics are never thrown out of office” ~ They are just given a district level or synodically (ridiculously) made-up “office” and become one of those “princes” we should never trust! They even grievously error in saying these bureaucRATS have a “divine call”… Oh, it’s a call alright, but from, as you rightly concluded, the devil himself!

  4. Proverbs 19:5
    Proverbs 11:21
    Isaiah 13:11
    Isaiah 3:11
    Psalm 58:10
    2 Peter 2:9
    Proverbs 21:18
    Matthew 21:13
    Matthew 5:39
    Luke 13:27
    Matthew 7:21-23
    Psalm 34:16
    Proverbs 16:4
    Ezekiel 33:11
    Psalm 37:34
    Job 31:3
    Ecclesiastes 8:11

  5. @Rev TLH #2

    This may be true, but a congregation cannot be a member congregation of the LCMS and have LCMS pastors unless the LCMS agrees to have it as a synod member. If a congregation is unrepentant and refuses to submit itself to God’s word, then a synod faithful to God’s word is duty bound to mark it and remove it from the synod. The same goes for any member of a synod.
    I think one of the big problems is that many members and member congregations of the LCMS have major disagreements about the doctrine of God’s word. A synod will only have the number of faithful pastors it and its doctrine will support. This is one of the many reasons fewer men are training for ministry in the LCMS right now.

  6. @LW #6

    LW wrote, “…a congregation cannot be a member congregation of the LCMS and have LCMS pastors unless the LCMS agrees to have it as a synod member.”

    A congregation may be a Synod member but not have an LCMS pastor. Trinity Lutheran Church, New Haven, Missouri, is an LCMS congregation but for decades did not have an LCMS-certified pastor. That notable pastor is, of course, Herman Otten. Someone else may have other examples of LCMS congregations which do not have LCMS-certified pastors.

  7. @Rev. Robert Fischer #7

    I have read elsewhere and some years ago that the “certification” you write about was not required when Pastor Otten was ordained and called to his congregation. He is a graduate of Concordia Seminary, St Louis.

  8. @Rev. Robert Fischer #7

    If certification was necessary back then I imagine the the district president at the time and/or the district in convention, if they had chosen to, could have rescinded Trinity’s membership in the LCMS for calling a non-certified pastor. This is perhaps an example of the dominance of the congregation in LCMS polity. I think this decision was more of a practical matter rather than doctrinal since Rev. Otten is a synodically trained confessional Lutheran pastor.

  9. @LW #10

    “LW”, the seminary thought that it was a doctrinal issue (although I’m not in agreement with that). See:

    In late 1958, a brash young seminarian from the Bronx, New York, named Herman Otten stood before the faculty of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, to answer charges that he had “violated the law of love” as expressed by Jesus in the New Testament. Earlier that year, Otten had leveled accusations of heresy against several seminarians. Later, in a secret meeting with Synod president John W. Behnken, Otten charged that members of the Concordia faculty were teaching heresy, denying the veracity of cherished Bible stories, and questioning scripture’s inerrancy and infallibility. Faculty members, soon confronted by Behnken with Otten’s charges, were incensed. They demanded not only that Otten admit that he had sinned in making charges without first confronting the accused—a clear violation of the principle of Matthew 18—but that he retract his accusations. Otten refused. and so the faculty stood in judgment: after years of study and a graduate degree, Herman Otten would not be certified by Concordia Seminary for service as a minister in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). In effect, he was blackballed from the church.

    From: Power, Politics, and the Missouri Synod

  10. @Rev. Robert Fischer #11

    Just to clarify, when I said above that it wasn’t a doctrinal issue I meant that the Seminary wasn’t correct in “black-balling” Rev. Otten for his doctrinal position. The steps in Matt. 18 do not apply to widely known sins, such as the public teaching of heterodox professors. As Luther says in the Large Catechism regarding the Eighth Commandment:

    [284] All this has been said regarding secret sins. But where the sin is quite public so that the judge and everybody know it, you can without any sin avoid him and let him go, because he has brought himself into disgrace, and you may also publicly testify concerning him. For when a matter is public in the light of day, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying; as, when we now reprove the Pope with his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. For where the sin is public, the reproof also must be public, that every one may learn to guard against it.

  11. @Rev. Robert Fischer #7
    As a CV, a LCMS congregation can keep a Pastor who is not on the roster, but they are in violation and would eventually be removed. It may drag on, take time, but eventually, the congregation is in error and would be removed from Synod. Of course, time is granted to “come back”.

  12. @Rev. Robert Fischer #11

    It sounds like members of the LCMS/Concordia Seminary back then were guilty of similar sins mentioned in the above article regarding members of the synod/congregations today. We too often refuse to repent or to even allow to be called to repentance. Matthew 13:14-15

  13. @Rev. Robert Fischer #11

    And following that, in 1973-74, the laity (primarily) expressed its opinion of the goings on in St Louis, which seemed to agree with Otten, and most of the professors left for elca.
    We might be better off today if all the students of those professors had left, too.

    Instead, I believe, we have got too many of them in the bureaucracy.

  14. @Rev. Robert Fischer #11

    He wasn’t “blackballed from the church” although CSL sympathizers have treated it that way. His vicarage congregation called him to be their Pastor and he has been there ever since.

    [And CSL appears to need another Otten and some active “civilians” today, because the bureaucracy (see above) seems to think it’s just fine, but the smell of it is beginning to escape.]

    Or is the whole apple so rotten there’s no hope?

  15. @helen #17

    Otten was “blackballed” in the sense that he wasn’t certified, thus he couldn’t be part of the Seminary’s placement program for new grads. He was very fortunate that a sympathetic congregation issued him a Call.

    Otten retired in 2012. Following is an interesting excerpt from the New Haven newspaper article which announced his retirement:

    While conservatives in many church bodies commended Christian News and Trinity, the LCMS never certified him for the ministry. Otten graduated from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in 1957 with an M.Div. and a few days later from Washington University with an M.A. in history.

    A year later he earned an S.T.M. from Concordia Seminary and was on course to earn his doctorate at age 26 when his long battle with the LCMS hierarchy began. He never had time again to return to the classroom.

    He informed leaders of the LCMS during the 1950s, at their request, about what was going on theologically at Concordia Seminary and elsewhere in the LCMS.

    When Trinity, New Haven, which he had been serving as a student while doing his graduate work, would not remove him as pastor when ordered by LCMS officials, Trinity was suspended several times and then expelled from the LCMS.

    Each time the suspensions and expulsion were declared invalid by the LCMS Board of Appeals, which consisted of 5 attorneys and 6 pastor/theologians elected at LCMS conventions. This same Board of Appeals ruled after interviewing professors under oath that the seminary had not shown just cause for not certifying Otten for the ministry.

    The board found Otten had told the truth about the liberal professors. The vote in 1984 was unanimous for Otten. However, even though the LCMS Handbook required the LCMS and Concordia Seminary to accept the ruling, they refused to certify the pastor of Trinity.

  16. Rev Nieminen,

    Thanks for writing this article and keeping this issue out in front. This is a huge problem in the LCMS and many of these faithful pastors who are thrown out are without calls with no help from their ecclesiastical supervisors.

    Here’s a quote from Dr. Dale A. Meyer in Concordia Journal Summer 2017 in an article called “Low Seminary Enrollments”: “The LCMS has a shortage of pastors. For some years now, the Council of Presidents has not been able to fill calls for new pastors from the seminaries because there have not been enough graduates from Master of Divinity programs to meet the needs.” And he continues on about a problem that does not exist. You can read the rest at https://concordiatheology.org/2017/09/concordia-journal-summer-2017/.

    I am weary of hearing this when I know there are pastors who have been unbiblically removed from their calls who do not have calls. The real problem is that some congregations do not want to hear God’s Word.

    Further, if you read the rest of this very issue of Concordia Journal you will see that most of the articles are about science and God’s Word. You will be left wondering just what is being taught at CSL. God’s Word or science?

    I strongly encourage laity especially and pastors to read these articles and write to the Board of Regents about your concerns. If you get a new pastor from CSL, you better find out if he believes in evolution, the Big Bang theory, evolutionary creationism or what.

    Blessings in Christ Jesus,
    Ginny Valleau

  17. I think that a pastor can sometimes be very orthodox in his theology, yet have terrible interpersonal skills (i.e., be an abrasive jerk!). Sometimes (I think), there are cases of pastors being canned that simply reflect a terrible mismatch between pastor and people! Are congregations sometimes to blame for driving off a perfectly nice pastor? Absolutely! But there are examples of the opposite circumstance, also. There are usually two sides to any controversy, and it is hard for outsiders to judge every circumstance.

    Having a “checklist of Biblical reasons for revoking a call” can sometimes wind up being an exercise in legalism. My old blue Catechism basically says only adultery or “malicious desertion” can justify divorce. What do we do when a husband beats the tar out of his wife on a regular basis? Tell her she’s stuck for life? That reason’s not on “the checklist”! Sometimes, I think God wants us to use common sense as well as Scripture.

    Pastor, you paint with too broad a brush. Do pastors sometimes get fired for bad reasons? Sure. But saying it is “normal,” “so characteristic,” or “hallmarks of Lutheranism today” is going too far. So is saying, “Heretics are never thrown out of office.” Never? What about Matthew Becker?

    “Grape juice for Communion”–if regular wine is not being used at all, I would agree with you. Some congregations do use grape juice (or “non-alcoholic wine”–I could never see the distinction between the two myself) in some individual cups in each tray for those who are allergic to wine or are recovering alcoholics. I see nothing wrong with making this option available. Where in Scripture does it mandate a certain level of fermentation for Communion wine to be acceptable for sacramental use? Nowhere. It simply says, “the fruit of the vine.” Plus, the ancients watered down their wine.

    Also, what is wrong with “Methodist hymns” as a category? Charles Wesley wrote many wonderful hymns, many of which are used in Lutheran churches today. Do we have to sometimes “tweak” the lyrics to avoid false teaching? Sure. But, let’s not use “Methodist hymns” as an epithet!

    Not being specific about specific examples, but saying “This happens all the time,” promotes a paranoid, siege mentality. No one trusts anyone, because “you don’t know who to trust.” I don’t think that’s healthy for the Church.

    “Rev TLH,” do you really want congregations to lose their independence? If central control of congregations would prevent heresy, the Reformation wouldn’t have been necessary! There is no “polity silver bullet” that can solve the problem of false teaching.

    “northwooodsluther,” don’t call district or Synod officials “bureaucRATS”–many if not most of them are good people. Can there be bad apples in those positions? Sure, but it’s childish to smear them all as “rats”! That’s just name-calling.

    “Rev. Robert Fischer,” why are you using Herman Otten as an example? The guy called the Holocaust a hoax! We Lutherans already have Luther’s horrible statements about the Jews to live down–let’s not make it harder to evangelize Jews (and sensible Gentiles) by saying, “Well, his doctrine is pure, and that’s all that matters!”

    Ginny Valleau, I have read part of that Concordia Journal issue you referred to. It is very conservative but very fair, from what I have read. It is (among other things) asking pastors to consider, “If I have a scientifically-educated layman in my parish who is troubled by the apparent clash between modern science and Scripture, how can I counsel that person?” We need wise advice on how to avoid (a) compromising God’s teachings, while (b) not throwing out the baby of science with the bathwater of atheism. We need to avoid saying things the Bible does not say; e.g., Ken Ham saying the Bible rules out intelligent extraterrestrial life. That kind of stuff needlessly alienates (pun intended!) people. The Gospel is already inherently hard for unbelievers to accept–let’s not erect unnecessary barriers to its acceptance by going beyond Scripture!

    And–just for the record–I have no problem with accepting the Big Bang. Just because science explains how something in creation happened doesn’t mean God didn’t do it! Modern meteorology explains how weather happens; however, I still believe God answers prayers for rain! All of nature is God’s! The physicist who first proposed the Big Bang was a Catholic priest. If you research it, you will find that there is tremendous evidence in favor of the Big Bang theory–that’s why it’s the dominant one in cosmology today. How does this fit with God making the world in “six days”? I am not sure, to be honest! But, I also believe God doesn’t want us to deny obvious facts (such as “We can see light from stars and stellar events billions of light-years away”!) and twist reality into a pretzel just to conform to a particular interpretation of Scripture (e.g., that God made the world in 144 hours ca. 4004 B.C.!).

    Someone is going to say, “You are denying the plain meaning of Scripture.” Well, Luther said (and Franz Pieper echoed) that Copernicus was denying the plain meaning of Joshua 10:13 (“…the sun stood still…) by denying the sun moved instead of the earth. We later accepted the overwhelming evidence for heliocentrism, adjusted our interpretation of Scripture, and life went on. Sometimes, we do have to use “secular science” to help interpret Scripture!

  18. @James Gibbs #21

    “Rev. Robert Fischer,” why are you using Herman Otten as an example? The guy called the Holocaust a hoax! We Lutherans already have Luther’s horrible statements about the Jews to live down–let’s not make it harder to evangelize Jews (and sensible Gentiles) by saying, “Well, his doctrine is pure, and that’s all that matters!”

    I never said (or implied), “Well, his doctrine is pure, and that’s all that matters!” All I said was that he was correct in challenging the heterodox, Higher-Critical profs at CSL and that he was wrongly denied certification. I don’t know if he ever said or wrote anything about the holocaust at that period in his life. In any case, we don’t (or shouldn’t) throw the baby out with the bathwater. We don’t reject everything Luther did just because of his late writings which you cite regarding the Jews.

  19. @James Gibbs #21

    Herman Otten (and others) not only told truth to synod; the synod (primarily laity, I was told) acted upon it and cleaned up CSL, at least for a while. But somehow, they allowed the vindictive to “kill” this messenger (although other “messengers” got off).

    I am not sure what Otten wrote about the holocaust; he did allow a guest to write on that topic, as I remember it, and there was some controversy. [It was a long time ago but years after Otten had left CSL and started Christian News. The holocaust and the “work camps” happened to a great many others in addition to Jews.]

    What the liberals resented, IMHO, was that Otten would not “shut up and go away” and leave them to retake synod, which (having discredited Otten) they are well on the way to doing.

  20. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    “Unjust termination of a call” is the topic of this blog post by Pastor Niemenen.

    I would not say that district presidents in the LC-MS (or similar church bodies) are “devil’s accomplices” when they are unwilling or unable to reject the decision of a congregation when the congregation terminates a pastor unjustly. The DPs are almost always simply observing the limits of their office in our synod(s).

    When it comes to the matter of calling and terminating rostered church-workers, the district presidents in the LC-MS are advisors only. Check LC-MS Constitution Article VII. The call and its administration is a basic right of a congregation. It was even stated as such in correspondence between Walther and Adam Ernst in the discussions leading to the formation of synod in 1847.

    The district presidents cannot stop congregations from terminating their pastors (or other church-workers), whether justly or unjustly. They can do very little to help a pastor who is terminated, whether justly or unjustly, except for encouraging other congregations to consider him for a call.

    My best advice to a pastor who has been terminated unjustly is to immediately report your situation to your Circuit Visitor, and then make appointments IN PERSON with both him and the district president, as soon as possible. Also . . .

    DON’T stop attending your Circuit Meetings.
    DO put your name out for vacancies and pastoral assistance.
    DO keep up your devotional life and attend another parish weekly for communion and worship.
    DO keep track of the bylaw regulations regarding term limits for being rostered without a call.
    If you need income, apply to a Temporary Employment agency.

    How can we, as a synod, prevent unjust terminations in the first place?

    First, the pastors need to remember that the officers of a congregation are their co-workers. That means mutual cooperation and mutual respect between pastors and officers.

    Second, the pastors need to remember that the congregation, in its voters assembly, is the ultimate human authority, whose job (among other things) is to SETTLE controverted issues by majority vote. I try to avoid taking sides on any issue, but rather let the congregation figure out for itself what it wants to do. That means I usually don’t say much at voters or other meetings, except for the Pastor’s Report and when called on.

    But what if it is a significant issue? After 33 years of ordained ministry, my approach is this:

    If it is a theological issue, I point to what Scripture, Confessions, and the LCMS has said on the matter—I don’t bring in my own opinion, I rely on the authority of the church-at-large. If the congregation rules against the synod’s position (as they have on occasion), I say to myself “Okay, I did my job,” shrug my shoulders, and take my lumps.

    If it is a practical issue, I try to reason on the basis of common sense and experience. If the congregation rules against my counsel (as they often have), I say to myself “Okay, I did my job,” shrug my shoulders, and let them find out–sooner or later–that it doesn’t work or the decision was detrimental to the mission and ministry of the congregation.

    You will find that the LCMS has not declared its position on every single question or theological problem that one might think of. There are many things that Scripture and the Confessions don’t address. We call these questions and issues “adiaphora” and “theological problems.” Pastors and laymen often get tied up in knots, and into arguments, over issues and problems that fall into these areas. We should tolerate differences in these areas, while standing firm on what Scripture clearly teaches.

    Third, the pastors need to bring their situation to the attention of their Circuit Visitors when their people start accusing them of false doctrine, moral failure, or seem more than usually disgruntled. Disgruntlement and complaints seem to be the “stock in trade” of people in many places; you have to learn the difference between what is normal and abnormal disgruntlement in each parish.

    As to the case of Pastor Otten, it is complicated. It is unfair to Pastor Otten to compare his case to men whose calls are terminated. He was denied certification by the seminary, i.e., he did not receive a parish call through the normal process, which is a completely different matter.

    The truth is that the seminary did not certify him because he questioned the faculty’s theology. He was right to question and challenge them. When his case later came up for appeal, the LCMS Commission on Appeals ruled that the seminary faculty had failed to show cause for their action against him. Therefore the seminary’s denial of certification to Pastor Otten was invalid, and still is. This is not my opinion. This is a legal fact (legal according to church law).

    I hope this helps a bit.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  21. @Martin R. Noland #24

    Dr. Noland, I would take some issue with how “hand-tied” you place the office of DP in the LCMS. I know of a former DP who threatened congregational removal from the roster of synod for the unjust removal of a pastor (this caused enough pause to let cooler heads prevail). I also know another former DP who on numerous occasions used every aspect of his office to explain how the “process” would work to keep their pastor working in their parish for years to come as it worked its way through. Through a very lengthy speech he was able to show them how their actions would only begin the hard times in their parish as he served both congregation and the pastor as members of the synod. These are two examples of occasions where the ecclesiastical supervisors were NOT the devil’s accomplices but instead agents using earthly offices and rules to help congregations be godly towards their called pastors.

  22. Dr. Noland, if a congregation unscripturally removes their pastor, starves him out, or otherwise drives him off, the District Presidents should be able to suspend the congregation. They never do.

    From my experience, I have also found that the District will stay out of it if enough members and leaders of the congregation show that they back their pastor. Current bylaws seem to favor it, but don’t let small, anonymous, dissident groups take over your congregation.

  23. Dear BJS,
    As a CV for a little longer, you make accusations that we are the devil’s accomplices, when in fact, we straddle the middle, getting it from all sides.
    01) We try and encourage a better following the Scriptures in practice to a congregation, we get told, “stay out”.
    02) We remind of error to a congregation, we get told “who are you to say?”
    03) We defend a pastor, and get it from both sides.
    04) We tell a pastor the truth, “maybe” you might be suited for another calling? Oh my, look out!
    Being a CV is a thankless job, but we do it…and we are NOT devil’s accomplices. Sometimes I think we are God’s “fall guys”, and that is wrestled with in prayer of course. We are human.

  24. Pr Prentice – I’m thinking your experience is one reason why CVs shouldn’t be dealing with disciplinary actions like this and the task should be given to a group of people to handle.

    “though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

  25. These types of threads tend to be lightning rods for gossip. Whenever a removal of a pastor occurs, for whatever reason, there are two sides to the story, and they are almost never presented directly by either side. It tends to be, “well, I heard this…” or “so and so told me this…” We have seen in the past on this site that even letters were presented without the effort of making contact with those accused of falsely removing the pastor, and when it was investigated further, it sounds like the removal was actually well justified. My recommendation is that these matters ought to be private and we shouldn’t be presuming to know the details behind them. I also am pretty uncomfortable when we badmouth our DPs and other district level workers, usually without providing detail. It creates an us vs. them mentality for men who I believe are diligently trying to execute the offices to which they have been elected. When we engage in gossip to chip away at the trust in our DP’s, congregational elders, etc., we are also chipping away at the trust in our own pastors and congregations. Threads like this ought to be few and far between in my opinion.

  26. A congregation does not call a pastor with the goal of kicking him out. The congregation calls him praying that he will love them, gently teach them with patience, and learn to know them deeply.

  27. Important article, Pr Nieminen! The basic question, as I would say, is whether there are divine rules for these situations or not. Does the Bible teach anything on the subject, or should we rely on our reason? If it is a question to be determined by reason, then we can distinguish between good and bad solutions. If it is a question to be determined by Scripture, then there is a doctrine, which is right or wrong.

  28. ” My recommendation is that these matters ought to be private and we shouldn’t be presuming to know the details behind them.”

    That worked pretty well for the Catholic church.

    There’s a reason why civil trials are public – to ensure that justice is not only done but seen to be done.

    Part of me thinks some sunshine needs to be applied to issues like this as well for the same reason.

  29. @ANO #34

    Your comment about the Catholic Church has nothing to do with the topic at hand. The thread is addressing the punishments of congregations who allegedly let go of pastors for reasons other than heresy or misconduct. I think you are referring to catholic priests who were retained even after being discovered to have engaged in misconduct. Separate issues. The fact of the matter is that many of the comments are making presumptions upon why a pastor was not retained in some other nameless congregation without having the facts involved in specific cases. I see DPs and other offices being disparaged based on perceived abuses without any factual basis. We call that behavior “spreading rumors.” Additionally, I don’t think hiring and firing decisions should be public matters. When was the last time your HR department publicly made statements why a person was let go, or not promoted, etc. Should the inner workings of your own congregation be subject to public disclosure? Seems to me we always make these kinds of discussions about someone else’s church rather than our own, which makes the value of such discourse highly suspicious.

  30. @Sean #37- My reference to the Catholic church was about the utility of keeping jurisprudence matters under wraps.

    Next – a pastor / congregation relationship is not an “HR” issue any more than it’s a “hiring and firing decision” because the pastor / church relationship is *not* one of employer / employee. I’d encourage you to have a discussion with your pastor on this subject.

    “I see DPs and other offices being disparaged based on perceived abuses without any factual basis.”

    Probably because citing facts would cause more problems that it solves. And that – in LCC – the Commission on Adjudication’s only case during the last triennium ended up being dismissed using a fabricated technicality: https://anolw.wordpress.com/2017/10/28/commission-on-adjudication-plays-get-out-of-jail-free-card

    And if that wasn’t enough, the recent restructuring gave the COA a bright shiny – and official! -‘get out of jail free’ card:
    https://anolw.wordpress.com/2017/10/30/get-out-of-jail-card-now-official/

    If you want some more ‘factual basis’ – read this if you dare – abcreview.ca

    Once you get to the end of that report think on this – every clergy implicated in that affair is still an LCC member in good standing. Synod’s 2017 Convention (a) declined to disqualify one person potentially involved in the matter from being considered for the Synodical presidency, and (b) declined to even have a short discussion on the matter. https://www.solagratia.ca/a-conventional-convention

    *That* is the kind of environment Pr Nieminen is working in.

  31. @ANO #38

    “Probably because citing facts would cause more problems that it solves.”

    That said everything that needed to be said regarding this issue and whether it belongs in this public forum, and also why discretion should be used rather than making nameless accusations.

  32. @Sean – #39 “That said everything that needed to be said regarding this issue and whether it belongs in this public forum”…

    Sean – you need to read the articles I posted the links to. The reason why posting facts would cause more problems than it solves is that /nothing/ happen in terms of adjudication. No investigation, no calling to account, no defrocking, no discerning right and wrong – nothing.

    Well, maybe something – such as the ‘religious authorities’ finding a way to discredit and marginalize the person raising the concern, gradually push them out of the organization, and in general whitewash the matter. I’ve BTDT, and I’ve either directly known or gotten reports from others who’ve had a similar experience.

    Read the report in abcreview.ca – you can’t get much more “where there’s smoke there’s fire” than that. And nothing has been done about the people that committed this travesty.

    The Task Force which produced the report was disbanded before it finished the job – so that’s something.

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