Great Stuff — The Reality of Dismissed yet not Defrocked Pastors

May 30th, 2013 Post by

Another great article by Pastor Philip Hoppe found over on iHoppe.com:

 

officeministry_thumbWhen I presented my paper about whether a pastor could be dismissed for any reason by a congregation, there was one main thing that made people almost universally uncomfortable.  Some agreed with the basic premise of the paper and others disagreed much as I expected.  But what brought the most questions was my assertion that if a pastor was to be dismissed from a call, he should also be removed from the ministry all together.   Why is that true?  As the paper asserts, either a man is fit to be pastor in any location (including his current one) or he is fit in no location.  The nature of the kingdom and the pastoral office demands this conclusion.

The reason people are uncomfortable with this conclusion is because it  is so much easier to move past conflict than get to the heart of it and deal with the sinful mess unveiled.  But when it comes to the Church we are compelled to do the latter.  Only then can Jesus do his work of reconciliation in the situation.

In this post I want to elaborate on the good that is brought forth when we do the hard work of truly determining whether a man is fit for the office of pastor or not rather than seeking to move quickly beyond conflict.

First, there has been much talk in the Synod (reflected in resolutions that will go before convention this summer) about the plight of those removed from one congregation and then left in limbo (often referred to as CRM status) without a call.  Some have suggested that these pastors have been terribly mistreated by  our synod.  And in one way, would could disagree?  We have told them they are fit for the office and then refuse to afford them opportunities to serve in the office.

However, truth be told, some of these men are probably not fit for the office. They have insisted on certain things as necessary to the Church that are not necessary.  They have been domineering over their people in ways that exceed the authority given to them.  They are not and maybe never were able to teach the faith.  They should have been removed from the office or never allowed to be ordained in the first place.

Others were truly forced out wrongfully from the office they were called to.  People would not receive the Word they were called to bring forth.  Personal preferences became idols.  People did not understand the nature of the office their pastor had been given.

The truth is that there is hardly anyway to know what is really the case with these men in most cases, especially from afar.  Even up close, it can be hard to ascertain the spiritual nature of the conflict.  But why do we even have so many of these men?  Is the answer problem pastors or problem people?  Who knows?  Those given the responsibility (although often armed with no authority) simply did not ever truly find out and deal with it through the Word.

All too often, men are dismissed under the guise that it is okay precisely because they remain on the clergy roster and therefore will receive another call.  However, such an outcome is certainly not common.

frustrated-man_thumbThat is why the real question must be answered at the time of the contention within the current congregation.  We cannot dismiss a pastor “lovingly” to seek another call when such a call will never come.  We must ask and determine the answer to this question, “Is the man fit for the office or not?”  If so, he is not dismissed.  Issues are worked through.  Sin is confessed and absolved.  But the man called remains.  If not, he is removed from the clergy roster.  He is rendered aid in moving on to another suitable vocation. 

In this way we deal honestly and faithfully with the pastor.  He knows exactly where he stands and what the Church has deemed him fit to do in the Kingdom.  It deals with any sin he needs to confess.  It makes us able to help in his areas of weakness.

Secondly, it is also the faithful way to deal with the congregation involved and its members.  We so often let congregations chew up pastor after pastor because sin and false understandings are never ultimately addressed.  We often never speak truth to them because we fear that they will react in a way that effects us, the district, or the synod in a negative way.  In this way, congregations spiritual dysfunction become habitual throughout the generations.  And this is not only bad for future pastors but it is also dangerous for the spiritual life of those persisting in unrepentant sin.

Many are asking what to do with these men stuck in limbo in the LCMS, deemed technically fit for the ministry and yet treated as if they are not fit for the ministry.  Honestly, I have no good ideas about this.  Others are and will be ( I hope) working to figure out how to deal with their situation.  I hope those doing this work will neither assume all of these men as useless rejects or as pure and faithful martyrs. The hard work of determining these men’s fitness for ministry will be so much harder now than it would have been then, even though it would have been plenty hard then.

Here is what I know.  We must stop creating more of these men.  We must figure out in each case whether a man is fit for the office or not.  If he is, he stays in his current congregation as pastor until called elsewhere by God.  If he is not, he is no longer eligible to serve anywhere.  The unwillingness to work through this difficult question has caused way too much trouble already.

This is why pastors cannot be dismissed from a congregation and not be removed from the clergy roster not matter how uncomfortable that truth makes us.  It creates the very limbo so many are suffering in right now.  Those not fit for the office wrongly continue to believe they are.  And those truly fit for the office rightly wonder why they are not given opportunity to serve.  This cannot continue.  We must have the Godly courage to deal with sin and the confidence that God’s forgiveness is the answer.


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  1. May 30th, 2013 at 15:39 | #1

    Another possible scenario is a Specialized Ministry Pastor who after two years of vicarage is ordained and enters the pastoral roster of Synod, but then for some reason doesn’t complete the final two years of study. This has not yet happened, though a number of SMP students have discontinued the program prior to ordination. As I understand it, there is currently no process for removing from their calls or the roster those who might discontinue the program after ordination but before completing their studies.

  2. May 30th, 2013 at 15:47 | #2

    While this is a good article – it also misses out on what should be done about congregations that mistreat and abuse their pastors. While such pastors can rejoice in the reward they’re being given for their faithfulness, it’s also cause for concern for what’ll happen to the “tenants in the vineyard” who mistreat and abuse servants of the vineyards owner when he sends His people to collect a harvest.

  3. Rev. Roger D. Sterle
    May 30th, 2013 at 16:36 | #3

    A Northern Observer has a really great point. Of all the pastors that I have seen dismissed from their congregation for improper reasons the congregations were never spoken to about what they may have contributed to any conflict present. Since I have been in ministry now since 1976 I don’t really see that changing. To be sure an “interim” pastor is brought in to help through the transition but I have never seen a congregation disciplined–even when they do all that things that we have as a Synod stated we will not do: open communion, women elders, lodge membership and the like!!

  4. Martin R. Noland
    May 30th, 2013 at 17:11 | #4

    Dear Norm,

    Thanks for posting this excellent and thoughtful discussion by Pastor Hoppe!

    Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I just finished reviewing the Today’s Business: Resolutions document. You can get your copy here: http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=2380

    Resolutions that will come before delegates that will deal with these issues include:

    Resolutions 3-10, 4-14, and 7-06.

    All BJS readers should read these resolutions–they are worth the read!

    I think those three Floor Committees did an excellent job of crafting resolutions based on the various overtures on this topic that came to them. I hope that all three resolutions are approved by the delegates.

    There are also a number of resolutions that deal with the dispute resolution process, which applies to situations where it is used at the congregational or local level. Those would be Resolutions 7-12 and 7-18.

    This tells me that the synod is listening to the people affected by these situations out there; at least a start is being made, instead of the problem just being ignored.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  5. Daniel L. Gard
    May 30th, 2013 at 18:02 | #5

    Dr. Noland,

    I agree that the resolutions were well crafted.

    However, 3-10 and 7-06 actually do nothing other than push the issues to the 2016 Convention. Now, that is not a problem for everyone but it is a problem for those pastors and their families who languish without a call. I am all for studies and instruction, but when will we ever actually address these issues? If history is any guide, the convention in 2016 and will push a decision off until 2019.

    I am in a Jeremiah 6:13-15 mood over this.

  6. Walter Troeger
    May 30th, 2013 at 20:20 | #6

    A Northern Observer :
    While this is a good article – it also misses out on what should be done about congregations that mistreat and abuse their pastors..

    This is where the District Presidents need to come to the aid of the pastor and not side with abusive congregations. Pastors also are called to RSO’s and get mistreated there as well. District presidents need to come to the aid of those pastors as well.

  7. May 30th, 2013 at 20:28 | #7

    Resolution 3-10: I consider this to be a “make it look like we’re doing something” study. It should be re-written to investigate what Synod and the DP’s are doing to get these candidates into Calls, refer those DP’s et al who aren’t doing their job to the appropriate disciplinary / correctional authority, and help share the lessons of those DP’s and related Synodical members who are doing it right with the rest of Synod.

    Resolution 4-14: This one is dangerous – the expectations between a congregation and it’s “Callee” should be laid out and identified _before_ the Call is extended and accepted, not afterwards when they’re “stuck” with each other. It’s also missing a call to stop “trying to resolve” situations when it’s clear that one or both sides are entrenched in their sin. In such cases the DP et al should “wield the sword” Christ gives to His designated authorities and discipline and / or punish errant congregations when they persist in walking astray.

    Resolution 7-06: The “Whereas” is good, the “resolved” for the COP to seek a compassionate way to serve men on CRM is – to me – an indictment that they aren’t doing it now! The second resolved finally takes a stand and instructs the COP to “do something” about the problem. I would rather they be instructed to come up with a solution to a problem during the next triennium.

  8. May 30th, 2013 at 20:34 | #8

    @Walter Troeger #6
    Walter – one has to wonder if leaving this in the DP’s hands is an appropriate place for such matters. Perhaps Synod should have a specific group of people who have training and skills in such things deal with such disputes.

  9. Jay
    May 30th, 2013 at 20:52 | #9

    “We so often let congregations chew up pastor after pastor ”

    It’s fairly easy to find pastors on CMR status, is there a resource for identifying congregations that have sent multiple men there?

  10. Martin R. Noland
    May 30th, 2013 at 21:16 | #10

    Dear Dr. Gard (comment #5),

    I agree with you. I would have preferred that the Floor Committee would not have taken out the specifics of the overture that my congregation presented. It has been posted here at BJS since January: http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=26501 It is Overture 4-23 in the Convention Workbook, one of the bases for Resolution 4-14.

    My congregation’s overture admittedly did not deal with the problem of men and women presently on C.R.M. status, because it was intended to prevent future abuses, not to restore those presently in that state. I tend to be a “team player,” so I try not to complain when my own contribution is ignored or set aside.

    There were other overtures on this subject:

    Overture 3-24, from the Montana District, re. the placement of Returning Missionaries and Chaplains. This became part of Resolution 3-10. This directly affects military chaplains, as you well know.

    Overture 4-24, re. Upholding the Divinely Ordered Pastoral Office. This became part of Resolution 4-14. Actually I liked overture 4-24 much better than the one my congregation submitted, because it had more rationale for those who don’t understand the Theology of the Call, and it also addressed those presently on CRM.

    ——————————————————————————-

    Regarding Bible passages that pertain to those congregations which remove pastors and other church-workers unjustly or pressure them to resign for unjust cause, I usually think of Matthew 25:41-46 (where “least of these brothers” are believers in Christ–and that includes pastors and church-workers) and Matthew 23:34-38. Johann Gerhard has a profound discussion about the eternal punishments that await those who remove Christ’s ministers without just cause, see his Theological Commonplaces: XXVI/1 & 2, On the Ministry, Part One and Two (St Louis: CPH edition).

    —————————————————————————–

    But how to solve the problem? That is the question. I do not believe that in most cases of unjust removal of pastors or other church-workers that the entire congregation is to blame. Usually there are just a couple of laymen responsible, and the rest of the congregation sits passively and lets the evil happen. These evil-minded laymen who are responsible hide behind the congregation-as-a-whole; using the congregation as a human shield to avoid discipline from the church-at-large.

    I am wondering whether or not, in such cases, it would be appropriate for Circuit Counselors to have the authority to apply excommunication to individuals in congregations not their own. In almost all other Lutheran church polities, the bishop or superintendent has this ability to deal with evil laymen who disturb congregations in this way.

    I think this is a defect of our congregational-autonomous polity. There is no earthly punishment in the LCMS for evil-minded laymen who manipulate or persuade their fellow parishioners to get rid of good pastors. Circuit Counselors and District Presidents do not have any tool of discipline, except for removing an entire congregation, and they know that would be wrong because there are many innocent people in a congregation. Thus the “human shield” of the congregation works and works well!

    I think the only way to resolve this problem, which is specific to LCMS and other congregational polities, is to give the Circuit Counselors the power to go around the “human shield” of the congregation, by excommunicating any individual lay member in their Circuit, after due process–of course. But I don’t think any layman in the LCMS will go for that. They like their freedom as it is. I am personally suspicious of anything that centralizes power–so I can’t say I like this solution either–I think it creates more problems than it solves.

    Barring giving the Power of the Keys to Circuit Counselors to remove evil-minded laymen in their circuit, the only other solution is to have some effective process for placement of ministers who end up in CRM and are fit for ministry. I agree with you–why can’t we do that right now?

    I was in CRM following my doctoral studies at UTS-New York, for about six months. And then I was CRM following my forced resignation at CHI, for over a year. So I am a “fellow traveler” with all who have been there. I can testify there is no good or effective process–it really is not the District President’s fault, as some CRM folks think.

    The truth is that right now congregations can trash a pastor or teacher’s career and walk away without any remorse or consequences–and the poor fellow or gal has to fend for themselves as best they can. I say that the synod does need to “fend for them” in some way, since it was the synod that recruited them to serve in the first place.

    ——————————————————————————————-

    Dr. Gard, in spite of what I just said, I have to say that I am in a very good mood. This is the first time in many years in the ministry that I can affirm all of the Resolutions proposed by the convention Floor Committees. There have been other conventions like this one, but it has been awhile. I am taking the historic-in-my-lifetime view here, starting forty years ago with New Orleans in 1973. As I said elsewhere, I will probably find some minor pitfalls here and there, but overall, I am pleased.

    People here at BJS may remember my diatribes against the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Restructuring in 2010. I also criticized a number of other bad resolutions coming from the Floor Committees in 2010.

    This year there is a big difference. Yes, not every problem in synod is addressed, and not everything that is addressed is definitive; but this is real progress, and we should be thankful to our Lord for that.

    As always, thanks for your comments and wisdom, Dr. Gard!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  11. May 30th, 2013 at 21:23 | #11

    @Martin R. Noland #10
    For anyone who wants to learn more about the dynamics behind an abuse-the-pastor-out-of-the-church, I highly recommend this book: http://www.kentcrockett.com/pastor_abusers_book.html

    Martin – I would disagree – anyone who fails to do anything to curb a wolf in their congregation is just as much a part of the problem as the wolf himself. There are no “innocents” in such situations.

  12. Carl Vehse
    May 30th, 2013 at 22:16 | #12

    @Martin R. Noland #10 : “I think the only way to resolve this problem, which is specific to LCMS and other congregational polities, is to give the Circuit Counselors the power to go around the “human shield” of the congregation, by excommunicating any individual lay member in their Circuit, after due process–of course.”

    That would be against the Lutheran understanding of the doctrine of church and ministry as explained in C.F.W. Walther’s Die Stimme Unserer Kirche In Der Frage Von Kirche Und Amt and the official position of the Missouri Synod for over 160 years.

    I know of no Missouri Synod congregation whose constitution/bylaws allow “just a couple of laymen responsible, and the rest of the congregation sits passively” during an unjust removal of a pastor. If a pastor is deposed (with or without just cause), it is the entire congregation that removes him. If the Synod/District finds that it was without just cause, then it is the responsibility of the SP/DP, using the ecclesiastical supervision process, to remove an unrepentent congregation from synodical membership. If the SP/DP does not; then it is actually “just a couple of [executives] responsible” who have acted as improperly as the congregation.

    But I don’t think any layman in the LCMS will go for that. They like their freedom as it is.”

    A snarky and unLutheran comment!! :-(

  13. May 30th, 2013 at 22:24 | #13

    @A Northern Observer #11 — Crockett’s book sounds like either a parallel or a follow-up to this book:

    G. Lloyd Rediger –Clergy Killers: Guidance for Pastors and Congregations under Attack

  14. May 30th, 2013 at 22:34 | #14

    @Carl Vehse #12 I know of no Missouri Synod congregation whose constitution/bylaws allow “just a couple of laymen responsible, and the rest of the congregation sits passively” during an unjust removal of a pastor.

    Of course not. The couple of laymen responsible will work to attack the pastor and drive him out of the church via resignation of his call. They will make obscene phone calls in the middle of the night, cursing him out. They will send him hate mail, cursing him and telling him to go to hell. He will get letters in his box telling me that he is a terrible pastor and that he needs to leave (situations quoted from Crockett’s book mentioned above). They will run to the Circuit Counselor on a weekly basis (sometimes more frequently) and chant the litany of “offenses” that their pastor continues to do and is “unwilling” to change. They will press so hard that either the pastor or his wife, or both, will suffer a nervous breakdown.

    No, they won’t officially “remove” the pastor. They will inflict undue pressure to force the pastor to resign his call.

    Read the two books mentioned above. They will open your eyes.

  15. May 30th, 2013 at 23:11 | #15

    @Kantor Dennis Boettcher #14
    They will press so hard that either the pastor or his wife, or both, will suffer a nervous breakdown.
    This is one of the symptoms of a person who’se the target of intense, short-term bullying, or low-level, long-term bullying.

    Sadly, the pastor has no real means to defend himself, so the congregation has to do it – and if they sit by and do nothing….

  16. Carl Vehse
    May 30th, 2013 at 23:22 | #16

    @Kantor Dennis Boettcher #14: “The couple of laymen responsible will work to attack the pastor and drive him out of the church via resignation of his call.”

    It is the responsibility of the pastor and congregation to exercise Mt. 18 discipline (including excommunication) of these “couple of laymen,” who start to behave this way.

    If it is a case of “… and the rest of the congregation sits passively”, then it is the responsibility of the SP/DP to make the congregation aware of their responsibilities, and if they refuse and remain unrepentant, to publicly remove the congregation from synodical membership.

  17. James Sarver
    May 31st, 2013 at 06:21 | #17

    Carl Vehse @ #12,

    “That would be against the Lutheran understanding of the doctrine of church and ministry as explained in C.F.W. Walther’s Die Stimme Unserer Kirche In Der Frage Von Kirche Und Amt and the official position of the Missouri Synod for over 160 years.”

    If LCMS actually put our “official position” into practice the problems cited in this thread would be rare. I suspect few in the Synod have actually read ‘Church and Ministry’ and fewer have read with understanding.

  18. James Sarver
    May 31st, 2013 at 06:32 | #18

    Martin R. Noland @ #10,

    “In almost all other Lutheran church polities, the bishop or superintendent has this ability to deal with evil laymen who disturb congregations in this way. ”

    I don’t think we can fairly blame our polity until we have attempted to fully implement it.
    I find it hard to make a case that we have.

    “Actually I liked overture 4-24 much better than the one my congregation submitted, because it had more rationale for those who don’t understand the Theology of the Call…”

    This is the root of the problem. Those you describe “got some readin’ to do”. Maybe they could start with ‘Church and Ministry’, our LCMS “official position”.

  19. Walter Troeger
    May 31st, 2013 at 07:38 | #19

    James Sarver :
    Carl Vehse @ #12,
    “That would be against the Lutheran understanding of the doctrine of church and ministry as explained in C.F.W. Walther’s Die Stimme Unserer Kirche In Der Frage Von Kirche Und Amt and the official position of the Missouri Synod for over 160 years.”
    If LCMS actually put our “official position” into practice the problems cited in this thread would be rare. I suspect few in the Synod have actually read ‘Church and Ministry’ and fewer have read with understanding.

    Perhaps congregations, their leaders especially, should read this book during a vacancy. If they are unwilling, then let them stay vacant and not be allowed to call a pastor.

  20. Carl Vehse
    May 31st, 2013 at 08:13 | #20

    @James Sarver #17: “I suspect few in the Synod have actually read ‘Church and Ministry’ and fewer have read with understanding.”

    The same shameful claim was made at the 2001 synodical convention before Res. 7-17A reaffirming Walther’s Kirche und Amt was passed (791:291), as the 2001 Proceedings (p. 173) records in a failed substitution motion:

    WHEREAS, Many delegates, members of the congregations, and members of Synod have not read C. F. W. Walther’s Die Stimme unserer Kirche in der Frage von Kirche und Amt, called in English Church and Ministry; and WHEREAS, Critical questions have been raised concerning the available English translations of Church and Ministry; and WHEREAS, There appears to be much confusion concerning the questions of the church and the Office of the Holy Ministry…”

    While Overture 4-24 did refer to C.F.W. Walther’s Kirche und Amt, Resolution 4-14, To Clarify the Doctrine of the Call, does not mention or refer to C.F.W. Walther’s Kirche und Amt.

    From 2001:Res. 7-17A, “all pastors, professors, teachers of the church, and congregations honor and uphold the resolutions of the Synod as regards the official position of our Synod on church and ministry and teach in accordance with them.”

    I suspect there are still a few in the Synod (or in the seminaries) who choke on Übertragungslehre which is covered in Walther’s Kirche und Amt, particularly in Theses IV, on the Church, and VI, VII, and IX on the Ministry, as well as in Walther’s Die rechte Gestalt einer vom Staate unabhaengigen Evangelisch-Lutherischen Ortgemeinde (The Proper Form of an Evangelical Lutheran Congregation Independent of the State).

  21. May 31st, 2013 at 08:23 | #21

    I have been through one of these Pastor Congregation battles. The Pastor committed Suicide. The Lord God did not wait. HE went through my Congregation with a vengeance. Death was wide spread for those who were at the front. Tragedy followed those who were passive. Justice was served up an a cold platter. So as the LCMS considers the issues remember that the LORD GOD will not sit ideally by while HIS Servants are unjustly abused!

    I am a living witness.

    IXOYC

  22. LW
    May 31st, 2013 at 08:40 | #22

    If a DP cannot fulfill his responsibility of disciplining and ultimately removing an unrepentant congregation for wrongly dismissing its pastor the member pastors of the LCMS should take it upon themselves to not accept a call to fill the office of the man wrongly dismissed.

  23. James Sarver
    May 31st, 2013 at 09:07 | #23

    LW @ #22,

    Who is going to inform them? The unrepentant congregation? The DP who has shirked his duty? I’m guessing not.

  24. Rev. Loren Zell
    May 31st, 2013 at 10:07 | #24

    I’ve given this issue a great deal of thought over the years, having had a difficult congregation. Its a bad situation and I don’t see any way out of it. Our churches have become far too worldly. The district leadership knows that it is the congregation that sends in the money, not the pastor. So, in most cases, it is not going to fight the congregations. And the result is that pastors will continue to be the sacrificial lambs, sent into congregations to either sink or swim. The only thing the faithful pastor can do is to be faithful, preach, teach, administer the sacraments, pray, and remember that Jesus did promise persecution, hatred and rejection. I graduated in 1994 and already about 1/3 of my class is out of the pastoral ministry. Being a pastor is not for people who expect to be sheltered from the evil of the world.

    I only wish that the seminary had done a better job of warning us about what we might face. I hope they have changed.

  25. Carl Vehse
    May 31st, 2013 at 10:25 | #25

    @James Sarver #23 : “Who is going to inform them? The unrepentant congregation? The DP who has shirked his duty? I’m guessing not.”

    In Luther’s day there were pamphlets, ballads and woodcuts… and an occasionally document nailed on a church door. Today there is the internet and Lutheran blogs. If an LCMS congregation has clearly and unjustly removed a pastor from his office, the clear evidence of such injustice can be presented on a Lutheran blog.

    It may have to be a blog owned by a layman, since LCMS members are constrained by synodical bureaucrats and bylaws threatening whistleblowers. Laymen are not under a similar threat.

  26. May 31st, 2013 at 10:37 | #26

    Thankfully I have never faced such a situation. However, I did once have a person outside my congregation with a criminal and violent background who had a long history of stalking clergy of various denominations and I became a target. With the assistance of a lawyer and support of my congregation I came out of the situation better than many others, though it was enormously stressful and very expensive. Being stalked is something you can’t quite understand until you’ve been through it.

  27. Bob E.
    May 31st, 2013 at 12:02 | #27

    I was once called to a congregation who admitted that they had dismissed their pastor after 10 years of service. They went through a district led process to help them deal with the issues involved and asserted that they were now healthy and able to work with a new pastor. I asked them one question at the visit I made before deciding on accepting the call, “How did you resolve these issues?” They answered, “The trouble makers left.” That told me that they really hadn’t resolved anything so I declined the call out of fear of a repeat performance with me. I was glad the district did some work to resolve their issues but apparently they hadn’t really sought a resolution or repentance but swept the issues under the rug.

  28. Martin R. Noland
    May 31st, 2013 at 12:25 | #28

    Dear BJS Bloggers,

    When there is a situation of a highly dysfunctional congregation that “beats up pastors,” the synod and districts provide the option to call an “Intentional Interim Pastor” (IIP) for a period of time. I was at first kind of skeptical about the program, because I was not aware of congregations like this. Over the years, the IIP quality has improved, and I know a number of highly competent “Intentional Interim Pastors” who are highly experienced, well trained, and completely ethical.

    The advantage of the IIP program is that the pastor lives and works with the people in the congregation. Unlike the occasional visits from the Circuit Counselors (who have their own congregation to take care of), and the rare visit from the District Presidents, the trouble-making layman can’t hide from the IIP. Over a period of months, the problems do become apparent. Not all of these problems can be “fixed,” but some can, and that is better than having a congregation go through a string of pastors.

    This is not to say that all pastors are without fault. Every case is different, every pastor and every congregation is different. Thankfully these type of problems are rare, and that is mainly because the LCMS has had a highly trained and competent clergy.

    As the LCMS moves toward less training and less strict examination of pastoral candidates, as seen in the district-licensed-lay-deacons and the SMP program, these type of problems will become more commonplace. A poorly trained and poorly vetted clergy creates its own problems.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  29. May 31st, 2013 at 13:09 | #29

    @Martin R. Noland #28
    I agree with you up to the final points, SMP will not cause more problem congregations. I am not sure how you can make this blanket statement? Remember, SMP men are under the main pastor, and if their is a problem, he is (generally) it.

  30. May 31st, 2013 at 13:19 | #30

    I must add, from all the banter about SMP from BJS. For the most part, SMP led Churches will probably be happier, albeit from what many say, “poorly trained.”

    But I will agree with one thing, whether a bad congregation, a few “rogue” members, a bad pastor; it is not an easy fix. At best, all situations are unique, and we simply do not have the support and time truly needed to help in these situations.

  31. GaiusKurios
    May 31st, 2013 at 13:47 | #31

    Pastor Zell,
    That is terible news but I guess I should not be surprised. What is sad is that assuming your classmates who are no longer in the ministry were around 26-28 years old, they should be entering the prime of their careers. Pastor Zell do you know how many of your classmates were forced out and how many left for other personal reasons? I would bet the numbers are typical for other classes both before you graduated and in the years after you graduated.

  32. May 31st, 2013 at 14:08 | #32

    @Rev. Loren Zell #24
    I hear your pain, yes, Jesus warned the disciples, those that are called to the path of discipleship, “it is not going to get easy, it will be hard.” Yet be glad in a way, for the most part, us pastors, will most likely not “lose our life” for the Gospel. And yes, there needs to me more support for the pastor, in many ways.

  33. May 31st, 2013 at 16:59 | #33

    @ Dan Gard

    I am in a very similar mood today as the Board for International Mission meets to sign all the new call paperwork, but has been forbidden from seeing or voting on that of Devon and me. I had every indication to plan on being in St. Louis Sunday afternoon for missionary orientation until I heard of the mysterious unnamed individual less than a week ago. Dr. X could have told me six months ago if he had problems with my application packet.

    Lord have mercy!

  34. Martin R. Noland
    May 31st, 2013 at 21:46 | #34

    @rev. david l. prentice jr. #29

    Dear Pastor Prentice,

    I think it is true that in any field of work that those with less training and less experience generally end up creating more problems than those with more. It is why in almost all corporations the most experienced persons in the company–and with that company–end up as the top corporate managers. When corporations don’t do that, they usually end up with corporation size problems, as recent examples in the last decade in Silicon Valley demonstrate.

    Seminary training is conducted with some of the tools and standards of graduate education. But seminary training is not about filling your mind with a bunch of facts from books and lectures. As my seminary professors constantly reminded us, we were preparing for a “practice” and that all theology worth our time and effort to study was “practical.” The Lutheran orthodox fathers stated the same thing, in various places.

    Much of seminary training is about how to deal with people in all stations of life, so that you can minister to them effectively. It also includes training in how to cooperate with congregations and their leaders. Without calling it that, there is a big component of “management training” in pastoral practice courses. These practical questions come in all courses, no matter what the subject matter, since all seminary training is geared toward practice.

    After thirty years now, for my class, I can say I still have many things to learn in both theory and practice of being a pastor. The 2013 resolutions dealing with continuing education for pastors are a reflection of this truth.

    As to SMP, BJS bloggers have discussed that elsewhere, and it is not directly pertinent to this post. To understand SMP, you need to read pages 414-416 in the 2013 Convention Workbook. On those pages, the actual participants in SMP have expressed their concerns and suggested improvements. You can find the Workbook here: http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=2337

    SMP pastors have less training and less experience and less vetting (from different people) before they begin actual practice than M.Div. graduates. That is a simple fact that no one can deny. I am hoping that the SMP program can be tweaked, so that the differences between the two in training and experience and vetting can be lessened.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  35. Rich
    June 1st, 2013 at 12:46 | #35

    @Martin R. Noland #34
    For all of this site’s condemnation of SMP, can anyone cite a single instance of an SMP pastor or vicar being the source of a congregational conflict? Check out the average age and career experience of a typical SMP student. You will find they are not the empty-headed simpletons you suppose, and certainly better prepared for life in a congregation setting than a 24-year-old wet behind the ears seminarian.

  36. Jais Tinglund
    June 1st, 2013 at 16:08 | #36

    @Rich
    To see the SMP program defended out of a such basic attitude of contempt, not only for thorough training in the Word of God, but also for the ordinances of God and for all faithful young men serving in His ordinances, does little to alleviate my scepticism toward the program.
    I wonder if it is not a similar attitude that emboldens congregational members to destroy their Pastors and their families without the least hint of regret, remorse or repentance.

  37. June 1st, 2013 at 16:42 | #37

    Rich,

    That is not the test of a faithful pastor. Jesus teaches the exact opposite. The Gospel will create conflict and will set mother against daughter, father against son, etc.

    The average SMP pastor serves in a large, church-growth church where the offense of the Gospel is msotly avoided, e.g. practice of open communion, worship that is built around tickling the fancy of members, etc.

    I suppose that there are faithful SMP pastors but every single one that I know of (about a dozen) are called to large, church-growth parishes that are in the tolerant third of the LCMS.

  38. Walter Troeger
    June 2nd, 2013 at 07:27 | #38

    Pastor Tim Rossow :
    ….I suppose that there are faithful SMP pastors but every single one that I know of (about a dozen) are called to large, church-growth parishes that are in the tolerant third of the LCMS.

    The good news is that they are planning to address this at the convention. From page 23 from today’s business, “.. regarding SMP, Licensed Lay Deacons, etc. Regarding SMP, we should follow the President’s Task Force recommendations that SMP candidates not be used for multiple staff situations. Consult with Committee 5 on the SMP issue. Regarding licensed lay deacons, perhaps a limit on their current numbers..”

    Back to the topic of the post, SMP pastors can get “fired” just as regular called pastors can, whether they serve in congregations or being called to registered service organizations.

  39. Debbie Harris
    June 2nd, 2013 at 15:41 | #39

    Good article and good thoughts but one scenario not mentioned is when a congregation determines they can no longer afford to pay the pastor they have called. This is the situation with my own son and one other pastor I have becomes friends with by reading these recent forum posts. (meet Ben and Jason at http://priestlyrant.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/a-spoonful-of-sugar/) In this economy, I am guessing they are not the only two LCMS pastors to wind up on CRM because of financial downturns and church closures.

  40. helen
    June 2nd, 2013 at 16:19 | #40

    @Carl Vehse #12
    But I don’t think any layman in the LCMS will go for that. They like their freedom as it is.” Noland

    A snarky and unLutheran comment!! Strickert

    Rick, I really wonder who would be the first to raise the issue of congregational autonomy, if a CC did what was right, and excommunicated a few troublemakers in his circuit who were driving out a Pastor for no Lutheran reason.

    [I have talked to a CC who argued with such a clique,
    to no avail, and with no support from the DP.]

    If a congregation knew it would be vacant till the Pastor unjustly removed got another call [as good or better (I’m raising the ante here)], I think it would “wonderfully concentrate the minds” of the majority who presently ‘let these things happen’. It might make the perps think twice about doing it, too. :(

  41. Carl Vehse
    June 2nd, 2013 at 17:10 | #41

    @helen #40: I really wonder who would be the first to raise the issue of congregational autonomy, if a CC did what was right, and excommunicated a few troublemakers in his circuit who were driving out a Pastor for no Lutheran reason.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right. The CC has no authority or power to excommunicate a member of a congregation to which he has not been called. It would be the height of popish arrogance if a CC were to claim he had such authority.

    If a congregation unjustly removes a pastor, or refuses to deal appropriately with errant members of that congregation the DP has the authority to suspend the congregation and begin a process to remove an unrepentant congregation from the Synod. If the DP fails to act, the SP has the authority to suspend the DP and begin the process to remove the unrepentant DP from the Synod.

  42. Martin R. Noland
    June 2nd, 2013 at 23:59 | #42

    @Rich #35

    Dear Rich,

    I don’t want to argue with you or anyone else–and I won’t. I am just trying to explain my concerns expressed in my comments above. You will see that my concerns tend to concentrate on behavioral problems. I have seen too much bad clergy behavior; and I don’t want the synod to do anything that will increase that.

    The problems that I envision are not necessarily those that result in congregational conflict. There are countless problems that clergy can cause that won’t result in conflict–and here I am including any type of clergy–MDiv, AR, SMP, DLLD (district-licensed-lay-deacons), etc.:

    1) Clergy with pedophilia can abuse minors–and the “conflict” may not show up till 20 years later. BJS reported (about a year ago?) about a DLLD about whom these problems were known decades ago, and then he was given a new position by administrative error. Clergy are in a position of trust, and we need to know if they are trustworthy before that trust is given.

    2) Clergy can become involved in adultery, and this may not lead to conflict if it is hidden–and it usually is. A man who has a tendency to “womanize,” or has problems with sexual harassment of women, should be carefully scrutinized before putting him in a position of trust. Our district president in northern Illinois had on the average two or three new cases of clergy adultery every year that he had to deal with.

    3) Clergy can become embezzlers. If the clergy appoint the financial reviewers, this can go on for some time with no conflict–and it may never be discovered if he is good at “cooking the books.” A man who has problems managing his own finances should be carefully scrutinized before putting him in a position of trust–and the best policy is that the pastor never touches money or the finance-books.

    4) Clergy can teach false doctrine of all sorts, and it is not unusual for the entire congregation to go along. If one or two object, false preachers usually have ways of getting rid of objectors. This can go on for years, and never be discovered until the next pastor comes to that congregation. Then conflict may erupt because the subsequent pastor is teaching Lutheran doctrine!

    5) Clergy can privately threaten or tell-to-leave lay people who he thinks are “problems.” This happens more often than you think. Most kind-hearted people will leave–sometimes they leave the church for good. This is always wrong, but happens a lot. There is no conflict, unless the layman fights back–most don’t.

    6) Clergy can convince church leaders to change the constitution, so that they take over complete control. This is the objectionable part of the Transforming Congregations Network; although I see that this is being addressed by the LCMS National Offices.

    7) Clergy can isolate their congregations from the circuit or synod. This leads the laypeople to a position where they won’t listen to anyone but their own pastor–a sort of spiritual tyranny can develop.

    8) Clergy can be heavy Law-brow-beaters, instead of ministers of the Gospel of Christ’s love and God’s grace for sinners. Walther said that the Gospel must predominate (see last theses in his “Law and Gospel”), but in Law-oriented pastors it doesn’t. It is a rare congregation where this will lead to conflict. Most laymen will just go along with it, hoping for better, and some laymen lap it up.

    9) Clergy can become lazy bums, who do as little work as possible, don’t study the Scriptures and Confessions, preach and teach “off the cuff,” don’t prepare for worship, don’t pray for their members, avoid church discipline where it is really needed, skip meetings, don’t visit the hospitalized or shut-ins, avoids circuit and district meetings, don’t work on improving their knowledge and skills, etc.

    Etc., etc. These are problems that do not, in most cases, erupt in congregational conflict, yet they are serious problems that are very difficult to resolve once a man is called and ordained.

    When pastoral candidates, seminary students, or vicars are under scrutiny by a number of different people for a period of time, many of the character or behavioral flaws will become apparent that would later result in these problems. These are problem-factors that need to be examined carefully–and not by a relative or some friend of a relative. Objective judgment of a candidate by an objective-experienced clergy is mandatory, and the more of it by different clergy the better, in my opinion.

    ————————————————-
    You assume mature candidates are better than young men. The truth is that each has their strengths and weaknesses:

    – The young man may be enthusiastic and tries to do the right thing (good); the mature man may be cynical and not really care (bad).
    – The young man can fall into traps (bad); the mature man sees a trap coming (good).
    – The young man is not yet set in his ways, so his trainers can set him on the course of good habits (good); the mature man is often set in his ways, so if he has bad habits, they are tough to get rid of (bad).
    – The young man usually knows he has lots to learn (good); the mature man may think he knows it all already (bad).
    – The young man, straight out of college, is following the pastoral office as his first love (good); the mature man may have been a failure in a previous job(s) and may be looking for something easier (bad).

    From a pedagogical standpoint, the penultimate point is the most serious one. I can’t tell you whether it is physiological, psychological, or what, but younger people are as a group more educable. I have noticed that in courses I taught adjunct for the seminary years ago, and for Bible classes I have taught throughout my career. Younger people are able to be taught more and they retain that knowledge better over a long time.

    If an older man comes to the seminary with background as a parochial school teacher, or a DCE, or where he was actively involved in his home congregation as a Bible Study leader for many years, he already does know a lot of Bible and doctrine stuff. These type of guys were what the Alternate Route program was designed for.

    If a mature guy goes to seminary, or goes through one of the other programs without this, he is really handicapped and will have problems learning what he needs to know to do the job of a pastor in the Lutheran church. Sometimes there are exceptions–like the auto-didact–which is why the seminary admissions officer is key in determining whether a man is ready to enter any program. Men who are too modest may fail to enroll, when they really should. Men who are too proud may find they really are not qualified yet, or maybe never. You won’t know until you talk to a seminary admissions officer whether you are ready or not.

    I think that is about all I can think of on this topic. I wanted to explain what I meant by “problems” and to address the young vs. mature man issue. I hope this helps a bit.

    See other posts here at BJS for more detailed discussions of SMP. This post is about dismissed pastors, so hopefully other commenters will resume with that topic.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  43. helen
    June 3rd, 2013 at 06:54 | #43

    @Carl Vehse #41
    If a congregation unjustly removes a pastor, or refuses to deal appropriately with errant members of that congregation the DP has the authority to suspend the congregation and begin a process to remove an unrepentant congregation from the Synod. If the DP fails to act, the SP has the authority to suspend the DP and begin the process to remove the unrepentant DP from the Synod.

    I expected you to say that… and you are right, as far as Missouri’s rules are concerned.
    But can you name one congregation that has been disciplined by a DP for unjust behavior toward its Pastor? [You ought to know half a dozen within 100 miles.] And as far as I know, DP’s have not been removed for anything since JAO took out four for ordaining Seminex students.

    The CC’s at least go to Winkels with their neighbors, have listened when they discussed theology and church activities and know them. The DP’s ?

    @Martin R. Noland #42
    I think that is about all I can think of on this topic. I wanted to explain what I meant by “problems” and to address the young vs. mature man issue. I hope this helps a bit.

    Only a bit.
    Sometimes the more mature man was a success at his job, but eventually he did what he had always wanted to do.
    Considering the expense of seminary, the man who has “a second string to his bow” and uses it to save money first so that he is not trapped by debt later, may be the wisest and most useful.

    [And sometimes the men who “want something easier” become church bureaucrats.] ;(

  44. Carl Vehse
    June 3rd, 2013 at 09:22 | #44

    @helen #43: But can you name one congregation that has been disciplined by a DP for unjust behavior toward its Pastor? And as far as I know, DP’s have not been removed for anything since JAO took out four for ordaining Seminex students.

    Such failures are not the fault of the “rules” on the duties of the office, but rather of the men who abandon their promise to “perform the duties of [their] office in accordance with these Confessions, or Symbols, and in accordance with the Constitution and Bylaws of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod to the glory of Christ, our Lord, and in service to His holy Church.”

    And are we to abandon the confessional doctrinal position of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, affirmed by the Missouri Synod in its understanding of the doctrine of church and ministry, simply because our “CC’s at least go to Winkels”?

    Perhaps another solution, and one that is not heterodox, would be to issue packets of smelling salts to all delegates to be used before electing respective presidents or voting in conventions on resolutions… or better still, to be used by congregational voters assemblies before choosing effective Lutheran representatives as delegates.

  45. Walter Troeger
    June 3rd, 2013 at 15:45 | #45

    helen :
    @Carl Vehse #41
    ….But can you name one congregation that has been disciplined by a DP for unjust behavior toward its Pastor? [You ought to know half a dozen within 100 miles.] And as far as I know, DP’s have not been removed for anything since JAO took out four for ordaining Seminex students.(

    The answer would be none. The DP sides with the congregation when conflicts arises. Sure, the DP could leave a congregation vacant after the pastor is forced out (fired) with an interim minister. That’s the form of punishment that will occur. During this time, I would hope a sort of self-study with regards of the Office of the Holy ministry would occur.

  46. Martin R. Noland
    June 3rd, 2013 at 16:04 | #46

    @helen #43

    Dear Helen,

    I certainly agree about the debt issue. In today’s economy especially, if a man does not have the financial resources up front to go to seminary, waiting until he does is prudent.

    And you are correct that there are many mature men, who have been active in their congregations, who always wanted to be a pastor, and then the opportunity arises and they go.

    One of the big things to watch, in such candidates, is whether they were active in their congregation in a significant way, or only decided to start doing the church thing when they went to seminary. Seminary admissions officers do look at this.

    I always felt that the mature men at the seminary who had been active in their congregations in various capacities understood congregational life better than us college-twerps. And they did, in almost every case. You have to respect that, and I did.

    There can be no “one-size-fit-all” approach, which is why the synod always did have two tracks toward becoming a pastor. I thought I read something in the Workbook that says the LCMS now has 8 tracks–I find that hard to believe, but I know there are more than two.

    All for now.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  47. Carl Vehse
    June 3rd, 2013 at 17:29 | #47

    @helen #43 : “And as far as I know, DP’s have not been removed for anything since JAO took out four for ordaining Seminex students.”

    Maybe “it’s time”.

    The May 31, 2013, Reporter article, “Council of Presidents assigns first calls, vicarages,” reported [four weeks later!] that, during the April 27-May 1 meeting of the LCMS Council of Presidents (COP):

    COP Chairman [Larry] Stoterau began discussion about the meaning and ramifications of pastors as “overseers above reproach” — another ongoing topic before the council.

    Discussion on “above reproach” spanned a number of topics, including the COP’s zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual infidelity to use of the Internet when Christian pastors and others malign the reputations of individuals.

    Such a discussion must have been “interesting” because Chairman Stoterau, who is also the President of the Pacific Southwest District, recently did a personal interview and a background check, submitted all of the colloquy application materials and background check results to the First Vice President of the Synod, Chairman of the Synod Colloquy Committee, and assured the First Vice President of his sponsorship of a man who 1) was forced to resigned from the XXXA in 2002 after admitting to sexual affairs with three women in his congregation, 2) opened a “wedding chapel” operation in Las Vegas where, for three years he performed invalid marriages because he had no license, and 3) for over a year has been preaching (and listed as their “pastor”) at an LCMS church in Las Vegas.

  48. Jason
    June 3rd, 2013 at 18:48 | #48

    @Carl Vehse #47

    Well that COP thing is a joke. Use of internet? Do they know of DP Benke’s frequent posting on ALPB? And I personally think he has enough snark, maligning “that other website” (meaning us). I haven’t seen it as bad lately, but I do not appreciate a number of his postings. i do not find them edifying.

  49. helen
    June 3rd, 2013 at 20:15 | #49

    @Jason #48
    Well that COP thing is a joke. Use of internet? Do they know of DP Benke’s frequent posting on ALPB?

    Anything Benke does is OK. He’s one of theirs.

    Confessional liturgical sites have been the bane of the COP/Kieschnick crowd. They want to push us toward open communion, non denominational theology and eventually the elca. Because it’s bigger! [Although, at the rate it’s going we may meet in the middle. We’re losing, but they are losing faster.] :(

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