A Lutheran book on purgatory, pastoral purgatory

July 1st, 2014 Post by

Lutheran Purgatory cover artA new book was brought to my attention the other day concerning the many pastors in the LCMS who are on “candidate status”.  BJS has long tried to address the issue of pastors who are sinfully removed from their calls, and this book may help give some insight into that practice and also the mess that follows for the pastor and his family.  If you belong to congregation considering removing a man from the pastorate for unbiblical reasons (read: sinful reasons), you may want to look at this.  If you have been a part of such a thing in the past, repent and see what you can do now to help.  If you don’t think much of these situations or their aftermath, consider this.

 

THE ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE FOR THE BOOK:

The Reverend Alan Kornacki, Jr., currently serving as Pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois, has released a book entitled Lutheran Purgatory: Pastors Without Calls. From the book’s Amazon description: 

The Office of the Holy Ministry within the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is in crisis. It is under attack from pastors who act like corporate executives and arrogant overlords, from bureaucrats who believe a pastor is a failure if he doesn’t act like a corporate executive or a used car salesman, and from congregations who believe pastors are merely employees to be hired, evaluated, and fired. Too many pastors have fallen prey to these attitudes and the actions which follow. We call them Candidates, but these men and their families are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and they are suffering. These Candidates, pastors without congregations, suffer in the closest thing Lutherans have to purgatory. These are their stories. Lord willing, we can end their suffering.

The book is available in print and Kindle editions through Amazon, and a free PDF file is also available from Kornacki’s blog, Epistles from Exile, at this link:https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/…/Lutheran…

Rev. Kornacki was a pastor without a congregation for over four and a half years. In this book he shares his own experiences as well as those of other pastors who have experienced similar circumstances in their life. Lutheran Purgatory: Pastors Without Calls takes readers through the whole story: how pastors become Candidates (which is another name for pastors without congregations), what happens right after they lose their positions, the day to day struggles they face with their families, and the long and hard road they face to return to parish ministry. We also see the difficulties they face once they do return to parish ministry—for the scars remain. Finally, he offers suggestions for steps the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod can take to minimize the problem. 

Kornacki will make no money from this project. In addition to the free PDF download of this document, any money that comes in from those who buy this book beyond production costs and Amazon’s share of the royalties will be donated to either the Augustana Ministerium, which has handed out over $172,000 in aid directly to pastors and their families in their need, or to Soldiers of the Cross, a program of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod which works through district offices to provide for pastors in need.


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  1. Martin R. Noland
    July 9th, 2014 at 11:06 | #1

    Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I just received my copy of “Lutheran Purgatory” in the mail from Amazon.com. It came to $8.99 including shipping and handling, and delivery was fast! Every LCMS district president and circuit visitor needs to get a copy and read it for himself.

    Pastor Kornacki looks at the problem in the right way. It examines synod policy and resolutions. He cites over a dozen specific cases, without naming the people or congregations involved. He points to the policy statement “Divine Deposal/Dismissal of Ministers”, as well as its criticisms in print by Dr. Jonathan Grothe, Rev. Bob Mayes, and Dr. Robert Preus.

    Oh, by the way, something I didn’t see in the book yet (just skimmed it so far), but requires mentioning. Wil Sohns wrote the policy statement “Divine Deposal/Dismissal of Ministers,” which was used by the District Presidents. For many years Sohns was also the most influential member of the Commission on Constitutional Matters that served as a final appellate court for dispute cases, including those involving deposal/dismissal of ministers. So both policy and administrator of that policy were on the same page, as it were.

    Now that Sohns is retired from that position, we have the opportunity as a synod to re-examine the policy and see whether it is truly fair to all parties involved and beneficial for the long-term and short-term welfare of the church and its congregations.

    This is progress, in many ways, and we have to thank Dr. Grothe, Dr. Preus, Rev. Mayes, and now Rev. Kornacki for working on the problem.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  2. July 9th, 2014 at 15:23 | #2

    @Martin R. Noland #1

    Thank you for your comments. I appreciate the recommendation, and I hope, whether or not anyone else reads it, they will be bold to address the problem.

  3. helen
    July 9th, 2014 at 21:11 | #3

    @Pastor Dave Likeness #41
    It happens sometimes in a parish where the pastor
    has become an absolute dictator over the laity,

    That could mean any number of things:

    *an eager young Lutheran trying to pull a semi baptis congregation back to Walther’s church.

    *an equally eager young man trying to push a traditional congregation to “contempo”.

    *a plain “Ich bin der Herr Pastor. I will have it MY way”… neither of the above.

    You don’t allow us to know.

    I am a Lutheran. I want a traditional Lutheran liturgical Pastor, preferably one who can give an intelligent answer to, “What is that in the original; does it differ from other places where the same English word is used, and if so, why?”

    A couple of pastors who leaned to the “I’m no theologian” camp were just as glad when I moved…probably more than I know about. ;)

  4. Tim Schenks
    July 10th, 2014 at 00:31 | #4

    Here is a copy of Dr. Preus’ article on the Divine Call that refers to Sohns’ paper, located on his son Pr. Rolf Preus’ website. I had also purchased a copy of it from Logia/Luther Academy.

  5. Martin R. Noland
    July 10th, 2014 at 13:38 | #5

    Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I finished the book last night. I am even more enthusiastic about it now.

    Church-workers who have been in the statuses of: Candidate, Non-Candidate, Restricted, Suspended, and Expelled—all need to read the book. It is easy to read and can be downloaded for free.

    Why do they need to read the book? Pastor Kornacki accurately describes the “heavy, pressing emotions” (my description) that accompany these statuses. He accurately describes the inability to pray, to worship, and to otherwise participate in the life of the church. People who have “been there” need to know they are not alone; and their feelings and responses are common with others.

    Members of the LCMS Council of Presidents and the Resolution 3-10a Task Force all need to buy the book and put it in their library. They have no excuse, because they can even get it for free to put on their laptops, or in PDF on their smart phone.

    They need to read this book carefully and then ask, “How could this be happening to our own people? What is wrong here?” Because some of the cases cited describe improper actions by the District Presidents. Or in some cases, the actions are clearly unjust, even when the District President followed the Sohns “Divine Dismissal” document. This book will open eyes to real problems to which many are clueless.

    Most members of the LCMS Council of Presidents and the 3-10a Task Force will not understand the situation of the Candidate, or related statuses. Why? Because those men have never had to suffer through the humiliation of Candidate or Restricted status. This book will help them understand; and maybe deal with the cases in their district in a more sympathetic way.

    I am seeing a bigger, systemic problem here, now after reading this book.

    LCMS polity assumes that congregations judge their own church-workers, and that as Christians their judgment will be just and fair. But the reality is far from this, in most congregations.

    Congregations have only very basic outlines of how to handle disputes or adjudication of charges in their bylaws. They certainly have the power, this is clear, but the process is not clear. So they muddle through when they have disputes or adjudication, and the result is no due process. Very few congregations have lawyers, much less trust them for help in such matters.

    Most of our congregations are “inbred,” i.e., multiple generations of families, many of which are inter-married, or best-friended, and these families control those churches. Which is fine, most of the time. But justice requires objectivity, and such congregations cannot be objective if the ruling groups are offended in any way.

    Just think of the reality in the majority of our congregations. A pastor or teacher who comes to serve a congregation is always an outsider. We discourage men and women from going back to their home congregations–and that is a good practice. So the man, or woman if a teacher/DCE/deaconess, is all alone, with no real allies.

    If they are accused by anyone (or offends anyone) who is part of those inter-connected, multi-generation families, it is all of them against one person, who is by himself/herself. It is “Pöbelherrschaft” (German); not justice or fairness that ends up determining the case. So one way or another, the church-worker has to leave, without a call.

    Why is this more prevalent today than years ago? I know it is more prevalent, because my LCMS ancestry goes back to before the founding of the synod, with a number of pastors and teachers along the way. The problem is more prevalent, because congregations generally have little respect for Reconcilers, Circuit Counselors and District Presidents, when they come in and try to advise in adjudication or dispute cases. The congregations used to respect and listen to synod officers; now they give them “short shrift.” Synod and district officers have always had little authority over congregations; now they have even less influence than they used to.

    This is partly the pastors fault, for not upholding the synod and its work. But it is also a societal thing, because as has been proven by surveys, Americans are anti-denominational today. And the LCMS tends toward that direction–as seen by so many congregations that are copying the non-denominational churches.

    The result is this: Candidates and Non-Candidates are people who have been forced out for no good reason. If there was a good reason for their removal, they would have been expelled by the synod. Restriction/Suspension is a “holding tank” where the synod can determine whether or not expulsion is warranted. If it is not warranted, and Restriction/Suspension is lifted, it means there is nothing wrong with the Candidate/Non-Candidate–except that he doesn’t have a call.

    So we don’t just have a problem at the synod level, with how this is all handled by synod and district officers, we also have a problem at the base level–in congregations, who either don’t know how to handle these problems fairly, or who don’t want to.

    Thanks, again, to Pastor Kornacki for sharing his experiences and that of others, in a very Christian and helpful way!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  6. July 10th, 2014 at 16:47 | #6

    Martin R. Noland :The problem is more prevalent, because congregations generally have little respect for Reconcilers, Circuit Counselors and District Presidents, when they come in and try to advise in adjudication or dispute cases.

    Could another reason be that the past abuses of some DPs (and rampant neglect of ecclesiastical supervision) have left congregations cynical?

  7. Randy
    July 10th, 2014 at 18:03 | #7

    @Ted Crandall #6

    Rev. Crandall,

    You are correct, Sir. On one side, you have solid confessional/liturgical congregations & pastors who have lost all trust in “the system” (probably due to the Keischnick “error”). On the other side, you have the CoWo/unconfessional crowd that could not care less about “the system.” Therefore, regardless of who is in “the system” (aka: ecclesiastical supervisors) the masses no longer trust, respect, or really care about it’s existence beyond their own gains. What I just described is exactly what you get in a “Blended Synod.”

    The Sainted, Rev Klemet Preus, had a great essay that relates to just this issue IMO. When you read his essay you will clearly see the chaos that exists within our Synod.

    http://www.confessionallutherans.org/papers/klemet.html

  8. July 11th, 2014 at 05:10 | #8

    @Randy #7

    A “Like” buttton would be very handy.

  9. Rev. Robert Mayes
    July 12th, 2014 at 11:57 | #9

    @Martin R. Noland #1

    (Technically, brother Noland, I have never gone by “Bob”. Please call me “Robert”).

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  10. Rev. Robert Mayes
    July 12th, 2014 at 12:33 | #10

    @Martin R. Noland #5

    Thank you for an excellent summary of the problem. It is really a systemic problem that goes to all levels of church life now.

    There is one suggestion I would like to make as well. In your post, you wrote, “The problem is more prevalent, because congregations generally have little respect for Reconcilers, Circuit Counselors and District Presidents, when they come in and try to advise in adjudication or dispute cases. The congregations used to respect and listen to synod officers; now they give them “short shrift.” Synod and district officers have always had little authority over congregations; now they have even less influence than they used to.”

    May I also suggest that there are congregations with disgruntled members who assume their pastor is their hireling, and actually have a great respect for their district reconcilers, circuit counselors and district president? But the district process (which tries to solve whatever conflict there is by secular psychological models -e.g., “mediation”) actually does more harm than good, i.e., that it does not seriously intend to protect the pastor under fire, but the district from legal action?

    I have seen it happen this way, where the congregation not only trusts the district president and process, but pushes for him to come and for the district process to happen. And the district president and reconcilers come in, and publicly chastise the pastor in front of his accusers, and set up meetings for everyone with a grudge against him to meet face to face for six-plus hours so they can accuse him of everything even more. And there are also times when other members of the congregation are completely unaware this is even going on. When a supportive member asks their pastor when they get a chance to speak up in his defense, the pastor says, “There is no place in the process for you to give me support.”

    And then the next pastors’ conference waves the banners with the Synodical slogan of “Witness, Mercy and Life Together,” and the D.P. tells some jokes and gets some laughs. And if the persecuted brother comes, he sits by himself, despairs of God’s love for him, feels abandoned and hopeless, wonders if his wife will be able to make it through the next week and what things are being said to her while he’s gone, and in all this sees nothing but deeper anguish of heart.

    I don’t think the problem is that congregations are not trusting their district presidents and reconcilers. I think a big problem is that many congregations are. And to be fair, the district presidents may not be trying to do anything wrong. But they may not know the whole story, and they may think that the quicker they get this conflict off their calendar, the problem is solved and they can do some of the multitude of other responsibilities they have.
    So with all this, the end result is what Pr. Kornacki has described in his book. Kyrie Eleison!

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  11. Jais H. Tinglund
    July 12th, 2014 at 22:20 | #11

    Rev. Robert Mayes :
    May I also suggest that there are congregations with disgruntled members who assume their pastor is their hireling, and actually have a great respect for their district reconcilers, circuit counselors and district president? But the district process (which tries to solve whatever conflict there is by secular psychological models -e.g., “mediation”) actually does more harm than good, i.e., that it does not seriously intend to protect the pastor under fire …

    Might I add:
    … nor to protect the faith or the teachings of our church, nor to rescue sinners from eternal death and damnation by exposing the lies of the evil one and calling those who confess, that his lies are what they believe in, to repentance …

  12. Tim Schenks
    July 13th, 2014 at 00:22 | #12

    @Rev. Robert Mayes #10

    I’ve seen that happen.

  13. LadyM
    July 13th, 2014 at 07:28 | #13

    @Rev. Robert Mayes #10
    “I don’t think the problem is that congregations are not trusting their district presidents and reconcilers.” Trust is something that is earned. Most DPs have not earned that. Look at the giving records, and they speak volumes. District and synod donations were, and maybe still are, falling rapidly. As a layperson, I can tell you that “we” do not trust districts and national officers for the most part. Most of the time these erring congregations are just jumping through the hoops to stay in the synod. At least this is my take on this situation.

  14. Rev. Robert Mayes
    July 15th, 2014 at 08:05 | #14

    @Tim Schenks #12

    Tim: Things like this happen a lot more than anyone realizes. When I read this, I simply thought that there was a playbook that was being followed. Sohns’ paper is that playbook.

    @LadyM #13

    Lady M: I’m not surprised that a lay person like yourself who has taken the time to look into these things would be not able to trust the district leadership. And I am thankful that you have. Simply by reading BJS is a tremendous help and source for news. And you get to see the bigger picture.

    Sadly, I know of situations where the congregation hated the pastor and loved the district. Perhaps because the district officials were teaching error, and the pastor was trying to warn his beloved flock about those errors. The congregation’s mindset? “We have a rogue pastor. He’s going against his manager. If everyone else can do it and it’s fine, why is he speaking so loudly against it? It must be this pastor’s fault alone…”

    So, yeah, for the informed and well-educated, trust may not come too quickly. But for those who are not so informed and well-educated, I think the standard fallback ways of thinking are trusting the district and synod, and finding wrong with the pastor.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  15. helen
    July 15th, 2014 at 09:00 | #15

    @Rev. Robert Mayes #15
    @Tim Schenks #12
    Tim: Things like this happen a lot more than anyone realizes. When I read this, I simply thought that there was a playbook that was being followed. Sohns’ paper is that playbook.

    So we brought in “a new broom”, we thought. There would be no more CRM’s and those already out there would be put on call lists, (we thought), and given new congregations.

    But what is really happening: the bureaucracy is going to spend thousands of our mission dollars to put themselves up in nice hotels, eat well, and discuss the DRP!!… which is only good to miscreants like David Benke and should have been burned long ago, along with Sohn’s instructions for trashing confessional Pastors.

    In that scene, what deserves the trust of anyone outside the “insiders”… all stripes?

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