This is originally written on a post A Lutheran book on purgatory, pastoral purgatory (written by Pastor Scheer) that was originally written as a comment by Pastor Noland. We at BJS felt it needed wider dissemination than a comment on a post would generate.
Pastor Martin Noland speaking:
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. Or support the author by purchasing it on amazon.
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