Repost: Sinful Removal of Pastors — Let me count the ways…

countingEditors note: This is always timely but is being reposted because several examples of this horrid, shameful, and unchristian behavior have come to my attention.

 If you or your congregation are considering taking that “vote” to remove a pastor (or using such a vote to coerce his resignation), check to make sure that it is for legitimate reasons (persistent adherence to false doctrine; great public shame and vice [scandalous conduct]; willful and real neglect [or inability to perform] of his office).  If you are an official involved in removing a pastor check also to make sure it is for legitimate reasons…

Here are some thoughts to consider if your pastor is not teaching falsely, living in scandalous conduct, or gladly neglecting his duties (or unable to do them) in relation to the Ten Commandments:


The First Commandment

Who is your god if you have no Scriptural reason to remove this pastor and yet vote to do that or assist others in doing it?   Where is your trust in such a situation where you are “firing” your pastor?  God says that he is not mocked in regards to the support and care for pastors (see Galatians 6), where is your fear of God?


The Second Commandment

What does a sinful vote of a Christian congregation do to God’s Name?  What does it do if something has no supporting Scripture behind it but we still call it a divine action (such as a divine removal or even a human removal of a divine call)?  Luther in the Large Catechism calls the propagation of false teaching the worst violation of the Second Commandment (it’s not just about cussing), how does the unscriptural removal of your pastor teach any truth?


The Third Commandment

Are you gladly hearing and learning the word of God while you are voting out the man God has sent to you to preach and teach it?  Just who are you sending away, the preacher or the One who sent Him?


The Fourth Commandment

Pastor are considered fathers in the faith, does willfully removing your pastor or aiding in it honor his position as a mask of God?  Does removing his livelihood and calling honor him, serve and obey him, or love and cherish him?  By throwing him out the door of your church are you despising him, one of the “other authorities” that Luther names in the Large Catechism?


The Fifth Commandment

How does removing the livelihood of your pastor help and support him in every physical need?  This only gets worse if your pastor has a wife and then even worse if he has children.


The Sixth Commandment

How does the church casting out the messenger that her head, Christ Jesus sent to her work into this mystery of Christ and His Church?  Do you think such a “divorce” brings glory to God?  Jesus says that the ones who reject those He sends will be rejected by Him.


The Seventh Commandment

How does removing your pastor rate in relation to protecting his possessions and income?


The Eighth Commandment

Given that men who are removed from calls bear a giant black mark on their professional record, just what do you think an unscriptural removal does for his reputation?  Does masking your vote under district approval or other reasons exemplify the truth or a lie?  How has your conversation been about your pastor?


The Ninth Commandment

How does throwing out your pastor help or be of service to him in keeping his house or property?


The Tenth Commandment

How does casting your pastor out urge him to stay and do his duty?  Are you guilty of coveting another “type” of pastor?  For ear-itching pastors, see the Second Commandment again.


So you have it – sinfully removing a pastor (or helping to do it) without Scriptural cause is a good way to reap the wrath of a jealous God upon the children for the sins of the fathers for the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him (if you doubt that unscriptural removal is not hating God, then reread the questions above).

Repent.  Stop the vote.  Stop trying to starve him out.  God takes no pleasure in it, nor does He desire to punish for it – but He is not mocked.  You will reap what you sow on how you treat His messengers.

Christ did not die for you to act however you please – He died to earn the forgiveness of your sins, a forgiveness given through time and space through the means of grace – which is exactly why He sent you your pastor to publicly preach, teach, and administer for your eternal good.

As a final note, any comment attempting to talk about “bad pastors” will be deleted for being off topic and an attempted deflection of the serious matter at hand.

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


Repost: Sinful Removal of Pastors — Let me count the ways… — 131 Comments

  1. @Tim Schenks #98

    I can’t speak to the traditional mDiv guys, but in my original SMP cohort of 12 guys two were ultimately dropped from the program by their mentor pastors, and one never did (as far as I know) sit his theological interview, so yes men are told that they are not cut out to be pastors.

  2. @Pastor Prentice #101

    No, Distrct can and does exert force, albeit, in the end, truly the congregation in our polity holds the final cards.

    District represents Synod. The point of “synod” is to keep us “walking together” as Lutherans. What District could do, if it wished to, is to be very slow about recommending a replacement for a Pastor unjustly dismissed (as well as very quick to find the Pastor another Call). That would send a message to all.
    If it happened serially in a given congregation probably they should lose their membership in synod. But before all that, congregations should be instructed in their responsibilities to their Pastor, by District. It should not be the Pastor’s job.

  3. @helen #103

    It may not even need to be a “serial” situation. If a pastor is unjustly removed from conducting the Office into which God has called him, precisely for upholding our synod’s confession (and the practice that necessarily goes with it), and refuses to be taught by said pastor, *or* by the district/synod (CV, another pastor, DP, Dist. VP, sem prof., etc.), then the congregation needs to be told even then that they are saying thereby that they have no interest in being a congregation of the LCMS. This is likely to result in that congregation splitting, and those who actually are willing to learn from God’s Word and our Confession will either find a sister congregation, or, if it’s possible, become a new (or even be declared to be the *true* continuation of the old) congregation. Such things *did* happen in the 70s.

  4. @R.D. #97

    Outstanding analogy! I will remember it, and, if the proper situation arises, use it.

    To blame the pastor and his inevitable sinful shortcomings, even in part, for his wrongful dismissal is like blaming the rape victim for the rape.

  5. @Tim Schenks #100

    District has very little say — Synod is “advisory.” Pastors are considered self-employed regarding taxes, employed regarding the Concordia Plans, then it’s up to each individual congregation how anything is handled.

    Oddly, that’s less true than might otherwise be thought. Apparently in the Concordia Plans contract with Cigna for mental health services there is a special option specifically for District Presidents. CXREF:

    I know no more than what is published there. The idea of “mandated” care submitted by a District president as a condition for continued “employment,” is more than a little disconcerting.

  6. 106 comments, this isn’t rocket science. Whether the dismissal, is justified, or not, this has now become, a pass the buck, situation.

    Let us all, just call, a spade a spade, and let’s try to figure out, how to remedy, the situation, for the simple few, who fill a pew.

  7. OK Steadfast, now I need some answers:

    01) A pastor has been removed from the roster, and we were informed.

    02) Are we owed the reason? A real concrete reason from Synod?

  8. It depends. Was he removed from Synod membership by his District President or was he removed as a Called pastor by his congregation, or both?

  9. @Tim Schenks #109

    Tim, in reality, is there a difference? But I understand.

    01) The DP and Synod remove your eligibility to be called within Synod, expel you from roster. The Church which has the call may retain the pastor, but will then be expelled from Synod.

    02) The congregation expels you, but you retain your pastoral eligibility. You may move to another call. Yes, if one comes.

  10. Yes, there is a difference. A pastor can resign and still be a member of Synod. If a district president suspends a pastor, their congregation must dismiss that pastor or lose its membership as well.

    Pastors can only be dismissed by their congregation for the three Scriptural reasons. Due process would make all of that public knowledge (public sin), unless the pastor were to resign before any of that happens.

    “Synod Membership” can be suspended (or resigned) for many reasons, some public and some private. It may be no one’s business. On the other hand, if the member of Synod had committed some major crime you might read about it in the local newspaper.

    Again, there is a difference between Called Pastor and Member of Synod-Ordained Minister. A Called Pastor is a member of Synod, but an ordained member of Synod may not necessarily be a Pastor.

  11. @Tim Schenks #111

    “Pastors can only be dismissed by their congregation for the three Scriptural reasons. Due process would make all of that public knowledge (public sin), unless the pastor were to resign before any of that happens.”

    Perhaps, “Pastors should…” ?
    Resignations can be forced, with the carrot of a few months’ severance to feed the family. One man gave in because defending himself would divide the congregation (and I think he cared more for the congregation than the remaining “hireling” did).

    It takes a good deal of “guts” (and some financial backing) to say, “No, I will not resign; you haven’t got a legitimate reason.” [The Elders rescinded his call without a reason given. And got away with it.]

  12. Helen, Boards of Elders can’t rescind calls. Congregations (voters assemblies) can do that if there is a Scriptural reason. That would make it a fairly public act.

    My “unless” was regarding whether everyone on the planet should be told why a pastor is no longer a member of Synod. That was Pr. Prentice’s original question, not whether a pastor has resigned his call. A pastor resigning his Call would not typically lose his Synod membership unless he had committed a crime or had been teaching false doctrine.

  13. If a pastor is removed — from the roster or from a congregation for cause — that ought to be made known publicly. Not necessarily all the details but at least the grounds: “scandalous life” or “persistent false doctrine” or “inability (or refusal) to perform the duties of the office”. It would make clear what has happened and why (to the degree the Church at large needs to know) so that whispering campaigns — on either side! — may not get started. Don’t just sweep things under the carpet, but deal with them honestly. Wouldn’t that be refreshing?

  14. @Rev. Steven W Bohler #114

    You can be removed for the roster for non-scandalous reasons, though. Is it then anyone’s business?

    I’m curious about Pr. Prentice’s original post that it was announced that “a pastor was removed from the (synodical) roster”. It didn’t say the pastor was being deposed from his Divine Call. It didn’t say that he was a pastor at all. Was this one of the notices from the back of a Lutheran Witness?

  15. OK, I will chime in at this point:

    01) I am not sure of all the ins and outs of the procedures used for removing a pastor top down (from Synod to pastor); as opposed to congregation removing a pastor (a better understanding.

    02) District and Synod can remove a pastor for cause (we may differ on what constitutes true cause), and the pastor does have the ability to defend himself. Is it fair? Oh, all of us “write on”.

    No matter the case, all ways, this is a terrible problem. Men, families, congregations are hurt. It is awful. But as long as sinful men are pastors in a sinful world, congregations are made up of sinful people too. So “junk” happens.

    My concern, and I did speak with the “bishop” was this, “were the cards laid on the table?” We can argue, talk all we want, but as best we can, unless people and children will be hurt, we must “bear all”.

    I myself do not like when we hear “cannot talk about it.” OK, I think when the Councils take up the matter, there is a “gag order”, but when all is done.

    Have we spelled out all. We can never get fully to the bottom of all, but as a court of law needs “beyond a reasonable doubt”, so to we must move to this end.

    As I told my wife, when I took on the call and the role of pastor, no longer am I a private member of the laity. I must and will take all heat, of course; I can battle back, and hopefully all will be with the Word of the Lord leading the way.

  16. @Tim Schenks #113

    Helen, Boards of Elders can’t rescind calls. Congregations (voters assemblies) can do that if there is a Scriptural reason.

    I wish I lived in your LCMS!

    Write me, if you really want to know.
    I know the “rules” and I’ve seen them broken.
    I’m tired of insinuations that I’m a liar/stupid/both!

    [If I am any of those, the Circuit Counselor,
    (who was furious about the whole thing)
    is equally out of touch.]

    I will not comment on this topic again.

  17. @Tim Schenks #115

    Those are the three accepted grounds for removal. I do not know what you mean by removal for “non-scandalous reasons”. Could you explain?

  18. @Rev. Steven W Bohler #118

    Synodical membership is not a divine call. There are many reasons why someone is no longer a “member of synod”, not all are due to scandal. You see announcements in the Lutheran Witness all the time “District President X reports that Y has resigned from the synod roster and is no longer eligible to receive a call.” That doesn’t mean they were kicked out for false doctrine, immoral lifestyle, or incapacity. Same thing with inactive ministers who progress through Non-Candidate status for a number of years until they are dropped by their District President from the roster.

  19. @helen #117

    Helen, what you call “Elders removing their pastor” usually means that the pastor voluntarily resigned after being intimidated or coerced by members of the board of elders or church council. I’ve seen it too.

  20. @Tim Schenks #120

    Dear Tim,
    I agree with you on this “almost” 100 % BUT, I do believe some congregations have differing constitutional methods for calculating the eligible voters, and whom votes for what.

    Yes, in our Church, all members are eligible to vote on calling or removing a pastor, spending more than so much monies, or painting the walls pink (OK, I would put up a fight).

    Since we do not have Elders, only a Council, they can recommend, they are advisory only.

    Yes, some Churches may only allow men to vote, etc. But I am not a churchly-constitutional person.

  21. @Tim Schenks #119

    Dear Tim
    Yes, I do believe in our view of the call, it rests with the congregation (and I will not discuss ordination and the call); the call rests with the people of God in the congregation. Yet you must admit, times do change as to whom fills the call. “Back in the day”, I believe men were sent to be the pastor for the call, basically, “Church, this is your man.”

    At the moment, we seem to lean on interviewing pastors for fit, many have a problem with that.

    But here is the thing, when a pastor is removed from roster, he still could retain the call with the Church (it will be removed at a later date). But what about the pastor?

    If removed from Synod for cause, and he retains the call to the Church that left; what do we do? He is a rogue pastor in our eyes, and we should shun him, yes? I struggle with that, not sure what to do???

    OK, we surely will talk about cause, but if the pastor truly errors and is outside the ability to be a pastor, that is it. You can still be a forgiven soul walking with God, just not a pastor.

  22. Mr. Schenks,

    I was talking removal for cause. And there are three accepted grounds for that, as I enumerated above: scandalous life; persistent false doctrine; refusal or inability to carry out the duties of the office. If one of those three is present, then the Church at large should be made aware of that. I am not talking about a pastor who is removed unjustly, or who resigns to take care of a sick family member, or leaves to further his education, or such. In those cases there would be nothing to prohibit or prevent another congregation from calling the man. But with the Big Three there is, and the Church at large needs to know that.

    I have seen far too many cases where a pastor was removed due to legitimate reasons (one of those three grounds) but the Church was not told and so the man was able to receive another call without correcting the problem that led to his removal.

  23. @Rev. Steven W Bohler #123….and “you got it”.
    What you state is a problem. Perhaps the reason is lawsuits, sad to say. OK, some say, “we had correction, token correction”, but the pastor goes on to ruin another Church and congregation.
    But as soon as you call out that bad pastor or even mention it, wow, look out. Be prepared for a backlash.

  24. I believe we should not operate in darkness, but in light. Rev. Steven W Bohler mentions teh reasons for removal, but also other good reasons. If the pastor has problems, warn the church, and probably remove him from the roster. If there are better valid reasons for not being in a call (family health, education, sabbatical) also list them, so that congregations know what good the man is doing. Dumping everyone into CRM and then gag-ordering everything lets people’s imaginations go wild. Since no one is told anything, as sinners we fill in the gaps very poorly. CRM got so misunderstood and abused, Synod scrapped it in favor of ‘candidate’ and ‘non-candidate’ status, but even now, it still needs a lot of cleaning up to do. But enough already with the silence.

  25. @Rev. Steven W Bohler #123

    It seems we would have avoided talking past each other and repeating the same comments over and over again if Pr. Prentice had said in the first place that the individual he was talking about had been removed from the roster “for cause” (or was this entire question hypothetical?) Although I wasn’t aware of DPs removing ordained ministers from the Synod roster “for cause” unless the man was in the process of being removed from his call or had resigned first (such as when a crime was committed and it got in the local news).

  26. Mr. Schenks,

    I can easily envision a scenario in which a pastor taught false doctrine, his congregation didn’t care, and the DP removed the man from the roster.

  27. @Rev. Steven W Bohler #127 “Mr. Schenks,

    I can easily envision a scenario in which a pastor taught false doctrine, his congregation didn’t care, and the DP removed the man from the roster.”

    That’s incredible. I didn’t know that LCMS DPs ever removed anyone for false doctrine, at least not in the last 50 years. Like Matthew Becker.

  28. My childhood pastor was removed about 40 years ago for false doctrine (synergism). It happens, although rarely. By the way, the DP who removed him was on the liberal end of the LCMS spectrum (later a Jesus First supporter).

  29. @Tim Schenks #126
    Dear Tim,
    In reality, we need to “talk past one another”, or in “veiled comments”, lest we sin against a brother, we cause idle gossip, 8th commandment, etc. Even though we are correct and know in our heart what is right, we must weigh it against other aspects of our ministry and our carrying out God’s Word.

    Even then, he said, she said, they said, will always happen, we are not blessed with “all knowing” of the situation.

    Good men have been wronged, good congregations have been hurt, bad men keep on being bad pastors, etc.

    I am not sure of how to fix, but the secrecy and ongoing distrust is hurtful.

    If a man is removed, the cause (right or wrong) must be stated. Whether by DP or congregation. Of course, unless family and others may be hurt by a scandal.

  30. I haven’t said this in awhile, but it strikes me as a time to say it again: JOIN THE ACELC! This is an issue we are trying to address instead of just complaining about it.

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