Are We Resolved? Or Not?

During the 2013 National Convention of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, the convention passed Resolution 3-10A, “To Appoint a Task Force to Study the Call Process for Returning Missionary and Military Chaplains and Other Rostered Church Workers without a Call.” This July will bring with it the deadline for the report of the taskforce established by the resolution. Readers can view the publicly available information regarding the taskforce’s work thus far here.

When you view that page, you will be presented with a link to “the full text of this resolution, including taskforce membership.” On that page, you will be able to read 8 “RESOLVED” statements from the original resolution (reproduced below):

Resolved, That each district president be encouraged earnestly to give specific and individual attention to LCMS professional church workers on both candidate and non-candidate status; and be it further

Resolved, That the President of the synod appoint a task force to address these matters; and be it further

Resolved, That this task force study the need for a placement process for returning military chaplains and missionaries; and be it further

Resolved, That this task force also study the candidate status and non-candidate status of all church workers to aid and encourage congregations and other entities in calling qualified candidates in a timely manner; and be it further

Resolved, That this task force include but not be limited to rep-resentatives from the Council of Presidents, the seminaries, and the Concordia University system; and be it further

Resolved, That this task force make a report and recommenda-tions to the synod no later than one year prior to the 2016 synod convention; and be it further

Resolved, That the office of national Mission be encouraged to continue its service through soldiers of the Cross; and be it finally

Resolved, That synod congregations and their members be encouraged to give to the soldiers of the Cross annual fund drive.

In 2013, this issue was more than a curiosity to me as economic conditions in metro-Detroit prematurely ended my first call as an Assistant Pastor in 2011 and I was one of the 207 ordained candidates mentioned in the WHEREAS section of the resolution not serving in a call. To say the least, when I heard about this resolution, I was grateful for the love, care, compassion and concern shown by the delegates of the 2013 convention in its passage.

By the grace of God, I have been permanently deployed into the Lord’s Harvest once again and pastor a faithful congregation of God’s saints in rural Michigan. Sadly, many of my ordained brothers as well as the 611 commissioned church workers referenced in the same resolution remain “candidates” without permanent calls.

While this situation is never far from my mind, it was brought to the forefront of my mind when I read the recent news that “the Synod’s Council of Presidents (COP) . . .did not have enough certified candidates for first pastoral calls to fill all the requests of congregations and Synod-related entities in North America.”

While we ought always pray for workers for the harvest and encourage those who aspire to the office of overseer as those who desire, “a noble task,” I began to wonder about the 200+ certified candidates for pastoral calls that remain without calls about whom the delegates of the 2013 Convention said, “It is poor stewardship that these gifts from God are not being fully utilized because a call has not been received in a timely manner” (Resolution 3-10A, WHEREAS #4).

As a candidate, what made me most grateful at the time of the passage of 3-10A was the text published in TODAY’S BUSINESS as RESOLVED #2, “RESOLVED, That LCMS congregations be encouraged to give prayerful consideration to calling professional church workers who are on candidate or non-candidate status and who desire a call.”

Now, a careful observer will notice that this RESOLVED does not appear in the list quoted above from the page on the web that describes resolution 3-10A and the work of the Taskforce established by that resolution.

However, this statement does appear in TODAYS BUSINESS for July 21 (p. 245) in which the original resolution was published as well as the PROCEEDINGS of the convention (p. 121-122) published subsequent to the convention. According to these sources, the list of RESOLVEDs begins as follows:

. . . therefore be it

Resolved, That each district president be encouraged earnestly to give specific and individual attention to LCMS professional church workers on both candidate and non-candidate status; and be it further

Resolved, That LCMS congregations be encouraged to give prayerful consideration to calling professional church workers who are on candidate or non-candidate status who desire a call; and be it further

Resolved, That the President of the Synod appoint a task force to address these matters . . .

According to the PROCEEDINGS of the convention, there were no amendments to resolution 3-10A, and “The resolution was adopted as presented [Yes: 884; No: 25].” (PROCEEDINGS, p. 44).

This prompts me to ask the question contained in the title of this post. With the absence of RESOLVED #2 from the re-publication of resolution 3-10 on the taskforce page and no mention made of it in the article indicating thirty known unfilled vacancies, are we resolved to fully utilize the gifts that God has given by raising up candidates to serve as laborers in His harvest field? Or are we not resolved to do so?

About Pastor Matthew Dent

I'm a life-long Lutheran who, prior to formal preparation for the ministry, learned most of my theology from good preaching, solid hymnody, and the consistent pattern of sound words found in the church's liturgy in a small church in Western, NY. A "first generation" pastor in my family, I took the "long route" to seminary, working in startups and small companies in the technology and internet sector for 10 years before completing my Bachelor of Arts at Concordia University, Ann Arbor in December of 2004 and continuing my studies at Concordia Theological Seminary, graduating with my M.Div. in 2008. I completed additional residential studies toward an S.T.M. at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and was ordained and first installed in July, 2009. Since January 2014, I have been serving Jesus' Church as pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Standish, Michigan where I live with my wonderful wife, Kelli, and my two kids, Jonathan and Natalie.

Comments

Are We Resolved? Or Not? — 16 Comments

  1. This issue is more than a curiosity to me as well. My congregation recently completed the call process (installation next month!) and we had two pastors on our list who were without a call. Each of those two were nominated by members of the congregation who just happened to know that they were without a call. Our district provided no names of pastors without a call; in fact, there’s no visible evidence that our DP did anything to satisfy RESOLVED #1.

    But I’m inclined to see nothing sinister in the absence of RESOLVED #2. There’s not much that a congregation can do by itself to satisfy it. How is a congregation even to know who these people are if they aren’t told by the DP or if (like us) a member just happens to know? Perhaps the only thing a congregation can do to satisfy RESOLVED #2 is to do everything possible to get the DPs to satisfy RESOLVED #1; once that side of the problem is fixed, I think the rest will solve itself.

    I am amazed/shocked/saddened by how much power the DP has in this process. Our congregation came through it very well; I pray for all other congregations.

  2. The DP is “advisory” and has exactly as much power as the congregation allows him. He can provide a ‘list’. He can even tell you a candidate would be “hard for him to work with” which will mean, (if he is a CoWo pushing DP and you want a confessional liturgical Pastor), that you are on your own to find what you want.
    But there are plenty of confessional resources on line to point the way to candidates needing a call, if the congregation doesn’t know one personally.

    It would be nice, of course, if some of the Pastors set an example with the associate spots open in their own parishes.

    [I’m asking to be deleted again, no doubt!
    I can’t answer follow up questions, if what I said is not there; I don’t keep copies. Yet.]

  3. Helen — yes, the DP is advisory in the call process, but most congregations don’t know where to find pastors (other than word of mouth to their members). If DP’s will not abide by this resolution and encourage pastors without calls, what can we do? Sure would nice for a calling congregation to have some kind of list of available pastors …

    Perhaps we need to somehow track lists that are provided by DP’s to calling congregations, and see how many pastors without calls are on those lists, and somehow use that information to force DP’s to abide by synod resolutions?

  4. @MS #2

    “I’m inclined to see nothing sinister in the absence of RESOLVED #2.”

    “Sinister” isn’t the word I would use. In order to keep the 8th commandment, I can come up with a myriad of reasons why RESOLVED #2 is missing.

    However, the absence of the second RESOLVED from the Taskforce report is prima facia evidence that it is not considered one of the “matters” that the taskforce was formed to make recommendations concerning. Thus, it falls to the officers of Synod (the COP and their staffs) to carry out the resolution.

    Thus, if the taskforce was not formed to address how best to encourage congregations to consider such candidates, the Synod in the 2013 convention charged it’s officers which includes the full Council of Presidents as well as their representatives, the Circuit Visitors, to encourage calling congregations “to give prayerful consideration to calling professional church workers who are on candidate or non-candidate status who desire a call.”

    While there are many reasons that individual calling congregations may not receive information about any given inactive candidate, the fact that the language about encouraging congregations to consider inactive candidates is missing from the public report of the charge given to the taskforce introduces questions about whether or not the officers of Synod are upholding their duties to carry out and abide by the resolutions of Synod in Convention.

    “There’s not much that a congregation can do by itself to satisfy it. How is a congregation even to know who these people are if they aren’t told by the DP…?”

    That is precisely why it seems to me that the official article announcing that, “the Synod’s Council of Presidents (COP) . . .did not have enough certified candidates for first pastoral calls to fill all the requests of congregations and Synod-related entities in North America,” would have been an excellent place to carry out the charge given by the 2013 convention by openly encouraging LCMS Congregations in the calling process, “to give prayerful consideration to calling professional church workers who are on candidate or non-candidate status who desire a call.” At the very least, it was a PR opportunity to report that the COP was, actually, carrying out the will of the Synod expressed in the 2013 convention by encouraging the congregations who did not receive a “certified candidate for first pastoral call” to consider “certified candidates” who are not actively serving.

    Absent such encouragement and/or such a report of action by the officers of Synod on the resolution, especially when coupled with the absence of the Resolved from the report of the Taskforce, one is led to the very reasonable conclusion that no action has been taken to enact the will of the Synod in the 2013 convention. And given, as you mention, the DP has significant influence in the call process, one is hard pressed to find an answer to the question of why that would be the case.

    I would be curious to know if your congregation/call committee requested information from your DP about the two inactive candidates who were nominated and whether you received that information or not.

  5. @Pastor Matthew Dent #5

    It’s certainly hard to argue that any action has been taken on this issue. I would love to say otherwise.

    We did indeed receive information from the DP on both of these pastors.

  6. Maybe a list can be generated outside of the DP’s. Word of mouth and a collating source such as BJS possibly could be a resource for congregations placing a call. Or is it mandatory that a search must be made through their DP? I must confess to ignorance in the process as I have never been involved in placing a call.

  7. @Jack Darnell #7

    An attempt was made to do just that in 2013, before the resolution was enacted. Part of the initiative was reported about on Steadfast Lutherans in 2013.

    Those involved were accused of “interfering” and otherwise being disrespectful of the synodical processes that have been put in place. Demoralized and with much promise of action surrounding Resolution 3-10A, the site was shuttered and is no longer available.

  8. Thank you for your reply, being an adult convert to the Lutheran church and having been served and led by a very truly orthodox pastor, it is good to learn some of the history. It also would be good to know what is involved with placing and filling a call.

  9. @Norm Fisher #4

    yes, the DP is advisory in the call process, but most congregations don’t know where to find pastors (other than word of mouth to their members.

    If the departing Pastor was confessional, he should be aware of others like himself who could advise the congregation. If not, and the congregation wants to be more conservative, it’s a little harder, I imagine.

    I don’t really see a synodical effort, and in this case, any volunteer help they can get should be welcomed and put to work.

  10. Several years back I recall our congregation getting in touch with the Augustana Ministerium who had a list of candidates available for a Call. You might start looking there for a start. And yes, our then DP had a fit over us making prayer led decisions for ourselves. We didn’t cut him out of the process completely, but we also did not rely on him solely along with knowing our rights as a congregation.

  11. Basically, it is a trust issue. The vacant parish trusts
    the District President to provide the names of pastors who
    have the gifts and talents to help the calling parish.

    The District President trusts the vacant parish to provide
    him with the necessary information on the basic challenges
    of the calling parish.

    When both the calling parish and the District President trust
    one another, then God-pleasing results will follow.

  12. @Pastor Dave Likeness #12
    In an ideal world, yes. But in this world, DPs break trust when they do things like undermine the policy of closed communion in a congregation by suggesting it’s optional and that a congregation might grow if they only adopt “close” communion instead.

    @Helen, there are no outside resources for confessional congregations. I have looked. To nominate good confessional pastors, we relied on word of mouth. It worked very well, but sometimes congregations don’t know who to ask.
    I have looked at the Augustana Ministerium site. If they are maintaining a list, it is not on the website.

  13. @Heather #13

    Augustana Ministerium might tell you names of men who have needed ed help. (with their permissions). They help, to the extent of their resources. Bout there are others….

  14. @Heather #15

    I only know Texas, which has a Texas Confessional Pastors’ Free Conference twice a year, one in Brenham in Sept. and the other in Plano, in January.
    If I were on a call committee, I would contact the Pastor at Grace, Brenham, or the one at Faith, Plano. Either should be able to provide a list of Pastors who regularly attend the conferences. They are probably aware of Pastors currently without a call or underutilized, as well.

    I would think that confessional Pastors in other districts would have similar groups. (Am I wrong?)
    [But we are “Synod”; it is permissible to call out of your district and it’s frequently done.] 🙂

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