A District President Responds: Doctrinal Supervision Revisited

On May 11 BJS reprinted an article published in The Lutheran Clarion titled “Doctrinal Supervision and the Becker Case” by Rev. Dr. Martin Noland. Subsequently, an article of response was published in the July Clarion written by Montana District President Terry Forke. Here is President Forke’s article, titled “A District President Responds: Doctrinal Supervision Revisited”:

In the May 2015 issue Dr. Martin Noland addressed the need for the Synod to revisit the manner in which it conducts doctrinal supervision. I wish to commend him for his measured approach and affirm most of his recommendations. We are at a crucial point in the history of our Synod. We should not underestimate the need for determined doctrinal supervision lest the Synodical Union perish through its inability to preserve its confession. What follows are further recommendations from one who has been in the trenches for some time now.

The most difficult times of my life have been when I have had to say (all too frequently), “Brother (sister), because you continue to hold this position, or because you continue to behave in this way, you can no longer be a member of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.” The human toll of those words weighs heavily on anyone who has to say them and they must not be taken lightly. They must be spoken only when the evidence is overwhelming and all opportunities for repentance have been exhausted. Add to all that the personal cost meted out by someone, somewhere in the Synod who is sure to write that the only reason the District President (DP) removed Pastor XXX is because the Pastor held to closed communion.

This reality is the reason I must disagree with Dr. Noland’s fifth recommendation. The human cost is real, and it will impact judgments that must be made. Substituting one set of humans (DPs) for another set of humans (independent judiciaries) cannot control for this human element. The only control for the human element lies in the congregations, which should be encouraged to elect to the position of District President not the flashiest, the most cutting edge, or the most business-minded man, but the man who is most capable of upholding the confession of the faith.

Another possible solution for the problem before the Synod should be considered. Presently the reconciliation process does not distinguish between conflict grounded in behavior and conflict grounded in the teaching of false doctrine. These are fundamentally different cases. In the case of behaviorally driven conflict, most situations will call for reconciliation to take place through mutual confession and absolution. In the case of doctrinal conflict one party may be guilty of teaching false doctrine and the other party completely innocent. While both circumstances will ultimately have bearing on the confession of the Synod, certainly false doctrine is the more dangerous, for its seeds quickly spread.

The Synod should discuss adding a section of bylaw dealing specifically with false doctrine. I propose that bylaw 2.18 (now titled “Reinstatement of Individuals into Membership”) be retitled “Expulsion of Individuals from Membership in the Synod as a Result of Persistent Adherence to False Doctrine.” (The current 2.18 would become 2.19.) The praesidium might be the gate keeper, determining whether this were the proper bylaw for each case filed with it. A committee should be appointed at the Synodical Convention to deal specifically with this issue.

In addition, Article XI. B.1 (the President’s supervision regarding doctrine and administration) of the Constitution should be strengthened to clarify that the President of the Synod has the duty to uphold the confession of the Synodical Union by bringing charges against District Presidents for failure to perform the duties of their office.

One final recommendation is in order. The Synod should carefully examine bylaws 2.14—2.17 (expulsion of Congregations or Individuals, expulsion of a District Presidents, expulsion of a President, expulsion of Individuals as a Result of Sexual Misconduct or Criminal Behavior) by asking whether it is proper for a case to be thrown out as a result of technical error in following the bylaws or procedures. This point of bylaw has the potential of allowing workers who, in fact, hold to false doctrine, or who are behaving badly, to remain on the roster of the Synod, for no other reason than that someone missed a detail of a procedure. Perhaps there is a better way.

These three recommendations deal with circumstances where the institutional inertia of the Synod hinders the proclamation of the Gospel. The Synodical Union that cannot uphold its confession is no Synodical Union at all. The 2016 convention may be the time when holding fast to the confession of the faith can be elevated to its rightful prominence.

Rev. Terry Forke
Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, Harlowton, MT
President, Montana District LCMS

You can sign up for a free subscription to The Lutheran Clarion, a publication of the Lutheran Concerns Association, by visiting the page http://lutheranclarion.org/newsletter.html; scroll to the bottom of the page for full information.

About Scott Diekmann

Scott is a lifelong LCMS layman. Some of his vocations include husband, dad, jet driver, runner, and collector of more books than he can read. Oh, and also chocolate lover. He’s been involved in apologetics for over a decade, is on the Board of Regents at Concordia Portland, and is a column writer for the sometimes operational Around the Word Journal. He’s also written for Higher Things Magazine, The Lutheran Clarion, and has been a guest on Issues Etc. as well as the KFUO program Concord Matters.

Comments

A District President Responds: Doctrinal Supervision Revisited — 71 Comments

  1. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #42

    Pr Scheer,
    I seem to recall some complaint on Lutheran lists at the time that SP Kieschnick was the first who did not pay his wife’s expenses. No doubt you have better connections to ascertain which is accurate than I do.

  2. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    Indiana District salary guidelines are here:
    http://www.in.lcms.org/images/stories/documents/finance/2016_Salary_Guidelines.pdf

    If you look at page 13, you can see how my district compares to others in the central Midwest area. Indiana is on the lowest end compared to others, but that is probably because the median salary and cost of living is generally lower in Indiana too. When my dad visited us a couple of years ago, he could not believe how much house (square feet) money could buy here in Hoosier land.

    For those unfamiliar with LCMS salary schedules, this is a good document to review, to see what is all involved in church-worker compensation. It is a really a fairly generous package, when you consider everything involved. But that is only if a congregation/school meets the base guidelines.

    Many congregations and schools don’t meet the guidelines, either through inability or through “Dutch miserliness” (how one layman explained it once to me).

    Laymen reading this blog should go to their district’s website and download the 2016 guidelines (usually under the Finance section). Read them and see if your congregation meets or exceeds them. If they do not meet the guidelines, the best gift you can ever give your church-workers is to convince voters to meet the guidelines in their budget, and to give proportionately so that the budget can be met.

    Biblical commands include: “The worker is worthy of his hire” (1 Timothy 5:18) “Don’t muzzle the ox” (1 Corinthians 9:4-12), etc.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  3. @Martin R. Noland #53

    “Laymen reading this blog should go to their district’s website and download the 2016 guidelines (usually under the Finance section). Read them and see if your congregation meets or exceeds them. If they do not meet the guidelines, the best gift you can ever give your church-workers is to convince voters to meet the guidelines in their budget, and to give proportionately so that the budget can be met.”

    Amen to that! For those entities which cannot or do not meet the guidelines, we continue to incrementally encourage bi-vocational servants. Bi-vocational pastors and church workers certainly have their model in St. Paul, but there is a significant trade-off in local parish expectations that must occur… (i.e., no one should be surprised when their bi-vocational pastor/teacher/etc., can’t be there at their particular time of crisis, ad hoc board meeting, or extra-curricular activity, because their church worker’s secular employment schedule is in conflict.)

  4. Does anyone know how much effort DPs are putting into finding calls for faithful pastors on CRM status? Again, I would suggest that DP’s have the most influence on whether or not these individuals get considered at all by congregations.

  5. The reason many churches cannot afford good pay for their pastors they are giving their money to the the LCMs corporate machine. And here is what the money is used for:
    Resolved, That the Board of Directors approve the FY16 capital budget requests totaling $1,085,127 as shown on the attached lists, with funding provided by general corporate cash, capital debt, restricted funding, or through allocations to other corporate users.

    2015/2016 Capital Budget

    Information Technologies​​PC/Mac Purchases​​ $ 259,565
    ​​Network/Desktop Printers/Scanners​ 9,150
    ​​Projects/Infrastructure​ 100,300
    ​​Wing Copiers​ 29,950

    Communications​​ New Synod Display for Conventions $ 95,000
    ​​Video and Photo Storage Equipment​ 10,000
    ​ Video Wall​ 20,000

    Facilities*​​Replace Fire Panel​$ 15,000
    ​​Replace Ceiling on Atrium​ 29,000
    ​​New A/V for Wyneken, Annex, 326/327 25,000
    ​​Upgrade Conference Rooms​ 64,000
    ​​Replace Kitchen Equipment​ 15,400
    ​​Copier/Folding/Mailing Equipment​ 108,162
    ​​Replace Pickup Minivan​ 25,000
    ​​Replace Conference Room Table/Chairs​ 55,000
    ​​Replace Tables for Catering​ 15,000
    ​​Replace Hinge Assemblies on Wing Doors 20,000
    ​​Replace Chairs in President’s Office​ 14,000
    ​​Room Scheduling Hardware​ 25,600
    ​​Other**​ 150,000
    Total Capital Budget​​ ​ $1,085,127​ ​

  6. Very little of the congregations’ budgets go to synod, or district. That sure isn’t why congregations can’t afford to pay their pastors.

  7. @Brad #54

    Amen to that! For those entities which cannot or do not meet the guidelines, we continue to incrementally encourage bi-vocational servants.

    Like the congregation that wanted to call a pastor “part time”, “find your own job to support yourself”? They thought all they needed from a Pastor was 12 hours a week… less than he often spent on preparation for one sermon! (But he was supposed to get out and recruit new members, among a list of other things….)

    Or the one which offered a Pastor “half salary” for four days’ work a week? [The disgusted (non voting) women of the congregation are reported to have said, “If you give him full salary, will you expect 8 days a week?”]

    Most congregations could do more than they think they can. It might mean that the vehicles in the lot (one for every driver in the family and who cares that visitors can’t find a place to park) are kept more than 3 years, the i-phone is last year’s model, or some other such sacrifice.

  8. @Dave Rastl #55

    Does anyone know how much effort DPs are putting into finding calls for faithful pastors on CRM status? Again, I would suggest that DP’s have the most influence on whether or not these individuals get considered at all by congregations.

    1.By local observation: very little. [Locally, the district wants “praise” pastors. You ever see one of those on CRM?] (Me, neither.)
    2. I’d say you are right in most cases.

  9. @Brad #54

    Bi-vocational pastors and church workers certainly have their model in St. Paul..

    St Paul did practice his professional skill in one location, but there is no record that he made a habit of it everywhere he went. And they were all “mission” situations.

    A congregation should not expect a pastor to hold two jobs unless the majority of the laity are doing so, out of necessity. I don’t think you will find many Lutheran congregations like that. Who expects his doctor to “make his living on the side”? Why the Pastor, then?
    Unless the congregation is less than a dozen families, with no prospects for growth, why do you think he has less than a full time job?

    Aside from other considerations, attention would then have to be paid to demand for the pastor’s professional skills, in placement, (and he would have to develop some, before seminary). [It might be a good idea if a confessional Pastor had a fall back position, given the rate of “attrition” in our “confessional” Synod.]

  10. @helen #60

    Helen,

    I would never argue that the bi-vocational worker-priest model is optimum. I would only offer than it does have its place… not least in a synod that persecutes orthodox pastors, or where congregations that fancy themselves employers of at-will hirelings stand uncorrected and unrepentant. Our synod is a dangerous place for Confessional pastors, and having the ability to support one’s self and family in the face of this insanity is at least a reasonable alternative.

  11. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    Many people think that the matter of clergy compensation is purely a practical matter. It is obviously a practical matter, but not solely that. Our Lutheran forefathers understood that it is also a matter of biblical doctrine, and it can be seen clearly in both Gerhard’s dogmatics and the various old Lutheran pastoral theologies.

    In Gerhard, see his On the Ministry, Part Two, Theological Commonplaces XXVI/2 (St Louis: CPH, 2012), pages 181-189; sections 323-329. Gerhard includes all the Scriptural arguments for clergy full-time compensation and that it is wrong for clergy to have other jobs to make a living.

    For example, in his introduction to that section, Gerhard states: “Since the duties of the ministers of the church are so varied and so serious that they do not allow them to earn a living for themselves and their households by the work of their hands or other business, that they might be able to perform their office more conveniently, they are given salaries by which they can take care of themselves and their households honorably, and can be free for the Word, having abandoned the serving of tables.” (page 181; section 323).

    I also find this statement in Gerhard very accurate: “In the church militant, compensation and blessing of every kind is promised to the faithful minister (1 Corinthians 9:17; Ephesians 6:8), but not without the condition of the cross (Matthew 10:24; Hebrews 13:5).” (page 181; section 324).

    Gerhard notes that the idea of unsalaried ministers came from the Waldensians and the Anabaptists. These “free church” traditions think they can get a pastor for “free.” This is just one of the many practices of these sectarian churches that are contrary to the Scriptures, but have become common practice in America among sectarians.

    If a group of people want to be a bona fide Lutheran congregation, they must call a pastor who is a full-time and adequately-compensated worker. They may share him with other congregations, as is the practice of dual or triple parishes, but this must be his full-time work. Anything less than this and the ministry of the Word must suffer.

    As to those congregations that do not pay their pastor a living salary, but force him to beg or to pick up other work, Luther thunders throughout his writings against those laymen, and that they will reap God’s judgment in the present and the hereafter for their disobedience to God’s Word. This is not me saying this–it is Luther.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  12. @Martin R. Noland #63
    Dear Martin,
    With your rather terse comments, you certainly laid down how you feel.

    If a group of people want to be a bona fide Lutheran congregation, they must call a pastor who is a full-time and adequately-compensated worker. They may share him with other congregations, as is the practice of dual or triple parishes, but this must be his full-time work. Anything less than this and the ministry of the Word must suffer.

    The Church I serve “fellow pastor” is just as “bona fide” as the one you serve.

    The Church I serve administers the Word and Sacraments just fine as many others.

    Comments like this are certainly degrading to fellow brothers who toil in the mission of Christ and His Church.

  13. If a group of people want to be a bona fide Lutheran congregation, they must call a pastor who is a full-time and adequately-compensated worker.

    How about also the many small churches that are served by semi-retired pastors or intentional interim pastors.  This seems disrespectful of worker-priests.  Is there something in the Bible regarding bona fide congregations?  Thanks.

  14. @John Rixe #66

    I appreciate Dr. Noland’s observations, and his references– Gerhard is no mean Lutheran. In those places where congregations disdain their duty and push their pastor intentionally into poverty and other work, these challenges are fully warranted.

    However, no matter how great the citation of our fathers, Scripture still gives us the example of St. Paul… and the history of the church beyond just the sects shows a place for worker-priests (a term which I believe comes from French Roman Catholics, rather than Anabaptists.) Missionary work seems the most likely setting for the bi-vocational pastor, as it was also for St. Paul. Given the very missionary nature of the American landscape, I think there’s a place for intentional worker-priests here, too.

    While a full time pastorate is indeed the goal, it does not invalidate the work of bi-vocational pastors, nor the people they serve, since we remember that the Church is not defined by the condition of her servants, but by the Word and Sacraments of her Lord.

  15. @John Rixe #66
    Dear John,

    Well, in most all of these cases…bi-vocational men, or even the emeritus man being a pastor to a small church…it is what it is, a small church that would never exist without us.

    And I think a “bona fide” congregation is what the Bible says, a Church that preaches the Word, and administers the Sacraments. And that is done at Faith, by this “bona fide’ ordained pastor, and by this ‘bona fide’ Church of a few members compared to the larger ones.

    At the end of the day, where 2 or 3 are gathered…you know.
    Yes, you may certainly ask the question, should we exist at all? Valid. The Roman Church certainly would do away with us, put the monies and funds to larger established congregations, etc.

  16. @Brad #67
    Dear Brad,

    Yes, one must be careful with painting with a “too broad a brush” (as some do)…you comment correctly. Perhaps Luther would thunder a bit, but over a beer, I think I would tell him, “chill, St. Paul says it is OK.” In special cases. Now if he goes on, even Luther would have a Bible problem to contend with.

  17. @Pastor Prentice #69

    In special cases.

    Yes, but the trouble is that (seeing how cheap others get by) many congregations which are not “special cases” want to pay their Pastor less than the members’ own average income.

    In my youth, the influential members took pride in the fact that our Pastor was paid with the best in parish ministry in the area. He also had room for a cow, chickens and a garden which is what the members had to feed themselves. Two acres (now cemetery addition) were available to plant potatoes. [The Pastor had nine children.] And when farmers butchered in the winter there was often fresh pork as well.

    Very few Pastors are supplied like that now, even in the country. Therefore money is needed but “Dutch miserliness” still exists! People expect the parish pastor to live on air, and then criticize him if his shoes don’t look brand new and his jackets look a bit worn.

    The Bible says “The laborer is worthy of his hire.” and similar things. I don’t think Luther would have a “Bible problem”.

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