In 2009, the School Ministry Department of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod developed a guidance document for implementing a “Reduction In Force” (RIF). Because “Some congregations [were] unaware of this resource,” and “Some congregations are not adequately prepared to express care to their impacted workers (spiritual, financial, and emotional),” the delegates to the 64th regular convention of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod in 2010, by an overwhelming vote of 1,091 to 19, directed, “Synod and its districts share this resource with every congregation and ministry,” and encouraged congregations, “to use this resource when considering an RIF policy,” as they, “consider the spiritual, financial, and emotional well-being of all impacted workers when implementing RIF policies.” [excerpts from 2010 Resolution 2-02].
Since that time, though a small number of districts have edited the document to address particular concerns, most districts continue to commend the document in its entirety to the congregations of their district unedited, though most do expressly note that it is not, “an official policy of the Synod,” but that it is merely a guidance document.
Sadly, because it “comes from Synod,” many congregations simply take as true certain aspects of the document, especially the theological background pertaining to the distinct Office of the Holy Ministry and the erroneous conclusion that, “This office is held by one man in each congregation, known as the Pastor, or with a number of pastors on staff, the Senior Pastor.” When this statement is taken along with the other information provided, the conclusion is that a congregation may use Reduction in Force (or, by extension, other programmatic and business reasons) to expel a pastor from office through a “Reduction in Force” so long as he is not the Senior Pastor.
Having been encouraged by the Synod in convention to use this document, congregations have heeded the advice and guidance it contains and they have relegated called and ordained servants of Christ to the status of “Candidate,” effectively turning him out of the office into which we claim to believe and teach that Christ our Lord, Himself, through the instrumentality of the congregation, placed the man. Given our Lord’s clear words to the seventy[-two] whom he sent into the towns and villages ahead of Him, “he who rejects you, rejects me, and he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me,” (Luke 10:16) such a practice would seem to put those congregations who undertake to do such a thing at great jeopardy, as, “it will be more bearable in Sodom than for that town [that does not receive you].” (Luke 10:12)
This situation affects us all. Given that our beloved Synod has encouraged the use of this document, the Synod may well be culpable for the sin of those who have heeded it’s guidance when we consider that Jesus expressly said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)
The PDF link attached to this post is a copy of a discussion document I drafted for the brothers who attended our most recent joint circuit meeting (Winkel) in my area. The full document will be helpful especially for any congregation who has read the RIF guidelines commended by the 2010 Synod with a view to their implementation. The document is most especially helpful as it contains a much fuller discussion of the Scriptures as well as the historic theological Position of The LCMS as it applies in the circumstance of a Reduction in Force in the context of the Pastoral Office than the original guidelines do.