This will be the first in a short series concerning the growing trend for the leadership of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LC-MS) to abandon pastors when being abused by congregational trouble makers. While this may cross synodical lines, as a confirmed Lutheran and member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, I have learned of the lackluster leadership in the Nebraska District and failures of the District President to fully exercise the power of his office when circumstances clearly warrant a bit of "tough love."
For those who read this blog who are members of other denominations and even some who claim to be Lutherans a point or two needs to be made clear. First, only "Called" and "Ordained" church workers and congregations are "Members" of the LC-MS, individuals are not! As a "Layman" folks like me have little to no influence on the policies, practices and even doctrinal changes of our synod other than through our pastors and a chosen few who attend a synodical meeting once every three years. But guess who picks up the tab. We contribute to our separate churches and a portion of the funds are forwarded to district offices thence on to "synod." The "Holy See" of the LC-MS is in St. Louis, Missouri. The Nebraska District is headquartered in Seward, Nebraska. All this is mentioned so that my readers can know mine is only a small voice in "the wilderness."
Prior to "Ordination", a young man devotes a number of years of his life to preparation of seminary studies. He then applies for acceptance to one of our two seminaries. If accepted, he then spends two years studying as a "seminarian" followed by a year of vicarage (sort of on-the-job-training) in a parish chosen for him by seminary officials, followed by a final year of studies as a seminarian. Upon successful completion of all required training and preparation for parish ministry, he is eligible to receive a "Divine Call" to pastoral ministry. subsequent to a special service of Ordination, he attains the title of "Pastor" and is qualified to function in that capacity as a parish minister.
Lutherans believe the "calling" of a Pastor is guided by the Holy Spirit and his acceptance or rejection of such is likewise guided by God. It is appropriate here to quote directly from a call which was sent to a young man who had just completed his studies and preparation for the Holy Ministry.
"To R.J.S. of Concordia Theological Seminary - Fort Wayne, Indiana. Having called on the Lord, our God, for guidance and in the exercise of the authority with which He has vested His church on earth, we, the members of St. Peter Lutheran Church of Hampton, NE, have elected you to the office of Pastor and herewith extend to you this formal notification of your solemn call."
"In the name of the Triune God and by His authority we ask you to assume the responsibilities of the office to which we have called you and faithfully to perform all the duties of your office according to the Word of God and the confessional standards of the Evengelical Lutheran Church as drawn from the Sacred Scriptures and found in the Book of Concord. We ask you to do this according to the needs as specified in the accompanying document or as may be resolved and mutually agreed upon from time to time. To the end that you may be enabled to do this, we pledge you our wholehearted and continued cooperation and support in word and dees and in our prayers to God in your behalf." [emphasis added]
Further, "We pray God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has moved us to extend our call to you, to convince you by his Holy Spirit that it comes from Him, to induce you to accept it; to conduct your safely to your field of labor; and to bless your ministrations to the glory of His holy name, the building of His church, the temporal and eternal welfare of many people, and your own great joy and blessing." [emphasis added]
The "call" did not include any language to the extent that the young man would have to cave in to the whims and wishes of certain influential members of the parish, who, like spoiled brats would engage in backstabbing, malicious gossip, patently un-Christian conduct, lying, advocating "un-Lutheran additions to worship services and a few other vicious means and methods of undermining his ministry. There will be much more on these matters NAMING THE NAMES OF MANY OF THE MALOFACTORS in one or more subsequent articles.
This is one of several situations where a few hell-raising heathenistic heretics have united to dump a pastor who refused to compromise the terms of his "call" as hereinabove presented. When the congregational bullies fail to get their way, they organize an attempt to force the minister to resign. If he refuses to resign, the next step the evil-doers employ is to starve him out by cutting his salary. No regard is shown for the Pastor’s family. Such is the case right now at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Hampton, NE The chairman of the congregation, like the incumbent Pastor is the victim of the chairman’s mother, his wife, his sister and his son being the gang leaders in their vicious attacks on a really decent family man who unfortunately believe his first "Call" was to a Christian Congregation. Details to follow later.
While the newly re-elected District President Russ Sommerfeld has appointed another minister to act as a mediator, he has set on the sidelines for the most part and refused to forcefully intervene. Notwithstanding the fact that he has told congregations members they have not followed the scriptural mandated steps for addressing grievances and that they have no grounds upon which to forcefully remove their pastor, he has not admonished the congregational members that the church could be temporarily suspended or removed from synodical fellowship. Thus, the Nebraska District president is allowing the divinity of the "Call" to be corrupted with no penalty being assessed or even threatened.
I have been in contact with a group - The Augustana Ministerium - which I strongly recommend Lutheran Pastors to join as a means of uniting to combat the growing tide of congregational meanness. By joining ranks with others "Servants of the Word" there could be safety in numbers. If, for instance, this organization would place on a "black list" any congregation such as St. Peter’s which is openly abusing its pastor and attempting to force his resignation, perhaps other good men would avoid ever taking a call to such a congregation. Further, by giving abused pastors legal aid, counsel and assistance, the downtrodden could be motivated to legally deal their problems.
For the record, while a court of regular jurisdiction might not engage in settling religious disputes, when you remove the divinity from a "call" it is an employment contract which, in my non-lawyer opinion could be enforced legally. In any case, it would take only once to establish a precedent which could be referred to in future confrontations. Further, in my less than humble opinion, I believe a pastor would have an actionable case against any person or persons who, through their inappropriate behavior, tarnished his professional reputation. All it would take would be one hefty judgment against an evil-doer and some of the disgusting behavior would cease. For the record, the Nebraska District of the LC-MS is not the only place this devilish conduct is taking place!
To the good guys who just happen to wear their collars backwards, LET NOT YOUR HEARTS BE TROUBLED! When trouble comes you way, first TAKE IT TO THE LORD IN PRAYER, then LAWYER UP!