Skip to content

On the call process… Part 2


If you haven’t yet done so, reading Part 1 will provide background.

A pastor in the ELCA who has decided to enter the call process fills out the dreaded Rostered Leaders’ Profile; a 16 page monstrosity of information.  In addition to the expected things on an information form (What are your strengths?  What are your areas of growth?), the pastor selects which synods are to receive the report.  I was told it is best to NOT send it to all of the synods, so I sent the paperwork to synods within a five hour drive of my parents, within five hours of my wife’s parents, and synods east of the Mississippi who passed memorials in the 2010 Synod Assembly season which sought to rescind the actions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.  Of note on my paperwork:  while I mentioned the importance in my ministry of belonging to the Society of the Holy Trinity, I did not mention that I was a member of Lutheran CORE (though I listed their August 2010 Convocation as a continuing education event), nor did I mention that I did not wish to serve in a two-point parish again.  Neither was an intentional oversight.

The response?  My own synod wanted to keep me, but didn’t have anything which would have been a good fit.  Another synod sent me a form letter letting me know they would keep my information on file.  Only one other synod (out of 10) contacted me.

The synod which contacted me asked me to come their office for an interview with the staff.  It turned out the only congregational profile they had for me was that of a two-point parish (oops!).  Not their fault; I didn’t think to put it in my paperwork.  But that wasn’t the worst part of the interview.  Partway through, the bishop of that synod came in and took over the interview; no problem, that’s part of his duties.  When he heard I was a member of Lutheran CORE, he asked if I would lead a congregation out of the ELCA.  I pointed out that if I had intended to do that,  I would have done that already, so the answer is no.  Near the end of the interview, the bishop informed me that he could never trust a pastor who was a member of Lutheran CORE.  In my mind, the interview ended at that point; why would I want to serve in a synod where the bishop automatically will not trust me without knowing me?  Tellingly, neither he, nor anyone on his staff, ever contacted my then-current bishop and staff to ask them how I comported myself as a Lutheran CORE member and ELCA pastor.

I share this so that you, dear reader, can know of one pastor’s experience interviewing.  I was told to be honest – I was – and was dismissed for it.  I know mobility within the ELCA is very tight right now and that it is probable that not everyone dismissed my paperwork because of the Lutheran CORE reference, but I cannot help but wonder what blacklists might exist out there – either because of Lutheran CORE or even the Society of the Holy Trinity.

For your consideration:  What level of trust do you have, whether you are clergy or lay, with your bishop and staff?  How is that nurtured?  How do you work with people who are in organizations you disagree with?  What groups would automatically make you cross someone off of your list?  Conversely, what groups would automatically make you add someone to their list?

For next time:  A good, healthy process of interviewing…


6 Comments leave one →
  1. The Rev. Brian K. Nunnally permalink
    28July2011 09:47

    Despite being a national church body with supposedly standardized paperwork to assist mobility, it is still very dependent on the “good ol’ boy/gal” network. It is not necessarily what you know but who you know that greases the wheels. Perhaps it’s because of the RC sexuality scandals but often when attempting to move between synods it is assumed by bishop or staff that there is something wrong with you. Not wanting to acquire someone else’s problems it is easier to deny the transfer than take the risk. But then I’ve only served 30 years in four different synods and survived the merger of ’87 so what do I know.

  2. Ronald A Orovitz permalink
    28July2011 10:15

    Thank you for sharing your experience. It is always helpful to know what is happening out there, especially pastor’s experiences in these confusing times. It reminds us of who and what to pray for.

    I am retired so I do not face the Call Issue. I did face the Interim Appointment Issue though. There were unassigned interim placements available in my synod. I finnished my last in April, 2010. I had received no supply assignments or interim service invitations after that (For both I had personal and family commitments that put me out the picture till September). I did visit my bishop in October to talk about my ethical problem in serving as an interim. The #3 Foundational task of an interim pastor is to strengthen the congregations relationship with its judicatory. My feelings about the ELCA and itrs actions make that difficult. I was honest with my bishop.

    I also made it clear in my conversation that I was not an issue orientated pastor. I am serving the Lord and his children. It was never my practice to push my personal agenda in the congregations I served. So I assured the bishop that I would not bring up or promote and stance on the human sexuality issue or what the ELCA had decided. BUT, I said I will answer questions and provide information when the people I serve ask. I was bluntly told that I can’t answer those questions, and that my response was to be “I don’t know.” The bishop was in effect asking me to be dishonest.

    In the course of our conversation the bishop asked me three times to make it clear, “Can you serve without bringing such issues up?” And three times I said “Yes.” At the end of our meeting the bishop asked me if there is any place right now that I would be interested in serving. At the moment I was caught off-guard because it has never been my practice to assert myself for service in a particular parish. Several weeks later I learned of another parish where the interim had resigned, so I sent an email to my bishop thanking him for our meeting, and stating my surprise that he had asked about preferences. I then said that I was aware of two where I would be interested in serving.

    About four weeks later I got an email from the bishop stating that both were covered. Several weeks after that I got a call from the synod office asking me to supply at one of those parishes. I already had a commitment for that Sunday, but I asked who was now serving as interim there. The answer was no one. Several weeks after that I learned by accident that the other parish I had inquired about had not had an interim assigned for five months. I must explain the bishop’s statement in the kindest possible way. Perhaps he was not aware of the status of those congregations, as those matters are handled by his staff, and perhaps they had told him they were covered.

    What we are dealing with are additions that were made to the ELCA constitution, that were not in the constitutions of its predecessor bodies, or in the Order for the Installation of a Pastor. That is the statement “Will you carry out this ministry in harmony with the constitutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America?”

    In the SBH there was only one “Will You Question” that was very general about fidelity to the gospel and the doctrine of our Savior. The LBW expanded that to four questions and the above phrase was added to the second question in the ELW Resources.

    How that plays out in the current circumstances is that if one is a member of Lutheran CORE, the Seven Marks Society, or the STS, to some bishops that immediately raises a red-flag about; “Will you carry out this ministry in harmony with the constitutions
    of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America?” And so what happens, happens. Hesitation, distrust, marginalization, and rejection, not on the basis of the Holy Scriptures, the Lutheran Confessions, or fidelity to Christ our Lord, but on fidelity to what “this church” says. It is a First Commandment Issue at heart. Who is really the Lord of the church (ELCA)?

  3. John Mawhirter permalink
    28July2011 12:25

    Let me get this straight…You don’t believe the #3 Foundational statement of the Interim pastor’s responsibility, “to strengthen the congregation’s relationship with it’s judicatory”, should be taken into consideration? or should be ignored? Or…?
    Are you serving God and/or serving “this church”? What were the vows professional leaders made at ordination/commissioning? Were these separate issues?
    “This church” has every right and responsibility to assure congregations about the people who will be serving as interim or semi-permanent professional leaders. The bishop’s staff is responsibile for the individuals who are to serve (or interview) in congregations or institutions of “this church”. If they don’t asked these questions, they are being irresponsible and maybe even unfaithful to their calling.

    • Ronald A Orovitz permalink
      29July2011 13:22

      When the judicatory in question, in this case the ELCA, has becomes apostate in its theology, one is put into a moral dilemma in following service guidlines. My point was that in the classic ordination/installation orders no reference was made to carry out this ministry in harmony with the constitutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America?” It was only fidelity to the Gospel of Christ and the Lutheran Confessions, that one said “yes” to. Now it becomes a First Commandment Issue. I am duty bound as a child of God to have no other gods before him, and now by its constitution the ELCA is placing itself before God, in the installation order.

      You are right that “This church” has every right and responsibility to assure congregations about the people who will be serving as interim or semi-permanent professional leaders. But when the church itself has taken a mistaken step, is the church justified in enforcing its own decisions over the Spirit of the Gospel. It has become more legalistic than Gospel centered, when the issue is disagreements over morality when it is being more culturally driven than Christ driven.

      My point with my bishop was that I have never been an issue orientated pastor e.g., I never felt political agendas should be brought in the pulpit. I was assuring the bishop that I would never bring a church dividing issue like sexuality into the pulpit. Other interim pastors in my synod have, really pushing the ELCA line. It has divided churches, split families, and wrecked havoc in the Body of Christ.

      For an interim pastor this is a real connundrum. If I don’t considetr these questions, I might be irresponsible and maybe even unfaithful to my calling.

  4. Rev. Keith Falk, STS permalink
    29July2011 08:35

    FWIW – I have a high level of trust with my current bishop and staff (Southern Ohio Synod), and think the world of those folks with whom I have worked within the bishop’s office in the SOS.


  5. 25August2011 16:13

    It strikes me that in the midst of so many ELCA Bishops citing the importance of “honoring the 8th commandment” (ad nauseum), the 8th commandment was not honored very well in your case. Assumptions were made about you and about Lutheran Core.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: