Author Topic: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies  (Read 13648 times)

John Mundinger

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Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« Reply #75 on: March 06, 2014, 07:03:27 AM »
In the LCMS, the District President usually will
provide 4 or 5 names of pastors who might be
called to a vacant parish.  It is not an atmosphere
of his way or the highway.

Would that that practice were universally true.  In my opinion, the Bishops and District Presidents ought to be resources to the vacant parishes and function accordingly.

I can personally attest to one call in which I, as chair of the Board of Elders, also served as a member of the call committee.  The DP had added 3 names to our initial list - perfectly appropriate.  However, the Circuit Counselor self-appointed himself as dictator-in-chief in the call committee and, in effect co-opted the congregation's decision.

Lifelong Evangelical Lutheran layman

Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbour, does not yet understand them as he ought.  St. Augustine

peter_speckhard

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Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« Reply #76 on: March 06, 2014, 09:49:12 AM »
In the LCMS, the District President usually will
provide 4 or 5 names of pastors who might be
called to a vacant parish.  It is not an atmosphere
of his way or the highway.

Would that that practice were universally true.  In my opinion, the Bishops and District Presidents ought to be resources to the vacant parishes and function accordingly.

I can personally attest to one call in which I, as chair of the Board of Elders, also served as a member of the call committee.  The DP had added 3 names to our initial list - perfectly appropriate.  However, the Circuit Counselor self-appointed himself as dictator-in-chief in the call committee and, in effect co-opted the congregation's decision.
That was a concern addressed in our circuit counselor's manual. How exactly did he do that, though? He doesn't have all that much formal authority. Was the circuit counselor on the same page as the DP? 

John Mundinger

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Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« Reply #77 on: March 06, 2014, 10:07:14 AM »
I can personally attest to one call in which I, as chair of the Board of Elders, also served as a member of the call committee.  The DP had added 3 names to our initial list - perfectly appropriate.  However, the Circuit Counselor self-appointed himself as dictator-in-chief in the call committee and, in effect co-opted the congregation's decision.

That was a concern addressed in our circuit counselor's manual. How exactly did he do that, though? He doesn't have all that much formal authority. Was the circuit counselor on the same page as the DP?
[/quote]

Pr. Speckhard - the process to which I referred was the second time that I had been through a call process in that congregation.  In the first call process, the call committee worked with the DP to assemble a tentative call list - comprised of some names nominated from the congregation and some names added by the DP.  The DP provided us with biographical information for all of the people on the list.  We met as a congregation and copies of the bio information was provided to all members.  We had some discussion.  Then, through a series of votes, we winnowed the field to one candidate to whom we extended the call.  The first person declined.  We repeated the process and the second person accepted.  That process was similar to that which we had used in the previous congregation (same district) in which I was a member.

The call I referenced above, started the same way - congregation members nominated some people and the DP added a few.  Then, the CC insisted that he first meet with the call committee; insisted that the call committee winnow the field to one name; and, that the only purpose for the subsequent congregation meeting was an up/down vote on one name.  That call committee meeting took 10 hours!  The CC insisted that, because the biographical information was confidential, the call committee members could not touch them.  Instead, he read them individually.  The call committee initially had a split decision.  I suggested that, even if he would not let us present the whole list to the congregation, we should present the two.  He insisted on one.  Coincidentally (?) the name that we presented to the congregation was one of the DP's nominees.  I can't prove it, but all of the related circumstantial information was that it was a set up.
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Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbour, does not yet understand them as he ought.  St. Augustine

ptom

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Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« Reply #78 on: March 06, 2014, 10:26:54 AM »
Really don't want to sound cynical but there has been a movement underfoot for pastors and circuit visitors/counselors to interfere with the call process in vacant congregations in order to get one of their ideological buddies into these congregations.  Your case sounds like a circuit counselor who abused the system in order to get the one he wanted.
     A few years ago here in God's country, there was an attempt (thankfully unsuccessful), through a district convention overture, to have the other pastors in the circuit look over the call list with the ability to either add or subtract names before it got to the congregation/call committee.

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John Mundinger

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Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« Reply #79 on: March 06, 2014, 10:37:29 AM »
Your case sounds like a circuit counselor who abused the system in order to get the one he wanted.

That was the impression that I had.  Our congregation had a bit of a reputation for being a "maverick".  I also think a personal favor was part of the mix.  As an aside, I would not have necessarily objected to the idea of doing a personal favor if all the other pieces had fit and the DP had been open about it.

A few years ago here in God's country, there was an attempt (thankfully unsuccessful), through a district convention overture, to have the other pastors in the circuit look over the call list with the ability to either add or subtract names before it got to the congregation/call committee.

Good on the district for rejecting that one.
Lifelong Evangelical Lutheran layman

Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbour, does not yet understand them as he ought.  St. Augustine

Weedon

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Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« Reply #80 on: March 06, 2014, 10:42:18 AM »
That strikes me, John, as something the congregation LET happen. No CC or CV or whatever we end up calling them, can INSIST to a congregation that they MUST do anything, certainly not telling them to remove the real act of deciding a call from the congregation itself. I'd have thanked him for his presence and counsel, but reminded him that in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the Synod has always been and can only be advisory toward the congregations, and that we tolerate in our parishes no one infringing the right of the congregation to deliberate, pray, and elect the man who will be their pastor. We are reaping the fruits of NOT teaching our congregations about the joyful freedom that is theirs in Christ.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2014, 10:49:59 AM by Weedon »

swbohler

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Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« Reply #81 on: March 06, 2014, 11:03:24 AM »
Mr. Mundinger,

As Rev. Speckhard has said, the circuit counselor's manual is very clear on this:

"The circuit counselor is required in each instance to present the call list submitted by the district president.  He is not to edit or amend the list in any way.  The circuit counselor is there to supervise the process, not to influence the outcome.  Nor may the call committee or other minor body within the congregation edit the district president's call list....The presentation of the call list to the voters' assembly is to be made orally.  Biographical information on the candidate as well as the district president's evaluation may be duplicated for use by confirmed members only and only at the time of the call meeting.  Due to the confidentiality of the information that is being shared, before and after the meeting all copies must remain the possession of the circuit counselor." (p.31)

If what you say took place happened, then that circuit counselor did not follow the established procedure.  If this was a recent occurrence, perhaps the district president should be informed.

LCMS87

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Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« Reply #82 on: March 06, 2014, 11:53:37 AM »
Pr. Bohler cites an appropriate paragraph.  If that's from the current Circuit Counselor's manual, it's functionally identical to the instructions in the preceding one, and the one before that. 
One of the challenges for the Circuit Counselor is that sometimes the constitution of the congregation and the instructions of the manual conflict.  For instance, the manual specifically says that only the congregation can edit the call list.  That is not within the authority of even the call committee, much less the Circuit Counselor.  But some constitutions say the call committee is to present only one name.
As Pr. Weedon notes, the Circuit Counselor really doesn't have any power in this matter.  As a representative of the District President, he has authority only to the extent the District President has delegated it.  Even there, if a congregation resists, the only thing the Circuit Counselor can do is report the matter to the District President.  It's the District President who has the ability, limited to be sure, to discipline a congregation if it's out of line.  The Circuit Counselor has no such authority.   
 (If anyone is revising their constitution, I would advise they arrange to look at the Circuit Counselor's manual regarding the call process.  There are some things in there it's helpful to understand about the call process as you consider constitutional changes.  Unfortunately, the District Constitution Committee may not flag the issue, so two conflicting requirements can end up complicating the call process unnecessarily.)

Steven Tibbetts

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Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« Reply #83 on: March 06, 2014, 11:58:02 AM »

How exactly did he do that, though? He doesn't have all that much formal authority. Was the circuit counselor on the same page as the DP?

How did he do that? He took the little bit of authority granted to him and abused it.  Which probably describes the call process in Lutheran churches more than we'd care to admit.

A Lutheran congregation in the US can call whoever it wants to be pastor.  Most synods (using the word in its older, more generic sense, and not in the ELCA sense) require whomever the congregation calls to be a minister on, or approved to be on, its clergy roll.  A few of the tiny synods may actually have rather strict rules, even to the point of appointing the parish pastor.  Most merely require that the calling congregation "seek the counsel and guidance" (the LCA phrase) or "seek the advice and help" (ALC and ELCA) of the local Bishop/President. Even such "rules" that have been described in some of the recent posts go beyond the letter, and often the spirit, of the law. 

The point of such counsel is to help the congregation find one of the X,000 pastors on the ministerial roll to call, one who will likely adequately serve them.  Trying to do more than that is likely feeding someone's ego.

Then there was the Assistant to the Bishop given charge of the call process in one of the then-new ELCA synods.  A real gem of a congregation in a very desirable, though a bit out of the way, location was in the early stages of the call process.  She called my pastor's brother, a well-regarded pastor in a neighboring synod, to see if he'd be interested.  She really wanted him to let her place his name.  He declined, mainly because he'd been where he was all only a couple of years and wasn't particularly interested in moving.  She grew a bit more insistent.  But any temptation when she mentioned that -- and this is when the Call Committee was only beginning to review those she was recommending; they'd not interviewed or dismissed anyone at this point -- she'd already given them 64 names!

With "help" like this...

Pax, Steven+
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John Mundinger

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Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« Reply #84 on: March 06, 2014, 12:00:20 PM »
That strikes me, John, as something the congregation LET happen.

You are correct.  And, I suspect that you already correctly assume that I objected strenuously, both in the committee and the congregation meetings.  At the same time, we are talking about an LCMS congregation and a culture that gives much greater deference to the man with the collar, even if he is not the pastor called to that congregation, than to the chair of the Bd. of Elders.

If what you say took place happened, then that circuit counselor did not follow the established procedure.  If this was a recent occurrence, perhaps the district president should be informed.

Thanks for sharing the the paragraph from the manual.  I didn't have a copy of the manual, but that was pretty much my understanding of the CC's role.  Since that call, there has been a change in the DP's office and the CC was removed from the roster.


A Lutheran congregation in the US can call whoever it wants to be pastor.

Assuming the person is rostered, I absolutely agree.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2014, 12:03:03 PM by John Mundinger »
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Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbour, does not yet understand them as he ought.  St. Augustine

swbohler

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Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« Reply #85 on: March 06, 2014, 12:08:27 PM »
Pr. Bohler cites an appropriate paragraph.  If that's from the current Circuit Counselor's manual, it's functionally identical to the instructions in the preceding one, and the one before that. 
One of the challenges for the Circuit Counselor is that sometimes the constitution of the congregation and the instructions of the manual conflict.  For instance, the manual specifically says that only the congregation can edit the call list.  That is not within the authority of even the call committee, much less the Circuit Counselor.  But some constitutions say the call committee is to present only one name.
As Pr. Weedon notes, the Circuit Counselor really doesn't have any power in this matter.  As a representative of the District President, he has authority only to the extent the District President has delegated it.  Even there, if a congregation resists, the only thing the Circuit Counselor can do is report the matter to the District President.  It's the District President who has the ability, limited to be sure, to discipline a congregation if it's out of line.  The Circuit Counselor has no such authority.   
 (If anyone is revising their constitution, I would advise they arrange to look at the Circuit Counselor's manual regarding the call process.  There are some things in there it's helpful to understand about the call process as you consider constitutional changes.  Unfortunately, the District Constitution Committee may not flag the issue, so two conflicting requirements can end up complicating the call process unnecessarily.)

I would think that in the case of a congregational constitution which stipulates something at variance with the wording of the circuit counselor's manual, that the congregational constitution wins.  After all, the manual is to guide the circuit counselor in his actions (that is, it is not meant to have direct authority over the congregation).  And the manual is not binding in the same way that the congregation's constitution is.  The congregation MUST follow its constitution.  Not necessarily so in regards to the circuit counselor's manual.

That said, I have never seen a congregational constitution that spells out anything like what you have described (the call committee is to bring just one name to the voters).  Is this common?

Rev. Spaceman

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Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« Reply #86 on: March 06, 2014, 12:31:23 PM »
This is an observation or maybe a mistaken impression.  It seems to me that in the ethnic experience of the Swedes that for varied reasons one time Lutherans became Swedish Covenant or Swedish Baptists.  It seems in the Norwegian experience there were those  who were more Baptist and Covenant than Lutheran but stayed Lutheran in name. 


That would be similar to my observations, too, Paul.  My recollection is that those who study the demographics note that only about 1/3rd of the Swedish immigrants to the US remained with Lutheran churches.

While the Swedish Baptist and the various Swedish Covenant churches are rather easy to identify because, like the Augustana Synod, they emphasized their Swedish ethnicity, one should note Swedish-American Methodists were particularly adept at meeting new immigrants upon their arrival to the US.

Pax, Steven+

The percentages of various ethnic groups that came from Lutheran lands in the old country that joined Lutheran churches in the US is interesting and a lot lower than what many might think:

Estimates are:

Norwegians: 30 percent
Finns: 25 percent
Swedes: 16 percent
Danes: 9 percent

These numbers seem low, but they would be even lower were it not for missionary pastors drawing immigrants into congregations.  The remainder became Methodists, Baptists, Mission Covenant, Evangelical Free, various other Christian churches, even Mormons, and some nothing at all.
Rev. Thomas E. Jacobson, Ph.D

Jim Butler

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Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« Reply #87 on: March 06, 2014, 12:38:49 PM »
Pr. Bohler cites an appropriate paragraph.  If that's from the current Circuit Counselor's manual, it's functionally identical to the instructions in the preceding one, and the one before that. 
One of the challenges for the Circuit Counselor is that sometimes the constitution of the congregation and the instructions of the manual conflict.  For instance, the manual specifically says that only the congregation can edit the call list.  That is not within the authority of even the call committee, much less the Circuit Counselor.  But some constitutions say the call committee is to present only one name.
As Pr. Weedon notes, the Circuit Counselor really doesn't have any power in this matter.  As a representative of the District President, he has authority only to the extent the District President has delegated it.  Even there, if a congregation resists, the only thing the Circuit Counselor can do is report the matter to the District President.  It's the District President who has the ability, limited to be sure, to discipline a congregation if it's out of line.  The Circuit Counselor has no such authority.   
 (If anyone is revising their constitution, I would advise they arrange to look at the Circuit Counselor's manual regarding the call process.  There are some things in there it's helpful to understand about the call process as you consider constitutional changes.  Unfortunately, the District Constitution Committee may not flag the issue, so two conflicting requirements can end up complicating the call process unnecessarily.)

I would think that in the case of a congregational constitution which stipulates something at variance with the wording of the circuit counselor's manual, that the congregational constitution wins.  After all, the manual is to guide the circuit counselor in his actions (that is, it is not meant to have direct authority over the congregation).  And the manual is not binding in the same way that the congregation's constitution is.  The congregation MUST follow its constitution.  Not necessarily so in regards to the circuit counselor's manual.

That said, I have never seen a congregational constitution that spells out anything like what you have described (the call committee is to bring just one name to the voters).  Is this common?

Now to put on my former District Secretary's hat (I got to read lots of constitutions and by-laws over 18 years!).

The basic argument is this: If all the call committee is going to do is collect names and submit them all to the congregation for a vote, then why have a call committee at all? Yes, there needs to be an evaluation of the congregation and some other things, but that doesn't need to be a "call committee."

Most of the by-laws I read stated that the call committee was to handle the process of winnowing the names for the congregation. Most congregations wanted anywhere between two-five names to be brought forward. Some of the by-laws stated that the Call Committee was to make a recommendation, others didn't say anything about it one way or another. I don't remember reading any that said just one name for an up or down vote.

I think its important that more than one name be brought forward. In one case that I was involved with (calling a school principal), the congregation rejected the call committee's choice and chose another name (although the committee did say that they thought either man would be good, they just thought one would be better).

So no, Pr. B, I don't think it's common. If I was on the District Constitution committee (which I hope will never happen again!) I'd talk to the congregation about it and would recommend against it.
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John Mundinger

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Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« Reply #88 on: March 06, 2014, 12:46:34 PM »
In one case that I was involved with (calling a school principal), the congregation rejected the call committee's choice and chose another name (although the committee did say that they thought either man would be good, they just thought one would be better).

I attempted to make a motion like that during the congregation meeting and was called out of order by the CC.
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Re: Reflections on ELCA Predecessor Church Bodies
« Reply #89 on: March 06, 2014, 12:49:45 PM »
A Lutheran congregation in the US can call whoever it wants to be pastor.

Assuming the person is rostered, I absolutely agree.

I'm not sure that you are right.  If a congregation calls a person who is not on the roster of the ELCA, they may face discipline from the synod, but I'm not sure that the synod can nullify the call.  They can refuse to treat the person called as a pastor, but I don't think they can force the congregation to remove him/her.
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