Pastors in Trouble

I feel sorry for the poor new pastor who goes into a congregation only to find it a hotbed of lodge activity.   Or a hotbed of homosexual propaganda.  Or a hotbed of absolute denial of the biblical record.  Or rampant, public and scandalous sexual sin.   Or flagrant unionism.  Unwittingly, the poor fellow preaches the truth, and finds himself gratuitously attacked.  The congregation decides it needs to get rid of this man, who has done nothing more than what Paul encouraged and admonished him to do.   I know of men who have found themselves in all of these situations.   They try to do the right thing, lovingly and gently.  In many cases, they are run out of town on a rail.  In others, they manage to survive a vote to remove by only one or two votes.  Or perhaps they manage to survive the evil motion to cut the pastor’s salary to zero by one or two votes.  A mass exodus occurs.   (And double woe be unto he that ends up in a congregation which the DP has served that has these problems.  Trust me, don’t even bother to pick up the phone.  It’s a waste of your dime. )

The question asked by one of the Wyoming District officers in a recent meeting was : Where are the district presidents, telling their congregations that if they remove a faithful pastor, they themselves will be removed?

Has it ever happened?  I read the notices in the synod’s papers.  I know of pastors removed or pushed out for being faithful.  (Of course, they aren’t removed from synod all at once.  They are placed on “CRM” status – a synod death sentence.)  I have only seen one congregation removed by action of the DP in 12 years – and the pastor went with them.  Do we have no one who will stand up for the rights of pastors?  Who will fight for them?

The synod’s campaign to recruit and train pastors (What a way to go) might be more effective if the synod would EVER stand up for the pastors.

I mean, how easy can it be to run a campaign when the bottom line is : You love God.  Great!  But that won’t matter at all.  It’s all about whether you can keep people happy.  If you do, then all is well with thee and thou mayest live long in the synod.  If you do not, then you will be destroyed, and no one will lift a finger to help you.  We will all stand around doing a post-mortem on the errors you made, and you will become a cautionary take to others not to rock the boat.  Like this. Or this. Or this. Or this.

We have  our own synodical whitewashed tombs.  Robert Preus, anyone? He managed to be cleared of all charges hours before his heart gave out.    If he had died the day before, no ruling would ever need to have been made.  He could have died with a cloud over his head, and this epitaph could have been etched in granite : Troubler of Israel.   By dying after the ruling that absolutely cleared him, his gravestone is nicely whitewashed, but the cautionary tale remains : What did that paint job cost him?

I recently heard of a conversation a pastor had with an otherwise good  district president (that is, a very confessionally minded one) who told him point blank that when it comes down to it, he will side with the congregation every time.  That’s just wrong.

I know of an instance where the pastor would have been removed, had he been a member of the LCMS, but fortunately, he was a member of LCC.  He had the support of his district president and congregation, but had angered one of our district presidents.   Good for him.  And shame on the District President who refused to stand up for a faithful pastor.   Will no one?

(PS.  I don’t need anyone to stand up for me.  My congregation is quite happy with me, thank you very much.  But I do pray for those who are suffering.)

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6 Responses to “Pastors in Trouble”

  1. Lincoln,

    I’ll say the same I said to Paul McCain,

    You are letting your anger run away with you. Yes, I believe Paul was over the top with his post on facebook today. but in all fairness he did not name you or your website – that was done by a later poster responding to him.

    Some of his points were valid. At the same time the way that he put was over the top, just as yours were, especially when he discounted your willingness to change your blog.

    Now, in your responses, you are responding with the same spirit as he.

    While the exchange may be entertaining, it is not helping anyone. Neither are putting your case in a way that makes either of you or the look good or benefits the Church in any way.

    I hope the two of you will allow yourselves to cool down for a couple of days before continuing your discussion.

  2. Rev. Paul L. Beisel Says:

    What does this comment have to do with the post? I see no correlation.

    • forestboar Says:

      It actually relates to an older version that was posted along with others involved in the kerfuffle. They have been removed, and this was altered. You are correct, it no longer relates.

  3. Lincoln,

    You have my respect.

    You changed the tone of your blog posts. It takes courage to hold anger in check and focus instead on real issues and you did that well.

    Not many can do that – I honor you greatly for doing so.

  4. And now this makes SO MUCH MORE SENSE.

    Sir, I had no idea who you were or what the fuss was about on Facebook until a few minutes ago. A friend who read my comments (yes, plural, before Rev. McCain started deleting my responses) pointed me over here to read what you wrote. Rev. McCain obviously read my response and assumed I knew who you were – because we lived this scenario.

    My husband is a faithful, confessional pastor. At his first call (a dual – or duel more appropriately – where he planned to be until he died), one congregation was angered that he wouldn’t allow their Methodist mother to commune “this one time” and that he wouldn’t let an ALC friend of the members commune because we weren’t in fellowship – even though he offered to discuss differences and catechise. They tried to get rid of him by attacking his character… and then attacking me saying they wanted nothing to do with me or “it” (referring to my unborn child). They voted to cut his pay to 2/3s to try and force him out. It didn’t work. But he did end up with a call to the Northwest District (the district where he served his vicarage).

    Knowing all the crap he went through with one of his current congregations, he asked all the right questions: open or closed communion, women’s role in the congregation… just to name a few. The call committee president answered everything the way my husband had hoped – that they were a congregation that had moved away from the teachings of the LCMS and wanted a pastor to bring them back “home.” My husband thought he was up to that challenge, and he accepted the call.

    And it was all a lie.

    The call committee president, after finally being presented with the evidence, admitted that he lied because they were tired of being in the call process and they just wanted a pastor. The congregation was angry that he wouldn’t commune anyone who walked in the door – that they had a “handshake agreement” with the ELCA that their members could commune there on vacation and the ELCA wouldn’t put a congregation in the area. So the freak what? Let them! My husband offered to teach, classes before, after church, during the week days, week nights… no one would come. There was a “district representative” (DP’s assistant) who was a member of the congregation who stood up and told the whole congregation that the LCMS doesn’t really take a stand on communion – that it was a non-issue! About this time, I was told that my children were no longer welcome to attend the services (most people, if they had kids, dumped them in the nursery – which was ONLY babysitting – for the service… and I refused). I said if they weren’t welcome, I wasn’t welcome – and no one corrected me.

    They told my husband to resign. He said no. They told him to resign or they would do what they had to in order to fire him and insure he would never preach again, even if that meant lie about his character (and he has all this recorded). He said no. The congregation was sent a letter about a special voters’ meeting “to ask Pastor Wagner to resign his call” – not to vote whether to ask him to – but just to ask him to. They won by 4 votes. And when he said he would not resign, they told him he had 2 weeks to leave or they would move forward and present accusations that he “forced his will upon the congregation.”

    He asked for a meeting with the (now former) DP to go over his options. He was told, “You can resign this way… or you can resign that way.” Either way, he was siding with the congregation.

    So he resigned under certain conditions, and the District was responsible to certain things as well (which they didn’t live up to until too late and really screwed over our family). And he was CRM for 18 months… probably still would be today if it weren’t for the folks at Augustana Ministerium.

    Today he’s a worker-priest in a congregation that is small, but faithful. They hope, should God provide the increase, to be able to call him full-time, but as of right now they can’t. And he is happy, he is back doing what he is called to do – preaching the Word of God and administering the sacraments. But it wasn’t easy – and if it wasn’t for the Augustana Ministerium, I’m sure the District would have had their way and kept him out of the ministry as long as possible.

    These things happen… a lot. And when they happen to you, other pastors and their families come crawling out of the woodwork to tell you about how it happened to them. It is a hopeless and lonely place save for the grace and mercy of Christ. I can’t even tell you how many of my FRIENDS, let alone strangers, made accusations like those in Rev. McCain’s post that he must have done *something* to be “removed” from the church – this just doesn’t happen for no reason.

    And they’re right – there is a reason. He took vows at his ordination to remain faithful to the Scriptures and to our confessions – and he refused to bend to the whim of a congregation who wanted him to go against those vows. And the friend-of-the-people DP backed them up and told him to pack his bags if he wouldn’t please them.

    I have never been prouder of my husband as I was the day he said he would leave rather than go against Scripture. It was a HARD decision, and one in which my husband (whom I had never seen cry) shed many, many tears. But I also know, at least in regard to tending his sheep, it is one in which he will be able to stand before the throne and say that he tried to be a good and faithful shepherd and servant.

    • forestboar Says:

      I did a post on interviews a few weeks ago. I suggested that they were a bad idea. Worth a read. I am sorry for your suffering. As one of our professors told a student during different, but applicable circumstances :
      God must love you all very much to allow Satan to attack you in this way. For that is how we learn to trust him more and more. Luther suggested that the three things that make a theologian are mediation, prayer and suffering. God is allowing you and your husband to become true theologians of the cross, and to walk in the footsteps of his son.
      I pray that your husband can soon return to full-time ministry.

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