By Published On: June 19, 20220 Comments

What kinds of things does your denomination or congregation have in place for resignations?

The following resolution was presented to pastors of the North and East Conference of the Michigan District-LCMS in April, 1998. Approved by these pastors, it will be presented for consideration at the 1998 convention of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Though it represents only a portion of what can be done, it is a first step. Could a resolution such as this be needed in your denomination? Could you be the one to take the first step to address this–and other–ministerial health related areas?

Resolution to Establish Pastoral Severance Compensation

WHEREAS, according to the Albuquerque Tribune (Oct. 19, 1996),

  • In the United States, an average of 1300 Christian pastors are forced out of their churches each month,
  • nearly 30% of all Christian ministers in the United States have been involuntarily terminated or “forced out” of their congregations, and
  • 40% of today’s ministers will someday be in another line of work; and

WHEREAS, though some have been reinstated, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod had 485 pastors resign, removed, and/or placed on C.R.M. status in the triennium 1995-1997, (Source: LCMS Office of Statistics, April 24, 1998); and

WHEREAS the Michigan District-LCMS, since July, 1994, has had 30 pastors resign, removed, and/or placed on C.R.M. status (Source: Michigan District-LCMS Office); and

WHEREAS financial stresses of pastoral terminations for any reason may cause extreme grief for pastors and their families; and

WHEREAS there are no provisions for pastoral severance pay in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Michigan District, and other Districts of the LCMS; and

WHEREAS Article III. 8-10 of the Constitution of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod state that the Objective of the Synod is to “Provide evangelical supervision, counsel and care for pastors….Provide protection for…pastors…in the performance of their official duties….[and] Aid in providing for the welfare of pastors….”; and

WHEREAS Article III.4 of the Constitution of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod states that one of the objectives of the Synod is to “Provide opportunities through which its members may express their Christian concern, love, and compassion in meeting human needs;” therefore be it

RESOLVED, that effective January 1, 1999, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod mandate all Synodical congregations to establish for pastoral severance compensation; and be it further

RESOLVED, that every LCMS congregation place and maintain in the pastoral severance escrow an amount equal to each of their pastors’ total monthly compensation (i.e. salary, housing, utilities, health benefits, et al) for each month of any pastoral vacancy. These funds shall be paid into an escrow account with the the LCMS or respective District Church Extension Fund. The total amount placed in the escrow shall not exceed the amount of the pastor(s) total compensation package (i.e. salary, housing, utilities, health, pension, and other items which may apply); and be it further

RESOLVED, that the interest income realized by the escrow be reinvested in the escrow to help maintain a cost-of-living factor for each escrow account; and be it further

RESOLVED, that these funds remain in escrow for exclusive use as severance pay for pastors who have resigned for any reason; and be it further

RESOLVED, that those pastors who have resigned yet remain on the official clergy roster of the LCMS receive monthly compensation from the escrow for a maximum of twelve months (one year). Compensation shall commence on the date the resignation is effective. If the pastor receives a call within that twelve months, compensation shall cease on the day prior to assuming the pastoral office and duties; and be it further

RESOLVED, that those pastors who are removed from a congregation and the Synod for reasons necessitating their removal from the roster (e.g. false doctrine, clergy misconduct, et al), receive an amount equaling three month’s compensation in a single “lump sum” severance payment upon official notice of termination; and be it further

RESOLVED, that, as far as possible, the respective Districts temporarily place terminated pastors who are still on the office clergy roster of the LCMS in active full or part-time congregational service. It is urged that the pastors be placed congregations and ministries fulfilling the greatest perceived need for both pastor and congregation or ministry. Pastors will serve in these ministries at no cost to these ministries (e.g. church planting, inner city ministries, chaplaincies, campus ministries, et al.) as long as they are receiving severance compensation; and be it further

RESOLVED, that Circuit Counselors, acting on behalf of the respective District President, be authorized to oversee that the timely payment of the escrow funds to respective pastors. Escrow payments shall commence immediately upon the effective date of termination. In the case a Circuit Counselor is terminated, the District President (or his representative) shall oversee the payment of the escrow; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod be encouraged to continue to uphold the Constitutional objectives of the Synod (Article III) and do everything possible to help facilitate and promote healthy pastors and congregations. This shall be done through various means including a vigorous use of God’s Word and Sacraments and the use of specialized ministry opportunities (e.g. seminars, workshops, electronic resources, et al); and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Synodical and District Church Extension Funds be encouraged to continue to fund grants for programs and ministries to promote healthy pastors and congregations; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that the North and East Pastors’ Conference of the Michigan District-LCMS, through the Spring Conference Planning Committee, adopt this resolution and present it to the 1998 LCMS Convention for adoption.

North and East Pastors’ Conference
Michigan District-LCMS
Thomas F. Fischer, Secretary
Resolutions Committee

Key Features Of This Resolution

1) It helps remove one of the greatest stress factors of pastors facing termination, namely, the financial strain;

2) It provides financial support for pastors for a period of one-year. During this time they can discover new joy and healing in various ministry settings as they await a suitable call;

3) It provides a unique way to support and expand new or existing ministries (e.g. campus ministry, church planting, inner city, congregations in need of additional pastoral staff, et al); and

4) It helps to provide a way for congregations to support their pastors in difficult ministry transitions and thus fulfill Synodical objectives for Synodical congregations.

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