Saturday, June 21, 2008

CRM Status

I'm officially on CRM status right now. A few folks asked back when I started this blog what that means.

It's an abbreviation for some Latin words that basically mean, "Candidate for the Ministry." (Somehow it seems typically LCMS of us to take a Latin phrase and create a bureaucratic three-letter abbreviation from it. But maybe that's just me.) I think it's officially referred to as "Candidate status" in the Synodical bylaws, but "CRM" seems to be the way most pastors refer to it. We tend to be traditionalists in the Church, which is why the silly name Winkel has stuck around for the monthly circuit pastors' conferences (it means "corner," by the way, as often the pastors would hold their meetings in a corner of the church). So also with CRM, which is I believe the way it used to be referred to officially.

One problem with being on CRM status is that often it's a black mark on your record as a pastor. Normally pastors leave one parish by accepting a call to another, or by retiring if they are of sufficient age to do so. Sometimes pastors resign and enter CRM status to pursue an academic degree that is simply not available in their immediate area, and that's not looked down upon all that much. But usually when a pastor resigns from his call without either going back to school, retiring, or accepting a call to another parish, that raises eyebrows and causes questions to rise in people's minds. What happened that caused him to do that? Who was to blame for whatever conflict most likely led to his resignation? Was he such a bad pastor that they finally pushed him out? Even if most of the blame lies with the congregation, wouldn't a pastor worthy of the office be able to manage the conflict in such a way that it wouldn't end so badly?

The result is that, unless one is pursuing an academic degree, being on CRM status itself can hinder one from receiving a Call. And that's unfortunate. The fact is, all pastors are sinners. Every pastor makes mistakes. And every congregation is full of sinners, and every congregation, collectively and individually, makes mistakes. And even apart from that, every pastor and every congregation is unique. One pastor may thrive in a place that would drive another pastor to insanity. And that latter pastor may do just fine in the church in the next town.

It is true that there are men in the ministry whose faults tend to get in the way of their ministry more than the average pastor's do. And some such men do end up on CRM status because of it. And some don't; they move from congregation to congregation and finally find one where their particular personality issues aren't problematic. But in many cases the pastor who ends up resigning is a perfectly good pastor who ended up in a difficult situation for which he was not well prepared, and who would do fine in a different sort of congregation.

But often we aren't given that chance, since when given the choice between a pastor who obviously has some sort of conflict in his background that ended badly (after all, if nothing bad happened he wouldn't have resigned), and one who seems to be doing reasonably well in his current parish, the safe bet for most congregations seems to be to go with the guy who doesn't have an obvious black mark on his record. And that's understandable, even though it's unfortunate and even, dare I say it, sometimes it can be a failure to honor the Eighth Commandment injunction to "put the best construction on everything" on the part of congregational members.

If that's all that happened to CRM pastors, however, I wouldn't be writing this blog post. What frustrates me more is how the opinions and perspectives and even the theological reasoning of those on CRM status is discounted and dismissed by other pastors at times. It seems to be an easy ad hominem argument in the midst of an online disagreement over some point of doctrine or practice to point out, even if in passing, that one is on CRM status and may or may not ever get a call again. Something along the lines of, "If the Lord sees fit to give you a parish, you would do well to consider what I'm saying or else you'll have problems there too," or, "Well, the fact that you don't see thus and such my way is probably what got you into trouble at your last call," is used more often than it should be by pastors when one of the participants in a discussion is currently without a parish. And that is a violation of the Eighth Commandment. Usually what led to one's resignation of one's call had nothing to do with what was being talked about in the discussion, and in any case, pastors who use that sort of argument tend to forget that CRM-status pastors are also members of congregations right now, in many cases serving in some sort of (assisting) pastoral capacity, and despite the other pastor's insinuations, the subject of the disagreement is not causing any trouble with the congregation at all.

I recognize that I didn't handle my situation in Kansas perfectly. I doubt my situation today would be any different even if I had, however. The congregation in question's ears were simply itching that badly, and I could not in good conscience scratch them without denying what our Lord called me to preach and teach. But to use the fact that I was involved in a conflict that ended badly for me, as an argument in an unrelated discussion, is simply bad manners.

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