Saturday, July 25, 2009

Newsletter Article

This article is for the Olla Podrida, the quarterly newsletter of Our Savior Lutheran Church of Norwood Park.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, our Lord:

As I've announced over the last several Sundays in the Divine Service, I've been extended, and have accepted, a divine call to serve as an assistant pastor at Lamb of God Lutheran Church in Pleasant Prairie, WI. There has been some confusion expressed to me by members at Our Savior as to what this means, so I decided to use this newsletter article to explain why this happened and how it will (and won't) affect my service to you during this vacancy.

Firstly, this is a part-time call. Pastor Smallwood (Senior Pastor at Lamb of God) and I have discussed the situation and likely I will only preach at Lamb of God once a month or once every other month. Lamb of God has a Divine Service on Wednesday evenings as well as daily chapel for Christ Lutheran Academy during the school year, and Pastor Smallwood has indicated that I can serve the congregation during those weekday services, leaving me free on Sunday mornings to continue serving as your vacancy pastor.

The reason why Lamb of God decided to extend this call is because I was previously on what's called "candidate status" in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. Pastors on candidate status are men who are eligible to serve as pastors but who do not have a current call to a congregation. Unfortunately, being on candidate status can be seen as a black mark on a pastor's record, since usually it means he resigned from a congregation without taking another call, which often means that the relationship between congregation and pastor ended badly. This can be due to bad behavior on the part of the congregation, the pastor, or both. But since most calling congregations do not know the situation and who may have been at fault, many congregations will instead choose to call a pastor currently serving a congregation, thus making it difficult for a pastor on candidate status to return to the ministry full-time.

I am not the only member of Lamb of God who was on candidate status. Pastor Gregory Grenyo, who resigned from his previous congregation in late 2005, is also a member of Lamb of God. He and I served for nearly a year as vacancy pastors for Lamb of God before Pastor Smallwood was installed last year. The congregation wished to tell the whole church that he and I are good pastors who don't deserve to be on candidate status, and the best way they could find to do this was to claim us as their assistant pastors. And so Pastor Grenyo and I were extended part-time calls as assistant pastors, partially to make it easier for both of us to receive full-time calls elsewhere.

I am aware that I am on the call list for Our Savior, and I do want to make it clear that my recent acceptance of this part-time call will not hinder me from considering a full-time call if one should come my way, since helping me to receive a full-time call was one reason why Lamb of God did what they did. I also want to make clear that this will not affect my ability to serve you during your vacancy. Pastor Smallwood definitely does not want this call to Lamb of God to disrupt my service to you at all.

Having said all that, I do believe it would be in Our Savior's best interest to proceed as quickly as possible with the call process. Whoever the congregation calls as pastor will need to be able to devote his full time to helping the congregation heal. There's a limit to what can be done when I'm only able to be in Chicago once or twice a week, and this congregation needs and deserves more than that. I realize that the call committee is waiting for the District President to return the call list, but it should also be noted that nothing in the Synod or District bylaws require a congregation to consult with the District before extending a call. Whoever the congregation decides to call, there is a limit to how long you can afford to wait before getting someone who can devote his full time to bringing you God's love, forgiveness, and healing. That's why God instituted the Office of the Holy Ministry. The church needs pastors, not just on Sunday morning, but full-time, because Christians need forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing not just on Sunday morning but full time.

Pastor Schellenbach

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