Sunday, April 19, 2015

Letter of Resignation

The following was read to the congregation at Holy Cross following this morning's Divine Service.
Dear Fellow Redeemed:

As you are well aware, I have recently been struggling with severe mental, emotional, and, yes, also spiritual illness.  I had previously divulged to the congregation that I have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II and Intermittent Explosive Disorder.  While these diagnoses in themselves do not bar a man from the Office of the Holy Ministry, my ability to manage these disorders is nowhere near what it should be for a pastor who is charged with caring for the Church.  This was brought home to me this past Holy Week as I voluntarily entered a psychiatric hospital due to severe impulse control problems combined with suicidal thoughts, quite literally a potentially deadly combination.  Due to this severe instability, I have decided, upon the urging of President Wille and in consultation with my wife and Pastor Carlson, to resign my position as your pastor as well as my position on the clergy roster of the Missouri Synod so that I may focus my attention on managing and treating these disorders and reconnecting with my family.

In 1 Timothy 3:4-5, Paul states that one of the qualifications for a pastor is that he must be able to manage his own household well.  My wife and daughter are currently living with her parents in Kansas in order to give me an opportunity to get a better handle on my mental illness.  This was originally intended to be a short-term visit of two or three months, but as my treatment has gone on longer than we expected it has turned into more than that.  I am trying to unlearn a lifetime of bad habits when it comes to managing conflict, and that doesn’t happen in two or three months.  It has become clear to me that, if I am to be able to be a good husband and father, I need to move closer to where they are living in order to reconnect with my wife and bond with my daughter, while still giving them the safe environment offered by living with her parents.  Even if I were not resigning my call at this time due to my recent hospitalization, I would still be planning on doing so within a few months in order to move closer to them.

Holy Cross is a congregation which I love very much and have thoroughly enjoyed serving as pastor.  Despite your small size and aging demographic, you are one of the more spiritually healthy and mature congregations I’ve encountered, and, as I’ve said before many times, I would challenge any congregation in the Racine/Kenosha bi-circuit to be as active and involved in the Lutheran community and in outreach dollars per capita as is Holy Cross (the catch of course, being those two little Latin words “per capita”).  You may not be as able to do organized evangelism in your own neighborhood as some other congregations, but you more than make up for it in the ways you can and do serve the cause of Christ and Him Crucified through Concordia Lutheran School, Racine Lutheran High, and the many missions you support through your generosity, not to mention partnering and sharing your building with Iglesia Luterana Santa Cruz.  I regret any heartache my own difficulty managing my illness and my resulting departure has caused or will cause you.  None of this is your fault.  I will continue to keep you in my prayers that you find pastoral leadership to continue bringing you God’s Word so that you may continue bringing it to those around you for years to come.  I also covet your prayers, as I have a lot of work to do toward my emotional, mental, and most importantly spiritual healing.  If it be God’s will, I hope someday to reenter the pastoral ministry, but that’s up to Him, not me.  My first and foremost concern is relearning how to be a good husband and father.

I thank you for the support and love you have shown to Tina and I over the course of the last 4½ years.  I know you’ve wished you could support me full-time so that I wouldn’t have to work at Walmart.  But for such a small congregation, what you have been able to do for us has been remarkable, and you have nothing of which to be ashamed on that score.  God’s blessings as you move into the future, trusting in Him for all of your needs.

In Christ,
Timothy Schellenbach

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