An Unusual Several Months
It’s been less than a year since our last Synod Assembly. One would think that there might be less to report. I’m not sure that is the case. I will avoid rehashing matters covered in my last report. I will give you updates on matters ordered by the last Synod Assembly. I will also broach some new topics.
I will note what an unusual time it has been since the last Synod Assembly. We have more and more emerged from our COVID caves. I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in the number of in-person meetings. Strangely, the number of Zoom meetings has not decreased by the same amount. Still, I am grateful for the in-person meetings. There is some business that is best conducted face-to-face. Beyond this, I find the physical company of my brothers and sisters in Christ pleasing and preferable to digital connectivity. True, Zoom might be better than nothing, but the “nothing” alternative is rarer now. I could wax eloquent about incarnational theology and theological anthropology, but that’s not really necessary. I get to be in the company of my companions in Christ not just in spirit but also in the flesh. I will take it for all it is worth. That means that I will also take the associated costs — the travel time, the expense, etc. — because I deem the benefit to be greater even if intangible.
Another thing that has been unusual is the compressed timeframe in which things have had to happen. Few consider that the summer months following Synod Assembly are months of strategic (well, maybe “tactical”) planning and preparation. When Synod Assembly orders something to be done, those “quiet” months allow the officers and all the other folks involved in executing those orders time to work on them. Soon enough, the school year begins, congregational activities ramp up, the Thanksgiving-Advent-Christmas cycle occupies our thoughts and energy, then planning for Lent-Passiontide-Easter is followed by the actual execution of Lent-Passiontide-Easter. For good reason, synodical work takes a back seat. So, the summer months are critical to getting synodical work done, and we didn’t have any summer months this time.
To top it all off, I got COVID, and, while I was not flat on my back, I was not at full steam for near ten weeks. Fatigue, decreased stamina, and loss of mental acuity as the day wore on affected my productivity. No, I am not judging my ultimate self-worth by my productivity, but this farm boy knows that the cows gotta get milked (and the cows weren’t always getting milked). In late March, I became concerned about what I perceived as slow recovery. I brought my weakened condition to the attention of both the Mutual Ministry Committee and the Executive Committee, reminding both that action might be needed should my convalescence be protracted or stalled. Such action could have included, in my thinking, reduction of hours (and compensation) coupled with the hiring of a chancellor and/or an assistant, seeking of temporary disability with the engagement of an interim bishop, or resignation with the election of a new bishop. I am significantly better, but I also know that I am not quite at 100%. The experience does make me think, once again, about operational continuity as this synod’s Achilles heel.
As a consequence of all this, the synod office is backlogged. In Synod Council’s April meeting, a councilor offered that support staffing was overdue. After working the question through Synod Mutual Ministry Committee, Synod Council has authorized the engagement of an office assistant for the summer. This will help me catch up and also get ahead on some things. After the summer, we can review the situation and think about what makes sense for the future.
I cannot sufficiently express how grateful I am for the work of our DEM, The Rev. Sherri Schafer. Schafer’s initiative, energy, and prudence are a gift to the synod and to me. Schafer will not toot her own horn, so allow me to do so. She has initiated work with congregations in pulpit vacancy, assisting them to assess their situation and to think about alternatives, alternatives not because they are alternatives but because they might provide a means to advance the ministry of the Gospel. She does this with sensitivity to people and to place. She does not passively wait to be invited but actively knocks on the door. Yet, she does this without ever being obnoxious. She is a keen observer of the life of the synod, understands its culture, and imagines what its future could be. Most of the time, she is even able to talk me out of bad ideas, and, more than I can count, I have said to people, “Don’t thank me; thank Sherri.”
Synod Assembly: Experimenting with Change (Again)
Three years ago, we thought that we were making a significant change to the logistics and the ordering of Synod Assembly. We held the first day in Grace Lutheran Church (Bethlehem) and the second in the Highlands Event Center. We reduced the number of meals the assembly provided to one dinner and one lunch. We divested the synod office of responsibility for lodging arrangements. We brought back workshops but also designed them so that at least two-thirds of them related directly to the work of the assembly. Local arrangements (including meal coordination and refreshments) were managed by a team from Grace with the assistance of the other congregations of the Northern Panhandle. On top of this, Nancy Weeks’ hard work resulted in a significant financial inducement from the Ohio County Commission / Development Authority. These changes reduced direct costs, provided greater freedom for attendees, and made for a good assembly overall (even as we dealt with difficult issues).
During the height of the pandemic, Synod Assembly did not meet in 2020, and there were concerns about holding an assembly in 2021. Still, we proceeded, and, with mitigation measures, met in Synod Assembly at the Mon County 4-H Center in mid-October. Those mitigation measures included reducing Synod Assembly to one day. For the first time, we offered no meals, providing, instead, an extended lunch hour and a diner’s guide, allowing attendees to choose their own menu preference and price point. With a one-day assembly, lodging was not a requirement, though attendees were free to secure lodging as they preferred. We also built an agenda that was narrowly focused on business required under our governing documents and rules. Direct costs were kept low enough that they could be covered by resources in the Synod Assembly Fund, and, for the first year, no registration fee was assessed to attendees.
Synod Council ordered that we use this approach again. Concerns about the pandemic remain, and there has enough positive feedback, informally received, to warrant a second go.
As we approach this Synod Assembly, I hear some voices that are pleased with the repeat of the 2021 approach, with different reasons given. I have also heard some voices that are not pleased, with, again, different reasons given. My thoughts return to our debates since my first assembly in 1994. Repeatedly, we have heard voices for reform argue that Synod Assembly has become too expensive. We have also heard that a two-day assembly that includes a Friday excludes people with jobs or child care responsibilities. Those of us who are a little longer in the synodical tooth remember the complaints that the three-day assemblies, running into Sunday, took pastors out of pulpits, a complain raised by both pastors and congregations. We could certainly do a two-day assembly, and, I suspect, may very well return to a two-day assembly, but we will have to decide whose ox will get gored. We’ll also have to think about cost. At present, we are operating on the cheap, and that is made possible by a very inexpensive venue ($300 per day, no charge for tables and chairs, and free setup and tear down). Anyone who has done event planning will tell you what a deal that is. Granted, the venue is not as posh as some of our past venues, but, again, we get to decide what level of accommodation we want and what we are willing to pay for it.
My primary interest lies in getting the business of the assembly done with due deliberation. I am happy to choose any venue and any format (within the limits of parliamentary law) that will allow us to do that. At the same time, my not-so-inner Dutchman likes to be frugal — ok, stingy. This last concern, however, is something I leave (well, under the rules, I must leave) to the will of the Synod Assembly and the Synod Council. I favor keeping costs low, but it is your choice. We simply need to remember that we will not make everyone happy because there are some very different ideas floating about with respect to what makes for a good Synod Assembly.
Synodical Lay Worship Leaders
The Commission for Synodical Lay Worship Leadership, chaired by The Rev. Sean Smith, has recently activated the licensed reader component, with two people already examined and licensed. Work has begun on the standards for apprentice preacher licensure.
For those not familiar with the Synodical Lay Worship Leaders Program, it is the new (and not yet fully implemented) program for licensing lay preachers, and marks a major departure from the Bishop’s Lay Worship Leader’s Program that has been with us since 1989. Instead of a training requirement, competency-based examination is employed., allowing SLWL candidates to train in a variety of ways. Four different licenses are offered under the program:
- reader — leads worship but does not write his/her own sermon, delivering, instead, a sermon from an approved source selected under supervision;
- apprentice preacher — leads worship and writes and delivers his/her own sermon prepared under supervision;
- journ preacher — leads worship and writes and delivers his/her own sermon without supervision; and
- master preacher — not only performs as a journ preacher but may also serve as a supervisor.
I am optimistic that licensed readers will help us fill the shortage of supply preachers. A congregation perennially short of supply should identify those members in that congregation who possess the requisite elocutionary skills, encouraging them to seek licensure as a reader. There is little reason for a congregation to remain dependent upon those outside the congregation for this basic service when the reader’s license is within reach.
More information, including the standards and application for licensure, is posted on the synod website at http://wv-wmd.org/supply/SLWL/index.html.
Reader’s Sermon Library
Where is a licensed reader to find a sermon? The short answer: anywhere he/she wants, but that sermon has to be approved by the reader’s supervisor. While the reader is tasked with delivering the sermon effectively, hence testing for elocution, the supervisor is tasked with vetting the sermon for doctrinal acceptability. There are many online sources for sermons. There are not many online sources for sermons that aren’t doctrinally problematic or, worse, heretical. It is to be hoped that any person with basic catechetical formation would easily spot obvious errors. Sill, vetting by a supervisor is included.
To make life a little easier, a Reader’s Sermon Library has been added to the synod website at http://wv-wmd.org/supply/SLWL/library/index.html. Two sections are provided. This first is a bibliography of books of sermons. Their tables of contents have been scanned and posted for review. Most of these books can be purchased online for around $5 each from secondhand booksellers. The second is a table of the pericopes with links to sermons that can be found online and in the public domain. Any congregation might find these sermons useful in a pinch. This library is a work in progress. New resources will be added seasonally and annually. Even if you are not a licensed reader, you might enjoy the linked sermons as a devotional resource.
Bishop’s Lay Worship Leaders
Does all this mean that the Bishop’s Lay Worship Leaders Program has been shut down? No. BLWL was created by the Synod Assembly. Only the Synod Assembly can amend or close it. No recommendation to do so is set before this Synod Assembly. Shutting it down at this time would be disastrous. Through the pandemic, we lost from active service two-thirds of our BLWLs. Those that remain are desperately needed. SLWL cannot, at this time, adequately replace it in terms of numbers alone.
SLWL runs in parallel to BLWL. SLWL, unlike BLWL, is authorized by Synod Council, providing greater flexibility to adapt and improve SLWL as time goes on. Some BLWLs may opt to license under SLWL, but Synod Council cannot demand such.
Worship Aids for Pulpit Vacancy
Another recent addition to the synod webpage is a constellation of resources on worship. In the course of my travels (going back to my time at WVU), I encountered congregations that weren’t always sure what to do about worship after the pastor left the call. In liturgy, the pastor tends to be the technical expert, and, bereft of this expert, the various adiaphora associated with liturgy can become confused. Are we singing the Alleluia? Is the Nicene or the Apostles’ Creed used today? Should the Paschal candle be lit? What color is today? No one’s salvation is dependent upon this stuff, but there is little reason not to conform to rubrics and longstanding custom. Though this has been on my mind for some time, I was spurred by a recent request for help from some congregational worship leaders. The root page is http://wv-wmd.org/vacant/worship/index.html. This resource is a work in progress. New material will be added seasonally.
A campaign for Madagascar was launched at the last Synod Assembly, with a three-way split between Betioky Synod, Betroka Synod, and Bezaha Seminary. We have not sufficiently pushed this campaign. Quite frankly, I dropped the ball in not holding this before the synod’s eyes. We relaunch this at this Synod Assembly. The situation has not improved in Madagascar. The drought received the unwelcome visit of a typhoon this past February. The pandemic is still an issue. Aid is still needed. The Synod Council has designated the worship offering of this Synod Assembly’s mass for the Madagascar Appeal. To facilitate your ambassadorial work for Madagascar, a Madagascar Campaign webpage will be posted with resources. As of the writing of this report, it is not yet online, but should be before or shortly after Synod Assembly. You will find it linked from our homepage http://www.wv-wmd.org.
Continuing Education for Clergy and Laity
Clergy Cont. Ed
One of the biggest changes in synodical operations in the last few years has been the handling of education. In January 2018, the clergy took control of the traditional semiannual Synod Clergy Cont. Ed Event. From the first event planned by the committee, feedback was overwhelmingly positive with respect to both topics and logistics. This continued for three events, and then the pandemic shut down in-person events. The Cont. Ed Committee switched gears and held several online events. This proved fairly exhausting, and, though well-received, unsustainable at the pace initially taken. This past winter, a hybrid event was held to accommodate both those uncomfortable with an in-person gathering and those who longed for some time in the same room with peers. This was an important reminder that cont. ed events provide valuable spin-off benefits. The sharing and testing of ideas, networking, cooperative planning, mutual conversation and consolation, networking, worship, and fellowship take place in and around the gathering for education.
Planning is in progress for the next event, which should be a welcome return to successful past practice. The Rev. Dr. Craig Satterlee, Bishop of the Mitten Synod and former professor of preaching at LSTC, is scheduled to be our presenter, the subject being preaching. Hopefully we can recover our momentum. WV-WMD was gaining a reputation for fine clergy continuing education. Clergy from other synods were not only attending but telling peers to attend. It was even being noticed by other bishops. This is something we do well, and it can be our gift to the larger church.
Of the three professions, Law, Medicine, and Ministry, only we don’t have mandatory continuing education (at least not in the ELCA). So, I am a fan of continuing education, and you should be too. You wouldn’t want a lawyer who didn’t get his/her CLEs in to defend you, would you? You wouldn’t want a surgeon who didn’t get his/her CMEs in to cut on you, would you? Now, think on it. A minister of the Gospel cuts on your heart with the Word of God, a knife sharper than any scalpel. If your cardio-thoracic surgeon messes up, the worst that can happen is that he can kill you. If your preacher messes up, the worst that can happen is that you can end up in Hell. One would think that we would have as much, if not more, concern for our souls than we do for our bodies. So, while I make a pitch for continuing education, let me make the specific pitch for sabbaticals.
A sabbatical is not a reward for past service; it is an investment in future performance. Seminary and university professors take sabbaticals so that they can immerse themselves in research, explore old and new avenues of inquiry, engage in conversations with other scholars, develop competencies, and design new courses. The same benefits can accrue to clergy with well-designed sabbaticals, and, just as students (and others) benefit from the fruit of such sabbaticals, parishioners (and others) can benefit.
I had a sabbatical in 2010. I immersed myself in research and writing for three months. I had been struggling to complete my S.T.M. thesis in the midst of regular duties, and the sabbatical freed me for that work. That research led me into a deeper understanding of our theology that profoundly changed my preaching and teaching (for the better, I think). Twelve years later, I am still drawing upon that work. Three months of investment for twelve years of benefit, benefit not only to me but for the church writ small and writ large.
What benefits might accrue to you and your clergy by making sabbaticals part of the call? Now, I have certain assumptions about what makes for a good sabbatical, and I will admit that my idea of a good sabbatical might not be everybody’s idea of a good sabbatical. I am, however, flexible enough in my thinking to imagine various ways of designing a sabbatical so that it matches the clergy and the congregation. Note well, clergy and congregation should be together in this. Even in the academy, a sabbatical is not a matter of total freedom. When I was on the LTSG board, sabbatical proposals were reviewed for merit, and approval was not guaranteed. At the conclusion of the sabbatical, the report was reviewed, and, again, there could be consequences for not adequately fulfilling the plan. Congregation and clergy consult in the development of a sabbatical plan, and both must be in agreement, because it is the congregation that grants the sabbatical. Just as much as a sabbatical is not a reward, it is not a right. The congregation should want to make the sabbatical investment, and the clergy should want that sabbatical to be fruitful not just for him/herself but also for the investors.
Now, I have ideas about what this process looks like, and I am happy to share them with any congregation or clergyperson who wants to talk about this. In short, I think sabbaticals should be personalized with the interest and needs of the clergyperson and the interest and needs of the congregation taken into account. In my case, my board of directors wanted me to finish my S.T.M.. I’m pretty sure that they didn’t care about the topic all that much, but they did seem to think that there would be a benefit to having the degree. Some clergy may want to focus on things that are already strengths for them. Others may want to shore up weaknesses. Congregations may see needs that the clergy don’t, and some clergy may see a growing edge for the congregation that will require some professional preparation. Again, consultation, negotiation, and maybe even compromise might be part of this process.
Coming this far through the pandemic, I am especially concerned about mental/spiritual health and exhaustion. I am also concerned about what changes we have to make in our ministerial structure, preaching, and teaching, etc. for the future that has already arrived. A sabbatical may give a clergyperson the opportunity to explore what others are doing, to think deeply, to plan, and to equip for the next phase in the life of his/her congregation, community, synod, person, and family. I am afraid, however, that we may need sabbaticals for more than a few that provide for mental, spiritual, and physical recovery. A pastor that is exhausted or burned out is of little use to his/her parishioners. In such cases, a sabbatical might be one of the tools employed in salvaging a call. What is three months of investment compared to a year or more of pulpit vacancy (plus the time it takes to get a new pastor fully online)?
I do think that it is time for the WV-WMD Policy on Sabbaticals to be revised. It is, in my opinion, overly directive, i.e., it is framed in such a way that clergy and congregations might interpret it inflexibly. It was also last revised in 2001. Lastly, it is only a policy in as much as the synod recommends its content to clergy and congregations. For clergy and congregations, it a guideline. To find a copy of the Policy on Sabbaticals, go to the “Governing Documents, Policies, and Guidelines” section of this Bulletin of Reports.
My sabbatical is the reason I am still in the ministry. I did not realize how close I was to demission, but those three months with my books and in conversations with scholars not only opened the door to theological insights but reinvigorated my passion for this Ministry of the Gospel. I hope you will consider what this could mean for you.
Laity Cont. Ed
The COVID mitigation moved a lot of educational offerings online. At the same time, agencies and institutions dealing with COVID-related matters started offering online educational events. The number of extra-congregational events immediately available to the laity increased dramatically. With the advent of this phenomenon, the synod website adapted to capture the new opportunities and to make them available to the laity of the synod (and anyone else who wanders into our website). Educational opportunities come and go. Sometimes we hear about them a year in advance and sometimes only a few days. I encourage you to frequently check our Education for Clergy and Laity webpage (http://wv-wmd.org/education).
Education for Congregational Leaders
Education for council members and congregational officers is our next frontier. I’ve talked about it in the past, but I believe we are ready to move forward. Two approaches present themselves. During the recent deans meeting, the idea of an event on the Driesen Manual evolved to include workshops for officers. Could treasurers benefit from, e.g., a workshop on clergy and employee taxes? Could secretaries benefit from a workshop on records management or simply taking minutes? Could presidents and vice presidents benefit from a workshop on parliamentary procedure or effective meeting techniques? These are just possibilities. Before we get too far down the road, we want to hear from those most affected. So, a survey is in the works. Once it is released, I hope that your congregation leadership will take time to answer a few questions so that we can offer what serves you. From this, we might be able to build the second option, a video library that could be used by congregations every time there is a transition in officers or council members.
Bishop as Teacher
In recent years, I’ve had the privilege of lecturing at various conferences and workshops both regionally and nationally. I’ve also done some Zoom lectures and workshops on topics ranging from updating your congregation constitution to ecclesiastical discipline. I am not so deluded as to think everybody is interested in what fascinates me, but I have come to realize that I have been stingy. The Zoom lectures mentioned have been publicized, and general invitations were made through the website. The subject matter of those more academic lectures, however, is at my fingertips, and I plan to make it available. If you have any interest (or just curiosity), feel free to attend. They will be announced on the Education for Clergy & Laity webpage (http://wv-wmd.org/education).
I also look forward to bringing back SCALD (Symposium for Central Appalachian Lutheran Dogmatics). It was suspended because of the pandemic, but we are in a different place. I have been getting requests for over a year to bring this back, and I already have people telling me that they have paper proposals ready to go. SCALD was on track to become the Cinderella story of theological conferences in our region. It doubled in attendance from its first session (15) to its second (30). It drew clergy and laity from eight different judicatories. SCALD III should pick up where SCALD II left off. Again, it’s not just for clergy. If you have an interest in theology, think about attending. There are only a few rules: 1) papers can be on any topic so long as they connect in some way with Lutheran dogmatics of the Confessional or Scholastic periods; 2) conversation should be critical and yet convivial; and 3) presenters and participants my freely test their ideas within an environment of evangelical charity (in other words, we might tell you that what you are saying is heresy, but we will do so in love). SCALD is not, technically, a ministry of the WV-WMD Synod, but it does flow naturally from my office as described in Augsburg Confession XXVIII. I do have co-conspirators among folks in this synod, and we do use the synod communication channels to advertise. There is, however, no budget line for SCALD, and we do not draw cash to make it happen.
Matters Referred by Synod Assembly 2021
Baptism During a Pandemic
As directed, I completed and posted, in connection with the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, a paper on baptism during a pandemic. This was announced through the usual communication channels. To my surprise, it has some life outside our synod, having been picked up by various pastors and bishops. I have heard rumor that it might be used at one of the seminaries in worship instruction. If you have not studied it, you can access it on our website (http://wv-wmd.org/bishop/PandemicalBaptism2022.html).
Driesen Manual and Synod Mutual Ministry Committee
As ordered by Synod Assembly 2021, work is in progress to promulgate the” Driesen Manual”:https://www.manula.com/manuals/west-virginia-western-mar/bulletin-of-reports/sa.2022/en/topic/governing-documents across the synod. A consultation has been held with the deans with respect to the project. Each conference will probably take a different approach. We are investigating a synod-wide event for clergy and laity on the Driesen Manual approach to mutual ministry committee work. A webpage will also be posted so that clergy and laity will have ready access to the resource and any supporting information that might be developed.
This might be a case of unfortunate nomenclature. By imperiled congregations, we mean congregations that might not be able to manage their real property. As stated in last year’s Report of the Bishop, a congregation that closes but does not make final disposition of its real property leaves the synod ultimately responsible for its real property. Even while a congregation is trying to make final disposition, it can sometimes find itself without sufficient funds to cover insurance and utilities. In such cases, the synod subsidizes to mitigate its potential liability.
The first phase of this work is done, and we thank those members of the synod who answered the call. With the variables identified, we will be moving on to the next phase, developing strategies for synodical work with congregations.
This has not been easy work. The first phase required a brutal approach, i.e., sentiment had to be set aside in order to concentrate on fiscal realities. We’re church people. That’s not always easy for us, and it wasn’t easy for the first phase team. This first phase was about measuring things. The second phase will have to include sensitivity to the powerful emotions that might be at work in congregations facing difficult decisions.
Committee members have been selected, but we have not met to date. This work is a casualty of the factors mentioned in the opening paragraphs of this report. Now that summer is upon us, we can look forward to progress.
Mutual Conversation and Consolation
Synod Mutual Ministry Committee recommended that this project take a back seat to the pandemical baptism project. Some research had already been completed, but it was a wise call on the part of SMMC to set it aside in favor of the baptism project. With the baptism paper posted, I sat down to work on mutual conversation and consolation, fell ill, and then had to turn my attention to pressing matters. I expect to return to this project later this summer, but it is a more complicated subject and will not be completed quickly.
Mary Sanders has graduated from ULS with a M.A.M.L. degree, and she is on track for approval for diaconal ordination. I expect her to come before the Candidacy Committee for her approval hearing this coming fall.
Devin Ames entered Luther Seminary in Fall 2019. He is currently on internship. He will complete his senior year at Luther a year from now. At that time, he should be approved for presbyteral ordination.
Our current enrollment rate is well below what we need to be to replace clergy, assuming the current configuration of congregations continues. Unfortunately, system-wide, we are producing one pastor-candidate for every four vacant pulpits seeking first-call pastors, and that is rapidly approaching a one-to-five ratio.
Three years ago I wrote about supply and demand. Clearly, demand is outpacing supply, but that is not new. Nor is it new that the demand side is facing its own challenges. The number of congregations capable of supporting full-time pastors compensated at recommended minimum has decreased. Even one of our multiple-point parishes can no longer afford the recommended minimum. More disconcerting has been the recent tendency of congregations to complete ministry site profiles, indicating that a full-time pastor is sought, when the finances don’t support it. Still other congregations have gotten by with semi-retired pastors, but, eventually, full retirement or death brings an end to such arrangements.
I still stand by what I wrote three years ago,
If we are going to use the term, “calling,” to refer to the ministry, then we must do two things: 1) we have to actually call people, and 2) we have to ensure they can eat. Despite our use of the term, “call,” we, in practice, passively hope someone volunteers. Yes, I am painting with a broad brush stroke. Some do indeed speak directly to others about their potential usefulness to the church as an ordained minister. Most, it would seem, do not make a habit of it. When you get home, ask your co-parishioners, “How often have you said to someone, ‘You should go into the ministry?’” The image of the church as ecclesia militans (the church militant, or the church performing military service) reminds us that we wage war against Sin, Death, and the Devil, that Unholy Trinity. I’m not convinced that hanging up a few more posters of a glowering and pointing Uncle St. Samuel of Qalamoun, saying “I Want You,” will do the trick. The conversation should be direct and personal; that’s the closest thing we have to a draft notice. Barring that, I suppose we could stop telling our children to take cover in thunderstorms and then pray for foul weather.
Then, the second thing is making sure they can eat. If we would have our children and grandchildren go into the ministry, we should want them to have a living wage through it. If, however, we fear that our children and grandchildren, should they go into the ministry, would not receive the sort of compensation we wish for them, then we have an ironic situation. I don’t believe this to be an unresolvable conundrum, but may require new approaches to parish-pastor configuration.
Now that the assignment system no longer resembles a national draft pick, we are even more dependent upon ourselves. Then, again, the assignment system wasn’t working well for us anyway. Now, at least, it is obvious that we must do the work ourselves.
Rostered Leader Debt Reduction
Over $4000 dollars was distributed in rostered leader debt reduction in the FY2021-2022 cycle. Past recipient pastors will tell you how important this has been to paying off crushing educational debt early. Some will tell you that they have been able to continue service in this synod rather than seek more lucrative calls elsewhere. While some who received debt assistance did move on to other synods, all have fulfilled the obligations of the program, either staying an additional year after receipt of assistance or paying back to the synod assistance received as requested. To strengthen this fund, I’ll be reaching out to past recipient pastors who did leave the synod for more lucrative calls to consider making contributions to the fund to help the next generation.
Well, that was more than I wanted to write. It was probably more than you wanted to read. The first three people (other than members of the Resolutions Committee) who tell me that they read the whole thing will receive an ever-coveted synod office coffee mug.