Quite a few of you have asked how it can be that I have remained a pastor in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod when the public notices, announcements, and memos from July of 2016 remain unretracted and uncorrected, and say otherwise. I have been asking that myself since some of you brought my removal to my attention, something of which I had been unaware since I had accepted a call as Chaplain of a new Recognized Service Organization (RSO) of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) the second week of July of 2016. After waiting a year and half for the retractions and corrections, I think it best to post here, on this blog, documentation of my efforts. So my removal from the pastoral roster of the LCMS did not occur (being expunged and reversed in August of 2016), but the published announcements say that it did, and have yet to be corrected.
So God Bless you for all your help. The following letter may be of some interest. [e8]
It has been a year and a half since your effort to remove me from the synod's pastoral roster was expunged and retracted. And yet, here we are, many months from August of 2016 when you reversed the previous error of my removal, and the public notices, announcements and memos saying that I have been removed from our synod's clergy roster have not been corrected and retracted. So you seem to be having some difficulty completing the task you began so many months ago. Given this length of time and the number of months since the Lutheran Reporter published your announcement of my being removed, I thought it best to publish this letter, our other correspondence, and related documentation on Blog.FriendsOfULC.org. That blog is a better way for me to let others know how it came about that I have not been removed from our synod's clergy roster, yet the various public notices say otherwise, and have not been corrected. Pointing them to the correspondence and materials on the blog is much more efficient. You will also be able to read most, if not all, of the relevant documentation on the blog. I will put the links to the materials in the footnotes, which will point to .pdf files which can be viewed and downloaded. And I will place future correspondence to you on that blog, where it can be easily accessed by you.
In summary, after some correspondence in May and June of 2016 I wrote to you and your office on June 21st and 23rd of 2016 (by email and fedex) that I would shortly accept a call as a Chaplain to a new Recognized Service Organization (RSO), the Saint Timothy Society. After receiving the synod's letter accepting them as an RSO on July 5th of 2016, the Saint Timothy Society formally extended the call to me on July 8th of 2016, which I accepted a few days later. [i2] [j3] Shortly thereafter, you removed me from membership as a pastor in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod on July 18, [k4] and then on August 23rd and 24th my removal was expunged, and you transferred my membership to the Minnesota South District as a pastoral candidate accepting a call as Chaplain to the Saint Timothy Society. [l5]
For reasons which I (and others) cannot fathom, you are having difficulty with the retraction, correction, and expunging of the various public notices and memos you placed on the synod's website, in the Reporter, and published to "President Matthew Harrison, All District Presidents and Administrative Assistants" of my being removed. [m6] I had always assumed that, as my District President at the time, you would be glad to know in June of 2016 that I would shortly receive, and accept, a call to a new synodical RSO in July of 2016. And, likewise, that you were delighted to correct your error when you attempted to remove me from the pastoral roster later that same July. And, again, that you would be equally delighted to retract and correct the public announcements of my removal, because, well, I had not, and have not, been removed from our synod's roster of pastors.
To paraphrase the old bidding prayer, "Let it be our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message", that, joyously, your earlier public notices are retracted and corrected. So let me do my part, once again, as I did in August of 2016 and repeatedly thereafter, to encourage you that you may have no hesitation about completing the task you began so long ago. And to dispel any confusion you might have, let me, once again, demonstrate that your error was in your effort to remove me from the clergy roster in the first place. As I and others have pointed out, your publicly stated reasons for my removal have, in addition to being proven false, differ from document to document, and appear to be less premise and more pretext. So let's cut through the various other defects and inadequacies and concentrate on just one or two (of the many) that caused my removal being expunged. Remarkably, you had the years wrong. The term of my pastoral membership in the synod began in 2009 and would have ended in 2017. You somehow managed to confuse 2009 for 2008 and 2017 for 2016. This was demonstrated to you with documentation a year and a half ago, but, so that we might not despair, let us do so again. Here yet again is the text of the letter I sent to you in August of 2016 from District President Stechholz, addressed to me and dated 2008 January, which states:
On January 1, 2001, you were granted membership in the Synod as a Candidate Member. Bylaw 22.214.171.124 (a) states that those individuals granted Candidate Status "may be continued on the roster for a period not to exceed four years by act of the president of the district through which the person holds membership." The purpose of this letter is to inform you that your membership in the Synod, as a Candidate Member, will come to an end on January 1, 2009. [q0]
It would be impossible for me to have been granted "membership in the Synod" in 2008, because I was a Candidate Member until January 1, 2009. The application forms [r1] sent with that letter were returned to the English District in February of 2008. I also replied to that with an email to the English District, and received a response that the application had been received. [s2]
I was granted membership in synod as a candidate from 2001 to 2009. That was followed by my membership in the synod (as a candidate or non-candidate pastor) from 2009 to 2017. I could not have been granted membership status as a non-candidate in 2008. That happened in 2009, and the Council of Presidents could grant or decline my "non-candidate status" for another eight year term beginning in January of 2017, and not in 2016.
Your mistake of one calendar year would have mattered little, if at all, had you not attempted to remove me from the clergy roster some two weeks after I had accepted a call. In doing so, you made a simple and correctable error on your part (which would have resolved itself) into a series of errors, which you now need to correct.
Another notable and bizarre defect is apparent in your letter to me dated July 18, 2016, which states:
We have in our English District records that your non-candidate status expired January 31, 2016. Over the last several months, letters and emails were sent to you, inviting you to write a letter to the Council of Presidents requesting an extension. Since the English District did not hear back from you, on July 18, 2016, Bishop Jamison J. Hardy made the decision to remove you from the LCMS roster in accord with Bylaw 2:13.2.1 (b) and 2.13.4 for non-compliance. [o8] [n7]
As you have known for over a year and a half, none of this is correct. I contacted you and your office numerous times in writing between May and July of 2016, copies of which you can find in the footnote links below. You knew in June I would be accepting a call in the next few weeks. Neither bylaw cited would apply, and neither would "non-compliance".
Not only is the letter incorrect, at least two of the stated reasons are bizarre fabrications. Your letter has cited by-law 126.96.36.199(b), which refers to something called "restricted status". But I have never been on restricted status, or anything of the kind. I have been suggested for call lists, I had been in the English District for about 25 years, and no one has ever suggested to me that I am "incapable of performing the duties of the office or position because of physical, mental, or emotional disability". How would it be possible for you to get that wrong when the bylaw itself requires someone to be "notified in writing as to the specific reasons for having been placed on restricted status" and that notice be given "in writing the President of the Synod and all other district presidents of such restricted status"?
Your letter also cites bylaw 2.13.4, which is even more outrageous. Bylaw 2.13.14 refers to something called suspended status, and the process of expulsion from the synod. Not only have I never been on restricted status, but, likewise, I have never been placed on suspended status, or anything of the kind. And, again, it seems impossible for you commit this as an inadvertent error, because like bylaw 188.8.131.52, it requires written notice, and also a formal process.
So I am perplexed as to why you would not hurry with delight to retract and correct your memos and notices which contain things about me which you have known for quite some time are not true, and which appear to be fabricated to justify an action which never should have occurred, and which you have already reversed and expunged. [p9]
And, of course, this is in addition to all the other reasons you already have to finish the corrections you began in August of 2016, and more reasons why the mistake in July of 2016 should not have happened at all. So let this knowledge encourage you and speed you along in finishing the corrections you began in August of 2016 when you reversed the mistake of the previous July. [t3] Now you can rest assured that you no longer need to try to defend or excuse something that never should have happened in the first place by fabricating specious reasons such as "non-compliance" and bylaws which concern things that have never applied to me. [u4] That burden is lifted, because, in addition to all the other easily avoidable and correctable errors, inaccuracies, and fabrications, you had the wrong years for my roster membership. Fix the dates at your next convention, fix the errors in the announcements and memos, and these correctable errors will be reversed in the same venues in which they were originally made. I have already described how this can be done, and the wording, in my letter to you in May of 2017. I will post them on this blog as well.
[i2] That upcoming call was the subject of my email to your office sent June 21, 2016, and a letter sent to you by Fedex on June 23, 2016. A .pdf version of the letter is at this URL: https://goo.gl/dAeMpv. A copy of the call letter of July 8, 2016 in .pdf format is at this URL: https://goo.gl/fSRTkr.
[j3] The letter from the office of Recognized Service Organizations (RSO) of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod of July 5, 2016 in .pdf format is at this URL: https://goo.gl/UxQrJJ in a new window.
[k4] A .pdf file of your letter removing me from the clergy roster is here: https://goo.gl/YXkgXh. Your memo to the synodical president, "All District Presidents and Administrative Assistants" is found on page 2 of this link: https://goo.gl/5d5k3h.
[l5] Your letter of August 23, 2016 is at this link https://goo.gl/jDAX39 as a .pdf file, and your transfer form dated August 24, 2016 at the link https://goo.gl/1EK8bC.
[m6] My requests for this began in July of 2016 by email and were followed by letter, on March 17, 2017 (at this link: https://goo.gl/BA3ewb), and on May 17, 2017 (at this link: https://goo.gl/i2wNEp). That last link contains is a corrected version; I made a mistake in the year of the announcement I am requesting you place in your next convention workbook.
It's unfortunate that your delay in finishing the corrections has made this an issue, but I must ask: How did you manage to get the year wrong? Did it not occur to you that the email from your office dated May 18 of 2016 can only make sense if my membership ended in 2017, not 2016? Note the text from that email:
In January of 2008, you were granted membership in the Synod as a NonCandidate Member. Bylaw 184.108.40.206 (a) states that those individuals granted Candidate Status “may be continued on the roster for a period up to eight years by act of the president of the district through which the person holds membership.” The purpose of this letter is to inform you that your membership in the Synod, as a NonCandidate Member, came to an end in January of 2016.
The email makes perfect sense if the correct years are applied, 2009 and 2017, instead of the erroneous years of 2008 and 2016.
On the positive side of the ledger, I must say that until you attempted to remove me from the clergy roster, I have had routinely positive experiences with you, the district staff, and the previous District Presidents going all the way back to Roger Pittelko. You saw me at our English District Midwest Pastors Conference at the Cenacle Retreat Center in Lincoln in October of 2015, which was yet another excellent conference which I very much enjoyed.
As late as October of 2015 you saw me in person and mentioned nothing remotely related to what you and your office would write and publish the following May, June and July.
See also the email your office sent to me on May 16, 2016 (available as a .pdf file at this link: https://goo.gl/CNqjor). The timing and content of the email struck me as odd, and I wanted to make sure I had not missed an earlier letter, so I asked about it in my reply email on that same day, May 16, 2016 (at this link: https://goo.gl/EWJXPc). In the past, the English District has sent the application forms a year prior to the end of the term of membership: see footnote [q0]. The reply I received on May 17, 2016 makes sense for an application for a term beginning in 2017, not 2016 (.pdf file at this link: https://goo.gl/39fj1J).
[o8] Quoted from your letter sent to me dated July 18, 2016 (.pdf version at this link: https://goo.gl/YXkgXh). One problem (among many) with your letter is that you knew I was taking a call as early as June 21, 2016 (.pdf version of email at this link: https://goo.gl/tfWoJs). I received the call on July 8, 2016.
[p9] I pointed out the error in the years of my term of membership to you as early as August 23, 2016 by email. The .pdf version of my email to you is at this URL: https://goo.gl/EWy1og.
[q0] I have added the bold italics for emphasis. President Stechholz's letter dated 2008 January is at this URL: https://goo.gl/77wdzn.
[r1] At least two forms (and possibly more; these are the two I have found so far), an application (.pdf at this link: https://goo.gl/Z8AKjy) and a report (.pdf at this link: https://goo.gl/sC7Xqt).
[s2] The reference to 2009 is clear in President Stechholz's letter, and also mentioned in the email thread from March of 2008 (.pdf version is at this link: https://goo.gl/HM7oFR. My email from March 3, 2008 asks:
I don't think there's any hurry at the moment, but it would good to know when the Council of Presidents decide on CRM applications. If they decide that I should not continue past 2009 January, you can tell Bishop Ritt I said, "Put me in, coach!" He can suggest some things for me, and I could finish up what I'm doing for grants, endowments, finance, etc., before taking a call.
As I wrote at the time, the activity described here occurred after I had been the Academic Dean for the seminary of the TAALC (The American Association of Lutheran Churches), and immediately after we organized the Saint Timothy Society, the synodical RSO for which I have been the Chaplain since July of 2016. At the time (2007 and 2008) I was one of the directors.
District President Ritt preceded President Stechholz, which might explain why I confused the two in the email.
Correcting the dates makes this simple: your office had the years wrong by one; you mistakenly removed me some five months before my term as a non-candidate would end, and a week after I had accepted a call to a Recognized Service Organization of the synod. I was a member of synod as a non-candidate from 2009 to 2017. In July of 2016 I accepted a call. The events after I accepted the call are interesting, but not really necessary. It did not matter if I became a candidate from July 13 of 2016 to July 13 of 2026. Non-candidates and candidates alike can, and do, accept calls and become active members.
[u4] I have for some time now been in touch with several members of the Council of Presidents and the Praesidium to let them know I would be happy to send them whatever requests and forms they would like. The uniform response has been that they would have nothing to act on because I had already accepted a called position. It is apparent from the documents here in this blog post that I routinely fill out the forms from the districts, synod and the Council of Presidents (see, for example, footnote [s2] here). I can write to them again if you like, but I am unsure as to what "non-compliance" means, or if it is even possible in this instance.
[d7] You, Dear Reader, might object that this is an over generalization, too kind and too generous. Well, perhaps, but I say take whatever compliments you can get.
For those who are not members of, or less familiar with, the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, the following letter probably uses terminology that is unfamiliar. "Clergy Roster", "Member of Synod", "Candidate", refer to ordained clergy who hold membership in the "synod" (or LCMS, or Missouri Synod). "Non-Candidate Members" of the LCMS no longer exist; that category was eliminated after 15 years (or so) in 2016. If you find that confusing, you are not alone.
Yes, I realize the footnote letters and numbers are odd, and weird looking. That's because I don't know enough about google blogger to figure out how to make them sequential.
[e8] Some of you have suggested that since the notices were published in the Reporter, an official publication of the church, and to the Council of Presidents, that they should take it upon themselves to retract and correct them, since they can easily determine the notices are incorrect. I agree with you completely. However, I am told that only the district president who published the notices can retract and correct them. Some of you have also pointed out that rule sounds like a tremendous liability for any corporation (religious or otherwise). Again, I do not disagree.