Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A "CRM" Explainer: A Letter from 2008 JAN

You, Dear Readers, may be few, but you are an excellent bunch! [§03a] You have made all the difference in standing up for whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report. You have held fast to these things when both the church and the world considers these virtues to be dispensable and inconvenient. Thank you, and God Bless You. [§05a]

The material in this post is an annoted and noted html version of a letter sent to me in 2008 January, which appears elsewhere in a more readable .pdf version. I began sharing this widely by US mail and by email beginning in July of 2016. The initial purpose was simple enough: to document my term as a member of synod from 2009 January to 2017 January. [§07a] But I am asked about this to this day, so it may (or may not) be of broader interest as an insight into how one church (the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, or LCMS) changed the categories and terminology for their ordained clergy. The particular term, in this case, is CRM (which is fancy Latin acronym speak for candidatus reverendi ministerii, or candidate for the reverend ministry in plainer English). Or, even more plainly put, clergy not in a usual called position, like parish pastor. CRM Status has become, for some decades, contentious in the LCMS, and that is better explained elsewhere. [§08a] But for older pastors who remember how CRM status was before the changes noted in the letter, it was more (but not prefectly) clear. [§11a] The historic doctrine and practice of the Lutheran Church, while greatly confused over time, held that ordination was to an office created by God. Unlike church bodies that were, variously, congregational, consistorial, or presbyterial, the LCMS largely maintained the pastoral office was occupied by men ordained to it for the Office of the Holy Ministry. How, where and for what length of time they might serve did not keep them in or remove them from an office in which they were already ordained. The letter here appears to run afoul of that theology, doctrine and practice. [§14a]

Parts of the letter below are redacted, but I'm happy to fill in the details for anyone who asks. [§43a] Send me an email or use the comment section here, or use the details at The Saint Timothy Society website. - G.W. Bynum, Chaplain, The Saint Timothy Society. You can also download the more readable .pdf version if the following is too difficult to read.

The English District - The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

___[REDACTED]___ Office of the President and Bishop [§56a]
___[REDACTED]___ January 2008

The ___[REDACTED]___
Dear Dr. Bynum,

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who provides faithful workers to His church!

The 1998 convention of the Synod provided for a revision to the bylaws of the Synod regarding individual membership which resulted in the creation of Bylaw 2.17, Inactive Members. Inactive Members are those who are included on the roster of the Synod as Emeritus Members, Candidate Members, or Non-candidate Members. In 2004 the Handbook of the Synod was revised. The content of Bylaw 2.17 is now contained in Bylaws 2.11.2- A copy of these bylaws is included with this letter for your reference.

On January 1, 2001, you were granted membership in the Synod as a Candidate Member. Bylaw (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. You were granted a continuation of Candidate Status, which, allowed you to remain on the roster of Synod for up to four (4) additional years. The granting of this continuation of Candidate Status was by act of the District President.

As you contemplate your next step I want to advise you of three options which are available to you at this time:
1) You may apply for Emeritus Status, if you qualify.
2) You may apply for Non-Candidate Status, [§83a] which, if you qualify, will allow you to remain on the roster of the Synod for up to four (4) additional years. (A District President can request an extension of Non-Candidate Status, after the initial period of 8 years, for a total of 16 years.) Included with this letter is a copy of the Guidelines for the Ecclesiastical Supervision of Inactive Members Who Hold Non-Candidate Status.
3) You may resign your membership in the Synod with the privilege of applying for reinstatement to the roster at a future date. I am including a copy of Bylaws 2.18.2 which explain this privilege.

Enclosed with this letter is an application for Inactive Status form. I ask that you review all of the items included with this letter and then complete and return the form to me indicating what decision you have made regarding your membership in the Synod. Please return the enclose Application to me no later than February 25, 2008.

May the Lord continue to be with you and bless your service to Him!

In the Service of Christ, ___[REDACTED]___


Enclosures: elj


[§03a] This writer is delighted with an audience of one, so few has been just fine! - G.W. Bynum

[§05a] 2023 NOV 06: This post material has been moved to this blog in 2023 from the first version in 2016 in Google Drive, and updated, annotated and noted in the time period since. It was shared widely by this writer by mail, email and fax to document and correct a number of untruths that appeared in the publication of record (The Reporter) of the LCMS and in written correspondence to other agencies and organizations of that church in 2016.

The notes here are not based on sequence or numerical order, but are roughly derived from the line number of the text editor in Google Blogger. So a note to the text at line 03 of the editor will be given as [§03a], a second note to that text (if it is added) would be given as [§03b], the text at line 05 would be [§05a], usw. This is weird and kludgy, but who knows, maybe that's the perfect marriage of form and content here.

[§07a] The history here is a particular case, so it may be of less use for those interested in the broader topic. So skip the details in this note if you like. Responding to mendacity and fabulism, and those who ignore, defend or engage in them, often is not worth the effort. But in this case, they appeared in print, in public, and in an official publication of the church in which I am a pastor. So when such clerical errors (which is possibly a euphemism for other words such as smears, lies, slander, innuendoe and fabrication) appear in print, the truth may be tedious, but necessary. I was ordained as a pastor in the LCMS in 1986 after graduating from Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis, and have remained an ordained member of the synod to this day, without interruption, and I have never been removed, suspended or restricted from membership as a pastor in the LCMS. In July of 2016, however, it was brought to my attention that the official publication of the LCMS, the Lutheran Reporter, stated I had been removed from ordained membership in the LCMS. This was surprising to me, and to more than a few of my fellow pastors and synodical agencies, as they had just been extremely helpful to me in the process by which the Saint Timothy Society had become a Recognized Service Organization of the LCMS.

On July 10, 2016, I accepted a call as Chaplain to the Saint Timothy Society. The letter sent to me and to the Council of Presidents from my District President (the successor of the Bishop, or District President, that signed this letter in 2008) stated I had been removed from the clergy roster of the LCMS for reasons that were (to be overly polite) new, inventive, and highly (well, entirely) fictional. Among these were the asserttion that my term as a candidate member of the LCMS had expired in 2016 January. The year was wrong, as documented by this letter from 2008 January. My term as CRM (or inactive whether candidate or non-candidate) had started in 2009 January, and would end in 2017 January. I accepted a call in 2016 July, becoming an active member (no longer inactive). I began serving as Chaplain in 2016 August, and was installed to that position in 2017 January, and remain so to this day.

But, positively, I can say that, spread among the fictitious elements, there was one point that was probably correct: I was most likely a candidate (as the letter from my bishop of 2016 July asserts) for the eight year period January of 2009 to January of 2017 (one four year term followed by another four year term by the decision of the district president). I have always been willing and able to consider a call, and I have never applied to be a non-candidate.

[§08a] For a good insight on how excellent and faithful pastors (and military chaplains) and their families are affected by this, see: https://cphtpegasus.wordpress.com/tag/crm-status/

The LCMS itself seems to be somewhat aware of the confusion and abuse of the category on its own website: https://www.lcms.org/about/beliefs/faqs/worship-and-congregational-life#crm

The link above seems to reflect an aberration introduced by the earlier CRM procedures when it uses the term non-candidate as one CRM category. The 2019 Handbook of the LCMS no longer has the term non-candidate. Instead, it distinguishes members of synod as being active or inactive. Inactive members are further categorized as either emeritus or candidate. That is certainly an improvement, and a partial return to the earlier (and correct) understanding. Inactive is still strange, because those ordained to the pastoral office are able to do what all clergy do. But non-candidate was always (in this writer's opinion) an impossible category that could not exist. Being ordained means, at minimum, always being willing to seriously consider any validly called position that may be extended. Even emeritus clergy, or those with serious health or disability challenges, can serve in a called position. They can decline if they decide it would be impossible, but they should seriously consider the call.

Presumably the bylaws in the 1995 Handbook (the last prior to 1998) would be even more of an improvement and reflect a better understanding of the office of the pastoral ministry.

[§11a] This writer remembers, from his own experience, when CRM was far less controversial. I was ordained in 1986, later applied to be CRM to finish a Ph.D. in Ren/Ref history, followed by work with grants and administration at an academic research center, and later served as an Assistant to the President and then Academic Dean at a small Lutheran Seminary. In 2007 I became one of the directors for the Saint Timothy Society, where I was called to the position of Chaplain in July of 2016.

This was, perhaps, a less typical journey through CRM territory, but it was not entirely different when compared to insitutional and military chaplains, and those clergy who teach in academic institutions. What controversy there was in the past seemed to come from those who were (in effect) congregationalists and (by extension) functionalists when it came to the office of the pastoral ministry. The letter of 2008 January seems to indicate a tilting toward those positions, and this might explain the current synodical leaning toward a sort of consistory, where districts enable the new congregationalism and a functional understanding of the pastoral office.

[§14a] The abuse of the CRM category became such a stench in the nostrils of the church that the 2016 LCMS Synodical Convention did away with the category of non-candidate, and greatly altered (or largely scrapped) the system the letter above describes, effective on the day the resolution was approved (2016 JUL 13). That action proved the axiom that churches almost always do the right thing after they have exhausted every other option (to paraphrase Churchill).

But it should be noted (in order to dilute cynicism with some degree of fairness) that the usual handful rule is probably accurate in this instance. Less than a handful of synodical officials, including district presidents, are probably responsible for most of the abuse, but they do on occassion have disastrous help from individual pastors who, in the view of their district president, do not help themselves at all when in a difficult situation.

The experience of this writer is that the vast majority of district presidents and synodical officials make a serious effort to be both faithful and ethical. I have only seen the opposite in, again, fewer than a handful of individuals.

[§43a] The documentation shared here, on Google Docs, and elsewhere on the web is limited and selective mostly to protect the guilty. The intention is to correct the record using the necessary amount of documentation, no more, no less. But it is also true that ignoring, soft-peddling, faciltating, enabling or otherwise tolerating lying is corrosive to both the church and human society, which is one reason the 8th commandment was given. So if you have encountered something like this situation, and I can help you, I can share much more of the documentation that I have.

[§56a] The English District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, like most Lutheran Churches, has never abandoned, and still uses, the title Bishop, much to the chagrin of those of a less episcopal mindset. District President is the title used in most districts of the LCMS.

Polity is beyond the scope of this post, but one inadequate way to descibe churches like the LCMS is to say they have embraced the worst of both heirarchical episcopacy and congregational individualism. Others have explained this elsewhere, but this writer likes the suggestion that the LCMS is a clerical synod which embraces an Hegelian dialectic while seeking a corporate structure that absolves it of legal liability. Others can establish how accurate this may be; I just like it as an explanation.

[§83a] The category of non-candidate may be an innovation introduced in the 1990's and was eliminated by the synodical convention in July of 2016. As mentioned above, it was a theological aberration as well, and and no longer appears in the synodical handbook. The category of inactive is also puzzling, when viewed in the light of the historic doctrine of the pastoral office. Returning to the prior categories and terminology (roughly, 1995 or earlier) would (possibly) be of much benefit to the church.

If someone out there has these earlier handbooks, or knows where they can be found in digital or paper format, please let me know. The LCMS documents portal only goes back to the 2001 handbook, but there must be earlier copies out there, or even on a library, church, synod or district website.

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