Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"President Mirly, 'Can't you help us get rid of our pastor?" by MO District President

It looks like the MO District deleted most of their archives when they rebuilt their website.  I found a copy of "President Mirly, Can't You Help Us Get Rid of Our Pastor?" and typed it out.
From the president’s desk
President Mirly, “Can’t you help
us get rid of our pastor?”
Ray Mirly – Voice of Missouri March/April 2007
Yes, I have received phone calls, e-mails, letters and held office visits where this request has been presented to me. In turn, I have received e-mails, phone calls, letters and held office visits with pastors alleging that individuals in the congregations are guilty of slandering and libeling them or concerned that a small group of members are seeking to force them out of office. These situations are not unique to the Missouri District. All 35 district presidents of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod are dealing with similar situations. Pastors are not perfect! Congregations are not perfect! In fact parishioners and pastors are sinners. And yes, within the context of a congregation’s ministry, at times there are members who sin against the pastor. There are times when pastors sin against members.
Where should we begin with the issue of conflict between a congregation and its pastor, a congregation member with its pastor or a pastor with either of the two? What I find in many cases is that when either becomes upset with the other, they do not go to the pastor or the pastor to the congregation member in order to sit down and discuss their differences.
We Lutherans incorporate public confession of sins into our worship service. In that confession we all confess that we have sinned. There is not one of us who is perfect. In confession we take our sins to the cross of Jesus, lay our sins upon Him and through our faith in Him beg our heavenly Father’s forgiveness. There is nothing more important for us to hear than the words of absolution, is there?
What has happened to Matthew 18? There Jesus says that if our brother or sister has sinned against us, we are to go to him or her to show them their sin. In our relationships in the church today, it seems that we have forgotten this very first step in dealing with an offense, sin or hurt. We instead tell everyone but the person who has sinned against us the terrible things that that person has done to us. This includes parishioners toward their pastors and pastors toward parishioners.
When someone brings a complaint against their pastor or vice versa, the first question that I ask is, “Have you personally gone to the pastor . . . to the congregation member to discuss your concern?” The typical answer is, “They won’t listen to me!” Or, “It won’t do any good.” Then what often follows is a litany of other wrongs that have been committed.
Unresolved conflicts simply breed additional conflicts. Jesus knew that when He spoke the words of Matt. 18:15ff. Jesus also knew that when fellow Christians do not properly confront sin and sinners do not have deep sorrow for their sins that most often new sins will be added to the sins already committed. On the other hand, confessed sin that is brought to Christ’s cross and God’s forgiveness is announced to the sinner, the sin is washed away never to be charged to the credit of the one who had committed it.
Lay members . . . pastors are not the enemy. Pastors . . . lay members are not the enemy. The enemy is Satan, the world and our sinful old Adam. These three sinful allies have turned us Christians against each other. Instead of focusing our time and energy upon the mission that Jesus has given us to do, namely the Great Commission, we are far too focused upon personal wants, personal feelings and personal agendas. There is but one agenda that is appropriate for God’s people. That agenda is that we be in the Word, properly giving and receiving the Sacraments and using our time, talents and treasures as servants of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
When our hearts and souls are focused upon Jesus and our life as His disciples, Satan, the world and our sinful old Adam find it very difficult to divert our attention. When, on the other hand, they are focused upon ourselves or worldly matters, we have entered Satan’s playground.
If you are in conflict or bear anger toward a fellow Christian—whether pastor, parishioner, neighbor, friend or enemy—take your grievance to Him who bore all sins on the cross. If you are unable alone to bring about resolution with your brother or sister in Christ, then take a trusted fellow Christian with you in order to discuss the matters that weigh down your heart.
Remember Christ’s invitation, “Cast all your burdens (here He has our sins in mind) upon Me and I will take care of you.”
P.S. To elders and pastors . . . you have been placed into your office to restore the peace of God that comes through faith in Christ Jesus. Where there is conflict you are to bring the parties together, facilitate efforts at reconciliation and by God’s guidance and blessing see that the parties reconcile. This is one of the primary roles associated with your office. If there is no peace, then proper ministry cannot be carried out.

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