REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE TO STUDY PULPIT SUPPLY
At page 68 of the 1965 Yearbook appears a resolution reading as follows:
“Whereas, in informal conversations with Pastors & Delegates there have been expressed desires to restudy our system of pulpit supply, therefore, be it
Resolved, That a committee of 4 Ministers and 3 Laymen be elected to study the matter of Pulpit Supply and report at the Annual Conference.”
A study has been made and the report requested is respectfully submitted herewith.
To provide for a satisfactory and stable pastoral relation in each of our Bible Fellowship Churches.
FACTORS THAT PERTAIN TO THE PROBLEM
The factors of our pulpit supply procedure fall into three general categories: the annual poll; the nine-year limit; and the system itself.
THE ANNUAL POLL
1. The annual poll creates problems by implanting doubts; by encouraging people to hunt
problems; or by giving an impression of instability.
2. The annual poll is a deterrent to mutual discussion of problems between Pastor and
Official Board prior to seeking a new minister.
3. The length of time allowed a pastor to decide a question of such consequence as “Where
will I serve?” is short (three days).
4. The annual poll may cause some men to “soft-pedal” vital Biblical preaching.
THE NINE YEAR LIMIT
5. Our present time limit indicates that we believe the Lord could not use a pastor in a church
profitably for more than nine consecutive years.
6. Several pastors have left congregations after nine years and were recalled to the same
church after a brief absence.
7. Retirement, death and resignation have provided means of frequent pastoral changes
regardless of the time limit.
8. Under the present system the average length of our pastorates is less than four years’
THE SYSTEM ITSELF
9. At one time neither pastors nor churches had a voice in who served where; now each has
a voice, but we have few or no checks and balances.
10. Our system does not now provide for pastors and churches becoming acquainted prior to
their attempt to work together.
11. There has been more than one incident in which a pastor refused all of his first and second
calls and later accepted a pulpit in a church that had not at any time placed his name on its
preference list. This gives the appearance of some having information not available to all.
12. The role of the Stationing Committee seems to be out of place in our present system.
13. There is no provision in our present system that permits a pastor to resign.
14. Our present system does not require a commitment by the church to the pastor.
15. The present system limits the number of choices a church may have.
16. The Bible indicates that pastors shall be chosen by the people and not by an Official Board
or by a District Superintendent.
17. The kind of security which our system affords may not challenge all of our pastors to do
their best work.
18. Problems do arise for which our present system makes no provision with the result that
these problems must be met by improvisations created on the spur of the moment, such as:
a. It is impossible to eliminate discussion of pulpit supply matters between
representatives of churches and pastors prior to the last Sunday in September.
b. The present system is predicated on an assumption that each pastor and each church
has a choice, except the last church to receive an assignment and the last man without a church after all choices had been made.
c. There are now no written standards or procedures by which the Credentials
Committee is to be guided in preparing the list of pastors eligible to receive calls to pulpits of Bible Fellowship Churches.
d. There is no written procedure for filling pulpits that may become vacant at other than
the time of Annual Conference.
DISCUSSION OF THE FACTORS THAT PERTAIN TO THE PROBLEM
THE ANNUAL POLL
The annual poll, at its inception, seems to have been desired by the delegate who believed it to be a method of determining the mind of the congregation. The continuing practice of taking the poll annually places us in favor of breaking the pastoral relation at the end of any year. The consequence is somewhat similar to that of a married couple sitting down at each anniversary, starting with their first, to study the advantages of severing the marriage at this point.
Would church members themselves be willing to serve under such a system?
There is no requirement in connection with the annual poll for mutual discussion of problems that may exist between pastor and people prior to the Official Board’s initiating action toward calling a new pastor. Admittedly, there is no rule prohibiting such discussion, but human nature being what it is, such an unpleasant task is avoided, particularly since it is not required. Within three days after the taking of the poll, the Official Board must file its preference list of its forfeits to the Stationing, Boundary and Appropriating Committee all of its right of choice.
After the preference list has been filed and the pastor has been notified, the pastor has three days in which to discover the mind of the Lord concerning such an important decision as to whether to accept or refuse the call of a church for his services as a minister. In this time there is no opportunity to learn of the needs of the congregation issuing the call nor whether his God-given gifts will suitably meet those needs.
The annual poll can readily give rise to any one of the following possibilities:
1. Pastors being voted out of their churches by people in rebellion against the faithful
preaching of the Word of God.
2. Since the vote depends largely on the popularity of the pastor at the time of the poll, he is
tempted to make himself popular for the sake of the vote.
3. In the poll the personality of the pastor may be at stake rather than his faithfulness, thus
dividing the congregation accordingly.
4. It often appears that the congregation spends little time in prayer prior to taking the poll.
5. The annual vote reduces the pastoral office to that of an employee of the congregation,
contrary to Scripture.
6. Since the poll is not binding on the Official Board, some members refuse to participate in
Problems with regard to the annual “Do you favor or do you not favor your Pastor” popularity poll begin with our Conference currently encouraging a high divorce rate between the minister and his congregation. We all become the third party in a divorce action encouraging people to look for faults in the Man of God, giving the impression he is a hired hand and not “God’s gift to the Church”, and further compounding the issue by forcing a decision by both parties within a three-day span. Mutual discussions of any difficulties are nil, which is in direct contradiction to clear scriptural injunctions to come together for purposes of reconciliation. This ostrich-style of running from issues rather than facing them contributes to the spiritual immaturity of all parties involved. It may cause a Pastor to “soft-pedal” some vital Biblical teaching and it appears to give “vengeance-in-voting” an opportunity to come into full play. It also seems to encourage “base” rather than “pure” motives.
THE NINE YEAR LIMIT
By setting a nine-year limit, as we did in 1949, or any limit, we determine by legislation what is the will of the Lord for every individual pastor and every congregation. This legislation in 1949 was the outgrowth of abuses that arose after practically absolute power was given to two Presiding Elders. This is a harsh statement, but two wrongs do not make a right. A nine-year limit on a pastor’s service is just as arbitrary.
When the present pulpit supply procedures were adopted in 1959, the nine-year limit was brought forward and incorporated therein. By motions presented at several Annual Conferences by various churches, efforts were made to have the nine-year limit removed or to have it extended. Some may not agree that dissatisfaction with the nine-year limit exists, except with a minority. But the dissatisfaction is widespread, indicated by the frequent recurrence of the effort to change it and by the informal reports that past efforts were unsuccessful only because of the requirement of our rule for two-thirds affirmative to change any of the by-laws. And even under this rule the past efforts failed of approval by narrow margins.
Under present supply procedures, there have been several instances of a pastor leaving his congregation because of the nine-year limit and returning to it after a brief absence — a congregation he had already served for nine years.
In practice, the nine-year limit seems to have been more frequently effective in reducing the tenure of a pastor to a term of less than nine years, than in causing him to change churches because he had reached the end of the ninth year. This obviously results from the fact that as he is reaching the end of his ninth year alone, he may, at an earlier date, embrace an opportunity to change as it is presented.
Correspondence between this committee and fifty three denominations, representing 41,621,700 people; 153,750 churches; and 125,452 pastors; developed that none of these has a time limit. Two denominations who did, have recently eliminated it.
The nine-year limit had its origin in 1945 because under the previous practice, changes for many years had been infrequent. Changes were almost impossible, even though pastor and people were convinced that a change would bring improvement. But the nine-year limit can be construed as having introduced instability, since the average length of our pastorates is now less than four year’s duration.
Dr. W. Graham Scroggie wrote a series of articles containing counsel to young pastors which was published in the Sunday School Times. In the issue of February 24, 1952, the third of this series entitled “The Serious and Exacting Work of the Pastorate” include the following statement:
“On the question of a desirable length of a pastorate one must speak with caution. Just because there are such diversities of men and churches and such differences between these in combination, no uniform arrangement could be acceptable or just to all situations.
“We must all agree that a pastorate can be too short. I estimate that it takes about three years for a man really to get into his stride in a work, and if then or before, he remove to another sphere, he may be handicapping both himself and his people. On the other hand, a pastorate can be too long. A man can outstay his welcome and his usefulness and that is bad for everyone concerned.
“We have known of long pastorates which were eminently successful, but they are exceptional. My personal view is that the normal length of a ministry in a place should be from seven to ten years and that at the end of that time, unless both parties are clearly guided otherwise, there should be a change without prejudice on either side.”
There are several spiritual conditions related to the nine-year limit that must be noted:
1. The possibility of a pastor yielding to carnal ambition in considering one place in the work
of the Lord as more “rewarding” than is another, falling into an error which Scripture describes:
“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: For it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” Romans 8:5-9.
“But let a man examine himself…” I Corinthians 11:28a.
On this same theme one of our contemporary churches publishes a pamphlet entitled “A Pastor Seeks a Church” from which the following has been taken:
“Let the minister remember the ”Acres of Diamonds” story. Many a pastor has roved mentally over the world in search of his spiritual fortune while the diamond mine God has called him to dig lies unopened and unknown beneath the sod of his own back yard. When a pastor has made up his mind that he wants to move too often he will then rest on his oars in his present parish doing as little as possible while his major energies are directed towards the goal of finding a new placement. The fact is that there is no parish in the world that could not use all the love and skill of the best pastor in the world. Our Lord served a church of twelve members. Even after the decision to move has been made it is good churchmanship to dig with might and main in the place where one is, making the very most of that opportunity. It has been known to happen in such instances that when the opportunity did come it did not compare with the opportunity thus created in the parish formerly despised.”
2. The layman’s willingness to depend on the nine-year limit as an easy way out of a difficult
situation, even should the work of the Lord suffer while he waits for the nine years to run its course, instead of having sufficient spiritual strength to deal with the difficulty in an attempt to solve it.
3. The layman’s dependence on the nine-year limit to make available a man who is believed
to meet the needs of his church, instead of depending upon God to supply gifts needed by the church, as taught by the Scripture:
“And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.” Colossians 2:19.
“From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Ephesians 4;16.
We seek to declare that the Lord, the Head of the Church, will direct in providing proper leaders in each church. Will He not honor a declared willingness to trust Him?
The “man-made” nine-year limit is like a useless appendage, a lifeless “hanger-on”, a traditional mockery in terms. It appears to serve in our day not one good purpose but its form has proved a means of infesting and promoting evil designs. For example — since when do we legislate the Holy Spirit’s work in the church? By what authority do we judge a man to be unfit for a church at 12:01 a.m. on the first day of his tenth year? By what stretch of the unsanctified imagination do we dare think we have a corner on the Divine Will to make such a limit? Hardly any, if any, conservative churches in the world have such a system. Does our insistence on such a limit indicate that we are blinded in this area? Retirement, death, and resignations have stirred our little pond, and pastors moving after an average of about four years would indicate that the waters are in a constant turmoil. Certainly we are not beside still waters in pastoral changes. A pastor gets to know his people and is just beginning to minister to them when suddenly, as by a whirlwind, he is gone and the building of necessity must start again. What manner of wisdom is this?
THE SYSTEM ITSELF
At one time neither pastor nor church had a voice in the creation of the pastoral relation. Under the present system, each has a voice, but there are few if any checks and balances. The result is that the office of pastor is no longer dignified as God’s gift to the church — instead he can be hired and fired by the Official Board. He is not even given the opportunity to preserve his own esteem by being permitted to resign.
The present system has no provision for pastor and church becoming acquainted with proposed methods, opportunities or obligations, prior to their attempt to work together. Yet there have been more than a few instances in which a pastor refused all of his first and second calls and accepted a pulpit in a church that had not at any time placed his name on its preference list. This indicates that some have information that is not available to all. But the present system itself frowns on open negotiations between representatives of churches and potential candidates for pastor.
The pastoral relation under the present system can be entered into lightly and impulsively. The result sometimes seems that one year is long enough to end the honeymoon under which the relations started so promisingly. But really the church made no commitment to the pastor — not even with respect to his financial support. There still seems to be evidence that we have in our fellowship those with a sense of having met their responsibilities if the pastor’s support is equal to the minimum set for membership in the Stationing, Boundary and Appropriating Committee.
Prior to the adoption of the present pulpit supply system, the Stationing, Boundary and Appropriating Committee had each delegate make a list of his first, second and third choices. This seems to be the origin of the present requirement that the Official Board list its first and second choices. This procedure limits the number of choices a particular church can make in any one year. If it fails to obtain its choice, it has another opportunity to renew its choosing the following year. This limiting procedure, coupled with the yearly scheduling of the choice, must inevitably tend toward instability.
Acts 6:3 says: “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.” This is the first election of deacons. In Acts 14:23 the churches elected elders. Under our system, we make a pretense of a Pastoral Poll (the results of which are not binding on the Official Board) but we do not give the congregation the responsibility of electing its Pastor.
Our beloved brother, Daniel K. Ziegler, who was Chairman of this Committee when he was called to his reward, in a paper presented to Annual Conference in November 27, 1954, prior to the adoption of our present system of pulpit supply, made, among other things, the following statements:
“Advantages: 2. All pastors have churches. Being assigned a church is assured to all the Ministers in the itineracy. There are no ordained men forced into secular employment because of not being stationed to a church.”
“Disadvantages: 1. The less competent men in the ministry are shielded. Our conference type of government, the itineracy and method of stationing pastors can give an unwarranted sense of security to some pastors who should perhaps give themselves to more devoted efforts in some lines of their responsibility. The thought of competency is a business term and as ordinarily used can generally be defined in statistical terms. In the realm of the spiritual it is true that we must carefully look to something deeper than cold numbers; and yet over a period of many years of service a pastor’s statistical record has considerable significance. The competency of a pastor is closely linked to such matters as study, prayers and stewardship of time. Progress of a local church can be greatly affected by a good pastoral stewardship; and which is the more important, the church or the man? Advantage #2 may be in some instances considerably nullified by disadvantage #1.”
We continue with this same disadvantage in our present system. One whose experience and disappointments raise a question as to his call to the ministry, must, under our present system, be dealt with by someone, or by some committee, who must make a formal decision that an individual, who has been ordained to the Christian ministry, was so ordained because the Church was in error.
We have changed from “a system in which pastors were stationed” to “a system in which pastors are called”. Since this change in procedure, the role of the stationing committee has been reduced to the point that there remains only the responsibility of assigning men who failed to receive a call. Changes in boundaries occur so infrequently that such changes can easily be assigned to a committee created just to cover such a particular assignment. The responsibility for making appropriations can be assigned to the Church Extension Board.
To review this discussion, picture a man in chains. The shackles are taken off his one arm and leg but left on the other arm and leg. Is this freedom? Thank the Lord people have some say in what pastor they shall have and the pastor can choose to stay at a church or to move on if he senses his work is finished, but really freedom is far from complete. There are few checks and balances. The church may have a first and second choice, but these can be nullified easily. The system lends itself to espionage and subversion, calls in the night, behind the scenes maneuverings, and some of the old chains are still on the system. A congregation can approve a man by a two-thirds vote and have a board of nine men fire him. The smell of a firing never leaves the minister and haunts him to his grave. On the other hand, some Pastors wonder what is wrong with a church that could permit such a thing to happen and there are those that would hesitate before accepting a call to a “hiring-firing” church. Also the church makes no commitment to a new pastor as to what he may expect or as to what is expected of him, and mutual understanding is nigh unto impossible. The argument that “we should try to work the system we have before changing it” is like a mother trying to force her child to wear a size four shoe when he now takes a size six shoe in the hope that his foot will get smaller. If we continue our system as it is now the pain will become more intense and the agony and the pinch insufferable.
Because of the teaching of Scripture, the nature of our present problem, and because we believe this study has increased our “light” with respect to this subject, we conclude that:
(1) BECAUSE Scripture teaches that each man bears responsibility for his use under God of
the gifts and life given him by his Creator;
THEREFORE we propose a system that allows each pastor to accept or reject a call from a
specific church after careful thought and prayer.
(2) BECAUSE Scripture teaches that growth comes through facing and resolving problems
that arise between God’s people;
THEREFORE we propose a system that will encourage and demand mutual discussion of
problems prior to severing a pastoral relationship.
(3) BECAUSE Scripture teaches that each church in a fellowship of churches must
subordinate itself to the other churches;
THEREFORE we propose a system that will include checks and balances which will provide
for fairness and stability in supplying our pulpits, including provision for Annual Conference to approve the making or breaking of the pastoral relationship.
(4) BECAUSE Scripture gives no indication of how long a man’s ministry in a given place
THEREFORE we propose a system that will set no arbitrary maximum or minimum limits on
the length of pastorates but will allow this to be determined by the parties involved, under God, the Head of the Church.
(5) BECAUSE Scripture teaches that elders including pastors should be chosen by the people;
THEREFORE we propose a system that will allow each congregation to vote on the
establishing or breaking of a pastoral relationship.
(6) BECAUSE Scripture teaches that the laborer is worthy of his hire;
THEREFORE we propose a system that will provide for each church making commitments to
its pastor as well as commitments by the pastor to the church.
These conclusions represent a summary of the principles on which the system we now propose are based. We recommend adoption of the following rules to be included in our Faith and Order as a substitute for the existing pulpit supply Rules Numbers 1 to 12, published on pages 16 to 20, inclusive of Faith and Order:
ANNUAL CONFERENCE AND ITS PASTORS
The ideal condition in a conference is that of a satisfactory and stable pastoral relation in each church within its jurisdiction. To work to that ideal it is important that a Conference have a proper concern for and relationship with the churches which are without pastors.
A. INSTITUTING THE PASTORAL RELATION IN CHURCHES WITHOUT PASTORS
1. Committee on Pastoral Relations. The care of churches without Pastors shall be assigned to the Committee on Pastoral Relations.
2. Oversight. The Committee on Pastoral Relations shall exercise oversight of churches without pastors in the following ways:
a. Should a church lose its pastor, the Committee on Pastoral Relations shall designate the Senior Annual Conference Delegate as Moderator of the Official Board.
b. By consulting with the Official Board regarding Temporary Supplies. Official Board shall
meet with the Committee and with its aid and advice secure temporary supplies for its pulpit when it becomes vacant. The Annual Conference shall not approve a minister being called as pastor of a church which he served as temporary supply unless a period of six months has elapsed between the ending of the temporary supply relationship and the issuing of a call to be pastor. This prohibition shall not apply to a person under the care of the Ministerial Candidate Committee who has been serving as a temporary supply.
c. By advising with the Official Board regarding Stated Supplies. On recommendations of
the Committee on Pastoral Relations the Annual Conference may establish stated supplies. The Committee may arrange for the transfer of stated supplies within the Conference when it seems to be for the best interests of the minister, the church, or the Conference as a whole. In the area of stated supplies, the Pastoral Relations Committee shall at all times work in consultation with the Ministerial Candidate Committee and with the Credentials Committee.
d. By advising churches regarding the calling of a pastor. The Committee on Pastoral
Relations shall meet and consult with the Official Board of every church that is without a pastor. It shall advise the Official Board regarding the suitability of any person whose name is to be put before the congregation, and shall have the privilege of nominating suitable persons for the Board’s consideration. The Annual Conference shall permit a call to be placed in the hands of a minister only when the Official Board of the church has thus consulted the Committee on Pastoral Relations and obtained its approval before the name is presented to the congregation.
e. By conferring with the Church Extensions Board and the Official Board of any church
receiving aid in the support of its pastor through the Church Extension Fund before recommending or approving the settlement of a pastor or stated supply in such a church.
3. Duty of the Particular Church without a Pastor.
a. Every church should be under the pastoral oversight of a minister, and when its pulpit is
vacant, shall promptly proceed to elect a pastor in the following manner: The Official Board shall call a congregational meeting to convene at the regular place of worship to elect a nominating committee representative of the whole congregation, whose duty it shall be to nominate a minister to the congregation for election as pastor. Public notice of the time, place and purpose of the meeting must be given at not less than three prior regularly scheduled meetings.
The church may elect a nominating committee only after its pulpit has become vacation or after the Committee on Pastoral Relations has set a definite future date when the pulpit of the church is to be declared vacant. But the nominating committee shall be free, without the influence of the retiring pastor to carry out the desires of the congregation with reference to the call of a successor pastor.
b. Conference with Committee on Pastoral Relations. The nominating committee with the
Committee on Pastoral Relations as provided in Section A, Paragraph 2.
c. If it appear desirable, the nominating committee may confer with eligible men prior to
issuing a formal call so the parties may become acquainted with the particular needs of the church and proposed methods, opportunities or obligations.
d. Who is eligible for a call? The Credentials Committee shall issue an annual list of men
who are eligible to work as pastors of a Bible Fellowship Church, and this list is to be published in the Year Book and made a part of the proceedings of Annual Conference. Should changes occur in this list while Annual Conference is adjourned, the Secretary of the Credentials Committee shall mail a revised list of such men to all delegates who were members of the last Annual Conference or who may be delegates-elect to the next Annual Conference.
e. The Congregational Meeting. When the nominating committee is ready to report, it shall
notify the Official Board, which shall call a congregational meeting at the regular place of worship for the purpose of acting on the report of the nominating committee. Public notice of the time, place and purpose of the meeting shall be given at not less that three prior regularly scheduled meetings.
f. The Congregation’s Responsibility in the Election of a Pastor. The order of business for
the congregational meeting is as follows:
(1) The Senior Delegate to Annual Conference shall preside, or he may appoint a member of the Pastoral Relations Committee to do so.
(2) The secretary of the Official Board shall act as the secretary of the meeting.
(3) Prayer for Divine guidance shall be made.
(4) Statement shall be made concerning those entitled to vote. All members, over age of sixteen, attending the meeting, but no others, are entitled to vote.
(5) The report of the nominating committee shall be made.
(6) The question shall be put: “Are you ready to proceed to the election of a pastor?” The question shall be answered by a motion, duly seconded, and approved by a majority of those voting.
(7) If they declare themselves ready, the moderator shall declare the name submitted by the nominating committee to be in nomination.
(8) Opportunity for nominations from the floor shall be given. A nomination from the floor must previously have been submitted to the Committee on Pastoral Relations and approved by it.
(9) The vote shall be taken by written ballot. In very case a majority of the voters present and voting shall be required to elect.
(10) On the election of a pastor, if it appear that a large minority is averse to the candidate who has received a majority of votes, and the minority cannot be induced to concur in the call, the moderator shall endeavor to dissuade the majority from prosecuting it further. If the electors be nearly or quite unanimous or if the majority shall insist upon its right to call a pastor, the moderator shall proceed to draw a call in due form. It shall be subscribed by them, certifying at the same time in writing the number of those who do not concur in the call, and any facts of importance, all of which proceedings shall be laid before the Committee on Pastoral Relations, together with the call.
(11) The call shall be in the following form, namely:
FORM OF CALL
“The ______________ Bible Fellowship Church of ________________ being on sufficient grounds, well satisfied of the ministerial qualifications of you, ______________, and having good hopes from our knowledge of you, that your ministrations in the gospel will be profitable to our spiritual interests, do earnestly call and desire you to undertake the office of pastor in said congregation, promising you in the discharge of your duty, all proper support, encouragement, and obedience in the Lord.
“And that you may be free from worldly care and avocations, we, on our part, promise and oblige ourselves to pay you the sum of $ __________yearly in regular payments during the time of your being and continuing as the regular pastor of this church, together with free use of the parsonage and _________ vacation each year.
“And we agree to pay or to continue to pay semi-annually into the Minister’s Retirement Fund that requisite percent of said salary which Annual Conference may require you to pay into said fund.
“And we agree to pay or to continue to pay annually a sum equivalent to that self-employment tax as may be levied upon you by the Congress of the United States under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act.
“And we promise and oblige ourselves to review with you the adequacy of this compensation annually.
“In testimony whereof we have respectively subscribed our names this _____ day of _____ A. D. _____.
“I, having moderated the congregational meeting which extended a call to __________ for his ministerial services, do certify that the call has been made in all respects according to the rules laid down in Faith and Order, and that the persons who sign the foregoing call were authorized to do so by vote of the congregation.
Moderator of Meeting.”
(12) The signatures on the call shall be either all of those present subscribing to the call: or (upon resolution of the congregation) those members of the Official Board who subscribe to the call. Such a resolution must be publicly voted and must be certified to the Committee on Pastoral Relations by the moderator of the meeting.
(13) The Annual Conference Delegate(s) shall present and prosecute the call before the Committee on Pastoral Relations.
4. Duty of Minister.
a. Ministers receiving calls shall reply within three weeks.
b. If it appear desirable, after he has received a call, the minister may confer with the nominating committee so the parties may become acquainted with the particular needs of the church and with proposed methods, opportunities or obligations.
5. Action of Annual Conference on the Call of a Pastor.
a. Preliminary actions by the Committee on Pastoral Relations.
(1) The nominating committee shall confer with the Committee on Pastoral Relations as provided in Section A, paragraph 3b.
(2) The Committee on Pastoral Relations must approve the name of the candidate before it is presented to the congregation.
(3) Every call must be placed in the hands of the Committee on Pastoral Relations by the moderator of the congregational meeting and the Annual Conference Delegate(s). The committee on Pastoral Relations must find that the nominating committee had followed the required steps as provided in Faith and Order.
b. When the call of the congregation is unanimous, or nearly so, the Committee on Pastoral Relations may approve the call. If it is unable to approve the call, the Committee must submit the entire matter to Annual Conference at its next session, together with its recommendations. The Delegate(s) to Annual Conference shall prosecute the call before Annual Conference.
c. When a call is approved, the Annual Conference Delegate(s) shall place it in the hands of the minister called.
d. The minister called shall respond in writing within three weeks after having received the call.
e. The Pastoral Relations Committee shall approve the program for the service of installation and the persons participating in the program, as submitted by the pastor-elect and by the Official Board of the Church.
B. MAINTAINING THE PASTORAL RELATION
1. Committee on Pastoral Relations. The Committee on Pastoral Relations is charged with the chief responsibility in maintaining good pastoral relations. It shall be established and elected in order that the spiritual and temporal welfare of the ministers and congregations of the Bible Fellowship Church may be properly sustained. The election of this committee shall take precedence over all other Annual Conference Boards, Committees and appointments. Unless Annual Conference otherwise provides, the committee shall elect its own chairman and vice-chairman who shall serve until their successors have been elected.
To the Committee on Pastoral Relations the Annual Conference shall assign the supervision of its churches without pastors. Direct access to this committee shall be available at all times to all ministers in the Conference, and to all members of Official Boards, in matters relative to the spiritual and temporal welfare of the churches in which severally they hold office.
2. Consultation and Advice.
a. Because the relationship between pastor and congregation began under mutual agreement and at the direction of Christ, the Head of the Church, the parties of this relationship bear the chief responsibility for its proper maintenance through Christ’s enabling. Help of the Pastoral Relations Committee shall be sought only when internal discussion of problems results in no mutually acceptable solution.
b. When external help is needed, the Committee on Pastoral Relations holds the chief responsibility for maintaining good pastoral relations.
3. Composition and Election of the Pastoral Relations Committee.
a. The committee shall be elected by Annual Conference.
b. The committee shall be composed of four ministers who are serving as pastors and three laymen who are elders.
c. The term of office shall be for three years; no one is eligible to serve more than two consecutive terms.
d. At the beginning members shall be in three classes, serving terms of one, two and three years.
e. Four members shall constitute a quorum.
f. When a member of the Pastoral Relations Committee becomes personally involved in a ministerial problem, he shall disqualify himself from acting in such cases.
g. Direct access to this committee shall be available to all ministers and to all members of Official Boards at all times. In corresponding with the Committee, letters shall be addressed to the committee’s secretary.
4. Duties of the Pastoral Relations Committee.
a. The committee’s role is that of consultation and advice; and, except in unusual circumstances, it is permitted to act only when matters are brought to its attention. To complete attention referrals must be by:
(1) Pastors of the conference, regarding matters pertaining to their own church.
(2) Members of the Official Board, regarding matters pertaining to their own church.
b. When difficulties within a particular church are not too widely known, the committee, with discrete individuals from the congregation, should seek a solution to the problem.
c. If the matter has reached the stage of widespread rumor or general knowledge within the congregation and even in the community, a formal and public visit is in order. Except in cases of emergency, arrangements for such visits to a particular church shall be made by contacting the secretary of the Official Board.
d. It is mandatory that a church or pastor having problems consult with the Committee on Pastoral Relations before initiating any action leading to a dissolution of the pastoral relationship.
e. The first consideration of the Committee on Pastoral Relations is the maintenance of a happy relationship between pastor and people. If problems arise, the Committee’s duty is to work toward resolving the difficulties. Only after every effort to resolve a problem is exhausted, will thought be given to terminating the pastoral relationship.
f. When this Committee cannot resolve a problem submitted to it, the problem shall be brought to Annual Conference for final solution, with the recommendations of the Committee.
5. Minister’s Salary. The call of the minister is a covenant between him and the church he serves and involves the following responsibilities:
a. It shall provide a basic salary not lower than a representative average of the family incomes of the congregation making the call. In addition, it shall include provision of a parsonage, including payment as an expense paid out of church income, of the cost of heat, light, telephone and all other utilities.
b. Each congregation is bound by the requirement: We promise and oblige ourselves to review with you the adequacy of this compensation annually.
c. Whatever the amount of the annual payment of salary, each congregation agrees to pay or to continue to pay into the Ministers’ Retirement Fund that requisite percent of said salary which may be fixed by Annual Conference for the participation of the pastor in the Ministers’ Retirement Fund.
d. Whatever the amount of the annual payment of salary, each congregation agrees to pay or to continue to pay annually a sum equivalent to that self-employment tax as may be levied upon the pastor by the Congress of the United States under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act.
e. The Pastoral Relations Committee shall approve the call and its details; i.e., the covenant. It shall provide for the installation of the pastor and the establishment of the pastorate, at which time the covenant goes into effect. It shall report annually to Annual Conference on the adequacy of the compensation of each of the pastors. It shall fix the date of the dissolution of the pastorate, at which time the covenant ends.
C. DISSOLUTION OF THE PASTORAL RELATION
Except as Annual Conference may delegate authority to the Committee on Pastoral Relations, its approval is necessary to the formation of the pastoral relation and to its dissolution. This authority may be exercised on the petition of the pastor, or on the judgment of the Annual Conference without petition. Action taken on “resignation of the pastor or petition of the people” is the normal form of such dissolution. Rules covering the normal process are 1 through 4 of this section. Action taken on the “judgment of the Annual Conference, without petition” is effected by administrative discipline as covered by Paragraph 5 of this section.
1. The Normal Process. If a minister desires to resign from his pastoral charge he shall submit his resignation to Annual Conference by sending his letter of resignation to the Chairman of the Pastoral Relation Committee, showing that a copy of it has also been sent to the Secretary of the Official Board of the church from which he desires dissolution of his pastoral charge.
a. The Pastoral Relations Committee shall cite the church to appear by members of its Official Board, or the church may so appear upon its own motion, to show cause, if it has any, why the Annual Conference should not accept the resignation. If the church shall fail to appear, or if its reasons for retaining its pastor be deemed insufficient, his resignation may be accepted. The Pastoral Relations Committee may approve the resignation and set its effective date. If the Committee is unable to approve the resignation, it must refer the problem to Annual Conference with recommendations.
b. Ordinarily such action presents no difficulties. The usual practice is for the Official Board to call a congregational meeting in accordance with our rules, to vote concurrence with the minister’s resignation. The presentation of the resignation of the pastoral charge by the minister and the concurrence of the congregation leads to the action of Annual Conference dissolving the pastoral relation, and a fixing of the effective date.
2. Church Desiring Dissolution of Pastorate.
a. If a church desires a dissolution of the pastoral relation, a similar procedure shall be observed. The title of this paragraph implies that problems exist between pastor and people. It is required then, that all of the procedures set forth in Section B, for maintaining the pastoral relationship have been followed diligently. Nevertheless, the relationship continues to be an unhappy one. But whether the minister or the church initiates proceedings for a dissolution of the relation, there shall always be a meeting of the congregation called and conducted precisely in the same manner as when the call of a pastor is to be made (See Section A, par. 3f).
If this action is undertaken unilaterally by the church, it must be in the form of a petition to Annual Conference asking that its pastoral relationship be dissolved. This petition must be prepared in consultation with the Pastoral Relations Committee and it must be submitted to Annual Conference through the Pastoral Relations Committee.
b. Unless the pastor resigns, there is no provision for dissolution of the pastoral relationship except as provided in Section C. Paragraph 2a., or in Section C. Paragraph 5.
3. Consultation and Help for Ministers seeking change of Pastorate.
a. Committee on Pastoral Relations. A part of the purpose for the Pastoral Relations Committee is to facilitate the exchange of information concerning ministers seeking new pastorates and vacant churches seeking new ministers. Counsel and advice should be given by the Committee on Pastoral Relations which should insist on such ministers giving information concerning their education, background, and experience, for reference. Suggestions may be given of churches presently vacant, of assistant pastors needed, or of opportunities for those of special talent for administrative work, etc.
b. It may sometimes be wise for Annual Conference, through its Committee on Pastoral Relations, to suggest a different calling to one whose experience and disappointment raise a question as to his call to the ministry. Other areas of Christian service, even those open to laymen, may be more suitable to some who have been willing to serve as ministers.
4. Consultation and Help for Churches Seeking a Change of Pastorate. The help of the Committee on Pastoral Relations shall be available and willingly given that both church and minister may find satisfactory relations. The friendly help thus given through patience and positive action may prevent the appearance of discord and the resulting harm to both minister and congregation.
5. Dissolution of Pastoral Relation by Annual Conference after investigation. There are several ways in which irregularities come before Annual Conference for official action:
(1) By report of the Committee on Pastoral Relations to Annual Conference when it is unable to solve a problem by simple counsel or advice.
(2) By the motion of a member of Annual Conference whose conscience requires him to act in regard to the pastoral relationship.
(3) By general review and control.
(End of recommendations)
DISCUSSION OF RECOMMENDATIONS
a. Scriptural bases for the recommendations.
In the following pages are developed more fully the claims of the committee as to the Scriptural foundation for the foregoing recommendations. The numbers starting the various sections, refer to the conclusions given in this paper.
(1) Because Scripture teaches that each man bears responsibility for his use under God of the gifts and life given to him by God; and because Scripture teaches that each Church is responsible to govern herself; we propose a system of pulpit supply that allows each pastor to accept a call from a specific church, after careful thought and prayer.
Personal responsibility for the life and work of the individual is one of the constantly recurring themes of Scripture. Examine the words of the Lord Jesus in the parables of the talents (Matt. 25) or of the pounds (Luke 19) or examine the instructions of Paul to Timothy and Titus; and you discover that responsibility to God for one’s life and work is written boldly on the pages of Scripture.
For this reason, a pastor should have a significant voice in the decision as to which congregation he will serve.
That churches must also have a voice in determining who its leaders shall be is discussed more fully under section (5) found later on in this article. We here simply note that a responsibility of the church is to choose its leaders.
Therefore, the church must have a voice in determining who its pastor shall be.
Our present pulpit system recognizes these co-ordinate truths. We do not suggest
changing these principles. Because these decision are so important, the proposed system provides a better opportunity for thought and prayer. Our present system is out of harmony with these principles in three ways.
First, it requires that this decision by the church be made within three days. Within the next three days, the pastors must make their decisions. The briefness of this time is not in harmony with the consequence of the decision being made; it affords little time for thought and prayer. Second, our present system requires that these decisions be made every year in all churches at the same time. This requirement has forced pastors to move so that “the system won’t break down.” If more time had been available, some men might not have moved. If all did not need to change at once, the churches would have had choices — not simply expressions of hope. Third, the proposed system does not give any Official Board the power to summarily dismiss its pastor, thus depriving him of his God-given right to choose.
(2) Because Scripture teaches that growth comes through facing and resolving problems that arise between God’s people, we propose a system of pulpit supply that will encourage and demand mutual discussion of such problems prior to dissolution of the pastoral relationship.
The Biblical method of solving problems is to bring face-to-face the individuals or groups involved, as we read in Matthew 18:15-18:
“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
See also Luke 17:3-10; and Galatians 6:1-5. The Scripture also indicates why this is good procedure — it produces growth in those involved. When each must listen to the problems from the other’s point of view, he understands in a new way. By forgiving those who have offended us, we give evidence of having been forgiven (Eph. 4:30-32). As long as we are on this side of the Lord’s return, we will have imperfections and commit sins that will offend (I John 3:2). Therefore, we need a system of pulpit supply that will require mutual discussion of problems. We need one another to grow (Colossians 2:19 and Ephesians 4:16). The proposed system provides for this by eliminating the annual review and by demanding that pastors and churches discuss their problems; first, among themselves; and later (if harmony is not achieved) with the Pastoral Relations Committee or with Annual Conference (Matt. 18:16-18)
The present system of pulpit supply does not make mutual discussion impossible; nor does it encourage it. Facing problems is never pleasant — thus we have pastors who leave churches without facing their problems; and churches that dismiss pastors without facing their problems. Such summary action may be pragmatic because it permits those who have problems to separate; but it allows and encourages what is not Biblical: i.e., discussion of the problems with those directly involved. This produces two additional difficulties. First, the “outside parties” cannot solve the problems and the rehearsing of them simply aggravates an already difficult situation. Second, neither of the parties gains the valuable spiritual exercise of facing and resolving their mutual difficulties. For years we have heard complaints about the weakness of pastors and lay leaders in the Bible Fellowship Church. Would a system that demands more of each of us toward maintaining good pastoral relationship make a contribution toward strengthening pastors and people?
(3) Because Scripture teaches that every church and each individual should subordinate himself to his brother, we propose a system that will include checks and balances which will provide for fairness and stability in supplying our pulpits, including a provision for Annual Conference to have a voice in the breaking as well as in the making of the pastoral relationship.
There is only one true church:
“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and in you all.” (Eph. 4:4-6)
Therefore, each of the particular churches is related to each of the others; each member of the true church is his brother’s keeper. Both as individuals and as church, each must consider the other first.
“And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor.” (Ephesians 5:2)
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:1-5)
Specific illustrations of this mutual subordination among churches are evidenced in the larger, more central church in Jerusalem considering the program of circumcision as it arose in the church at Antioch. The decisions changed the lives of both the churches (Acts 15). The younger and smaller churches in Macedonia sent contributions to the older church in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8, 9)
In the Bible Fellowship Church we give expression to this oneness by the structure of our fellowship of churches. In the supplying of pulpits with pastors, the proposed system would place the chief responsibility for encouraging fairness and stability in the pastoral relationship on the Pastoral Relations Committee. This Committee will counsel and advise churches and pastors regarding their problems; should unanimity not be secured, Annual Conference will resolve differences. The Pastoral Relations Committee will approve a decision to dissolve the pastoral relationship; as well as the decision to call a new minister. Because each church has a right to rule, and each pastor is an individual, each has the privilege to call or to accept a call; but because we are brethren and each church is related to the other, each pastor and each church must subordinate himself to the other members of The Church. The Pastoral Relations Committee is the proposed channel of expression of our mutual subordination to one another and to the group.
Our present method requires the approval of Annual Conference on the establishment
of a new pastoral relationship, but there are no checks or balances on dissolution of this relationship. This is parallel to a father being responsible for the solution of his son’s problems, but allowing him no hand in training the lad. Because of this, pastors have been dismissed from their congregations for less than adequate causes. When the preference lists are in, nothing more can be done. If we desire to reflect real mutual subordination, we must have a system of pulpit supply that will make Annual Conference the final authority in maintaining the pastoral relationship or in approving the pastor’s resignation, as well as in approving of his call.
Should a schism develop between pastor and people that mutual discussion and subordination cannot heal, the difference, under the proposed system, must be adjudicated by Annual Conference. In doing this, Annual Conference will have the objective recommendations of its Pastoral Relations Committee to assist in reach a God-honoring decision.
This mutual subordination, on the one hand, will encourage maturing of pastors and people which in turn will lead to longer and more effective pastorates. On the other hand, it allows freedom of expression so that changes can be made when necessary.
(4) Because Scripture gives no indication of the limit of the time of a man’s ministry in a given place, we propose a system that will set no arbitrary maximum or minimum limits on the length of pastorates, but will allow this to be determined by the parties involved, under God, the Head of the Church.
While it is an argument from silence to say that Scripture gives no indication of
limiting the time of a man’s ministry in a given place, it is nevertheless true and worthy of consideration. The idea of arbitrarily limiting the duration of a man’s ministry to nine consecutive years has no scriptural analogy. Therefore, we ought to refrain from going beyond Scripture.
To thus refrain seems to be particularly important with respect to the tenure of the pastorate because of the great context in Scripture reiterating that God is the Head of the Church and that He directs its affairs. In Matthew 9:37 He says:
“The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest.”
Isaiah, after he heard the call, replied in Isaiah 6:8,9:
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. And He said, Go…..”
In the sense of the call and the sending of Isaiah, we believe the preacher is being sent
in Romans 10:14,15:
“…..and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”
In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth we find the simile making the church
comparable to the human body. It has many parts, but is a unity. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” nor, can the head say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” From this frame of reference, the Word goes on to say.
“Now you are together in the Body of Christ, and individually you are members of Him. And in His Church God has appointed first some to be Special Messengers, secondly, some to be preachers of the word, thirdly teachers. After them He has appointed workers of spiritual power, men with the gifts of healing, helpers, organizers and those with the gifts of speaking in “tongues”. (I Cor. 12:27-28 — Phillips, Letters to Young Churches).
In First Corinthians 12 it is clear that Scripture is speaking of the bestowal of gifts on
individual believers. The emphasis is on the bestowal being the gift of God. In Ephesians 4:7, 11 and 12 and following the Word speaks of gifts to the Church, the reasons for the gifts being given and the blessings flowing through the Church because of their bestowal:
“And he gave some to be apostles; and some prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: till we all….” (A.S.V.)
Philip was conducting an evangelistic campaign in Samaria and the Holy Spirit was
moving mightily in that area so that the people gave heed with one accord; unclean spirits were cast out; the palsied and the lame were healed; there was great joy in that city. In the midst of this great work, the Word says,
“And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went:” Acts 8:26,27.
In Acts 13 we read of the many prophets and teachers who fellowshipped with the
Church at Antioch. After the mention of this abundance of teachers, we read
“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia;…..” Vss. 2-4
In Acts 16 we read of the attempt of Paul and his group to go into Asia and they were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to do so. They tried to go into Bithynia but the Holy Spirit would not permit this. Then we read:
“And in a vision appeared to Paul in the night: There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.” vss. 9,10.
With such a context, can we rightly establish any arbitrary rule governing length of
tenure? Would we not do better to depend upon the Lord of the harvest to supply the gifts needed by the church, including clear guidance of the parties with respect to the length of the pastorate?
(5) Because Scripture teaches that elders including pastors should be chosen by the people,
we propose a system of pulpit supply that will allow each congregation to vote on establishing or breaking a pastoral relationship.
Dictionaries give the meaning of the word translated “ordain” in Acts 14:23 as
“choose, elect by raising hands”. This word is used in only one other place — 2 Corinthians 8:19:
“…..but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace….”
If churches choose, how do they choose apart from an election? Some would attempt to emphasize in this word the aspect “installation”. This may be conceded without conceding the possibility of elections followed by installations. In fact, Acts 6:5,6 indicates that the Apostle installed those whom the people had chosen.
It is repetitive, but attention must be called again to the fact that the Pastoral Poll of
the present system is not an election.
(6) Because Scripture teaches that the laborer is worthy of his hire, we propose a system that
will provide for each church making commitments to its pastor as well as commitments by the pastor to the church.
The Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 9:6 mentions the voluntary forfeiture of his right to
support from the church at Corinth:
“Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? Who goeth warfare any time at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock and eateth not of the milk of the flock?”
Nowhere does he argue that this is mandatory or even expected as the norm. On the
contrary, in the succeeding verses of this chapter 9 he argues strongly for the right of support from the people (vss. 7-14). He uses the analogy of soldiers, a farmer, and a husbandman; and the analogy of the Old Testament priesthood. The whole argument is capped with the endorsement of the Lord Himself (vs. 14). Turning to another passage (I Timothy 5:18) we again read “The laborer is worthy of his hire.” (Emphasis supplied).
The precise form of the commitment is not spelled out in Scripture, but the principle of commitment is certainly there. Furthermore, the analogy between secular and sacred commitments is scriptural. Thus, to provide for commitments by pastor to people to pastor analogous to those of the secular world is not foreign to Scripture.
b. How the Proposed System of Pulpit Supply Works.
The Normal Process.
Pastor resigns from his pastorate.
Congregation concurs in his resignation.
Pastoral Relations Committee approves the resignation and sets a date when the resignation will be effective.
Since the pastor has resigned, the church must seek a new pastor.
It elects a nominating committee.
Nominating Committee may not be elected by a church unless it is without a pastor; or the Pastoral Relations Committee has fixed a definite date when the tenure of the incumbent will end.
Nominating committee proposes a candidate to fill the vacant pulpit.
Church holds an election to approve or disapprove the proposal of nomination committee.
If the election is unanimous, or nearly so, Pastoral Relations Committee approves the call. Call may not be forwarded to minister-elect without approval of Pastoral Relations Committee.
Pastor called must reply in writing within three weeks from date call was placed in his hands by the Annual Conference Delegate.
After call is accepted, Pastoral Relations Committee approves installation service program and sets the date when the new relationship will start.
Exceptions to Normal Process.
Pastoral Relations Committee has no authority to disapprove either a resignation or a call.
Its primary function is to consult and advise.
When there is a division in the congregation, either as to the making of a call for a new pastor or as to concurrence in resignation of an incumbent, the Pastoral Relations Committee will refer the problem to Annual Conference for adjudication.
Action taken unilaterally by a church to dissolve the pastoral relationship is in the form of a petition prepared in consultation with Pastoral Relations Committee and submitted by the latter to Annual Conference. Annual Conference may break the contract if it elects to do so and set an effective date when the relationship will end.
Following are three hypothetical illustrations of the proposed system in use:
ASSUMPTION NO. 1 — Pastor A has served Church X for ten years. He feels sincerely that he has completed his work at Church X and should move on to another field of labor.
1. Pastor A discusses his conviction with his Official Board in November, 1967. (Section B. Par. 2a).
2. Pastor A also communicates his conviction regarding his pastorate to the Pastoral Relations Committee in November , 1967 (Section C. Par. 3a).
3. Pastoral Relations Committee, in December, 1967, suggests to the Official Board of Church Y, which is without a pastor, that Pastor A would welcome a change (Section A. par. 2d) (Section A. par. 5a) (1) and (2).
4. The nominating committee of Church Y proposes Pastor A to its congregation. It votes unanimously to call Pastor A to fill the office of Pastor. This call is made on January 15, 1968. (Section A, par. 3e).
5. Pastor A submits his resignation as Pastor of Church X on January 20, 1968. (Section C, Par.1) Pastoral Relations Committee asks Church X to show cause why his resignation should not be approved. (Section C, Par. 1a). Thereupon, a congregational meeting is called by Church X for Wednesday, February 6, 1968. (Section C, Par. 1b).
6. On January 16, 1968, the moderator of the January 15, 1968 congregational meeting of Church Y and the Annual Conference Delegate of Church Y, present the call of Pastor A to the Pastoral Relations Committee. After due consideration, it found that the call of Church Y for Pastor A had been prepared in accordance with the requirements of Faith and Order. (Section A, Par. 5a.(3).
7. On February 7, Annual Conference Delegate of Church X informs Pastoral Relations Committee that Church X concurs in Pastor’s A resignation. (Section C, Par. 1b).
8. On February 8, 1968, Pastoral Relations Committee, on behalf of Annual Conference, approves Pastor A’s resignation (Section C, Par. 1a), making it effective April 15, 1968. (Section B, Par. 5e.).
9. Pastoral Relations Committee, because Church Y is without a pastor and because its people are quite enthusiastic in calling Pastor A, on behalf of Annual Conference, on February 8, 1968, approved the call of Church Y for Pastor A. (Section A, Par. 5b).
10. On February 9, 1968, the Annual Conference Delegate of Church Y placed the call of his church in the hands of Pastor A. (Section A, Par. 5c).
11. On February 23, 1968, Pastor A wrote to Church Y and accepted its call to be pastor (Section A. Par. 4a.)
12. On March 1, 1968, the Pastoral Relations Committee approved the installation program for Pastor A (Section A, Par. 5e.), and fixed the date for the installation as April 15, 1968. (Section B, Par. 5e.).
ASSUMPTION No. 2 — In October 1967, after much prayer and many discussions regarding his ministry with his Official Board, Pastor A, after twelve years, decided to resign his pastorate of Church W. There were an increasing number of young people in Church W, and Pastor A himself had a great concern because he seemed to be altogether without influence with them. Perhaps a new and younger pastor would be more effective. He had also discussed his thoughts with the Pastoral Relations Committee.
1. Pastor A, on November 1, 1967, submitted his resignations to the Chairman of Pastoral Relations Committee with copy to Secretary of his Official Board (Section C. Par. 1). At a congregational meeting on November 15, 1967, the congregation of Church W voted to concur in Pastor A’s resignation, and so informed the Pastoral Relations Committee (Section C. Par. 1b).
2. On November 20, 1967, The Pastoral Relations Committee approved Pastor A’s resignation and announced that it would become effective June 12, 1968, (Section B. Par. 5e.)
3. On December 6, 1967, Church W, at a congregational meeting, elected a nominating committee which was to propose a new pastor (Section A, Par. 3a.).
4. After consulting with the Pastoral Relations Committee, the nominating committee, with the approval of Pastoral Relations Committee, proposed to the congregation of Church W at a meeting on January 3, 1968, that it call Pastor B to its pulpit. (Section A. Par. 3f.). The vote approving the call of Pastor B was almost unanimous.
5. On January 4, 1968, the moderator and the Annual Conference Delegate of Church W presented the call of Pastor B to the Pastoral Relations Committee (Section A. Par. 5a).(3). After due consideration, it found that Church W had followed the required steps as provided in Faith and Order and approved the call (Section A, Par. 5b.).
6. On January 5, 1968, the Annual Conference Delegate of Church W delivered the call of Church W to Pastor B (Section A. Par. 5c.).
7. On January 24, 1968, Pastor B accepted the call to Church W (Section A, Par. 4a.), and submitted to the Pastoral Relations Committee with copy to the Secretary of his Official Board, his resignation as pastor of Church X (Section C. Par. 1a.).
8. On February 5, 1968, Church X, at a congregational meeting voted to concur in resignation of Pastor B, and so informed the Pastoral Relations Committee (Section C. Par. 1b.).
9. On February 6, 1968, the Pastoral Relations Committee approved Pastor B’s resignation from the pastorate of Church X and made it to become effective on the date of Pastor B’s installation as Pastor of Church W, i.e., June 12, 1968 (Section B. Par. 5e.)
10. On February 12, 1968, at a congregational meeting, Church X elected a nominating committee to propose a successor for Pastor B. (Section A. Par. 3a.).
11. At a congregational meeting held March 19, 1968, the nominating committee proposed to Church X that it call to its pulpit Pastor C (Section A. Par. 3f.). Church X was almost unanimous in approving the call of Pastor C. On March 20, 1968, this call was presented to the Pastoral Relations Committee. It found that Church X had complied with the procedures of Faith and Order and approved the call.
12. On March 21, 1968, the Annual Conference Delegate of Church X placed the call of his church in the hands of Pastor C (Section A. Par. 5a (3).
13. On April 9, 1968, Pastor C accepted the call of Church X (Section A. Par. 4a.) and submitted to the Pastoral Relations Committee his resignation from the pastorate of Church Y, with a copy to the Secretary of his Official Board (Section C. Par.1).
14. On April 24, 1968, the congregation of Church Y met and concurred in the resignation of its pastor, and so informed the Pastoral Relations Committee (Section C. Par.1).
15. On April 26, 2968, the Pastoral Relations Committee approved the resignation of Pastor C from the pastorate of Church Y, and made the resignation to become effective June 19, 1968, announcing at the same time the installation of Pastor C as pastor of Church X on the same date (Section B. Par. 5e.)
16. On May 8, 1968, at a congregational meeting, Church Y elected a nominating committee to propose a successor to Pastor C (Section A. Par. 4a.)
17. At a congregational meeting of Church Y on June 26, 1968, its nominating committee proposed that Church Y call Pastor A to its pulpit (Section A. Par. 3e.). One of the independent thinkers, a member of the Official Board with considerable influence in his congregation, also had been discussing his church’s need with the Pastoral Relations Committee. He obtained the latter’s approval for his nominating Pastor D from the floor (Section A. Par. 3e (8). After the vote had been counted, Pastor A had 51% and Pastor D had 49% of the ballots cast. The moderator of the meeting tried unsuccessfully to persuade the minority to join in the call of Pastor A. Then he just as unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the majority to join with the minority in calling Pastor D. Since neither of the parties would alter its position, and the majority insisted on the prosecution of its calls for Pastor A the call, and a complete report of the proceedings, were forwarded to the Pastoral Relations Committee (Section A. Par. 3e (10).
18. On July 10, 1968, the Pastoral Relations Committee informed the Annual Conference Delegate of Church Y, that because of the great division existing in the congregation, it is unwilling to approve the call of Pastor A to the pulpit of Church Y (Section A. Par. 5b.)
19. On October 17, 1968, the Annual Conference, on the recommendation of the Pastoral Relations Committee, apparently influenced by Pastor A’s long years of service and the fact that he had been already more than three months without an assignment, approved the call of Pastor A to the pulpit of Church Y. Thereafter, the Delegate from Church Y placed the call in the hands of Pastor A (Section B. Par. 4f.).
20. On November 7, 1968, Pastor A regretfully informed the Delegate from Church Y and the Pastoral Relations Committee that he felt constrained to reject the call of Church Y which it had so graciously presented to him (Section A. Par 4.)
21. On November 20, 1968, the nominating committee presented to the congregation of Church Y the name of Pastor D. The approval of his call polled 75% of the votes cast. On November 22, 1968, the Pastoral Relations Committee found that Church Y had properly followed all the steps required by Faith and Order and approved the call of Church Y for Pastor D (Section A. Par. 5b.).
22. On November 23, 1968, the Annual Conference Delegate of Church Y placed the call of his church in the hands of Pastor D (Section A. Par. 5a (3).
23. On December 9, 1968, Pastor D accepted the call of Church Y (Section A. Par. 4a.) and submitted to the Pastoral Relations Committee his resignation from the pastorate of Church Z, with copy to the secretary of his Official Board (Section C. Par. 1a.)
24. At a meeting of the congregation, Church Z on December 26, 1968, voted to concur in the resignation of Pastor D from its pastorate (Section C. Par. 1b.)
25. On December 30, 1968, the Pastoral Relations Committee approved the resignation of Pastor D and made it effective February 1, 1969, which was the date also announced for Pastor D’s installation in the pulpit of Church Y (Section B. Par. 5e.)
26. On January 15, 1969, a congregational meeting of Church Z elected a nominating committee to propose a candidate for the pulpit of Church Z.
27. On February 12, 1969, the nominating committee of Church Z proposed that it call to its pulpit Pastor A. This proposal was almost unanimously approved and the call was forwarded to the Pastoral Relations Committee for its consideration (Section A. Par.3e.). It found that Church Z had properly followed the procedures required by Faith and Order and approved the call. (Section A. Par. 5b).
28. The call of Pastor A was placed in his hands by the Delegate of Church Z on February 15, 1969 (Section A. Par. 5e.).
29. On February 26, 1969, Pastor A accepted the call of Church Z (Section A. Par. 4). The Pastoral Relations Committee set March 11, 1969 as the date for the installation of Pastor A in the Pulpit of Church Z (Section B. Par. 5e.)
30. Pastor A was, through no fault of his own, without assignment from June 15, 1968 to March 10, 1969, a period of almost nine months.
ASSUMPTION No. 3 — Pastor A has been Pastor of Church X for only three years. He has many avocations — some related to self-enjoyment, such as two or three days a week on the golf course; others to augmenting his income by secular employment. Many in the congregation of Church X believe he is unfaithful to his calling.
1. Men of Official Board discuss with Pastor A their opinions regarding what they believe are his shortcomings. (Section B. Par. 2a).
2. Pastor A seeks refuge with the Pastoral Relations Committee. (Section B. Par. 3g.)
3. Pastoral Relations Committee arranges a joint meeting with Board and Pastor. The meeting adjourns with a promise by the Board that they will be more gracious toward the Pastor; and by the latter that he will be more diligent in carrying out his duties. (Section B. Par. 4b.)
4. Six months later, Official Board again appeals to Pastoral Relations Committee, reporting a deterioration in the situation instead of the hoped for improvement. (Section B. Par. 4a (2).)
5. Another joint meeting is held. The weight of the evidence strongly favors the Board’s position. (Section B. Par. 4c.)
6. After the second meeting, Pastoral Relations Committee suggest to Pastor A that he resign. He refuses. (Section B. Par. 4b.)
7. After further effort by Pastoral Relations Committee to improve pastoral relations with Church X is fruitless, the Committee suggests to the Board that it petition Annual Conference to remove Pastor A (Section C. Par. 2b.). The Board makes such a petition and the Pastoral Relations Committee recommends to Annual Conference that the petition be approved. (Section B. Par. 4f). Annual Conference approved the petition and dissolved the relationship between Pastor A and Church X as of October 22, 1968 (Section, Preamble).
8. On November 10, 1968, Church X elects a nominating committee to select a pastor for it. (Section A. Par. 3a.)
9. On October 22, 1968, Pastor A is without a church and without employment and will continue so to be unless and until he is called by another church; he takes a secular employment; or he leaves the Fellowship to accept a call from a church outside of our denomination.
c. Some Advantages and Disadvantages of the Proposed Pulpit Supply Systems
Of a Pastoral Relations Committee
1. Allows for a more objective view of a 1. The Committee may not get near enough
Pastor-Church problem. to a Pastor-Church problem to really
2. It supplies a broad base for information 2. Committee members could use their
and counsel to all interested parties position as a powerful springboard for self promotion.
3. The committee could become one that
goes looking for problems where none exist
and a repository for petty grievances.
Of a Church Initiating Pastoral Change Procedures
1. Election of a nominating committee 1. If the congregational meeting is not
provides for concentrated action as it works closely supervised it can be a divisive rather
with Pastoral Relations Committee. than a constructive session.
2. An election of the pastor by the 2. It involves the possibility that there may
congregation brings a wider commitment be an empty pulpit and, concurrently, an
and concurrence in the selection than when unassigned pastor.
Such action is the sole prerogative of the
3. Election by the congregation eliminates
the possibility that the Official Board may
take action contrary to that desired by the
Of a Pastor Initiating Change of Church Procedures
1. A Pastoral resignation is much better 1. His resignation may be uncalled for and
than a vote to “fire him”. without due fore-thought.
2. A call extended to him through the 2. Pastors may prefer not to work through
Pastoral Relations Committee bears a greater a Pastoral Relations Committee.
Concurrence than when presented by a
3. A much longer period of time is given 3. Are three weeks long enough for making
within which to reach a decision as to the a decision that will affect a pastor’s ministry
proper response to a call. for years?
Of Annual Conference’s Role in Resolving a Pastor-Church Problem
1. This provides a court of last resorts if 1. Can Pastors and delegates acquaint
a pastor will not resign when he should. themselves adequately to render an intelligent judgment?
2. There are built in checks and balances 2. It would appear that the internal affairs of
to prevent unfair treatment should a church a church cannot always be correctly resolved
attempt to rid itself of a pastor without due by outside intervention.
Of Maintaining the Church-Pastor Relationship
1. The Pastoral Relations Committee 1. Both Church and Pastor may believe
supplies a Court of Appeals for pastor and that they can handle their own problems.
2. Availability of the Pastoral Relations 2. Availability of the Pastoral Relations
Committee makes it possible to deal with may unduly magnify small problems.
problems while they are still small problems.
3. Without time limits, both parties may 3. Since there are no time limits, a church
come to understand a “marriage type” May be forced to take drastic steps to obtain
relationship. A change of pastor.
d. Some Differences Between Proposed and Present Pulpit Sully Systems
Question 1 — When does the congregation express its view on the subject, “Do you desire to retain your pastor?”
A.1 — No formal opportunity for such an A. 1 — Annually, on the last Sunday of
expression is available. An individual September, after the morning worship; but the
desiring a change must bring his view to the result of the poll does not bind the Official
Official Board. Board.
Question 2 — What is the influence helping to build a satisfactory and stable pastoral relation in each church?
A.2 — Definite procedures are provided. A.2 — Whether the pastoral relation is
The chief responsibility for maintaining the satisfactory must be reviewed annually as
pastoral relation is borne by the parties who scheduled by the rule. The District
started the relationship. Internal discussion Superintendent meets the Official Board
must be had. Outside help is provided if without the pastor being present once each
internal discussion results in no mutually year. Internal discussion between Board
acceptable solution. and Pastor is not required.
Question 3 — When does a church call a minister to its pulpit?
A.3 — When there is a vacancy. A.3 — Even when it does not desire a change, each church must call its pastor annually.
Question 4 — When does a vacancy in the pulpit occur?
A.4 — When the pastor resigns and the A.4 — Technically speaking, all pulpits
effective date of the resignation has been vacant at the end of each conference year.
fixed by the Pastoral Relations Committee,
or the pastor has been removed by Annual
Conference for cause.
Question 5 — What is the effect of the system on the minister’s reputation?
A.5 — A resignation is dignified and in A.5 — There are recurring instances of
keeping with the thought that he is God’s incumbent ministers who fail to appear on
gift to the church and not the church’s their Official Board’s preference list. This is
hired man. tantamount to having been summarily
Question 6 — When there is a vacancy, what help is available to the Official Board?
A.6 — The Pastoral Relations Committee A.6 — The Official Board must make its
will give guidance as to the suitability of decision by the Tuesday after the last Sunday
persons; A call is permitted only when the of September. During this period generally
Pastoral Relations Committee has been there is no help available and the men of the
consulted. Board have little knowledge regarding the
suitability of the persons on the availability
Question 7 — What success will there be in finding a suitable person to pastor the church?
A. 7 — There is time for prayer, search, A. 7 — If a church fails to call either its first
and consultation with others who have a or second choice, the District Superintendent,
real concern and with potential candidates. on the Friday following the Pastoral Poll, will
give such a church another list of men who
may remain on the availability list without assignment. The church is now facing limited choice. If it cannot prepare a second preference list, its problem is referred to the Stationing, Boundary and Appropriating Committee.
Question 8 — Is there a time limit on the pastor’s tenure?
A. 8 — None A. 8 — Nine years.
Question 9 — Is there a provision for annual review of the pastor’s support?
A. 9 — The call includes a commitment A. 9 — The call makes no provision as to
as to the support the Pastor will receive. support. To qualify for membership on the
There is also a commitment that it will be Stationing, Boundary and Appropriating
reviewed annually in private with the pastor. Committee, the church must give the Pastor
not less than $3,500 a year.
Question 10 — When will changes in pastoral assignments occur?
A. 10 — They can occur any time. A. 10 — They are scheduled to occur on the
first Sunday after Annual Conference in
Question 11 — What about the security and liberty of the minister?
A. 11 — It provides more liberty, but less A. 11 — It provides less liberty but more
security. To a certain degree these two security. Since all changes occur on the same
concerns are mutually exclusive. Under this day, all men on the availability list may,
plan, pulpits may be vacant and men may be generally speaking, expect to be continuously
without assignment during the same period assigned.
Question 12 — What about the security and liberty of the churches?
A. 12 — The requirement that there must be A. 12 — Severing the pastoral relationship is
a deliberate internal effort to maintain the so easy it promotes irresponsibility and
pastoral relationship will promote immaturity in a fashion almost parallel to
responsibility. The requirement that the destruction of the family by making divorce
church face up to its financial responsibility available whenever it is desirable.
will promote maturity. There will be no less Irresponsibility and immaturity are not
security or liberty in the church, but its synonymous with security and liberty. There
opportunity to choose a man will be improved. is only a limited opportunity to choose a man.
Question 13 — Do we have a “closed” system?
A. 13 — Yes. No man may be called except A. 13 — Yes. The preference list of the
he holds credentials from the Bible Fellowship Official Board must be prepared from a list of
Church and his name appears on the eligibility Bible Fellowship Ministers and probationers
list prepared by the Credentials Committee. having charge of a work. This list is prepared
by the Credentials Committee of the Bible
It will be recalled that at Annual Conference 1965 a petition had been brought by Maple Glen Church asking that the nine-year limit be extended to twelve years. The petition was not approved. Almost immediately after the disapproving vote on the Maple Glen petition had been reported, our departed Brother, Daniel K. Ziegler, moved the adoption of the resolution that resulted in the election of the committee bringing this report to Annual Conference 1966. Brother Ziegler’s dissatisfaction with the present system as expressed then was principally with the requirement that each church annually must poll the congregation on the question “Do you wish to retain your pastor?”
The committee began its study early in the year. Its study began with much debate. At the start, the study was concentrated principally on the annual poll. As the study progressed, it slowly became apparent that to satisfy its own findings, the committee must design a completely new system of pulpit supply. There seemed to be many areas on which the committee received new concepts as to the principles of Scripture applying to this problem. No satisfactory method was found by which the present system might be given small modifications merely to eliminate unsatisfactory features.
This report is submitted respectfully and in good faith with a high degree of unanimity among the committee members. May these proposals be given your earnest consideration. The Committee expects that by prayerfully adopting these proposed rules we will add stability, growth and maturity in God’s work through the Bible Fellowship Church.
In the latter part of the month of February, 1966, Brother Ziegler was suddenly ushered into the presence of his Lord. He was Chairman of the Committee from the date of its organization until he passed from our midst. He was earnest and diligent in his effort to find some way that would improve the method used to fill Bible Fellowship Church pulpits. The outline of the plan recommended herein had been developed prior to his passing. Following is a portion of a letter dated January 10, 1066, in his own handwriting to another committee member, who had been collating material as it was furnished by other members of the committee:
“He (a reference by Brother Ziegler to another member of the committee) will no doubt give you a gist of some fine criticisms along the line of setting forth a scriptural basis for this suggested change in pulpit supply. I would like to add my voice to the need of setting forth as strong an argument theologically, philosophically, psychologically or from any other viewpoint as possible because there is apt to be a very strong opposition just due to the power of inertia.
“In general I believe that the procedures set forth when well refined and defined would result in a much improved way of dealing with pastoral matters than our present procedures.”
In closing it is of further interest to note that the Lutheran Brethren Church has a pulpit supply system practically identical to that proposed herein. They do not have it reduced to writing.
The Lutheran Brethren Church has about forty churches and about 4,500 members. It is also interesting to note that a pastor of the Lutheran Brethren Church has reported to our committee that their system works, and that they are happy with the manner in which it works for them.
Suggested Transitional Adjustments
When the recommendations made herein are approved, some consideration must be given to transitional adjustments, suggested as follows:
1. Elimination of the Stationing, Boundary and Appropriating Committee, at least with respect to its present duties and responsibilities.
2. Creation of a small committee by Annual Conference to which it can refer problems brought to Annual Conference by or through the Pastoral Relations Committee; this subcommittee would be responsible to hear the matters, make a record of its findings, and submit final recommendations to Conference for approval.
3. Should suggestions No. 1 be followed, other procedures should be set up for appropriating financial aid to churches that need help. We suggest this function be transferred to the Board of Church Extension.
4. Since the proposed system includes the possibility that a pastor may at times be without an assignment, except as he may work as a supply pastor, consideration should be given to including in the Administrative budget a sum equal to fifty cents per member to be paid into a fund held by the Board of Directors of Bible Fellowship Church. From this fund, any pastor who is without a regular assignment for more than 14 consecutive days, shall receive an appropriation of $30.00 per week for the first twenty-six weeks of his being without a regular assignment. In addition, some study should be given to the provision of housing for such a pastor and his family, without cost to him, during this same twenty-six week period.
Whether or not the recommendations of this committee may be adopted, the problems listed under No. 18 of this paper should be dealt with and adequate legislation adopted so that we may govern by our rules.
Daniel K. Ziegler, Russell T. Allen, Carl C. Cassel, Donald T. Kirkwood, John H. Riggall, Byron C. Cassel, Harold W. Griest, Committee.