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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






18 June 2009

A Matter Personal and Professional


Preface:This may surprise some readers of Ask the Pastor: I’ve been asked to resign my pastorate here in Emma, Missouri. I’ll provide a bit of background in this preface and then let you read the following letter, one that I delivered verbally and in print to the congregation following the service on 7 June 2009.

It follows a month of serious soul-searching, including many prayers and hours of conversation with some of the members of Holy Cross Lutheran. I’ll not get into personalities nor attempt to ascribe motives, since these are sinful activities involving judging others. Likewise, I won’t catalogue the list of reasons that were appended to the request for my resignation.

I do, however, wish to highlight one issue. Among other complaints, one item read, “Has frequently embarrassed HC with newspaper articles.” As you know, I’ve talked about confessional, liturgical Lutheranism. I have occasionally highlighted differences among the various parts of Christendom and those between orthodox Christianity and various sects and cults. I’ve addressed sexuality, abusive behavior, family dynamics, evolution and creation, sacramental theology, suffering and death, and seemingly almost “everything that is done under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:14)”

In all of these, I tried to be as gentle as possible with my responses but never less than absolutely forthright and firm in my beliefs. I drew upon Scripture, the Creeds, the Lutheran Confessions, and experts in the fields about which I was asked. I hope that none of my readers has thought less of Holy Cross because of these collected writings of its pastor. If you have, please tell me, so that I may apologize to you and to the flock here.

I will not be attending the voters’ meeting this coming Sunday. Rather, our circuit counselor will be present. I have no certainty as to the outcome, although I imagine that even many of my supporters would rather let me “quietly” resign rather than undergo protracted struggle within the congregation. However, if people continue asking questions, expecting a thoughtful, Christ-centered response, I will continue to reply as I am able.

Beyond the next few weeks, I’ve not done much planning. I imagine that will soon change. I ask for your prayers and trust that the Lord will provide. Please pray also for my family here and elsewhere. Pray that Holy Cross finds true peace, not because I am gone but rather because they are living under the grace of God in Christ Jesus.

My own hope centers upon my desire — even need — to continue preaching and teaching the Word of God, particularly salvation by grace through faith in Christ. I imagine that I’d be delighted to enter another parish, one that wants Law and Gospel preaching, liturgical worship, and thought-provoking Bible study.

Of late, I’ve also been thinking more seriously about attempting to enter the Lutheran classroom on either the high school or collegiate level. While I could certainly teach religion, I’d almost rather teach the humanities (my college major) or history (my minor), in a setting where I could freely integrate the Faith with the curriculum. If God calls me into this arena, I hope that He allows me to also shepherd a small congregation or else work with the pastors in a larger church.

Finally, if you wish to contact me or the congregation, you may send email or write a letter. I include the addresses below the letter. And please keep an eye out for what happens next. If I am to leave, I’d love to have as many people as possible celebrate Christ’s forgiveness proclaimed through the pastoral office during one final service at the end of this month. Should there be opportunity for a farewell service, I hope that we’ll find a way to bend wrists and elbows to plate and cup after bending our hearts and knees to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Addendum to the preface: Please do not think that this column was the primary complaint given by the church officers, nor only one of a handful. They were listed, although not in any order of seriousness, from one through thirteen(!). As I say below, I am a sinner and know better than anyone but God how rotten I can be. I’ve not been all that I could be as man, husband, father, son, or brother, so it’s no surprise that I’ve also fallen short of the mark as a pastor.

Out of the list of complaints, the items with which I most closely agree involve time and space management. I over-schedule, under-plan, and thus am often racing the clock. I’m somewhat of a stranger to arriving early and while I’m not racing the bells to church, I don’t always get there as soon as some desire. There’s always one more “squeaking wheel” that I think I must immediately “grease” before moving on to what’s already on the schedule.

Evening meetings are often worse, since I’ll try to squeeze in one more visit or try to get one more thing done before beginning my visits. Either of these can easily make me late for meetings. Also in this realm, some thought that I missed meetings I should have attended. I tried to be present for all meetings with elders and council and never intentionally avoided either. As far as I know, I skipped these “essential” assemblies only when out of town for visitation or vacation or sick at home.

One item objected to the way I dressed at times, although no one ever came to me with a first- (or even second-) hand example of unprofessional attire in “public arenas.” Perhaps it involves my 52 year old body at the public pool, picking up trash in ditches, wearing a t-shirt and shorts on a hot summer day while dining uptown, or just being in one of the towns not on official business and thus not dressed to the nines (or even the 6.5s). Some of the complaints are more personal or would need first-hand observation in order to comment or draw conclusions, so I’ll not include them.

Anyhow, it wasn’t only — or even primarily — my answers to people’s questions that led to this situation. However, perception often trumps reality, so even minor points likely fanned the flames already burning in some folks’ bellies over more major items of contention.

Therefore, if anyone is moved to squawk, please don’t put all the eggs into the rickety basket of Ask the Pastor.


1 June AD 2009

Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Emma, Missouri

Dear members of Holy Cross,

On 5 May 2009 the chairman and elders of Holy Cross presented me with a request that I resign as pastor of this congregation. They asked that I do so in writing by 1 June with an effective date of 30 June.

The request stated that if I were to tender a resignation during the set period, I would be offered a severance package, including continuation of compensation, parsonage housing, and health insurance. Each of these was set for a different duration and details will be made available.

I spent much time in discussion with my family and with brother pastors, synodical officials, and Lutheran lay people whose judgment I trust. They have offered a number of conflicting recommendations and their advice varied so widely that it left me with no one clear course of action. Not able to discern how each different decision might play out in the future, I decided upon a response that I think best suits the immediate situation.

I do not desire a protracted struggle that might hurt my family nor do I want to further divide Holy Cross. Therefore, on 1 June I presented [our congregational chairman] with notice that I accepted the request for my resignation. However, I asked that this not be publicized until I made an official announcement after the service on 7 June. At the same time as I wrote to the church officers, I composed this message for the entire congregation. I shall read it and then make it available in print.

In short, I tender Holy Cross Congregation my resignation as its pastor, effective 30 June 2009. Since the voters’ assembly is the official calling body of a synodical congregation, the voters must accept this resignation at a duly called meeting. Therefore, at the 21 June congregational meeting, you will be asked to do so and to make official the end of my duties here. If my resignation is accepted, you will be asked to approve the severance package and attend to any other details.

It has been my pleasure and privilege to be your pastor for the past ten years. When I came, I promised to preach and teach “nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)” Through Word and Sacrament, in sermons and classes, in hospitals welcoming new babies or ministering to the sick, the injured, and the dying, at weddings and at funerals, I believe I was able, by God’s grace, to accomplish this goal.

Of course, I am, as are all of Christ’s people, still a poor miserable sinner as well as a saint, that is, a redeemed child of God through faith in Christ Jesus. If I mis-spoke, I pray that I always clarified or corrected my words. If any think that I have wronged them and that we have not yet reconciled, I ask that they come to me so that we might be reunited in “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3)” At those times that my priorities and emphases differed from those of others, rest assured that those differences stemmed from who I am and how I was raised and trained, not from animosity toward any members of this church.

Please pray for wisdom as you prepare for the June voters’ meeting and the decisions you must make. Pray also for Holy Cross, for the Snyder family, and for me.

Yours in Christ,
(signed) Pastor Walter P. Snyder

Pastor Walter Snyder [click to send email]
PO Box 12
Emma, Missouri 65327

Holy Cross Lutheran Church [click to send email]
PO Box 86
Emma, Missouri 65327

23 Comments:

Blogger Tricia said...

I cannot imagine what writings might have precipitated such a thing as this. I have read ATP for years. You have educated many, illuminated Scripture and inspired me to follow Christ more closely. I thank you for your service to our Lord and my prayers are with you.

18 June, 2009 03:04  
Blogger Rose said...

I agree with Tricia.. I hope you will continue with ATP because it's valuable to Christians & non-Christians alike who have questions related to faith & other topics. I am sorry to hear that your church has some sort of problem with the things you've said in that column. The Lord knows his plans for you, though, & I will pray that they are revealed to you. Will also pray for your family & the situation overall.

18 June, 2009 04:38  
Blogger Mild Colonial Boy, Esq. said...

Dear Pastor Snyder,
May I say that this seems rather dreadful and unfair. Those writings that I have seen, seemed charitable but orthodox. I find it difficult to see what they could take offence at or consider embarrassing - except possibly the Gospel. It is unfortunate when flawed human nature raises its ugly head in Church politics. May I say that I have always found your webpages most enlightening, useful and inspiring. I shall be praying for you and your family in these difficult times.

18 June, 2009 06:22  
Blogger Scott said...

Pastor Snyder, I am sorry to know of this wretched situation.

Count it all joy when they persecute you for Jesus' sake. Sounds trite when staring down the barrel, and it sure is easy for me to type on the internet. It is, as you know, the Word of God. I hope it offers you some peace. My words are nothing compared to God's Word, but know that prayers for you and your family and Holy Cross do ascend, along with warm thoughts and best wishes for you.

18 June, 2009 06:32  
Blogger DRG said...

Pr Snyder-
I echo the previous posters comments. I have read your ATP column for several years and have always thought that the articles were solidly Scriptural and true to the Confessions. I have sent them to friends many times and enjoyed reading and learning from them. That there are those who have been offended by their content speaks more loudly of their lack of Biblical understanding than of yours. Truth offends. I pray that God will grant you a congregation to serve that will know how blessed it is to have a pastor who teaches and preaches the Truth.

18 June, 2009 06:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When this 'disease' infects a congregation, any excuse will do. Sometimes NO excuse is given!
They know enough to know they have no Scriptural reason for what they do, but they do it anyway!

Luther said such congregations should be left vacant and any who replaced the dismissed was "no better than a thief or a robber because he stole another man's living" but who reads Luther!?

Some kind of preacher will come. As my grandmother said about marriage, "There is no pot so crooked that a cover can't be found to fit it."
But if the silent "supporters" of the Pastor think they are buying "peace" they won't get it! They are participants in the destruction of their church no less than the cabal who instigated this travesty and the DP who permits it.

Helen

18 June, 2009 07:21  
Anonymous The Renegade said...

Brother Walter,

I am trusting that if there were any validity to the accusations and supposed causes leading to the request for your resignation, you as a faithful Christian would have rapidly admitted and repented of them. In the absence of such a response, how tragic that your opponents fail to see that it is the lack of clear, unbending, even confrontational proclamation and discussion of the truth of Scripture and Christian doctrine that is the real failing in churches today. Harmony for its own sake is meaningless, for it requires no substance. I'm saddened by the loss of your shepherding to the souls at Holy Cross who value and need it, but as for the rest who instigated this travesty, may they choke on the dust shaken from your sandals until they come to repentance.

18 June, 2009 10:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a sad day for so very many people in so very many places -- particularly the "sheep" of the pasture known as Holy Cross of Emma, Missouri. May the Spirit of Christ alone govern all that is said and done in this matter. Pastor Snyder, no doubt you weren't perfect as you dispatched the duties and responsibilities given to you, but NO man could do that! Well done, good servant. Be at peace for the Lord remains with you and your family.
Ron

18 June, 2009 13:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pastor,

I've been an appreciative reader of your blog for about a year. You, your family, and the congregation of Holy Cross are in my prayers.

-Gary in Hawaii

18 June, 2009 14:57  
Blogger Raggedy Lamb said...

Pastor Snyder,
I'm so sorry to hear of your resignation. I often come to ATP to learn from you what it is that the Scriptures say. Some of what you say is strong stuff, but that is the Word of God. And along with the strong Law that shows me how I have not lived the way God says I should, you have also shared the Gospel and offered me complete forgiveness for my sins. Again, that was not YOU, but the Word of God at work through you. Thank you.

May God guard you and keep you as you figure out what to do next.

Becky (in Japan)

18 June, 2009 21:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pastor Snyder,

I have been reading your column/ blog for ten years. Your writing was a very important component of my decision to join the Lutheran church. I am truly sorry to hear of this trouble with your congregation, and I am moved by your Christian response. I pray that this trouble will pass quickly for you, and please know how much support you have from your online readers.

Lara

18 June, 2009 21:50  
Blogger VirginiaLutherans said...

Everyone has said it better than I. I am sorry to hear of your troubles with the church. I don't know the particulars (nor do I care to), but I have read your posts here. The theology written has not been lacking in what I can discern. They are losing a good Pastor, as your response clearly shows. God will direct you as He will (and does). Take care and you and your family will be in our prayers.

18 June, 2009 23:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will pray for you and your family during this difficult time. I am a Lutheran school teacher and have at times used your articles to help teach my students.

19 June, 2009 10:48  
Blogger Koobear said...

I enjoy and benefit from reading your Christ centered Law & Gospel responses to your readers on ATP. I was sad to hear of this and pray for you and your family.

19 June, 2009 15:27  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Snyder,
I have read ATP many times, and always found it fruitful. I have also enjoyed your posts on the CAT 41 Lists. I am sorry to hear that you have encoutnered such problems. You and your family are in my prayers. I know that God will bring you through this - and remember, He is always in control! God bless.

19 June, 2009 21:21  
Blogger saxoniae said...

If your congregation president and board of elders had backed you, then the antagonists would have complained anonymously to the district president so that he could bring in a staff mission facilitator to act as umpire. That's the situation in my congregation, anyway.

We've had similar problems among the LCMS congregations in Southeast Missouri. The next congregation down the highway has driven off or "fired" four pastors in a row. Somehow, they remain a member congregation of the LCMS.

I've been called an unloving pharisee and even accused of being brainwashed for supporting my pastor.

21 June, 2009 05:18  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just stumbled across this blog for the first time today. So sad to hear about this situation
So much for the power of the "Divine Call", huh? Obviously we don't know all the circumstances but it's a shame that it can be extended and after 10 years - withdrawn. Don't be discouraged, Pastor. God is still in control thru it all.
_______________________________
Jeremiah 29:11 - 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

22 June, 2009 14:14  
Blogger Past Elder said...

Being a, well, past elder, various things come to mind, but what I will say is it is the presence of pastors like you in LCMS and sites like this one and others in your site family that were a major factor in me joining LCMS.

24 June, 2009 18:06  
Blogger PW said...

I am a pastor's wife and have my hubby has in essence has just been moved to another congregation because of disgruntled members. His credentials are in another denomination. I personally am interested in Lutheran doctrine, but that's beside the point. His disgruntled congregation began complaining to his superiors almost the moment we got to the former church three years ago. It came to a head last year. This past month we just made a move to a new church. He starts this week. There is so much pain, bitterness, ugliness, etc that goes with such a move. We know all too well. Personally I'm praying for you and your family.

28 June, 2009 15:04  
Blogger PW said...

I want to add, that I have not been a long reader of this blog, but hope that you continue to write. I am very much interested in learning more about the Lutheran doctrine and beliefs. I am so sorry to see this happening to you and your family. Thank you for your writings, and may the Lord surround you and your family with comfort, peace, discernment, and wisdom during this harsh time. I know the feelings can run the gamut and can vary from day to day, and sometimes from hour to hour. May the Lord bring all of us healing as we deal with disgruntled church members' wounds inflicted on our families.

28 June, 2009 15:08  
Blogger SjB said...

Prayers ascending.
Tears descending.

It is painful to hear your news.

ATP has always been a blessing and it is part of the reason I became an orthodox Lutheran.

With much appreciation,
SjB

21 July, 2009 08:11  
Blogger Paul said...

It sounds like they wanted a bureaucrat and a politician instead of a pastor

26 July, 2009 10:07  
Blogger O'pinion said...

I dropped off your email list and haven't been here in a while. What a jolt. I am saddened by this news. As a member of an elder board some years ago, I was involved in defending our Pastor from an antagonist and know how trying it is for a Pastor. I pray that a church that appreciates your work will be issuing a call soon.

27 August, 2009 09:37  

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