From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Ministry Board Discusses Clergy Supply, Re-Elects Wagner

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date 04 Apr 2000 15:35:55


April 4, 2000


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The board of the Division for Ministry of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) reviewed a draft of a
report on the supply of clergy in the ELCA when it met here March 10-12.
The board also re-elected the Rev. Joseph M. Wagner as executive
director of the division.
     "Study of Ordained Ministers in the ELCA: Needs and Resources in
the 21st Century" is the name of a report to be completed in
consultation with the ELCA Conference of Bishops in the fall of 2000.
The Rev. A. Craig Settlage, associate executive director of the Division
for Ministry, presented a draft of the report to the board.
     "I began work on the study thinking there was not a crisis in the
ELCA," said Settlage.  "There is a crisis in some of our synods."
     ELCA congregations are organized into 65 synods, each headed by a
     "One thing that is striking for me is the changing face of
congregations today," said Settlage.  There is "a growing number of
smaller congregations with limited resources," he said.
     While the total number of ELCA congregations fell from 11,120 to
10,862 between 1988 and 1998, the number of congregations reporting an
average weekly worship attendance of 50 or less rose from 2,058 to
2,329, according to the report.
     Synods with smaller congregations, primarily in rural areas, have
a more difficult time filling vacancies and retaining leaders than
synods in metropolitan areas of the church, said Settlage.
     The number of ordained ministers serving in congregations dropped
from 10,125 in 1989 to 9,583 in 1998, according to the report.  The
number of ministers being added to the roster of ELCA clergy was almost
equal to the number of ministers retiring or dying in each of the years
from 1990 to 1998.
     Resignations and removals are the sources of much of the decline,
said Settlage.  "Can we do a better job of supporting our pastors so
fewer will choose to leave?" he asked.
     The Rev. Terrence G. Baeder, board member from Tinley Park, Ill.,
called a decline in the number of specialized pastoral care ministers at
"a crisis point."  The number of ordained ministers serving in calls
other than to congregations fell from 2,779 in 1989 to 1,919 in 1998.
     "Military chaplains and specialized pastoral care chaplains have
been identified as two areas of service where there is a growing need
for ordained ministers," Settlage read from the report.
     "Supply and demand is the shorthand expression we use, but this is
very complicated," said the Rev. David C. Wold, bishop of the ELCA
Southwestern Washington Synod.  Ordained ministers serving as chaplains,
missionaries and mission developers require special skills, training and
personalities, he said.
     Settlage reminded the board that the report is still in draft form
and largely comprised of statistics.  "Qualitative issues are still
before us," he said.
     The ELCA Department for Research and Evaluation developed a
questionnaire being used to gather information for the report.  The Rev.
Norman D. Eitrheim, former bishop of the ELCA South Dakota Synod, Sioux
Falls, conducted personal interviews for the report.
     "There is food for thought in this report about the factors of why
there may be a clergy shortage in some synods of our church while, at
the same time, in other synods there really is no shortage," Kevin J.
Boatright, Madison, Wis., board chair, said in an interview.
     "This report is an attempt to look at some of the research that is
available and, without drawing hard and fast conclusions, suggest some
of the reasons why there are perceived shortages in certain parts of our
church," he said.  "A lot of it had to do with the increasing number of
small congregations that are having difficulty financially calling a
full-time pastor."
     Boatright said he was surprised to learn that the age at which
ministers are being ordained was not a factor.  "There is the perception
that, because some people are starting their ministries later in life,
that is impacting somehow the notion of a clergy shortage," he said.
"The report suggests that probably is not the case."
     The Division for Ministry board also elected the Rev. Joseph M.
Wagner to another four-year term as executive director of the division.
     Wagner has served the Lutheran church and the ELCA Division for
Ministry long and well, said Boatright.  "He has lead us through some
major studies and through some major issues in this church."
     "He received from our board a very strong affirmation for the work
of the division and for him personally, so we renewed his call for a
four-year period, upon the recommendation of ELCA Presiding Bishop H.
George Anderson," said Boatright.
     "That was certainly a major issue," said Boatright.  "We are very
happy for the work of Joe, and we are very happy to see him continue."
     In other business, the board:
+ reviewed a draft proposal the ELCA Church Council will consider in
April on the feasibility of a possible study on the ordination of gay
and lesbian Lutherans;
+ previewed excerpts of a videotape, "Why Christian? For Those on the
Edge of Faith,"
featuring theologian Douglas John Hall;
+ heard reports from the Rev. Duane H. Larson, president of Wartburg
Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, and the Rev. James E. Miley,
coordinator, ELCA Region 8 -- Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland,
West Virginia and western Pennsylvania;
+ reappointed the Rev. Charles W. Mays, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church,
Port Angeles, Wash., and the Rev. Robert L. Vogel, Denver, to four-year
terms on the Theological Education Coordinating Committee;
+ approved Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center, Carefree, Ariz., as an
ELCA Life-Long Learning Partner -- continuing theological education
center; and
+ affirmed the goals of a "Strategic Plan for Specialized Pastoral Care
and Clinical Education" and asked staff to develop specific strategies
for implementation.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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