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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Mediated Calls Get Mediated Removals

Regarding the removal of pastors from Office it has recently been postulated wrongly that while an unrepentant man should be removed from office, a pastor who is repentant and forgiven, no matter what his transgression, should not be removed. It has been suggested that to remove a repentant, forgiven man from Office because of his actions would make the Absolution only sham forgiveness and is actually a form of legalism or Pharisaism. Part of the argument for that position has been to invoke the examples of Moses who committed murder before being placed into Office and St. Paul who assisted in murderer before being called to be an Apostle. Most significantly the argument has drawn the example of King David who committed both adultery and murder while in office and was never removed.  

The idea and the examples are false. The Absolution does not remove all temporal consequences. Forgiven sinners often must make recompense for their sins where possible. I have written about that here.

But what of the examples of Moses, David, and Paul? The examples are misleading. They are misleading for two reasons. In the first place Moses, David, and Paul were all called to their offices immediately, directly by God and not through the Church. Therefore the Church had no oversight over them. Those who are rightly called now are called through the Church by God. There are thus also removed by God through the Church when necessary. In the second place the offices in which Moses, David, and Paul served, namely, prophet, priest, and apostle, were somewhat distinct from the Office of the Holy Ministry as it has been given to us. Our pastors are not prophets, kings, or apostles. They are apostolic ministers. Thus their duties and responsibilities are laid out in the apostolic writings.

Men who were called by God through the Church and then rightly removed by God through the Church for cause who then set themselves up as teachers of the Church do so without a call, as enthusiasts, and are destructive to the Church, contrary to the Gospel.

Regarding this, the necessary mediated removal of apostolic ministers through the Church, Chemnitz writes:

Just as God properly claims for Himself the right to call, also mediately, and it is accordingly necessary for it be to be done according to divine instruction, so also has God properly reserved to Himself alone this power of removing someone from the ministry. 1 Sam 2:30, 32; Hos 4:6. But since that dismissal takes place mediately, it is therefore necessary that it not take place except by instruction and divine direction. Therefore as long as God lets in the ministry His minister who teaches rightly and lives blamelessly, the church does not have the power, without divine command to remove an unwanted man, namely [if he is] a servant of God. But when he does not build up the church by either doctrine or life, but rather destroys [it], God Himself removes him, 1 Sm 2:30; Hos 4:6. And then the church only properly can but by all means should remove such a one from the ministry. For just as God calls minister of the church, so He removes them through legitimate means. But as the procedure of a call is to follow the instruction of the Lord of the harvest, so also if one is to be removed from the ministry, the church must show that that also is done by the command and will of the Lord. (Chemntiz, Enchiridion CPH 1981, 37. Emphasis added.)

David Petersen