When a pastor accepts a call to a congregation, a sacred covenant is established between the pastor and the people of God in that place. For ministry to be strong and effective, the covenant needs to be strengthened and nurtured until God calls that pastor to another sector of ministry. When a pastor resigns a call, the covenant ends.

The following guidelines are to help pastors, and the congregations they served, in understanding the new status of the pastor who has resigned a call. They are intended to affirm the past ministry of such pastors, to give directions which seek to avoid some pitfalls that can present themselves during transitions, and to point to constructive and healthful interactions in the future.

  • Upon the effective date of resignation, the minister of Word and Sacrament is no longer a pastor of the congregation and therefore must discontinue the functions of the pastoral office.
  • Upon retirement or on-leave-from-call status, the rostered minister must no longer continue attending the former congregation nor must they remain a member of the former congregation. Membership must be sought at a different ELCA congregation. It is important to sever ties with your former congregation.
  • If invited to exercise a ministerial role by a member of a congregation to which they were formerly called, ministers of Word and Sacrament should indicate they are no longer authorized to take such a role. If invited to exercise such a role by the current pastor, care must be taken to assure that the parameters and limited scope of the activity are clear.
  • It is your responsibility, as a former pastor, to be supportive of your successor and to speak positively of the ministry of the current pastor, both in person and on social media.
  • While the above statements are addressed to pastors, spouses of pastors must consider the same factors and respect the recommendations made above. Spouses share a pastoral identity and, as a result, can become hindrances as easily as a pastor can.
  • Prior to, but as near to, the effective date of resignation as practical, the rostered minister may make use of the rite of “FAREWELL and GODSPEED” during which they may return to representatives of the congregation the signs of the ministerial office that were given to them at their installation.

Ethical Agreement Form

Distribute the Ethical Agreement for Rostered Ministers Relating to Previously Served Congregations form to the Departing Pastor and Congregation President.

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