Bishop Lull: A Pastoral Message on Standards for Pastors and Deacons

Date posted: Tuesday 09 April 2019

This past weekend the ELCA Church Council met in Chicago. They decided not to consider for adoption a document entitled, “Trustworthy Servants of the People of God”, which had been recommended to them by the Conference of Bishops. Instead, they chose to refer this document back to the Domestic Mission Unit of the Churchwide office for further work and redrafting in alignment with the social teachings of the ELCA. In addition, the Church Council asked that a process be used by Domestic Mission which intentionally includes more diverse voices, especially those who perceive they were most harmed by the misuse of the current document, Vision and Expectations in the past. They have asked that work be completed by the fall of 2020.


I will see that details related to that participatory process, means for wider comment, and the overall cost of this process is shared with you as those matters are determined. Some of you will be pleased by the decision to open up the drafting process to more voices. Others of you may be disappointed that a better document has not yet been adopted. A lot of you will wonder what this even is. So, we ask Martin Luther’s question – What does this mean?


Like all church bodies, including its predecessor bodies, the ELCA has always had clearly stated expectations for pastors and deacons. These are found in the ELCA constitution, the services of ordination and consecration, in the document entitled Vision and Expectations and in a companion document, Guidelines and Definitions for Discipline. I particularly encourage lay leaders to read what is currently expected in the preaching, teaching, pastoral care, and service of those you have called to lead your congregation, as well as the expectations for their personal integrity.


There are two commitments that are on my mind as I write to you. First and foremost is the commitment that our congregations and institutions be places in which the gospel is proclaimed in an environment that is safe and respectful for all. I know that our pastors and deacons join me in this commitment. For now, Vision and Expectations remains as the statement of those basic standards.


Secondly, the Saint Paul Area Synod – I, as bishop, and we collectively in our common life – welcomes persons of every background, race, sexual orientation and gender identity to engage fully in the life of the church. In the ELCA we affirm that Jesus calls all into a life of hearty discipleship; no exceptions. If you wonder if there is room for your gifts in this church, the answer is an unqualified yes. If you wonder if you are being called to prepare for rostered ministry, let me know. The candidacy process is open to you and I will connect you with those who can support your discernment.


In a few days we will enter into Holy Week and the final days of preparation for Easter. I invite you to join me in praying for Christ’s church and for our willingness in this synod to encourage each other as we live in a manner that points others to God’s reconciling love. I give thanks that this is our common calling.


Yours in Christ’s service,


Bishop Patricia Lull

Saint Paul Area Synod, ELCA