Reasons I Didn’t Resign

21 09 2010

Brothers and sisters in Christ, especially my family at Michigan Lutheran Seminary-

I can’t say it’s been a surprise, but it’s certainly been an experience listening to friends and families share their conjectures with me. Sometimes it’s what they’ve heard from others and sometimes what they’ve personally thought. I wanted to put up this post to try to ease some tensions and to try not to lose the value of my resigning for the good of the ministry.

We have a few terms in our circles for describing different kinds of resignations. A resignation for cause is the one that I think people fear the most. Resignation for cause means that a called worker has done something sinful that disqualifies them from serving. A clear-cut example would be teaching heresy. Other more complicated issues would be getting caught in some big, public sin like adultery or embezzlement. The distinguishing mark of resignation for cause is the repentance that everyone will be hoping for. The forgiveness the resigned called worker receives is the same forgiveness we all receive—complete and unconditionally paid for by the blood of Christ. However, the called worker still must leave their post because leaders in the church are held to a higher standard than those who serve as members. “Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap” (1 Timothy 3:2-4,7). There is the possibility that the called worker might return under some circumstances, but the reputation requirements do make it difficult.

A called worker may also resign for personal reasons. Due to circumstances in his life, he cannot do the work. Perhaps his health is failing. Perhaps his family can’t handle the pressures of the ministry at this point in their lives. Perhaps it is an issue in which his wife needs extra attention so that he does not feel he is able to offer due attention to his work. These things could certainly be addressed in a way that allowed a return to the ministry if the the worker desired it.

There are some circumstances that are much more difficult to parse. There is no great, public sin. Inability to serve is not the issue. As a leader the called worker has a decision to make in a difficult situation and reaches the conclusion that the best thing for the ministry of the gospel in general and the ministry of the calling body in particular is that he simply step away, confident that the Lord of the church will provide another worker to take his place.

That’s where I am. I came here to offer myself in whatever service the school needed most. I can’t say that I thought this was the service my alma mater would need most from me, but I’m confident that is the very best service I could offer under these very unexpected circumstances.

What were the circumstances? That’s the thing, my friends. I can only serve the school by this resignation if I am able to take the reasons with me. I can only tell you why I didn’t resign. Did my marriage need intensive counseling? I’m happy to take the free counseling that the synod offers to help us deal with the upcoming transition, but I could have gotten that without resigning through the Member Assistance Program that operates right out of the school, too. Plus, that would be a resignation for personal reasons. Does it have to do with my hospitalization last spring? That’s an interesting coincidence, but that issue has been corrected (and, again, that would be personal reasons). Did I do something wrong? I do plenty, but nothing to disqualify me from serving in the ministry. Last but not least, is there something going on in the synod that a poor, naive parish pastor couldn’t handle looking at and so he had to walk away? Brothers and sisters, walking away from that wouldn’t be for the good of the ministry, would it? Of course not. There’s plenty I’d still like to work on in the ministerial education system and in the synod, too, and, quite frankly, I wanted to keep working on those issues as the president of MLS and as a delegate to the 2011 convention (I was up next for the first time in my ministry). Those things were hard to give up.

It was very hard to decide that it was better for the ministry to leave than to stay. I would not have imagined a situation happening where my service was better in resigning rather than in staying and working on the issues I had been most concerned about. Nonetheless, the situation occurred. If you can come up with it by guessing at what happened, then you’re smarter than I am—a possibility I certainly concede. However, this post is as much as I can ever say in terms of confirming or denying whether or not you actually came up with the right situation. Otherwise my service in resignation becomes useless and the school is not served by it. Seeing as I’ve already seen the positive effects of my resignation in action, I’m definitely not going to say more than I have. It’s the hardest service I’ve ever performed, but it’s still a service to the Lord, and I can still honestly say that there is joy in it.

So thank you for your concerns and prayers. I still have my CRM status, which means that I am still eligible to preach and receive a call. But I will be looking for a job while my family heals from this. We will be mourning the joy of serving at MLS. Will I go back to the ministry? I’d like to, but I want to be sure of my family’s feelings first. Resignations like this are rare but still possible, no matter where you serve. I can tell them how unlikely a similar situation would be, but first I want to make sure that it won’t sound to them something like talking about the rarity of a plane crash to someone who has just survived one.

Thanks again for your support and prayers, and God bless you all with the peace that comes from knowing that the omnipotent Father in heaven was more willing to let his perfectly faithful Son die innocently for our sins rather than see us die in them—and especially with the peace of his victory over our death.

Your brother in Christ,

Aaron

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8 responses

21 09 2010
Deb You Know Me Priebe

Aaron,
We love you! Thanks for taking the time to blog about the resignation. I have known you since you were a wee babe and I KNOW this decision was not made lightly or without knee-hurting time at prayer. I also know that God will be with you and your family and will indeed bless you and, the ministry you love, abundantly.
I doubt that there is physically anything I could do to help, but the offer is here if I can. My prayers continue for you….always!
Deb

22 09 2010
Joe Dietrich

You and your family are in my prayers. May God give you all the strength and wisdom you need.

23 09 2010
college-aged WELS-ian

…so what was it? You can’t possibly make us read all that and not tell what is. Scott Jungen is right; you gotta go all or nothing.

23 09 2010
Aaron Frey

Actually, college-aged WELS-ian, I can and I must. God called me to serve a lot of people at MLS, and there are many whom I served by respecting their privacy and keeping information that only I needed to know about them safe. I will continue to serve them in that way.

I think you’ll feel better if you re-read the Large Catechism, especially Dr. Luther’s comments on the Eighth Commandment. I have committed no great, public sin that has to be covered up. There are just the unnecessary conjectures and false accusations that have been made since my resignation.

And I’m afraid I don’t understand the reference to Scott Jungen. Did he mention something of importance I should be aware of on a website or something?

23 09 2010
Joel

I hope that your online experience will help to wake up some people in our circles who slobber after a certain para-Lutheran blogger. They hang on his every word because he supports certain opinions they have about the synod. His behavior here shows that he has no love of the gospel. He only wants to spread as many negative rumors about the “higher ups” in the synod that he can. I hope that his treatment of you will get them to see his true nature as a vengeful rumormonger.

24 09 2010
Ken Clouse

Aaron,
Thanks for the post, it was encouraging. Encouraging in that you put your finger on emotions that are not mentionable and acted. I for one really understand this, and I say thanks. Your conviction I admire, your commitment to family is a blessing to witness. A well known Christian writer on the doctrine of Vocation stresses the fact that God places His people where He wants them so that His Glory may be accomplished. I believe you will be doing that exactly, “God working through you where ever you are and in what ever you do”.
God Bless You Aaron

29 09 2010
Aaron Frey

Thanks, Ken. His richest blessings in Christ to you, as well.

29 09 2010
Scott Mund

Thanks, Aaron, for graciously sharing this with us. You are right in that we brace ourselves for what we most fear when we hear that a called worker has resigned. I don’t think that is a thoughtless transgression against the Eighth Commandment as much as a loving concern about our brothers and sisters in ministry balanced with a realistic assessment of the human condition that affects also the saints. Thank you for alleviating most of those fears, just as I hear Pastor Seifert did for others. Nevertheless, our prayers are with you and your family, and I pray the transition is smooth for you, whatever direction the Lord takes you. Count your remarkable blessings, or even just your Greatest One, and your courage cannot fail. Be well.

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