The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Lessons from Texas

Readers want to see changes to candidacy system

Your story ("Texas suit raises more questions," June, page 48) made visible the complexity of the ELCA candidacy and call processes and the high risk for abuse that results from a breakdown in the system. Effective communication and hands-on getting-to-know the candidate among supervisors, seminaries and synods are critical during the candidate's theological training. The emphasis during the processes needs to be on screening out unhealthy individuals as well as on identifying gifts for ministry and the readiness of the candidate. Perhaps the processes might include: requiring background checks; restructuring official candidacy interviews to include people who can personally vouch for the integrity, moral character and readiness of the candidate — people who have personally known the candidate for an extended period of time; creating a database that includes software to note who has contributed to or changed data and when; maintaining clear and consistent guidelines for committees, advisers, supervisors and synods, including a process for reporting allegations of misconduct; establishing opportunities to name a concern and for the candidate to respond; maintaining ongoing communication between the candidate and church authority; and keeping transparency in the processes with information readily available to those who need it.

Peggy Niederer
Leonia, N.J.

Thank you for your report regarding the aftermath of the situation in Marshall, Texas. As the pastor who organized Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and served there from November 1962 to December 1965, I've been disturbed by the failure to take responsibility for the situation by the seminary and the synod with respect to keeping Gerald Thomas out of the ministry and out of Marshall. I'd be interested to know whether anyone from the seminary, synod or ELCA ever has offered an apology for the hurt their actions, or lack of them, caused the members of Good Shepherd.

Charles W. Pegg
Austin, Texas

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