The assistant to the Bishop for the Florida-Bahamas Synod ELCA, Pastor Paul Lutze, spoke with the congregation on June 19, 2011. Pastor Jon was in attendance for the first worship service but due to uncontrolled pain had to leave before Pastor Lutze addressed the church. Pastor Lutze prepared a 2-page memo to members of our church dated June 18, 2011. Copies are available in back of the church or at the church office. I highly encourage you to read it. I will attempt to summarize the highlights of Pastor Lutze’s memo below interspersed with my comments:
Pastor Lutze continues his ongoing, fervent and continual prayer for God’s guiding, healing and sustaining hand of blessing for all that we say and do in matters related to the health and well being of Pastor Jon and the congregation.
In March 2011, discussions began between Pastor Jon, Pastor Lutze, colleagues in the Office of the Bishop, and Shepherd of the Hills church leaders as Pastor Jon’s medical problems became evident. With the diagnosis of cancer, Pastor Jon and his doctors decided that extended medical leave would be necessary due to his long course of medical treatment. Pastor Jon’s last pastoral acts at our church were on April 10, 2011.
Pastor Jon stated that in fairness to the congregation and because of his medical needs, other permanent pastoral leadership for our church would be required. Pastor Jon then made the decision to end his pastoral call to Shepherd of the Hills.
Pastor Jon took 30 days of annual leave with his full salary and benefit package. He then began 60 days as Shepherd of the Hills funded short-term disability and received his salary, housing, board of pension benefits and Social Security allowance. His last day of short-term disability and pay will be July 14, 2011.
Pastor Jon applied for long-term disability and medical disability coverage through the Board of Pensions. The disability review process requires that Pastor Jon still be on active pastoral call to a church before any disability benefits are considered. Therefore, Pastor Jon wishes to remain as called pastor [but in an inactive medical leave status] and then to resign no later than October 1, 2011. Upon approval, benefits should begin July 15, 2011. Benefits are retroactive to that date if the Board of Pensions decision on the long-term disability application is approved after the July 15 date.
Pastor Krier is providing pastoral care at the present time and serving as Supply Pastor, since April 11, 2011. She will continue until an Interim Pastor is appointed by the Bishop and begins service in the congregation.
The Office of the Bishop identified and appointed an Interim Pastor who will be announced at the July 14, 2011 Council meeting. Both Pastor Lutze and the new Interim Pastor will be in attendance at the July 14 Council meeting. It is an open meeting and will be held in the sanctuary due to the numbers of people asking to attend and meet the Interim Pastor. Shepherd of the Hills has the right to refuse the appointment. If this is done, the Synod will send another Interim Pastor appointment. At this point, Shepherd of Hills cannot form a call committee; that will eventually be done in the future when the transition needs of the church have been met. Pastor Lutze is recommending that the Interim Pastor serve in a full time status: the council has not yet met to make the decision between part time and full time status for the Interim Pastor as well as to determine the benefits to be offered to the Interim Pastor. It is anticipated that a specially called Council meeting on June 26, 2011 will make the decision then.
Until the Interim Pastor begins serving at Shepherd of the Hills, Pastor Terry manages day to day pastoral care and leadership matters and Pastor Lutze, on behalf of the Bishop’s Office, serves as manager of the administrative oversight and responsibility matters assigned to called pastors in ELCA congregations. Pastor Lutze, working for the Office of the Bishop, will continue to work with our church on matters related to pastoral transition that develop in the coming months; and as those events unfold, suggest other options relating to the formal conclusion of Pastor Jon’s call to Shepherd of the Hills.