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Lutherans/Pastor seeking to do mission work


I'm a writer who has an important character who's a female Lutheran pastor.  She's suffering from what she calls "compassion fatigue" and would like to exchange her current responsibilities shepherding her congregation 24/7 for something more hands-on in a third-world country. Would she start her journey by contacting her bishop?


Thank you for your question. Your premise sounds like it could be the beginning of an very interesting read.

To answer your question, yes, generally a pastor in a parish setting would contact his or her bishop to begin that transition. It would be similar to a pastor deciding that they would like to be considered for another call. In that case, one must go through the bishop to be part of the process.  In the case you mention, a pastor would still go to her bishop and say, in effect, "I am resigning from this call to take on another type of ministry." This new ministry would not be parish based and in this case, not synodically based, but the bishop and the Synod Council are the ones who can grant the pastor either an "On Leave From Call" status, or a status that defines her ministry as non-congregational (this would be the case, for instance, if the pastor chose to enter the ELCA missionary field, while the former would be in use if she went to serve in a non-church or non-ELCA mission activity).  In either case, the bishop is also the one who would oversee the process for the pastor's replacement, working with the congregation to first install a temporary Interim Pastor, and then shepherding the process of the congregation seeking an new full-time pastor to call.

I hope that this is helpful, and good luck on your story.

Martin Eldred


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Martin W. Eldred


I have been a Lutheran Christian for 56 years and a Lutheran pastor for almost 28. I can answer most general questions about Luther, Lutheran History, Lutheran Theology, and a Lutheran approach to Biblical Interpretation. I am ELCA, for those who know what that means, and I tend to be moderate theologically. I hope that I can converse with those that are either more conservative or liberal than I, and especially with those who are really just seeking.


Pastors are "generalists" and generally have a working knowledge on many subjects. We are also used to working with a variety of answers from a variety of people. I teach a great deal, especially in the area of the New Testament. I particularly enjoy the Pauline literature. I have a PhD in New Testament and my dissertation was on II Corinthians.

I have been a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, an international gathering of biblical scholars and teachers, since the late 1980s.

I have written a few book reviews for the journal, "Lutheran Quarterly."

I have a B.A. from Pacific Lutheran University in Religion (Biblical Studies)and a Master of Divinity from Wartburg Theological Seminary. I also have PhD in New Testament.

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