Pastoral Transition

As of June 1, 2021, our pastor, the Rev. Dr. William L. Yancey, has retired from congregational ministry. As a result Bethel is now in the exciting and daunting position of selecting our next long-term pastor, and seeing to our ministry in the interim. This page attempts to answer your questions about this process.

Q: Where are we? What’s happening right now?

A: After six months or so of searching, we have selected an Interim Pastor, Pastor Merle Brockhoff. As an interim pastor, he will fulfill two roles: he will be our Pastor (leading worship, counseling people who seek help, and everything else we expect a Pastor to do); and he will also be leading and counseling us through the Interim process. (While we were seeking an interim minister, we hired Pastor Roger Gustafson as a Leadership Developer to help with the latter, so that process could get started earlier; now that Pastor Merle is stepping into that role, Pastor Roger will be stepping back.) Pastor Merle’s first day at Bethel will be January 15.

Our next major step is one of self-study. The Council has selected a Transition Team of Bethel members to work under Pastor Merle’s guidance through this phase. This self-study process will include Bible studies, surveys, interviews, and other tools; the goal is to discern Bethel’s mission at this time, and identify strategies to get there. This will then be written in the form of a standardized document called a Ministry Site Profile, which will represent the completion of this self-study phase and the beginning of the next phase.

Q: How long is this going to take?

A: Probably between 18 months and 3 years, but we don’t really know. One of the biggest unknowns is how long it will take to find a good candidate (in phase 3, “Search”), since there is a nationwide shortage of pastors.

Q: The diagram is nice, but what does it mean? Can you tell me more about the process?

A: Yes, at the Transition Process page.

Q: I have some stuff I need to talk about, or have gotten sick, or otherwise would like pastoral care.

A: Call the church office to be referred to the pastor on call for pastoral care.

Q: Can I still call Pastor Yancey?

A: Of course you can call him, but as a matter of professional ethics Pastor Yancey will not be taking any pastoral role with Bethel that might in any way be seen as interfering with the new (interim or permanent) pastor. See this page for more details.

Q: Are there any statistics on pastors within their synod vs. coming from far away?  

A: The ELCA doesn’t keep these type of statistics. The candidates can come from anywhere in the USA as long as they are rostered Pastor in the word and sacrament.

Q: Is Bethel committed to a “sole pastorate”?

A: At this time, we are planning to call one pastor. Though, this decision is at the full discretion of the congregation and is dependent on the budget to support the salary and benefits of more than one pastor. Additionally, it would require more detailed deliberations regarding the specific responsibilities for each position. For example, are these roles co-pastors, senior and associate pastors, senior and youth pastors or pastor and deacon.

Q: Can we call a rostered member of another affiliated denomination?

A: We may interview a pastor from one of our common mission churches (Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.), but we must go through the Bishop’s office for approval. We would complete a referral form and submit it to the Assistant to the Bishop, Rev. David Whetter. Our Bishop would contact the Bishop of the other denomination and determine if we can interview the candidate. If we can interview that candidate, the call committee would receive that person’s information and proceed with the interview. If the call committee would recommend this candidate and the congregation voted for this candidate to be our pastor, we would be entering into an assignment and not a call. The details of salary and benefits would be negotiated with that denomination’s Bishop and our ELCA Bishop would no longer be involved in those details. This pastor would then have to maintain their pastoral responsibilities and attend the meetings of both the ELCA and their denomination. 

Nathan SchroederPastoral Transition