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West Virginia - Western Maryland Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Pastoral Transition & Vacancy
Exit ~ Vacancy ~ Call Process

Need a Supply Preacher?

Click here to access the synodical list of ordained and lay supply preachers.

This page (a work in process) provides information related to pastoral transition and vacancy, addressing these matters in three sections: exit of a pastor, vacancy (the time between regularly called pastors), and call process. You will find here numerous downloadable resources. If anything is unclear, please fell free to contact the bishop.

You can jump directly to the section that interests you by clicking: exit, vacancy or call process.

Exit ~ The Pastor is Leaving

There are many steps to the exit process with pastor, council officers, and the bishop/dean each participating at different points. The following chart lays out the recommended sequence of activity and who in the process has responsibility in each step. Also included are the download links for the relevant documents. The bishop may delegate some duties to the dean of the conference.

Action Pastor
[Vice] President
Treasurer Bishop
Pastor notifies bishop of intent to resign and confers regarding initial steps.

Pastor noties [vice] president of intent to resign and confers regarding initial steps.

Pastor sends letter of resignation to congregation.

Bishop reviews with pastor transition protocols.

Bishop reviews with [vice] president transition protocols.


Pastor completes Pastor's Exit Checklist and transmits to council.

Pastor makes final updates to parish register.

Pastor and [Vice] President completes Transition Administration Information form and transmit to bishop.

Pastor and officers complete Attestation of Records and Financial Requirements and transmit to bishop.

Bishop conducts exit interview with pastor.

Bishop conducts exit interview with council.

Council [or mutual ministry committee] conduct exit interview with pastor. (optional)

Pastor and [vice] president execute Departure Covenant.

[Vice] President sends Departure Covenant Letter to Congregation.


Here is some additional information about each of the documents mentioned. Everything here deals with pastors; once we have deacons under call in the synod, we'll develop documents appropriate to that roster of clergy.

  • Pastor's Exit Checklist: Key information that should be transmitted by the pastor to the congregation.
  • Transition Administration Information form: This form documents key information that should be relayed to an interim/successor pastor, bishop/dean, and congregation council.
  • Attestation of Records and Financial Requirements: This form documents satisfaction of provisions *C9.08 and *C9.14. Attestation should be executed prior to the last day of call and transmitted to the bishop promptly.
    • The secretary must attest that the parish register has been given into his/her custody and that the register is in good order, i.e., that it pastoral acts and membership rolls are complete and accurate. Additionally, the secretary attests that the most recent parochial report has been properly filed with the ELCA Office of the Secretary.
    • The treasurer must attest that all financial obligations (e.g., loans, payments, compensation, damages, etc.) have been satisfied by both the pastor and the congregation (or that a mutually acceptable plan is in place to satisfy them).
  • Exit Interview - Pastor: Exit interview with the pastor conducted by either the bishop or the dean.
  • Exit Interview - Congregation Council: Exit interview with the pastor conducted by either the bishop or the dean.
  • Departure Covenant: This covenant documents the departing pastor's intention to comply with †S14.19 and the congregation's acknowledgement of the same.
  • Departure Covenant Letter to Congregation: Communicates to congregational membership the pastor's intent to comply with †S14.19 and the congregation's ethical obligations to support the departing pastor in that compliance. This is a template that may be adapted for local use, but the substance should remain the same.

Vacancy ~ Church Life Between Regularly Called Pastors

Who's going to preach? Who will visit the shut-ins? What happens if someone ends up in the hospital? These and many other questions are raised when ever a congregation faces pastoral vacancy. To help address these questions the following are provided.

  • The Handbook for Pastoral Vacancy in the Congregation should be reviewed by congregation council and sections of it should be given to key lay leaders in specific areas. Some of the things mentioned in the manual are purely suggestions; others are explanations of constitutional mandates. It provides guidance with respect to

    • appointment of an interim pastor,
    • worship coverage,
    • emergency pastoral care,
    • visitation ministry,
    • pastoral relationships, and
    • matters of polity.

  • The Vacancy Ministry Checklist can be useful in explicitly stating who will be responsible for critical aspects of ministry during a time of pastoral vacancy.

Interim Pastor?

There is a lengthy discussion on interim pastorates in the Handbook for Pastoral Vacancy in the Congregation. This should be reviewed. Compensation for an interim pastor will depend upon the type of interim and the mutual agreement of the congregation and the interim pastor.

Supply Preachers?

How this is answered may depend upon the appointment of the interim pastor. Refer to the Handbook for Pastoral Vacancy in the Congregation (supra) for discussion and details. If the interim is not the regular preacher (which is usually the case), one may find a list of supply preachers here.

What To Do about Worship?

It can be difficult planning worship and making sure that the seasonal changes take place. A new page is up to help you. Check out Worship Aids for Pulpit Vacancy.

Call Process ~ Calling a Pastor

There are two subsections here: one for congregations related to Ministry Site Profile development and the other for pastors. For general information, how-to documents, and search tools, you may find the ELCA's webpage on call process helpful.

For Congregations

The Search

The Model Constitution for Congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America states,

*C9.01. ...Before a call is issued, the officers, or a committee elected by [this congregation][the Congregation Council] to recommend the call, shall seek the advice and help of the bishop of the synod.

Normally, the bishop will initiate this conversation when first meeting with the Congregation Council in connection to the beginning of a pastoral vacancy. The bishop will explain process and timeline, providing resources to assist the congregation and answering what will be the first round of questions. There is no need for the congregation to get ahead of this consultation.

The committee referenced is the Call Committee. The recommended provision of The Model states,

C13.05.    When a vacancy occurs in a position for which this congregation calls a rostered minister, a Call Committee of six voting members shall be elected by [this congregation] [the Congregation Council]. Term of office will terminate upon installation of the newly called rostered minister.

While it is the right of the congregation to elect a call committee upon the inception of the pastoral vacancy, the bishop recommends that an initial consultation with council take place prior to doing so. There are different ways to go about developing a Ministry Site Profile along with other items to take into consideration prior to electing a call committee.

Regardless of where and with whom the development and ultimate approval of the Ministry Site Profile is vested, a Ministry Site Profile will be requested by the bishop to facilitate the search. provides several online resources:

Developing an MSP is not an easy process, and there are several ways to tackle it. The bishop will discuss this with the Congregation Council. The DEM, The Rev. Sherri Schafer, is also available for conversation, especially as relates to clarifying the vision of the congregation and its mission possibilities. Contact information for both is on the Contact Information & Communications page. When developing the MSP, the following (all linked on the Clergy Compensation page) should be consulted:
  • Synod Council adopted Pastoral Compensation/Expenses/Benefits Package Expectations
  • Synod Assembly adopted Policy on Sabbaticals
  • Synod Assembly adopted Guidelines for a Family Leave Policy
  • Definition of Compensation, Benefits, And Responsibilities for Ministers of Word and Sacrament Under Call

Under ConstructionIssuing the Call

We're still working on this section. Check back again.

For Pastors

Here are some documents that you should be looking at as part of transition into a new call. Everything here deals with pastors; once we have a congregation exploring the call of a deacon, we'll develop documents appropriate to that roster of clergy.

  • Definition of Compensation, Benefits, And Responsibilities for Ministers of Word and Sacrament Under Call: this can be downloaded from the ELCA resource depository. This document is critical and serves as the contract that governs your call. For information related to compensation and related matters, click here.
  • Attestation of Records and Financial Requirements: This form documents satisfaction of provisions *C9.08 and *C9.14. If you are a pastor leaving a call in another synod to take a call in the WV-WMD Synod, our bishop will want to receive the equivalent documentation used in the synod you are leaving (or, at least, a confirmation from the bishop of the synod you are leaving). If you are a pastor of the WV-WMD Synod moving from one call inside the synod to another call inside the side, this is taken care of in your departure process. If you are a candidate for ordination, this does not apply to you.

West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod, ℅ St. Paul Lutheran Church, 309 Baldwin Street, Morgantown, WV 26505
304-363-4030  +

Last update: 14 May 2022