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PSD Call Manual



Section 4

There are terms which you will hear and use during the time of your pastoral vacancy. While most of them are easily understood, it may be helpful to list them here:


Alternate Route

Alternate routes seek to further the spiritual, academic and personal development of men to equip them for the Holy Ministry of Word and Sacraments in the LCMS. Unlike the M.Div. Program, these alternate routes do not lead to either an academic or a professional degree. Instead, the student who successfully finishes one of these programs receives a certificate indicating that a prescribed course of studies has been completed and a theological diploma that certifies eligibility for ordination.


Assistant Pastor

An ordained pastor who accepts specific responsibilities in a parish under the supervision of another pastor. May be an advisory delegate at conventions of District or Synod.


Associate Pastor

An ordained pastor who shares equal responsibility in a congregation for the pastoral office with a senior/administrative pastor. May be a voting delegate at conventions of district or synod.


Bi-Vocational Pastor (See also Worker-Priest)

An ordained pastor who serves a congregation part-time and financially supports himself partially or fully through secular employment.


Call (Divine Call)

The solemn agreement between a pastor and a congregation designating the responsibilities that each undertakes in support of the other in fulfillment of Christ's mission. Because congregations elect pastors to fulfill God's mandate that there be someone to fill the pastoral office, only after asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is appropriate to speak of a "Divine Call."


Call/Search Committee

A committee of the congregation, usually appointed by and responsible to the church council or Board of Directors, charged with guiding and guarding the process of calling a pastor. The committee does not make decisions for the congregation but ensures that members have full information about and access to the decisions rightfully belonging to the entire congregation. The committee will make recommendations, but the congregation issues the call. The constituency and procedure of the call committee is often stipulated in the congregation’s bylaws.


Call Documents

Documents which: (1) express the solemn nature of the agreement ready to be instituted between a congregation and a pastor and (2) state that each is ready to assume responsibilities for the good of the other and in support of furthering the mission Christ gives to the congregation.


 Calling Congregation

A popular way of describing a congregation which is without the services of a regularly called pastor. Sometimes people refer to a “vacant” congregation, but that is not accurate. The congregation, of course, is not “vacant"; only the office of pastor.

Calling From the Field

Describes the process of issuing a call to a pastor who is serving another congregation or is on “candidate” status.


When a pastor has two calls, one from the congregation he serves and the other from a different congregation or entity of Synod, he must prayerfully consider the challenges and opportunities of each. He asks: “Where does the Lord want me to serve in His church?”


Call List

The list of pastoral candidates, including those nominated by the congregation, and recommended by the District President, from which the congregation will elect and call a pastor according to the process prescribed by the congregation’s constitution and bylaws and adopted by earlier congregational resolution.


Call Meeting or Call Service

The congregational meeting (service) at which the pastor-elect is chosen according to the process prescribed by the congregation’s constitution and bylaws and adopted by earlier congregational resolution.


Normally the constitution and bylaws require that there be sufficient notice of such a call meeting. This requirement should be faithfully observed.


The Circuit Visitor should be notified in advance so that he is able to attend the call meeting.  Even if not prescribed by the congregation’s bylaws, it is certainly wise for the congregation to have the services of the Circuit Visitor in such an important meeting.


Candidate/Candidate Status

It is used to designate a pastor in good standing on the clergy roster (ordained minister of the Gospel) of The Lutheran Church―Missouri Synod, currently not serving in a called position in a congregation or other LCMS ministry position, but eligible and available for such a call. 


This term is also used in reference to a seminary graduate who is ready for his first call and placement through the process used by the seminary placement officers and the Council of Presidents.


Center for Hispanic Studies (CHS)

Spanish-language pastoral formation program of Concordia Seminary. Students who satisfactorily complete the 18-course curriculum are eligible to be certified, receive a call and be rostered into the ministerium of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Students take online courses as well as week-long intensive courses on the Seminary campus or other approved sites to study under faculty who have experience working with Hispanic/Latino churches and communities.



An ordained pastor who serves an institution (hospital, prison, the military, campus, etc.) rather than a congregation.



A local grouping of congregations within one of the Synod's districts. Circuits typically include 8 to 12 congregations.


Circuit Visitor

An ordained pastor who helps to oversee the other pastors within a circuit. The position is best understood as a peer advisor, as the LCMS has traditionally been strongly congregational, as opposed to hierarchical, in its extra-congregational structure. The District President supervises the Circuit Visitors and is ultimately responsible for the pastors and congregations.


CMC/Cross-cultural Ministry Center

Cross-cultural Ministry Center (CMC) is committed to forming faithful missionary pastors to initiate and develop culture-crossing ministries. CMC students will simultaneously serve as a vicar in a local congregation during all four years of their studies.


Close(d) Communion

The terms “close” and “closed” communion often have multiple understandings of what they mean. At the 1998 St Louis Convention, Resolution 3-28 was adopting and states the following:


WHEREAS, Both “Close Communion” and “Closed Communion” refer to the same practice which seeks to prevent a profession of confessional unity in faith where there is, in fact, disunity and disagreement; therefore be it

Resolved, That The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in convention clarify that the terms “Close Communion” and “Closed Communion” are synonymous terms; and be it further

Resolved, That this understanding be incorporated in future studies and dialog regarding the historic and faithful practice of “Close(d) Communion” within the member churches of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.


However, so the District President can understand the nuances of the practice at your congregation and identify candidates that align with your communion practice, for purposes of this manual we define these terms as follows:


Close communion – In addition to members of your congregation, participation in the Lord’s Supper is available to those who believe in the Real Presence doctrine for the forgiveness of sins, whereby Jesus’ body and blood are present in, with and under the bread and wine.


Closed communion – In addition to the above, participation in the Lord’s Supper is available only to the members of your congregation.


Colloquy Applicant

To become a colloquy student for the pastoral ministry, a person must meet certain eligibility requirements, such as: a male Christian day school teacher with ten years of experience or a pastor in good standing in another Christian denomination. Such an individual receives seminary training, perhaps somewhat abbreviated, and may then be certified for clergy roster status by the LCMS Colloquy Committee for placement normally in the District from which he came.


Deferred/Delayed Vicar

The traditional seminary model consists of four years of education. The first two and fourth years are academic on campus and the third year is a “vicarage” in a parish.  Due to age, educational experience, and other factors, a seminarian may be assigned a vicarage at the end of the program rather than after two years.  This is referred to as a “deferred/delayed vicar.”  Though technically serving as a vicar, the placement is usually to a congregation that would seriously consider calling him to be its pastor upon graduation. As with the usual model, the vicar would have an experienced pastor serve as his supervisor during that year.


District President 

Elected at District conventions, the District President is the ecclesiastical supervisor over the congregations in his district, which are further subdivided into local circuits. The position of president is roughly analogous to the role of bishop in many church bodies, but LCMS doctrine supports a generally congregationalist polity as opposed to an exclusively hierarchical governance.


Divine Call

The solemn agreement between a pastor and a congregation designating the responsibilities that each undertakes in support of the other in fulfillment of Christ's mission. Because congregations elect pastors to fulfill God's mandate that there be someone to fill the pastoral office, only after asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is appropriate to speak of a "Divine Call."


EIIT/Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology

A specialized program of preparation for men who want to serve as pastors and women who want to serve as deaconesses in immigrant and ethnic minority communities in North America.



The installation service, or "Rite of Installation," is the event in which the congregation publicly commits the exercise of the Office of the Keys and other desired pastoral functions to the pastor.  It is also the festival service of worship celebrating the pastor's arrival and affirming his acceptance of the call.


Under the practice and policy of The Lutheran Church―Missouri Synod, the District President is to authorize the installation of all within the Pacific Southwest District.  This authorization is sent after the District President is informed by the Circuit Visitor of the details of the installation service.


The District President will conduct the Rite of Installation, or, if not available, will authorize a pastor to conduct the Rite - usually the Regional Vice-President or Circuit Visitor.


Intentional Interim Minister

A pastor who is called/contracted to provide specialized pastoral services during an extended pastoral vacancy. This may be necessitated by conflict within the congregation, between the congregation and its previous pastor, or following the termination of a lengthy pastorate by retirement, resignation or removal from office.


The Intentional Interim Minister (IIM) selected by the congregation, with input from the Circuit Visitor and office of the District President.  He usually serves for a limited time (6-24 months) and is not eligible for the call list of the congregation.


For more information on intentional interim ministry, visit


M.Div./Master of Divinity

The Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree is the normative route to certification for ordained ministry in congregations and other ministry settings.


Open Communion

Anyone is invited to participate in the Lord’s Supper. (This is not the stated position of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.)


Ordained Pastor

A pastor who has been certified for parish ministry by the church-at-large (LCMS through its seminaries) and has been called to the ministry of Word and Sacrament by a congregation or agency of our church.


The festival service that publicly affirms the church's certification for the pastoral ministry.  Ordination may take place at the candidate's home congregation with the authorization of the president of the district to which he has been called to serve.  Otherwise, ordination takes place in the presence of the congregation to which the candidate has been called. The District President will conduct the Rite of Ordination or, if not available, may authorize the Regional Vice-President, Circuit Visitor or another pastor.



A term used for the pastor who has received the call of the congregation, but who has not yet accepted the call.


Pastor Emeritus

An ordained pastor who has retired, or for reasons of total and permanent disability is no longer serving a full-time ministry but is still on the roster of Synod. He continues to be a communicant member of a congregation of Synod. The term is also used as an honorary title given by a congregation to a retired pastor, with or without specific duties. In The Lutheran Annual, a retired pastor is identified by “EM” after his name.


Pastoral Office (Office of Public Ministry)

The office of public ministry is divinely established and referred to in Scripture as "shepherd," "elder," or "overseer." Within this office are contained all the functions of the ministry of Word and Sacrament in the church.


Residential Alternate Route

The alternate route most closely parallel to the M.Div. Program. Students in this program study alongside those in the M.Div. Program, including the study of the New Testament on the basis of its original language, Greek. The key differences from the M.Div. Program are a reduced number of courses and Old Testament studies are carried out on the basis of the English language.


Restricted Status

An ordained pastor of The Lutheran Church―Missouri Synod who may or may not be presently serving under a call, but is not eligible for another call, until restricted status is removed by his District President.


Seminary Graduate

A pastoral candidate who has recently graduated from the seminary, has been certified by the faculty and is eligible for placement. The call for a seminary graduate must be submitted through the office of the District President. The deadline is usually around February 15 of each year, although there are some graduates ready for placement at other times during the year as well. Check with the District President.


Senior Pastor

An ordained pastor serving as the lead and/or administrative pastor of a congregation, with assistant(s) and/or associate(s) pastor(s) and other commissioned or contracted staff serving under him.


Sole Pastor

An ordained pastor serving as the only pastor of a congregation.


SMP/Specific Ministry Pastor

A Specific Ministry Pastor is serving in a specific ministry context under the supervision of a general pastor. This seminary training is an alternate route program which enables one whose leadership is raised up within a home congregation. (See SMP to GPC)


SMP/Specific Ministry Pastor to GPC (General Pastor Certification)

A certification track designed specifically for pastors who have completed the SMP program and desire to continue study in order to be eligible for roster as a General Pastor in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.


Vacancy Pastor

A pastor who agrees to provide pastoral services to a congregation during the period of a vacancy of the pastoral office.  (See Section I for more information.)


Specific responsibilities and compensation for the vacancy pastor should be clearly defined. Your Circuit Visitor is ready to assist you by recommending a pastor and an appropriate compensation guideline. The Circuit Visitor may be the vacancy pastor, or another area pastor may be chosen.  A vacancy pastor is almost never to be placed on the congregation's call list, except under extraordinary circumstances, in consultation with the District President.



A seminary student who serves in internship under the supervision of a called pastor in a congregation for a period of one year, receiving required seminary credit. Vicarage is an integral part of seminary training. It is usually the third year of the four-year seminary education.  (See "Deferred/Delayed" Vicar above.)


Worker-Priest (See also Bi-Vocational Pastor)

An ordained pastor who serves a congregation part-time and financially supports himself partially or fully through secular employment.

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