A Study of Termination -- By: Cline Borders

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 010:2 (Spring 1993)
Article: A Study of Termination
Author: Cline Borders

A Study of Termination

Cline Borders

Retired Director of Missions, Kings Mountain Association,
Church Consultant


Termination is an undesirable experience for churches and pastors. When a minister is terminated, the immediate response from surrounding communities and other religious leaders is “poor preacher” and “cruel church!” I agreed to write this article because I believe this is a terribly poor assessment of what occurs.

Most religious leaders are so “pro-pastor” that they are unwilling to see the situation as it really is. When I first became conscious of the “pro-pastor” bias, I began to question agency personnel for a reason. The answer I received most often was that their job description called for the aid and encouragement of ministers. Others identified with the pastor because of the way they felt “the Lord’s servant” had been treated. Such a prejudiced point of view obscures reality. It will influence one’s opinion and may pre-determine one’s attitude.

Who are these people who terminate ministers? They are the leaders of a Christian fellowship that we call the church, the Lord’s body! They have been trained and developed by ministers and their peers over a long period of time. They are schooled in the graces of Christian behavior but not in the grace of termination. Those of us who serve as leaders must accept responsibility for that lack of information and training in how to resolve what the church considers as an undesirable relationship.

Who among us has offered any leadership in how termination should be conducted? The silence is deafening! Many times the primary concern of the church is separation, and it is such an over-riding concern that little or no attention is given to how the separation should be effected.

History of Termination

The separation of pastor and church has not always been such a traumatic event. At one time “Annual Call” was a wide-spread policy. Where it came from or how it was introduced is information that I do not have, nor could I determine from my research. However, in this concept, there was a verbal understanding between the church and pastor that each year the congregation would express itself as to whether or not the minister would continue another year. This was a wide-spread practice from the 1930’s through 1950’s.

The first church that called me as pastor had been utilizing the “annual call.” Part of my agreement with the search committee and congregation was that I would not accept a call to be their pastor under those circumstances. This was my first church and I was most anxious to be a past...

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