Care of Information on Persons Rostered
Advice for Synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
©You may copy this document for synodical use, providing copyright is acknowledged. (Revised November 2012) A version of this document suitable for printing is available
For teaching purposes,
a PowerPoint presentation
based on this manual is available.
Use a Three-Part Folder to Maintain and Retain Documents on Clergy and Other Rostered Leaders:
- Permanent biographical documents
- Long term controlled access documents
- Temporary documents
Constitutional Provisions for Special Circumstances
To practice good record keeping, bishops and synodical staff are encouraged to use these guidelines for the retention of documents in the files of clergy and other rostered persons:
Information that is retained in hard copy or electronic formats is the property of the synod; it is not the property of the synodical bishop or the synodical staff members to remove, retain personally, or destroy at will. Synod staff members are the custodians of the documents they retain. Roster files are not personnel files. The person whose name is on a particular file does not own it and has no right to see what is in it. The synod may choose to share, or not, anything in that file with the person, but may also choose to keep the entire contents confidential. They may do so on a comprehensive policy basis or on a case-by-case basis.
Only persons committed to privacy should have access to these documents on a need-to-know basis.
Balancing different needs is important in any records retention policy: There is the need to keep all relevant and important documents; there is also the need not to accumulate irrelevant material. Any one of the following may be required to substantiate past policies, practices, and actions in many different settings: the individuals, the synodical or churchwide offices, the congregations, or other employing entities.
Bishops or members of the synodical staff are frequently called upon to use good judgment in the retention and disposition of individual documents. A pattern of consistency in the care of records is needful. Any records retention policy has validity, once accepted as policy by the organization, only as it is uniformly practiced. It should be neither selectively implemented nor disregarded at the whim of the custodians of the records. Policies must not be modified or disregarded solely because of possible claims or litigation.
To make the task of maintaining and retaining documents on clergy and other rostered leaders more efficient, consider a three-part folder:
1. Permanent Biographical Documents
These documents will become the permanent biographical file for the synod’s archives and should be transferred upon retirement, resignation, removal from the roster, or death.
2. *Long-Term Controlled Access Documents
These documents will be kept, under controlled access, in the synod office or synod archives for 25 years after retirement or death, and then destroyed.
- Signed letters regarding the performance of a rostered person. If such letters warrant the bishop's attention, they should be acknowledged and retained in the synod's file. A copy of the acknowledgement as well as a record of what action was taken regarding the issue must be retained.
- Personal correspondence between the pastor and the bishop or synodical staff member;
- Correspondence and documentation on matters that could result in disciplinary action or that relate to serious concerns about conduct;
- Rostered leader's reports to the bishop;
- Mobility forms;
- Performance evaluations;
- Letters of recommendation;
- Medical or psycho diagnostic reports are subject to physician / patient confidentiality. They should be retained if they relate to fitness for service or disability status.
*Access to the long-term controlled access files is reserved to the bishop of the synod, or a designated synod staff person, the secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and legal counsel.
3. Temporary Documents
These documents have temporary value and may be destroyed as soon as they are no longer useful or at the time of a change of call.
- Signed letters regarding the performance of a rostered person. If such letters relate to habits or practices that do not warrant the attention of the bishop, they should be acknowledged by directing the writers to address their concerns directly to the individual or to the congregation council involved. such material should not be allowed to accumulate in the rostered leader's file.
- Transcripts of academic records are private and should be purged after initial placement or after satisfactory completion of a graduate program for which leave time or money has been provided;
- Contractual arrangements, including grants or sponsorships, represent vital records while the contractual agreement is in effect. They need not be retained when the agreement is no longer in force.