Another great post by Pastor Peters over on Pastoral Meanderings:
I recently made a cursory review of both the SMP Task Force recommendations and the response of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, to the report of the task force. Interesting reading, indeed. The task force has some serious concerns about the proportion of the SMP program as it currently exits in Missouri. They include:
- Retain the Specific Ministry Program
- Narrow the specificity of the Program
- Conduct a Study of the Various Alternative Routes to Ordained Ministry (currently there are 2 residential routes and 6 distance routes)
- Add Greek to the curriculum
- Maintain an SMP enrollment that protects residential routes
- Continue the various alternative routes already in place
- Conduct a feasibility study for an ordained diaconate (specifically in reference to additional staff on larger parishes that might have been filled by an SMP individual)
All of these seem reasonable, actually quite cautious, considering the eruption of numbers in the SMP program, Many will question the relationship of the ordained diaconate to the SMP issue but everyone who recalls the scenarios raised to justify such a short circuiting of the regular route to ordination know that this is not unrelated and is also not a new idea even among Lutherans. It will end up being hashed out by the Convention but clearly there is an elephant in the room when nearly 30% of all those training for the ordained ministry in the LCMS are in the SMP program and more than that when all the alternative routes are included.
The down side in all of this is that many will push for delay and more study before making any recommendations. Absent an urgency, this may sit well with uncertain delegates. My point is that this IS far too urgent to delay and any delay will only further entrench the position of the status quo AND erode the position of residential seminary education as the primary path to ordination. Nobody that I know of predicted the rapid rise in SMP numbers. Everyone I know is concerned about the future of residential seminary education (if for no other reason than cost). It seems to me the most foolish thing we could do is the retain the status quo and study things more. We need to act before the numbers of those in residential seminary programs becomes a minority of those on the path to ordination.
Some see the SMP program as the solution, even though a band aid, to the problem of licensed deacons (regularly performing the full compliment of duties of a Pastor but without ordination). The two programs (SMP and the licensed deacon programs operating apart from the seminaries) in the Districts) are not unrelated. In fact, these are connected from infancy. Others want to see the options further expanded (both lay service and non-residential seminary routes). So what is your pleasure — non-ordained deacons doing Word and Sacrament ministry, short circuit pastoral training programs sending out ordained but largely untrained pastors, or an even more radical definition of training, call, and ordination? According to Concordia, St. Louis’ response to the SMP task force, it may be solved by doing away with ordination since it is “by no means a necessary element.” Stay tuned for more..
- Recommendations from President Harrison
- Concordia Seminary Faculty Response
- Resolutions 5-03 and 5-04
I get to be in on the discussion because I will be there as a voting delegate in St. Louis in July. I bet you wish YOU were me…