Guest Post: Thoughts on the Upcoming Election for Synod President by Rev. Andrew Yeager

MHCTSIn the next few days, pastors and lay leaders in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod will vote for the president of our Missouri Synod. As the election of draws near, my memory is taken back some two convention cycles ago, to the events of 2010.

2010 was a tough year for CTS—Ft. Wayne. That year, of the candidates for the Office of the Holy Ministry who were certified for placement, over twenty men did not receive a call on call night. In St. Louis, the situation at Concordia Seminary was much different. At CSL, there were only a handful of men who did not receive calls on call night. In 2010, the burden of the shortage of calls in the Missouri Synod was borne overwhelmingly by only one of our two LCMS Seminaries: Ft. Wayne. Clearly these events (perceived by many as an outright attack on CTS) were a failure of the synodical leadership at that time, and certainly worked against any hopes of synodical peace and unity.

The following summer was difficult for ordained admission staff at CTS. The staff had to answer this question over and over again posed by prospective students: “If I go to Ft. Wayne, my pastor/elder/congregation president, etc. says I won’t receive a call. Is this true?”

Clearly, call night 2010 had a negative impact on the Ft. Wayne Seminary’s reputation and influenced many prospective seminarians against attending CTS. There is no question that the reputation of CTS suffered as a result of call night 2010.

I write all of this from the unique vantage point of one of those candidates of 2010 who did not receive a call on call night AND as a former Admission Counselor at CTS (2010-2013) who personally fielded many of those questions from prospective seminarians and dealt with their reluctance firsthand.

In summer 2010, Pr. Harrison was elected synod president. Thanks to Pr. Harrison and his leadership, after 2010, any burden of a shortage of calls was borne by both Seminaries equally. If Ft. Wayne was short, say, five candidates, so was St. Louis. If all the candidates at CSL were placed, so were all the candidates at Ft. Wayne. Through Pr. Harrison’s leadership, the reputation and name of CTS has been largely restored through the total placement of certified candidates for the Office of the Holy Ministry and the name of the Ft. Wayne Seminary has been largely restored among prospective students for Seminary. Today, CTS’ enrollment of first year students nearly equals that of CSL.

I write all of this as a pastor who loves his Seminary and thanks God for the confessional training I received there. I believe Pr. Harrison is not only a friend, but a staunch defender of CTS—Ft. Wayne. I will be voting for him in this election, firstly for his constancy and loyalty to our Scriptures and Confessions, for his bold preaching of Christ crucified for sinners, but secondly for his faithfulness to my Seminary. I thank God for Pr. Harrison, and I encourage you to elect him again.

 


Comments

Guest Post: Thoughts on the Upcoming Election for Synod President by Rev. Andrew Yeager — 7 Comments

  1. Dear Pastor Yeager,

    Thanks for your heartfelt post on this subject and your personal story. Blessings on your continued service to our Lord and his church!

    Dear BJS Bloggers,

    We all were praying for the graduates of both seminaries that did not receive calls that year (2010), and everyone I talked to, no matter what their alignment theologically, was upset that Fort Wayne students were treated this way. It was not the seminary or its faculty who really suffered, but the students–who are completely oblivious to the politics within the synod.

    This reminded us “old timers” of the “32 in 1992”, when thirty-two graduates were denied calls by the placement board. For what reason? Because they had somehow given someone the impression that they believed they should be bound by the second and sixth article of the LC-MS Constitution and their ordination vows. Apparently those who did get calls were wishy-washy on the matter of “confessional subscription.”

    This just demonstrates, again and again, how the “anti-conservatives” in the LC-MS “eat their young.”

    People keep asking why the LC-MS is declining. I say it is in good part because the “anti-conservatives” in LCMS leadership “eat their young.” They have done this to some by encouraging younger folks to imitate the American Evangelicals or the ELCA. They have done it to others, i.e., who are stubbornly loyal to the Scriptures and Confessions, by undercutting them, attacking them, and infiltrating their congregations in order to get rid of them.

    There are many factors for the slow statistical decline in membership, most of which are out of our control, e.g., the impact of the trade imbalance since the 1970s that has particularly hit hard the “midwestern rustbelt” (see recent article in The Economist 410 no. 8983 (April 2nd, 2016): 27-29). This decline in manufacturing in the midwestern rustbelt forces younger and middle-age workers to move to other parts of the country. There has also been in this period a slow consolidation of farms in the rural portion of the midwest, leading to an exodus of population out of those areas.

    The majority of our congregations and our membership are in the “midwestern rustbelt” and “midwestern farmbelt”. The emigration of young and middle-age families to other parts of the country have hurt those congregations disproportionately. We can’t do much about this moving population, except to plant churches, which I know our district mission boards and mission officers are doing–and doing well!

    Other factors affecting the slow decline are described in a recent post I published at LOGIA Online (see http://www.logia.org/logia-online/why-the-lutheran-churchmissouri-synod-and-its-kin-have-declined-in-membership-and-what-to-do-about-it2016 ).

    President Harrison, our seminaries, our colleges, and our national and district offices are doing everything possible to address this decline. But they need everyone’s help and a renewed emphasis in each congregation on congregational evangelism would help. Church membership growth or decline is due almost exclusively to what happens in the local parish. So we can’t blame the national or district offices for what happens locally.

    The one thing that national and district offices can do is support our church-workers. But when you have “anti-conservative” church leaders that attack and “eat their young,” as happened in 2010 and 1992, the young lay leaders and young pastors leave the LCMS and will never return again. I have seen this over and over again in my 32 years in ministry.

    I know that President Harrison and the current Vice-Presidents of the Synod will never permit 2010 and 1992 to happen again. And I think that the majority of the District Presidents agree with that stance.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  2. @Martin R. Noland #1

    No, Marty, the real reason most Christian denominations (indeed, the entire native-born population of our entire country) are declining is due to contraception.

    It still amazes me how many Lutheran clergy will believe anything other than this clear fact.

  3. @Robert #2

    People had larger families when they had jobs to feed them. Neither the “mega farms” nor the “rust belt” help Lutherans.

    Not being able to find a church that’s Lutheran in practice when you transfer doesn’t help either.

  4. What about those pastors who are onCRM status? What happens to them? Are they just left in limbo? I know at least two men who are in that situation,

  5. From Demythologizing the Mission: The Brutal Facts of the LCMS Forty-Year Decline in the President’s Report (2016 Convention Workbook, p. 2):

    Folks, the LCMS has been declining for some forty years. No LCMS district has shown any increase in the number of the baptized in nearly twenty years. A couple of years back, I requested our internal Rosters and Statistics people do a thorough study on the performance of each district over the past forty years, with a focus especially upon the last decade. While districts vary in the percentage of decline, the trend line for all of them is the same. It’s even the case in the two largest districts (Texas and Michigan), which have planted the most congregations over the past forty years. We noted that the decline of the two Iowa districts was identical from 2002 to 2012. This was intriguing because Iowa East tends to be quite conservative and Iowa West less so. This and other factors has led me to believe that our decline could hardly be pegged to closed Communion or worship practices, much less our doctrine or our biblical positions on social issues….

    The third demographic study really honed in on the landscape of the US with respect to the birth rate. Americans, and particularly European-descent Americans (95 percent of the LCMS), are not having children at even the replacement rate of 2.1 per family.

    I asked for a county-by-county report on the birth rates for each district area of the LCMS. Guess what? The district/state with the highest birth rate in the past ten years (South Dakota), happened to be the best performing district of the LCMS (only a 4 percent decline from 2002–2012). New Jersey had the lowest birth rate over the past decade, and the district accordingly showed the greatest losses over ten years (33 percent). What’s more, the performance of each district lines up almost exactly with the birth rate of each area.

    Some are crying foul, that we are letting these facts be known as though we are intent on foregoing evangelism and prohibiting birth control. Some are claiming that we are simply providing excuses or are intent on some sort of legalism, such as telling people they have to have more kids. Pure nonsense!… The brutal fact is, we could elevate our evangelism performance to that of the Mormons, and we would still be looking at numerical decline in 33 of our 35 districts. Sober facts. These are not excuses. These are facts.

    See LCMS Congregational Membership and LCMS Congregational Membership, 2000-2014.

  6. @helen #3

    So, Helen, you’re asking us to believe that people contracept because they can’t find an LCMS congregation nearby?

    My goodness, pass me the smelling salts!

  7. @Robert #6

    My goodness, pass me the smelling salts!

    Me, too!

    The more obvious solution, that they might take their (more or fewer) children to another denomination if they can’t find LCMS, doesn’t occur to you!?
    They might find WELS, ELS, or one of the newbies… or they might stay at home.

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