Great Stuff Found on the Web — The Future of Seminary Education

March 23rd, 2011 Post by

A new article on seminaries, their role in the church, and alternative routes to ordination has recently been published.

Is It Time to Write the Eulogy? The Future of Seminary Education” is authored by an Episcopalian, The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr., Director of Spiritual Formation and Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality at Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas.

What do you think?

(Thanks to ALPB Forum Online and Dr. Daniel L. Gard for directing our attention to this provocative article)






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  1. David Hartung
    March 25th, 2011 at 19:54 | #1

    Josh Schroeder :
    @John Clark #48
    I believe that these numbers represent the budgets for the 2008-2009 academic year:
    CSL – $24 million
    CTS – $11 million
    for a combined total of $35 million.
    In the Spring 2009 edition of the Concordia Journal, it was stated that $6 million represented one fourth of the CSL budget. As for the CTS figure, that number was given to me over a year ago by a member of the CTS student association. I’m giving you my figures and sources, but these have not been officially verified. But they’re at least ballpark.
    This was the projected revenue percentage breakdown for CSL for FY 2010 (from a presentation that was available on the CSL website in early 2010):
    Net tuition & fees (after Aid): 29%
    Unrestricted donations: 28%
    Student Aid donations: 15%
    Auxiliary Enterprises: 10%
    Other designated donations: 8%
    Joint Seminary Fund: 3%
    Synod Subsidy: 2%
    Misc Other: 2%
    Capital Project donations: 2%
    Federal Work Study: 1%

    In my personal, uninformed opinion, the fact that the Synod only provides 2% of the seminary’s revenue is shameful. Unfortunately, I have no suggestions in how to change that.

  2. Josh Schroeder
    March 25th, 2011 at 20:07 | #2

    In my personal, uninformed opinion, the fact that the Synod only provides 2% of the seminary’s revenue is shameful. Unfortunately, I have no suggestions in how to change that.

    I do. I shared it in Comment 25.

    http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=14278#comment-139021

  3. Rev. Jack Gilbert
    March 25th, 2011 at 21:43 | #3

    @John Clark #48

    John,

    Others have spoken to this, but I’ll throw in what I know as well.

    As of the year I graduated (2009) the budget at CSL was $24 million and CTS was $12 million. I was given an overview of the CSL budget for 2009 and when former president Kieschnick spoke with the fourth year class he referenced a $36 million budget between the two seminaries. Major cuts to the CSL budget were being worked on at that time, and six professors took a voluntary retirement package. During my time as a student, the seminary’s Development (now called Advancement) Office raised enough money to provide for roughly 40% of the tuition costs for each student. This money came from the problem-ridden “Adopt-A-Student” program along with an encouragement from all home congregations and districts to provide what they can. I received $3,000 a year from my home congregation and just under $1,000 a year from my home district. I am very grateful for the prayers and financial support I received during my time there.

    We were told by President Meyer that about 1% of the Synod’s annual budget went to CSL. After all of the financial help, it cost around $5,000 for every ten weeks a student was enrolled in classes and living in the dorms, which is a requirement for almost all non-married students.

    @Walter R Wagner #49

    I am very confused and would greatly appreciate a response from you. Was helen being nice in comments 9, 14, or 15? Please speak to this. Also, do you see no reason for her to substantiate what she has written? If not, please explain. If so, please rephrase my words in a way that you find to be nice. I am convinced that people need to stand behind their words and withdraw them when they cannot or refuse to. Please show me if I am wrong in thinking this way, specifically as to how this applies to the current discussion.

  4. Berean
    March 27th, 2011 at 14:21 | #4

    Todays message at my LCMS today by the SMP newly ordained pastor after 2 years of studies in the program included this in his message:
    He said all as follows:
    When he was younger he would look to hear audibly from God. As he grew older and wiser he decided it probably wasn’t a good idea to want to hear from God audibly becasue God would probably speak to him about other things he didn’t want to hear not just what he asked. Can God speak audibly? Yes God can and I won’t argue with anyone that says they have heard audibly from God. He said God speaks to us through the Word but does that make what he said about an AUDIBLE VOICE FROM GOD OK?

    This was the 3rd service this weekend that he gave this message and there was no correction made by the Supervising pastor.

    .

  5. Josh Schroeder
    March 27th, 2011 at 14:35 | #5

    Berean :
    This was the 3rd service this weekend that he gave this message and there was no correction made by the Supervising pastor.
    .

    For seminarians in residential programs (that is, MDiv and Alt Route) I think the rule is that sermons preached at chapel, field work, vicarage, home congregation, etc., must be submitted to the pastor for his approval, and that the sermon cannot be preached unless and until it has been approved. Because the supervisor, not the man under supervision, is responsible for what is preached.

    Is this not the case with the SMP program? And I would point out that even after finishing all four years of the SMP program, the SMP pastor is always under the supervision of a “real” pastor. How is “supervision” defined as it pertains to the SMP program?

  6. John Clark
    March 28th, 2011 at 10:31 | #6

    Thanks, Revs. Gilbert and Schroeder, for responding.

    Actually, I rather surprised and more than a bit stunned that no pastor seems knows what the current budget of either seminary is. It is one thing to state figures from two years ago, and to speculate about changes since that time. I thought the seminaries kept their alumni better informed than you apparently are.

    I also find it interesting that Rev. Gilbert focused on the cost to the student, as if they are bearing the brunt of funding seminary education. Yet the figures supplied by Rev. Schroeder show students paying less than 30% of the education cost plus their housing and meals, while donations (including subsidy, which comes from worship offerings) covered 58%.

    Assuming the figures Rev. Schroeder provided are true, and assuming an enrollment of 400 students at CSL, tuition would have needed to be $16,800 MORE per student had it not been for the 28% in unrestricted donations ($24 million times 28% divided by 400 students). Subsidy, under these assumptions, only discounts tuition by $1,200 per student.

    But apparently, this kind of support – let alone the $3.6 million given for student aid ($9,000 per student if 400 students are enrolled) – just isn’t good enough, eh fellas?23,

    BTW, I did find the following budget information for CSL online after a long search:

    2008-09 $23,760,266
    2009-10 $18,516,000
    2010-11 Not yet reported

    $5.24 million (22%) in budget reductions in one year. I certainly hope the Ft. Wayne seminary didn’t have to make cuts to any similar degree!! How can any organization do that without profoundly affecting the quality of its programs?

  7. Josh Schroeder
    March 28th, 2011 at 10:46 | #7

    @John Clark #56
    I WISH I was a Rev! Thanks for the promotion, John. No, I have some ADHD and possible dyslexia that I haven’t yet figured out how to work through successfully, but once I do (and if finances are in a little better shape) I hope to go back to seminary.

  8. John Clark
    March 28th, 2011 at 11:11 | #8

    My apologies, Josh. As an older adult who likely would have benefitted from an ADD/ADHD diagnosis in childhood, my sympathies and prayers are with you. That and dyslexia are a challenge, to say the very least.

  9. Rev. Jack Gilbert
    March 28th, 2011 at 12:10 | #9

    @John Clark #56

    John,

    It is true that during my time at the seminary, around 70% of the budget was raised by donations and other contributions. However, I hope you’ll note that 30% of the then roughly $24,000,000 is $7,200,000. If I understood correctly, the 30% remainder was for the actual budget, not the cost of education for each student.

    When one divides the remaining 30% of the budget by an estimate of 400-500 students, each one is responsible for $14,400 to $18,000 a year. This is what the bill looked like for me. That final cost is after all of the assistance a student receives from the seminary, his home congregation, and his home district. Also, keep in mind that enrollment is down at both seminaries which makes for a more expensive time for each student.

    Also during my time at the seminary, the $9,995 vicarage fee was waived/absorbed by the seminary (?) for the third year students but it was somewhat uncertain until we left that we would not be responsible for this fee. It is my hope that the students will remain able to go out on vicarage without paying that fee in the future.

    Thankfully the budget has been lowered, but I join you in your concern of how these cutbacks might affect the quality of the programs. No doubt we can all agree that there is a lot that goes into running the seminary, financially and otherwise!

  10. John Clark
    March 28th, 2011 at 12:15 | #10

    Rev. Jack Gilbert :
    @John Clark #56
    John,
    When one divides the remaining 30% of the budget by an estimate of 400-500 students, each one is responsible for $14,400 to $18,000 a year. This is what the bill looked like for me. That final cost is after all of the assistance a student receives from the seminary, his home congregation, and his home district. Also, keep in mind that enrollment is down at both seminaries which makes for a more expensive time for each student.

    Please don’t take this as an indictment; but, you sound bitter, Rev. Gilbert. Are you?

  11. helen
    March 28th, 2011 at 15:52 | #11

    @Josh Schroeder #57
    No, I have some ADHD and possible dyslexia that I haven’t yet figured out how to work through successfully, …

    I don’t know much about current thinking re ADHD in adults.
    I do know a good confessional Pastor who is, he told me, dyslexic. If your “possible” becomes certain, you might want to ask him how he learned Hebrew! :)

  12. Rev. Jack Gilbert
    March 28th, 2011 at 17:58 | #12

    @John Clark #60

    John,

    I appreciate your question and do not take it as an idictment. In fact, this isn’t the first time I’ve run into a concern similar to yours: http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=12137#comment-100178

    In that case, more discussion resolved the initial reaction and I hope to do the same here.

    It can sometimes be hard to voice dissent or even attempt clarification/correction without being seen as angry, embittered, argumentative, or something else. In comment 59, I wanted things to be clear that the students carry 30% of the annual budget, not 30% of the cost of their education. When it comes down to it, the seminary covered about 40% of what was charged for each student’s education. You might have run into the statistic that the average debt of outgoing seminarians these days is around $60,000. I think that includes undergraduate debt, but I have never been clear on that. I can tell you that I graduated with no debt, and that is extremely uncommon.

    When I discuss the financial impact our seminaries have on their students it can be a tiring subject. I don’t want to come off as angry or bitter, but I also tend to avoid using emoticons :) and exclamation points! In written word, this may result in a more angry/somber/whatever else tone.

    In case you have any doubts though, I am very frustrated with the financial aspects of CSL. Thank you for keeping me in check!

    @helen #61

    helen,

    Seeing your return I will ask as politely as I can: Do you plan to reply to anything I asked you? I hope you will, or at least explain why not. Thanks for your time!

  13. John Clark
    March 28th, 2011 at 19:23 | #13

    Thank you for replying, Rev. Gilbert. Regarding your statement: “I am very frustrated with the financial aspects of CSL.” please help me understand what you are saying, because it can be read any number of ways.

    Are you frustrated with how the seminaries are funded? Are you frustrated with how the seminaries supply financial aid, or the amount of aid that is available? Are you frustrated with how the story of student debt or indebtedness is or is not being told? Or are you frustrated with something else?

    I’m sorry to go at this in such a manner, but understanding what you write is important so as not to read too much into your words. You say, ‘voice dissent.’ However, I’m not sure (and I’m concerned other readers may not be as well) with what you are dissenting.

  14. Rev. Jack Gilbert
    March 28th, 2011 at 19:59 | #14

    @John Clark #63

    John,

    Again, I thank you for seeking further clarification. I am frustrated with the fact that one of the chief reasons our Synod was formed was to support the process of pastoral formation, and that this now appears as an afterthought when it comes to the LCMS budget. (I have been taught that the Synod was formed for three purposes: For the sake of unity in pure doctrine, for the sake of training men to serve the church, and for the sake of sending men to find his elect among the nations.)

    I am also frustrated with the fact that it seems as though few people in our Synod know of the impact debt has on almost all of our recent seminary graduates. I am thankful that this is being discussed more and more, even in for the purpose of raising money. It’s likely that more people know about this than I realize.

    Another frustration is the practice that each seminary (and university I believe) has some kind of fundraising/development/advancement office that exists to chase after the same little piece of pie that is the coffers of LCMS laypeople and pastors. In my naiveté I wonder, why not combine all of the schools’ fundraising efforts? Why not eliminate this seemingly unneccesary form of competition within the Body of Christ? I see hope in the Joint Seminary Fund and pray that it will have a positive impact on the financial struggles our schools currently face.

    Finally, it is important to note that I know far too little to have a proper grasp on what it takes to run institutions such as our seminaries or the Concordia University System. What I have seen (only from a student’s perspective) shows me that there are some serious problems with our current practices. However, I acknowledge that those with more knowledge and abilities are doing what they can to solve these problems that have arisen.

  15. John Clark
    March 28th, 2011 at 21:55 | #15

    That certainly is a lot to be frustrated over. Thanks for clarifying.

  16. helen
    March 29th, 2011 at 06:46 | #16

    Thank you, Pr. [Mr.]Wagner. I will not bother to answer him.

    @Rev. Jack Gilbert #62
    I answered above… at #30, I think? I have been baited before.
    Money seems to be your primary concern. The money wasted on non Lutheran programs has been amply discussed here on BJS.

  17. Rev. Jack Gilbert
    March 29th, 2011 at 08:08 | #17

    @helen #66

    helen,

    Mr. Wagner told me to be nice, but never showed me where I was being anything other than nice. I then rephrased my questions and noted that perhaps you yourself were being something other than nice in your words to Josh Schroeder and about our District Presidents. Sadly, he chose not to comment on this observation, and has so far refused to show me where I was being anything other than nice. Still, I await his reply.

    Back at the start of this in comment 9, you made claims about the admission policies of our seminaries, you cited the words of a professor without identifying him or even the context of his words, you referenced a number of classes that you qualify as needing to be dissolved but have not spoken to which ones or who teaches/has taught them. I’m happy to search the archives for discussions on the money you think was wasted on non-Lutheran programs, so thank you for pointing me there. A link would make things easier, so you might consider offering one or two.

    Not “bothering” to answer (and not explaining why) doesn’t seem like a viable option if you want people who might not immediately agree with you to understand your points or give them serious consideration. You appear to have a commendably long history with the LCMS. Please do your church body a favor and back up what you have written about her and those who serve her. I hope you don’t see this as baiting, but if so, please show me how I am doing such a thing.

  18. Rev. Roger D. Sterle
    March 29th, 2011 at 12:45 | #18

    @Rev. Jack Gilbert #64
    Combined effort was suppose to be “For the sake of the Church,” from Concordia University System. This did not stop the individual from asking of dollars from each Seminary. At, I believe, the 2007 convention is was stated that no funds from “For the Sake of the Church” would be used by the seminaries since they had their own fund raising departments. There were a lot of questions as to why not. So it would seem that the one effort at raising funds for our students would be only for those going to the universities.

    My continued question is why do not the Concordias charge more for the non church worker student–those who upon graduation usually find a job that pays about double the average church worker will receive [no hard facts in my head or on my desk just the thought]. This would enable the schools to lower the cost for church worker students. With only about 10% of the total enrollment in the Concordias being church worker bound, it would seem that charging the non church work student more could bring the cost down some bit.

    Years ago I ask, when asked for money for a building, why there was not the same endeavor for obtaining more dollars for church worker scholarships? John and Mary Layman would rather give to a building or a sports field which might contain their name than for church workers to have a easier time making it through financially–that was the only answer I could find!!!

  19. John Clark
    March 29th, 2011 at 13:11 | #19

    In an attempt to get this discussion back on topic (and with apologies for my contributions in taking it off-topic), I’d like to throw out MY plan for fixing a complex problem: make it simple.

    1. Every LCMS pastor should be obligated to recruit his replacement. This means identifying a young boy within his congregation and cultivating that young man through personal interaction so that he is excited about entering pastoral ministry. This means teaching him sound doctrine, making sure he takes his other academic studies seriously, providing him with opportunities to learn what it means to be in the service of Christ and his church, and ensure he has a stable home environment. If every pastor successfully recruited his own replacement, and positioned him well to enter a track of study leading to ordination, we could eliminate nearly all of the other ‘recruitment’ expenses incurred by our colleges and seminaries.

    2. Every future pastor should go through the same regimen of instruction from age 10 through age 21, especially Biblical literacy, orthodox Christian doctrine and the original languages. This ties back to #1, but also involves our Lutheran elementary and high school system – especially St. Paul’s in Concordia Mo, which can be the school for those who do not have a Lutheran high school in their community. It also means there should be one or two of the universities who are designated as THE places to go for pre-seminary studies. Synod resources should be focused on those two institutions, not scattered hither and yon where they are less effective. And those two institutions should be held accountable for the caliber of undergraduate they produce. Every young man on the cusp of beginning seminary should be academically qualified, and spiritually mature enough, to enter a school of advanced theological study. Again, this ties back to #1.

    3. Congregations should collectively pay for each candidate’s Lutheran education, including the undergraduate pre-seminary program, at a level sufficient for him to graduate from college without debt. If they do not have a student currently enrolled, they should offer to support a young man from a neighboring congregation.

    4. The seminaries should only enroll single students. This eliminates the need to provide services for spouses and children, including counseling and special housing, and the associated costs. Such a policy supports and environment where a student’s attention can be focused on his studies, on his practical service off campus in area congregations, and positive relationships with other pastors-to-be.

    5. We should end the practice of enrolling second-career students. They are typically married, and do not have the pre-seminary training in basic doctrine or biblical languages. While they can bring ‘real world’ experience to a congregation, the practice adds a level of complexity and adds cost.

    6. We should end alternate route programs, and distance learning programs. Resources should be focused on the two centers of study the Synod established decades ago.

    7. Seminary programs and services not directly connected to preparing men for ordination and initial placement should be self-sustaining. They should be fee based, and pay-as-you go. This includes the time required of professors to help of districts and Synod (or do research and write books) outside of the classroom. It includes the programs leading to advanced degrees. If someone want those things, they pay for it without third-party help.

    8. Seminarians should be free to live wherever it is most affordable, and should be responsible for preparing their own meals. This likely is not a dormitory setting, so it removes the cost of building and maintaining on-campus housing and operating dining halls. There could be a restaurant, but students would have the choice whether to eat there or not, and the cost of operating it should be break-even or at a small profit. Similarly, we don’t need on campus bookstores or athletic programs or any number of other amenities that are there for convenience sake but do not generate income sufficient to offset their cost.

    9. The whole vicarage concept should be eliminated. It adds cost to seminary and student without demonstrating sufficient benefit. Once a student completes three years of residential study, he should be ordained and placed, but not certified to ‘fly solo’. At that point, his focus shifts to the practical application of theology to the daily life of a congregation or mission station under the guidance of experienced pastors. There should be a requirement for minimum annual continuing education, taught via technology, that grants a term-limited certification after a set period of time. No certification? No flying solo and no placement on the roster of Synod where a call can be extended. Responsibility shifts to circuits and districts to monitor progress, make corrections, certify/re-certify or remove a candidate.

    10. There should be a mandatory full-retirement age for pastors. This opens up a specified number of slots every year and would allow the church to project demand in relation to supply.

    Unpalatable? Problematic in other ways? Most likely!!! Or we can go even simpler:

    1A. We laypeople should have more faith that it is God who takes care of our daily needs, not our salary or our job, or our spouse, or…

    Fundamentally, the problem of sustaining seminaries (or congregations, or any other ministry) is one of faith and the first commandment. Who is our God? Of what are we afraid? The “same little piece of pie” referenced by Rev. Gilbert is a problem – but only because we seem to think that God won’t (or worse that He CAN’T) change the size of the pie! We seem believe Karl Marx: in order for one to gain, someone else must lose. LCMS Lutherans give less than 2% of their annual income, on average, to church-related causes. Most of the money comes from between five and ten percent of any congregation’s members. Why is that?

    The second problem, to me, is that we’ve stumbled our way into a very complex way of equipping and training pastors. Then we’ve been force to created a very convoluted and complex way of paying for it because we don’t or can’t trust God to take care of us in even the little things. WE are the problem! We pass costs off to someone else because we fear the impact they may have on us individually. We don’t trust others to be wise stewards of whatever miniscule offerings we give – nor do we trust others in the church to be faithful in what God has called them to do – and then use those as reasons to withhold or tightly restrict funds. We want to control what others do without making sacrifices ourselves. It’s sin at work. Satan divides, then conquers for a while.

    In the end, the simplest solution is best. Conquer sin. Defeat Satan. Fear, love and trust God. Love our neighbor as (more than) ourselves. Do that and we can eliminate the need to do any ‘fundraising’.

    Thanks be to God for his indescribable GIFT (Jesus), who does all the above perfectly – and by the grace given through His Holy Spirit fills us with the courage to trust in our heavenly Father’s promises.

  20. Martin R. Noland
    March 29th, 2011 at 13:47 | #20

    @Rev. Jack Gilbert #64

    Dear Pastor Gilbert,

    I think you have found the “Holy Grail” of one of the chief problems facing post-1970s LCMS here. You say:

    “I am frustrated with the fact that one of the chief reasons our Synod was formed was to support the process of pastoral formation, and that this now appears as an afterthought when it comes to the LCMS budget. (I have been taught that the Synod was formed for three purposes: For the sake of unity in pure doctrine, for the sake of training men to serve the church, and for the sake of sending men to find his elect among the nations.)

    I am also frustrated with the fact that it seems as though few people in our Synod know of the impact debt has on almost all of our recent seminary graduates.”

    I AGREE WITH YOU COMPLETELY!

    You are absolutely correct to observe that the synod was formed primarily for those three purposes, although someone could phrase those purposes in different ways.

    Your concern is that seminary education is an afterthought and that few people know about the impact of debt on seminary students and recent graduates. Seminary education is not an afterthought for the synod today, but neither is it an exclusive funding priority. I know about the debt problem for students, which I will explain below.

    As I mentioned above (comment #18), the bigger financial picture of synod can be seen in the published report “Report of the Blue Ribbon Task Force for Funding the Mission,” July 2006 (http://www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/Office%20of%20the%20President/Blue_Ribbon_Task_Force_for_Funding_the_Mission_Report_2006.pdf). Again, I want to commend now-retired Treasurer Tom Kuchta for his leadership in attempting to alleviate these problems.

    It is NOT true that the national offices of the synod do not support its higher education institutions. That report observed that (pp. 17-18): 1) individual and congregations now give directly to the schools of their choice, instead of sending those donations through synod; 2) more than 1/3rd of the offering envelope contributions (undesignated revenue stream) from congregations to national synod offices is designated for higher education; 3) national synod offices pay $3.8 million in debt annually for these schools; 4) the schools now own their own properties; 5) the national synod office guarantees lines of credit for these schools and has $6.6 million in a risk endowment fund for emergencies.

    I don’t think we can ask the national synod offices to designate MORE THAN one-third of its income on higher education, since if there are 3 primary purposes to synod, each purpose should get one-third. One purpose (1/3) is to promote unity of doctrine and practice, which would be the job of agencies like the CTCR and Comission on Worship (now defunct), and offices like district presidents and circuit counselors. One purpose (1/3) is missions, which would be the job of missionaries at home and abroad. One purpose (1/3) is the support of higher education, but here is where the problem is, i.e., the difference between “church-worker training” and “higher education.”

    The LCMS decided to expand all of its colleges in the early 1980s, without really answering the question whether the synod and its congregations would be able to financially sustain all ten colleges and two seminaries. The funding plan was that the growth in non-church-worker-training programs would pay for the costs of church-worker programs. Nobody has proven to me that this plan actually worked or could work. It doesn’t seem like a plan to me at all. One professor I know called it a “survival of the fittest” plan, which is like throwing your kids out of the house and seeing who survives.

    After expanding its colleges in the 1980s, in the 1990s the synod revised its Purposes in its Constitution to add “to support synodical colleges, universities, and seminaries” (Constitution III.5). This was a new thing. Prior to the adoption of that clause, synod’s higher educational purpose was to train church-workers (Constitution III.3); after that clause, its purpose was to support higher education in general.

    What that meant was that money for higher education that previously was used EXCLUSIVELY for church-worker training was now used for the support of ten colleges and two seminaries. This is the biggest reason that church-worker students graduate with lots more debt than they did in previous generations.

    Basically, many leaders of the synod would rather have twelve “crown jewel” schools than affordable church-worker training.

    I began to understand this problem in the early 1990s, when I served Christ Lutheran Church, Oak Park, which is near the Concordia, River Forest campus. We had students who visited us regularly at the church I served (I was there 1990-2002). I was asked to conduct devotions on campus, and my wife and I would occasionally host parties for the students who were regulars at our church. I think all the students who visited us regularly were church-worker students.

    Through my getting to know these church-worker students, I came to understand their concerns about their debt, which was significant even before they entered seminary. When I saw a good number of students going into debt at River Forest, and heard about seminary graduates with even larger debt, I knew something was wrong. That was when I started asking leaders of the synod to prioritize funding for church-workers (see again my comment #18).

    The response was interesting; and all negative. One administrative officer at Concordia, River Forest, whose name I don’t remember, saw me on campus one day and told me that I was opposing what they were trying to do there. I replied that my only concern was that church-worker graduates should have a funding priority at our schools, because they will not be able to pay their debts on typical church-worker salaries. I think I became his “public enemy number one,” based on the comments he made in response.

    A little bit later, another administrative officer at the highest levels in the national office said my idea would make all our Concordias into “bible colleges” (he said that with a tone of disdain for the word “Bible). I again repeated that my concern was unmanageable debt for church-worker students. He was not impressed and was always dismissive to me thereafter.

    So, the sad state of affairs, is that we have some leaders in the LCMS and its higher education system who really don’t care about the debt facing church-worker students. But we also have other leaders, such as retired Treasurer Tom Kuchta, and most of the LCMS Board of Directors, who really do care about this problem, and are trying to do something about it.

    But how can you get anything done, when persons anonomously torpedo your proposals? The LCMS Board of Directors, and Mr. Kuchta, made the “Funding the Mission” report their priority for the 2007 convention. But nothing significant came out of the convention Floor Committee responsible for that report. At the end of the convention, Mr. Kuchta reminded the delegates that they had failed to deal with that report, even though the Board of Directors had prioritized it.

    So who is to blame for this? People with vested interests in general higher education and their friends, allies, and supporters. I can’t figure out why anyone else in the church would be so dismissive of concerns about church-worker debt. But you need to realize that “friends, allies, and supporters” is a very large network with a LOT OF MONEY. If they have a LOT OF MONEY, they have a LOT OF INFLUENCE.

    So that is where we stand today, 2011. In 2013, the national convention will have a proposal from the resolution 4-04A Task Force. You can expect that people with vested interests in general higher education will be there in force to defeat any proposal, sad to say. Or maybe, this recession has been so harsh to those interests, that they will need help too. We will see.

    Thanks for your insightful questions and comments, Pastor Gilbert! Some of us are on your side, and have been there for a long time.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  21. Josh Schroeder
    March 29th, 2011 at 13:55 | #21

    @Rev. Roger D. Sterle #68
    Two points, not related directly to each other:

    1) I would have worded one of your sentences thusly: John and Mary Layman would rather pay for a building or a sports field which they could put their name than to pay for the training of pastors who put the Lord’s Name on others (through Holy Baptism). See what I did there? Hehehehe.

    2) I’m sure you wouldn’t deny the fact that there are a lot of people who do, in fact, give money to support the training of future church workers, so we won’t hold an implied universal against you. But we can certainly say that the notion you express is out there. That said, it’s interesting that when it comes to the Concordia University schools, they money is there for new buildings and whatnot. But it’s my observation that for all the money the seminaries raise, the hardest thing for them to raise money for is the proper maintenance and upkeep of buildings. “I just wanna help the students with their tuition,” say the donors, as if the students don’t need classrooms and buildings to maintain, professor salaries to pay, and so forth. John and Mary Layman DO want to pay for buildings, as long as they aren’t seminary buildings. ;-)

    And again, we’re painting with awfully broad brushes here. I just wanted to throw in my two cents ion that.

  22. Rev. Roger D. Sterle
    March 29th, 2011 at 15:20 | #22

    @John Clark #69
    John,

    I don’t know how old you are but this is pretty much the system we USE TO HAVE. Seems like we decided that what was not broke was broke and we attempted to fix it!! :-)

  23. Rev. Roger D. Sterle
    March 29th, 2011 at 15:22 | #23

    @Rev. Roger D. Sterle #72
    Well all except #’s 9 & 10 I think.

  24. John Clark
    March 29th, 2011 at 15:45 | #24

    I am old.

    It has always amazed me how we abandoned a very efficient system of educating church workers in favor of something that is infinitely more complex, and riddled with ‘turf-doms.’ Nothing can be more efficient than simply paying the bills directly (together as a Synod). But, no, we have to pass the bills on to folks who cannot afford them, then do somersaults trying to somehow make it affordable for them. We have to invent ways to make pastoral ministry attractive in order to recruit students, or make seminary life palatable to keep them enrolled.

    And I still think there are aspects of running our seminaries and universities that we will a.) never fully understand or accept, or b.) try like the dickens to avoid understanding or accepting.

    I’ve sat in on presentations by seminary professors who were invited to come speak or preach. Who pays the cost of their travel, their lodging, their meals, and the poor substitute schmuck who has to teach classes while they’re gone? Is that really what we have seminaries for? Are we somehow passing those costs off to students and their families? Or are they canceling classes so professors can accept those speaking and preaching invitations?

    Both seminaries put out ‘free’ resources for pastors and congregations. Who is paying for those ‘free’ resources? Are students paying through the nose so that we can have those ‘free’ resources?

    I noted one time that a couple of seminary professors were appointed to the CTCR, and perhaps also to other boards, commissions or committees. Do they provide their services, time and expertise gratis? At what cost to their families or the students?

    I wonder what it costs just to cut the grass at the Fort Wayne seminary each summer. Or clear the snow and ice in the winter. And just how much of that cost is being shoved off on students?

    Then I sit back and think to myself, “Ignorance can be bliss.” It’s time for me to be quiet again.

  25. Rev. Roger D. Sterle
    March 29th, 2011 at 16:38 | #25

    @John Clark #74
    John, I like you!! :-)

  26. helen
    March 29th, 2011 at 21:33 | #26

    @Josh Schroeder #71
    John and Mary Layman would rather pay for a building or a sports field …

    I’m an odd ball, Josh; I buy books. :)

  27. David Hartung
    March 29th, 2011 at 22:08 | #27

    helen :
    @Josh Schroeder #71
    John and Mary Layman would rather pay for a building or a sports field …
    I’m an odd ball, Josh; I buy books.

    As do my girls, in fact the four of them could keep a library circulation going just by themselves!

  28. Josh Schroeder
    March 29th, 2011 at 23:12 | #28

    @helen #76
    @David Hartung #77

    I used to work for CPH. You think you’ve got it bad…

  29. helen
    March 30th, 2011 at 07:18 | #29

    @John Clark #69
    5. We should end the practice of enrolling second-career students. They are typically married, and do not have the pre-seminary training in basic doctrine or biblical languages. While they can bring ‘real world’ experience to a congregation, the practice adds a level of complexity and adds cost.

    Are you going to require attendance at a Concordia for undergraduate or maybe prep school starting at 14? Missouri had all that, too.

    Is a wife more of a distraction than a girlfriend?
    How does it “add complexity and cost”?
    Just wondering!

  30. helen
    March 30th, 2011 at 07:20 | #30

    Since this list is about seminaries, is it a good place to ask if there is any news about the search for a presidential candidate at CTS?

  31. David Hartung
    March 30th, 2011 at 08:02 | #31

    helen :
    @John Clark #69
    5. We should end the practice of enrolling second-career students. They are typically married, and do not have the pre-seminary training in basic doctrine or biblical languages. While they can bring ‘real world’ experience to a congregation, the practice adds a level of complexity and adds cost.

    Miss Helen, before making such a statement, you really should ensure that you have your facts straight.

    Second career seminary students, who complete an MDiv, must meet the same requirements as the young kid fresh with the ink still wet on his undergrad degree. In addition, I believe that roughly a third of students at both seminaries are second career guys. Where would you find the kids to take their places?

  32. David Hartung
    March 30th, 2011 at 08:12 | #32

    @John Clark #69

    How would you make this happen?

  33. John Clark
    March 30th, 2011 at 09:41 | #33

    David Hartung :
    @John Clark #69
    How would you make this happen?

    What part of all that are you referring to?

  34. Walter R Wagner
    March 30th, 2011 at 10:29 | #34

    @helen #80

    I haven’t seen a complete list of nominees, but Dr. Murray had this in his prayers in today’s Memorial Moments he sends out…..

    “For Pastor Scott Murray, as he considers nomination to the presidency of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, that the Lord would grant Him wisdom and discretion.”

    Rudy

  35. helen
    March 30th, 2011 at 10:51 | #35

    @David Hartung #81

    5. We should end the practice of enrolling second-career students.

    David, that is John Clark’s idea, not mine!
    Mine were the questions about it. I have “second career” Pastor friends. I do know they are qualified. One of them has five languages. One was lay assistant to missionaries in Africa before going to seminary himself.
    Another “hit the ground running” as assistant Pastor, with a few hours of “transfer time” before the senior Pastor went to his Chaplaincy tour. (I doubt any 25 year old could have done it, for various reasons.)

    I’ve said elsewhere that perhaps undergraduates should plan on having a second marketable skill and paying off their student loans before undertaking any more borrowing. And to have a ‘fall back’ position, given many congregations’ ignorance of the Divine Call and their responsibilities to the Pastor they have called. :(
    [One of my clerical friends trained as a funeral director, while CRM, although he did subsequently get another call as a Pastor.]

  36. helen
    March 30th, 2011 at 10:54 | #36

    @Walter R Wagner #84
    Yes, I read Dr. Murray in the morning. That is why I wondered if he was selected to “a short list” or if he was sole nominee at this point.

  37. John Clark
    March 30th, 2011 at 11:25 | #37

    Whoa, whoa!

    helen :
    @David Hartung #81
    5. We should end the practice of enrolling second-career students.
    David, that is John Clark’s idea, not mine!
    Mine were the questions about it. I have “second career” Pastor friends. I do know they are qualified. One of them has five languages. One was lay assistant to missionaries in Africa before going to seminary himself.
    Another “hit the ground running” as assistant Pastor, with a few hours of “transfer time” before the senior Pastor went to his Chaplaincy tour. (I doubt any 25 year old could have done it, for various reasons.)
    I’ve said elsewhere that perhaps undergraduates should plan on having a second marketable skill and paying off their student loans before undertaking any more borrowing. And to have a ‘fall back’ position, given many congregations’ ignorance of the Divine Call and their responsibilities to the Pastor they have called.
    [One of my clerical friends trained as a funeral director, while CRM, although he did subsequently get another call as a Pastor.]

    My point in listing all of those ideas was that any recommendation is going to surface a number of problems, concerns and challenges to each idea. Thanks for proving that point.

    Imagine being President Wenthe or whoever will take his place. You get all kinds of ‘suggestions’ from every angle (students, wives of students, laypeople, alumni, St. Louis grads, Springfield grads, Seminex grads, PLI grads, Synodical leaders, faculty, staff, neighbors, community leaders, etc. – let alone your own Board and the Synod’s Board of Directors) about how to run the Fort Wayne seminary more effectively to meet the needs of a particular constituent group. Everybody wants something. Few are willing to invest $$$ to help make those changes possible, and even then some of those $$$ should NOT be accepted because they’ll take the institution off in a direction it shouldn’t go.

    We all want Synod to send more financial support to the seminaries. Where are they going to get that money? Any answer seems to be fine as long (eg. sell off a university) as it doesn’t involve our own bank account, or our congregation’s budget.

    Like Charlie Brown said, “Good grief.”

    How would I make my changes happen? Why, I’d use my super mind-control powers to make everyone else do my bidding, of course! :^)

  38. helen
    March 30th, 2011 at 14:35 | #38

    At your $50/yr/person I think I’ve bought a life membership in your plan.

    Good luck on the “super mind control” with the rest. :)

  39. helen
    March 30th, 2011 at 15:12 | #39

    Oh, and you are welcome! :)

    @John Clark #87
    Thanks for proving that point.

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