Great Stuff — Making sense of it all. . .

November 8th, 2013 Post by

Great post found over on Pastor Peters blog, PastoralMeanderings:

 

79885436I have had a dozen or more people email me or even phone me about what is happening in our LCMS Seminaries.  The questions are usually about the SMP program but not only.  There are folks who have as their pastor someone who is currently enrolled in the SMP program and they have written me because they still do not get how you can be a Pastor while still not a Pastor or how their pastor is in training for a purely local situation (their parish).  There are folks who have come to believe that seminary is just too dang expensive for both church and student and how we need to close them all and provide an alternative on-line only path, including some local mentoring under a successful shepherd.  There are folks who have written because they are in fear of the residential seminary becoming optional and the non-residential SMP becoming the norm (I initially said I did not think this would happen but I was proven wrong again).  There are folks who complain that I did not figure out how to get the Convention to shut it down right away and those who insist that the seminaries can handle the problem and the Convention should have kept its nose out of the SMP program.

And then a wise Pastor of our Synod, whose opinions I respect greatly, sent me this link, where I found:
Enrollment statistics for the seminaries individually are as follows:

  • Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, reported a total enrollment of 633 students (30 more than last year), with 485 enrolled in programs leading to ordination, the same as in 2012.

Its ordination-track student body includes 267 M.Div. students, 16 residential alternate-route students and 202 nonresidential students.

  •  Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., reported a total enrollment of 301 (7 more than last year), with 198 enrolled in programs leading to ordination (down 16).

Its ordination-track student body includes 162 M.Div. students, 12 residential alternate-route students and 24 nonresidential students.

I am going to skip commenting on Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, because its statistics indicate that the number of of SMP (read that non-residential) students is a very small percentage of the total.   What I want to note is the nearly equivalent number of residential and non-residential students at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.  It seems like a robust enrollment except that the total is the same as last year while the numbers of non-residential students has increased to 42% of that 485 total.

My concern is real and basic.  Concordia Seminary has always been the flagship seminary of our Synod, the favorite child of a church with two seminaries.  Its campus is rooted in our history and, even with the blotch on history of the walk out and seminary in exile, it remains the child who can do no wrong in Missouri.  Let me note up front I am a Ft. Wayne graduate, one of those who had to choose a seminary when St. Louis was still largely empty of faculty and students after the walk out era.  Some will surely say that my comments are colored by my loyalty to the wicked step-child seminary.  Maybe so.  But the point is clearly about the financial viability of sustaining such an expensive campus (annual budget of what, $30? Million) when so many are non-residential track… OR the identity of a seminary whose graduates over time will have hardly set foot on the campus where the people are who must attest to the academic qualifications of that student, his pastoral formation, and his eligibility for call and roster status… OR the inevitable pressure such numbers will place on the other seminary (my alma mater) where the students are still fully tilted toward residential enrollment…  Just to name a few areas of concern…

So for these reasons and many others, those in our Synod who will sort this thing out and make recommendation to the large church have their work cut out for them.  By the way, I fear no competition between the schools and believe that we need not choose between them.  That said I do believe that both need to represent the mind of the church and faithfulness to doctrine and practice with equal enthusiasm and credibility.  I hope for both to be places of robust and confident Lutheranism and for an academic, devotional, liturgical, and vocational life to be thoroughly in tune with and reflective of our Confessions — in word and practice.

But I am worried about this trend and I would expect that you should be as well….


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  1. Rev. David Mueller
    November 22nd, 2013 at 12:00 | #1

    @John Rixe #46
    Well done, Mr. Rixe. Soft answer turns away…. A lesson always worth my remembering.

  2. Matthew Mills
    November 22nd, 2013 at 12:07 | #2

    @John Rixe #49
    The elephant in the room is the lay-ministry cancer. Time will tell on whether a seminary-led SMP is the right or wrong treatment to kill it, but we need it dead.
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills
    P.S. Perhaps we should call it “the unicorn in the room” because elephants really exist, while, Biblically speaking, “lay-ministers” don’t.

  3. Jais H. Tinglund
    November 22nd, 2013 at 12:27 | #3

    @Matthew Mills #2
    Actually, in Holy Scripture, outside of the Apocrypha, unicorns are referred to exactly as often as are elephants – which is: not at all.
    Not that it challenges your point; I just couldn’t help myself.

  4. November 22nd, 2013 at 12:34 | #4

    @Matthew Mills #2
    No, the real answer is to go back to Scriptures and do the right thing. Let lay men be elevated to Deacons to assist the pastor with some duties, under pastoral oversight. These men can visit shut-ins, they can extend the table of the Lord, they can assist; they cannot consecrate the Holy Meal and they cannot preach (they certainly can read the sermon the pastor did write and if he says OK).

    And they only do their work in the congregation under the pastor.

  5. Jais H. Tinglund
    November 22nd, 2013 at 12:36 | #5

    One can ask oneself , or course, whether what the Danish Scientist Ole Worm discovered in the 17th Century was that the unicorn does not exist, or rather that it is something completely different than what people thought: a whale with a long twisted ivory-like tooth sticking straightforward out of its mouth, rather than a horse with a twisted horn sticking out of its forehead. It was from such whales the ivory-like alleged unicorn horns used, among other things, for the throne of the Danish king, had come.

    One can also ask oneself whether lay ministry is something than does not exist, or rather something that does indeed exist, but has a completely different significance than commonly perceived of.

    Or one can observe that the idea that the ivory tooth comes a unicorn might be much more exotic and exciting and attractive – but the truth is that it always took a whale to actually provide it.

  6. Matthew Mills
    November 22nd, 2013 at 12:54 | #6

    @Jais H. Tinglund #3
    @Jais H. Tinglund #5

    I suspect that all the ivory in scripture is more likely to have come from elephants than unicorns or narwhals (but at this point I’m quibbling.) If you’d prefer we could call them “leprechauns” instead Pastor.

  7. Jais H. Tinglund
    November 22nd, 2013 at 12:59 | #7

    @Matthew Mills #6
    I guess that would be the contextually correct term to use for them in connection with mission efforts in Irish communities – and on Paddy Day.

  8. helen
    November 22nd, 2013 at 13:10 | #8

    @Jais H. Tinglund #23
    I submit that some congregations might opt for the SMP program rather than for calling a Pastor with Seminary training in order for congregational members (many of whom are relatively wealthy) not to have to make genuine financial sacrifices, such as contributing more to the church than a negligibly small percentage of what they spend on vacations, … [It's trucks, down here.]

    I’m inclined to agree that it’s a possibility. Someone calculated that 10 families could support a Pastor at about 80% of the members’ average incomes, sending 10% to missions, if they all tithed. (With just a little more, he’d be as well off as they were, on average.) [Actually, my childhood country congregation paid its Pastor as well as any in the whole district.]

    Say “tithe” to the average Lutheran and he comes back, “We are not bound by OT rules.” and continues giving 2.5%. :(
    No, we’re not bound by those rules, and we KNOW about the Messiah they hoped for… so shouldn’t we give more? Not as Law or “a good work”, as Thanksgiving!

    Nah, Thanksgiving is when we stuff ourselves with turkey and lay on the couch to watch football, (or get in a squabble with the relatives at the feast).

  9. Matthew Mills
    November 22nd, 2013 at 13:11 | #9

    @Jais H. Tinglund #7
    With all the sightings of lay-ministers in the Northwest, we could also go w/ “sasquatch.”

  10. helen
    November 22nd, 2013 at 13:28 | #10

    @David Hartung #6
    Once called and ordained, SMP guys can only be removed for the same reasons as the more traditional guys.

    I have yet to hear of any SMP man removed for any of the un-Lutheran reasons (or no reasons) that were taking confessional Pastors out of the pulpits in almost all districts during the “Kieschnick error”. [Good one. Texas Confessional Lutherans tried to tell the rest in 2001.]

    You are welcome to broaden my education, if you have knowledge of one “removed” for any reason.

  11. Jais Tinglund
    November 22nd, 2013 at 13:41 | #11

    @helen #8
    That, and it is also a sad fact of life that not all congregational members are equally concerned with the preaching and teaching of the truth of God, nor equally concerned that the one preaching and teaching has had the best possible education in the Word of God – and thus, neither are all congregations as a whole. Some will particularly not be, when a “cheaper” solution is offered, and one that is perceived as less likely to create conflict in the congregation and in the community by (re)introducing academic LCMS theology in the life of the congregation instead of “the way we do things around here”.

  12. helen
    November 22nd, 2013 at 13:49 | #12

    @Pastor Joshua Scheer #33
    I think it is wrong and has been misused from its original intent.

    Oh, Pr. Scheer, I think it has been and is being used in its original intent, albeit that was in the fine print and not the one sold to the unwary delegates. It’s been very effective, too; traditional confessional Pastors are in limbo by the hundreds (while the bureaucrats who put them there “study” the matter yet another three years (!)… see Lutheran Satire on that!)
    And there are plenty [of the less educated, more pliable, COWO leaning] being churned out to replace them in the interim.

    Many more of them are coming out of CLS than CTS will ever be petitioned to educate to MDivs! In fact, it looks like CLS is becoming our “practical seminary”!

  13. helen
    November 22nd, 2013 at 14:01 | #13

    @Jais Tinglund #11
    Some will particularly not be, when a “cheaper” solution is offered, and one that is perceived as less likely to create conflict in the congregation and in the community by (re)introducing academic LCMS theology in the life of the congregation instead of “the way we do things around here”.

    Sadly, I have to agree. :(

  14. November 22nd, 2013 at 14:37 | #14

    @Jais Tinglund #11
    Sad you think that most members come to our Churches not seeking the Gospel, the Sacraments, and of course it is nice to have good fellowship.

    You think most Lutherans come like Roman Catholics and the like to hear the bell, be counted as a Mass, and go home?

  15. Matthew Mills
    November 22nd, 2013 at 14:41 | #15

    @helen #13

    @helen #13
    I’d actually be surprised if the multi-staff program de jure approach is even cheaper than Lutheran Word and Sacrament Ministry. (Post-modern edginess doesn’t always come cheap.)

    I don’t have the time to work this out thoroughly now, but I suspect the training requirements have changed in the mind of the non-Lutheran wing of the LC-MS because the view of the office and its function(s) has changed. A different skill-set is needed because these men are preparing for a fundamentally different vocation. They have a point. Life coaches and communications directors probably don’t need Greek and Hebrew in the same way that theologians and pastors do.

    More often than not, the things that rile me up at first turn out to be symptoms rather than the disease itself. The older I get, the more adamant I get that all churchly disagreements eventually boil down to AC IV and V.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  16. Jais H. Tinglund
    November 22nd, 2013 at 15:41 | #16

    rev. david l. prentice jr. :
    @Jais Tinglund #11

    Sad you think that most members come to our Churches not seeking the Gospel, the Sacraments, and of course it is nice to have good fellowship. :

    I do not think that, nor have I given any reason for you or anyone else to think that I do.

    rev. david l. prentice jr. :
    You think most Lutherans come like Roman Catholics and the like to hear the bell, be counted as a Mass, and go home?

    I do not think that, nor have I given any reason for you or anyone else to think that I do.

    What I do think is this: that which is really sad is that the open and honest communication that some come to this site to engage in is so often sabotaged by those who apparently have other goals and other values, so that they, rather than relating and responding to what is actually said, will “rail against the man” (I think I am quoting somebody here) rather than the opinions expressed, and try to make those of whose positions and convictions they do not approve look bad by pretending that they hold and have expressed other positions and convictions than those they actually hold and have expressed. That is what is really sad.

  17. November 22nd, 2013 at 16:16 | #17

    @Jais H. Tinglund #16
    Yes, I guess the problem is that in email or blog, etc., it is really impersonal.

  18. T-rav
    November 22nd, 2013 at 17:15 | #18

    @Matthew Mills #15

    “The older I get, the more adamant I get that all churchly disagreements eventually boil down to AC IV and V.”

    Amen. If there’s disagreement on one part of doctrine, there’s a pretty high possibility that there’s disagreement on one (or both) of these, especially the article upon which the Church stands or falls.

  19. Jais H. Tinglund
    November 22nd, 2013 at 17:47 | #19

    rev. david l. prentice jr. :
    @Jais H. Tinglund #16
    Yes, I guess the problem is that in email or blog, etc., it is really impersonal.

    Interesting.
    I would think, on the contrary, that the fact that everything is in writing would provide such circumstances as would invite one to read and respond and relate to that which is actually written, and confront that – rather than freely invent opinions to ascribe to others, and then confront others with these opinions of one’s own invention instead of those they have actually expressed.
    But what do I know? I may have done way too much reading.

  20. David Hartung
    November 22nd, 2013 at 22:32 | #20

    helen :
    @David Hartung #6
    Once called and ordained, SMP guys can only be removed for the same reasons as the more traditional guys.
    I have yet to hear of any SMP man removed for any of the un-Lutheran reasons (or no reasons) that were taking confessional Pastors out of the pulpits in almost all districts during the “Kieschnick error”. [Good one. Texas Confessional Lutherans tried to tell the rest in 2001.]

    While I know of no ordained man who has been removed, I do know of several men who were removed from the SMP program prior to ordination. Interestingly, I do know of one ordained man who had to resign his call, and resign from the roster due to health reasons. For some reason the Website has yet to show this.

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