Begging the Question in BRTFSSG Proposal #19, by Pr. Lincoln Winter

June 30th, 2009 Post by

(Editor’s Note: Lincoln Winter is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church Wheatland in southeastern Wyoming. I last knew of Lincoln when he was a member of the Northern Illinois Confessional Lutherans and was instrumental in the writing of “That They May be One” also known as TTMBO, a straight-forward critique of the Yankee Stadium issue. It is good to see that Lincoln is still using his skills to critique important matters in the church. He has an entire series on the Blue Ribbon proposals on his blog Wild Boar from the Forest. This article is found here.)

If you say something often enough, it must be true.

When I was a boy, I was never allowed to go swimming for at least thirty minutes after eating. If I did I would get a cramp and die. Of course, that’s hogwash. But it was said by so many parents, that it simply must have been true. Recently, scientists did a study of kids drinking sugary Kool-Aid. They found that hyperactivity had more to do with parents expectations than with children’s behavior.

Proposal #19 of the BRTFSSG claims that “Congregations and District Officers see seminary graduates as well grounded in theology but often in need of greater interpersonal and leadership skills.” This has been repeated by our synod’s leaders for over a decade. (And I expect for far longer, but that’s how long I have been ordained.) But is it true?

One District President told me that when he was in office, he always worried about graduates from one of our seminaries, because everyone knew they caused more trouble than pastors from the synod’s sister seminary. Then, one day, he actually went through the records and discovered that the opposite was true. He saw what he expected to see, until he actually looked at the numbers objectively.

It’s called “Begging the Question” – a logical fallacy that asks a question which assume facts that are not yet proven. In this case, “How do we solve the problem of seminary graduates who are ill-prepared for the leadership challenges of being a pastor?” What problem? What evidence is there that seminary graduates fail at a higher rate than people in other professions? When I was in seminary, a large number of seminary students were ex-military. Do they need the sort of leadership training that only our synod can provide? Other seminarians had been successful in the business world, often giving up six figure salaries to become graduate students. They lack interpersonal skills? Some will say, “But that’s just your experience, it doesn’t prove anything.”

Exactly. Anecdotal evidence proves nothing. That some district or synodical officials see problems with seminary graduates proves nothing. What rate of failure is there? Does it necessitate drastic changes to the pre-ordination curriculum? Is the failure rate higher among men who are in their first calls as opposed to men serving in subsequent calls? What failure rate is found in men who go through the less-rigorous programs? (Delto, SMPP, the various lay-training institutes, etc.)

I have one final question – The one District Presidents don’t want answered : If there is a higher failure rate of men placed into their first calls, does that say more about the men who were placed, or the men who did the placing?

I am just asking.


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  1. Stan Slonkosky
    June 30th, 2009 at 10:16 | #1

    I am a lay delegate to the Pacific Southwest District Convention of the LCMS.

    Yesterday, the Rev. Bob Greene did the presentation of the Blue Ribbon Task Force
    and took questions from the floor. I told him I thought he should respond to all of the questions raised by Dr. Ken Schurb that are posted at the issuesetc.org web site. He said he didn’t respond to blogs. I thought that since he lives in Texas, that he might not have heard of the program, so I explained that, it wasn’t a blog, but rather the web site of “Issues, Etc.,” a program that used to be on KFUO. I told him that although I would like to see all of the questions raised answered, I would ask only one of the questions, namely the first one concerning the constitution of the synod. He said that pastors and congregations are already required to subscribe to the LCMS constitution. I didn’t really understand this answer and I think I should have looked at the constitution and the proposed change before I asked the question.

    Since the Rev. Greene had said earlier that he would answer any emailed questions about the task force recommendations, I asked him if he would answer all the questions raised by Dr. Schurb if I emailed him the document. He said not to email him the document but only to ask the questions. The only difference I see here is the formatting.

    I think he may have been displeased that I had mentioned “Issues, Etc.”

    Incidentally, I have on several occasions tried to get “Issues, Etc.” mentioned in the weekly email that the district sends out and have been unsuccessful (not that I’m implying that the Rev. Greene has anything to do with this since he is in the Texas District). Other items I have sent to the district office have been included in this
    email unedited.

    I emailed Dr. Schurb about this and received a reply that will help me if I have a chance to comment today on a resolution proposed by the floor committee to urge the adoption of the Blue Ribbon Task Force’s recommendations by the synodical convention next year because there will have been plenty of time to discuss it already and that it would save a lot of money if it is adopted as soon as possible. I disagree with this. The original overture from St. John Lutheran Church in Colton and Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Escondido was to preserve Article II of the LCMS constitution and is Unprinted Overture 12. See psd-lcms.org

    I don’t think that Dr. Schurb would mind if I quote from his email.

    “We may all think we know what a term like subscription means. But unless we are careful about putting it into the Constitution, and careful about how it will be used there, we potentially set ourselves up for trouble. This is why it would be good if many congregations and others would adopt the same sort of resolution adopted by the Missouri District convention (and others such as S. Wis. and Ohio), asking the Synod to receive the Task Force complete report (with all wording changes spelled out) in 2010, but not to act on it until 2013. This would provide lots of time to think through unintended consequences. We will never foresee them all, but this would be better than trying to gulp down all the TF material in a matter of a few months.”

  2. Pastor Tim Rossow
    June 30th, 2009 at 10:52 | #2

    Good work Stan. It is misleading for Rev. Green to say that the proposals will save the synod money. It has already cost $650,000 to pay for this whole process.

    Also, how can Green say that it will save money when we do not know what the proposals are. He keeps saying they are just getting feedback and that the final proposals will be out in October.

    If there is any money saved it is if there are fewer conventions and that money would be saved by the congregations and the way congregations act toward synod today (both liberal and conservative) they are not going to be shipping convnetion savings to the synod.

    TR

  3. Ross Wardenburg
    June 30th, 2009 at 10:57 | #3

    Perhaps the BRTFSSG should have included a proposal claiming that LCMS Pastors see that Congregation and District Officers have interpersonal and leadership skills but are in need of greater grounding in Lutheran theology.

  4. Ryan Fehrmann
    June 30th, 2009 at 11:06 | #4

    “It has already cost $650,000 to pay for this whole process.” You know, I think the BRTFSSG is going into the “too big to fail” category in the sense that if it does fail then it looks like a colossal waste of money, and egg on the face of headquarters, at a time when Synod does not have the funds, why $650,000 could have run Issues etc. for many years.

  5. Stan Slonkosky
    June 30th, 2009 at 11:27 | #5

    I did not mean to imply that Rev. Greene (note the spelling) said anything about it saving money for the synod to adopt the proposals at the 2010 convention. He may or may not have done so. It was the PSD floor committee that mentioned saving money.

    Of course, we could save even more money by following Pr. Wilken’s suggestion of moving synodical headquarters to the basement of Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Woonsocket, SD.

    The only opportunity left for action on this proposed resolution is between 11:00 and 11:25 a.m. PDT, if we adhere to the schedule, which they are trying to do today.

    On a positive note, a watered-down pro-life overture by the floor committee was rejected in favor of the stronger original one authored by Pr. Matthew Richardt of Gloria Dei in Escondido. This is unprinted overture number 9 “Not to Lose Heart or Grow Weary int he Defense of Human Life” as found in the unprinted overtures file at psd-lcms.org

  6. Pastor Tim Rossow
    June 30th, 2009 at 11:42 | #6

    Stan,

    Got sloppy – you’re right “Greene.”

    Thanks for the clarification on who said we would save money.

    TR

  7. John
    June 30th, 2009 at 23:30 | #7

    Rev. Greene said that ordained and commissioned ministers subscribe to the constitution in our convention as well. In response someone noted that subscription has a technical theological meaning that could not apply to the constitution in the same way it applies to the Lutheran Confessions, that is because they are a correct and faithful exposition of God’s Word.

    The funny thing is the current constitution doesn’t use the word subscribe or subscription at all. Not once.

    Subscribe shows up once in the bylaws concerning the Lutheran Confessions:

    1.6 Confessional Position of the Synod
    1.6.1 The confessional position of the Synod is set forth in Article II of its
    Constitution, to which all who wish to be and remain members of the
    Synod shall subscribe.

    Subscription shows up in the bylaws once as well, concerning the constitution:

    2.10.2 Candidates for the offices of ordained or commissioned minister shall
    have:
    (d) evidenced an intent to accept membership in the Synod promptly
    after the assignment of first calls and prior to ordination or commissioning
    by signing and filing with the president of the district in
    which membership will be initially held a statement to be supplied by
    the district president which acknowledges subscription to the
    Constitution of the Synod and which, upon installation and following
    ordination or commissioning, shall be deemed equivalent to the member
    having signed the Synod’s Constitution.

    To suggest that the proposed wording for articles IV and VII of the constitution in reality changes nothing is simply incorrect. To acquire and to retain membership in the Synod “subscription to the confessional basis of the Synod (Article II) and to its Constitution,” would be required. But what does this mean when the confessional basis of the Lutheran Church has been fixed since 1580 and the LCMS constitutions is subject to amendment at each convention? Each time the constitution was revised would a form be sent out requiring ordained and commissioned ministers to subscribe to the new wording or resign their call? Would this add a new reason for dismissing one from a call: Teaching false doctrine, living an unchristian life, inability to perform the duties of the office, or not subscribing to the constitution including changes as they may be made?

    Does the BRTFSSG really mean to suggest the Synod constitution has the same importance as the Lutheran Confessions? If it does, does this amount to a diminishing of the importance of the confessions or a raising of the importance of the constitution? Or does “subscription” mean two different things in the same sentence depending on whether the object is the confessions or the constitution?

    Rev. Greene simply dismissed the question as foolish and uninformed at the district convention I attended. A serious question deserves a serious answer.

  8. Rev. Scott Hojnacki
    July 1st, 2009 at 09:41 | #8

    Comment #7 reminds me of the discussion surrounding the 2004 Convention’s “Amendment A.”

    To the Synod leadership (especially the CCM), Amendment A was not a substantive change to the Constitution, but rather a “clarification” to bring the actual text of the Constitution in line with *their interpretation* of what it already said.

    I have sensed that similar things are happening here, particularly with the proposed “Article VII.B.” This conversation on “subscription” confirms this suspicion.

    If so, we’re not debating actual “changes,” but only validating (and heretofore enforcing) what some people wish the Constitution actually said…

  9. Stan Slonkosky
    July 1st, 2009 at 21:30 | #9

    The proposed overture about the Blue Ribbon Task Force passed with only one change being that the delegates wanted Article II of the LCMS Constitution not to be altered.

    Pr. Matthew Richardt of Gloria Dei in Escondido objected to the floor committee’s watering down of the pro-life overture he had authored and his congregation had submitted and the delegates voted to reinstate the original which passed with a 77% majority (why it was that low, I do not know).

    During the installation, D.P. Larry Stoterau, commented on hurtful rumors about him, including one that said that as chairman of the LCMS Council of Presidents, he had been meeting with ELCA officials and discussing how to implement women’s ordination in the LCMS. He said this was not true and that, while he generally prefers to communicate via email, he wants people who have heard rumors about him to telephone him so he can clear things up.

    I hadn’t seen this rumor before, but when I do see rumors about him, I try to respond to them when I can. Spreading rumors about those we may disagree with does not serve the cause of confessional Lutheranism and is, of course, a violation of the eighth commandment. I don’t think that innuendo, which you sometimes find in the pages of “Christian News,” is beneficial either. I don’t read CN on a regular basis, but I do pick it up on occasion.

    I have had my disagreements with D.P. Stoterau (and still do; I will probably email him about some of them, including the fact that I have been unable to get “Issues, Etc.” mentioned in the weekly email that the district office sends out), but I believe he has dealt honorably with me on those few occasions we have interacted.

    I was happy to report that Pr. Bob Dargatz of Immanuel in Orange was re-elected to the board of regents of Concordia University. The regents now have the task of searching for a new president now that Jack Preus will be moving to Wisconsin now that he has accepted a call to Bethesda Lutheran Homes (I forget what the specific position is). A member of Immanuel, Dr. Michael Lange (listed as a semiconductor physicist; I didn’t know we had any in SoCal; I thought they were all up in the Bay Area and in Oregon) was re-elected to the district’s board of directors.

  10. July 2nd, 2009 at 13:59 | #10

    If you look at the latest BOD minutes, the Blue Ribbon will cost over $1 million factoring in the 2010 budgeted convention expenses.

    The 2007 convention cost $1.5 million, 2010 is budgeted at $2.5 million. Shameful!

  11. IggyAntiochus
    July 2nd, 2009 at 15:00 | #11

    To the webmaster: Can we get a link to Pastor Winter’s blog onto the BJS Linked Blogs page? Thanks in advance.

  12. Anonymous
    July 2nd, 2009 at 17:23 | #12

    Think of the money LCMS congregations could save and direct toward their seminaries and missionaries if they hired an outside management company to handle the administrative duties curently carried out by those at the International Center.

    The LCMS doesn’t train its pastors to be business executives or politicians. They need to leave their business minded ideas behind and go back to the alters and pulpits where they belong.

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