It’s Hard to Hit a Moving Target – Blue Ribbon Presentation Moves Again, by Pr. Rossow

We have obtained a copy of the survey handed out at the MinnesotaNorth Distirct convention. It has some changes from the survey handed out at the Southern Illinois Convention.

Included in the changes is a reference to the SMP program, stating that it is now a model for how we can change pastoral certification. This is a shining example of how transitory and fluffy the work of the Task Force is. The SMP program in and of itself  presents countless problems for a confessional church but the main issue here is that it  has been in use less than a year and it is already being heralded as a model for taking the certification process out of the hands of the seminaries, a time tested and godly process. Another suggested change is to remove  the election of circuit counselors from the pastors of the circuit and have them appointed by the district. This is another example of the way in which the proposals take control out of the hands of the many and put it in the hands of the few.

These constant changes are  unfortunate on several levels. First, it was reported to us from the Southern Illinois Convention that after so many delegates complained that much had been changed from the previous convention in North Dakota, the Task Force promised not to change the presentation again. Apparently that is not the case. If you were at the Southern Illinois Convention and remember what was said please chime in on the comment section below.

Secondly, constant changes in the proposals show how unready the committee is and how unwise it is to propose these changes at this juncture. They have worked for years to have these proposal ready and now each time they present to a district convention they  make changes. Proposals that are this serious need to be presented consistently otherwise the synod will have no idea what the real proposals are. Also, these proposals are so significant that the synod needs at least a triennium to consider them. At this rate, the Task Force will still be changing the proposals up to the day of the opening of the 2010 convention.

We encourage all our readers to   take the survey put out by the Interested Laymen and voice your thoughts on these crucial, church-changing proposals.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


It’s Hard to Hit a Moving Target – Blue Ribbon Presentation Moves Again, by Pr. Rossow — 14 Comments

  1. What, you expect a synod that allows and even encourages divergence from its own published resolutions and bylaws to suddenly adopt consistency? An organization with a distinct lack of effective ecclesiastical oversight to call someone to task for not conforming to what was agreed to by virtue of membership or public statement? Surely you jest. Here’s the rub: Inconsistency by those you agree with is “dynamic, pragmatic, visionary flexibility”; consistency by those you DISagree with is “stubborn, uncharitble, myopic rigidity.” Now accepting applications for the CLCUSA: The Confessional Lutheran Church in the U.S.A. Deadline: October 31, 2017

  2. ” taking the certification process out of the hands of the seminaries, ”

    Into whose hands would it be placed???, the descendant asked, with alarm.

  3. The suggestion was that certification would be done by the seminaries, along with the district president and the congregation. As I understood their explanation, the seminary graduate would not be be ordained for a year or two but only licensed (so to speak) and then, if he pleased the district president and congregation, he would be ordained. So when it was pointed out that this would mean that first calls would not really be calls, the Task Force chairman simply shrugged his shoulders — which I took to mean that he agreed but did not care.

    This would make these graduates into hirelings and man-pleasers (both of their DP and their congregation) so that they might be certified and then ordained. It is to hold something over their heads to make them do what is demanded. They would not be God’s men and spokesmen but rather they would be “yes men” to those who might, or might not, certify them. And this AFTER they supposedly have received a divine call!

  4. At the OK Convention questions were asked about the certification process. It was explained that the candidate would be ordained right out of seminary. And at the end of two years if the mentioned parties had a problem, additional training or education could be required or the district president could remove the pastor from the roster.

  5. They also gave a rational for the moving target issue. This is a continuation of the input process the task force has used to develop their documents. Input was constantly being incorporated and that a final report will be issued after all of the district conventions.

    But it seems there should be a report issued from each convention summarizing the results. But these haven’t been posted.

    Also one thing strikes me, will they take their proposed changes through circuit forums and district conventions so it is a priority issue for consideration at the synod conventions as they are proposing?

  6. The constant changing is not a sign of an empty poorly thought out proposals it is a tactic designed to give the impression that they are listening to the desire of the Synod even thought the die is cast. They will be making no changes. This also puts those who raise questions in the position of appearing to be unwilling to join in solving the problems that face our Synod. Those who raise question are caricaturized as being “obstructionists”, “stuck in the past”, “mean” because they are not considering the feelings of the committee that worked so hard. The typical conservative response to this has been to try to “compromise” or find the good aspects of what is being proposed. In so doing however the premise of the proposal is by default excepted. I would suspect that the changes will all be window dressing and what appears to be a change was actually have been there in the first place in the background. It’s a shell game of miss-direction.

    The confessionals/conservatives need to focus on the theological content and raise their objection based on the Word first and the confessions bearing testimony to the timeless nature of our position. What is being proposed is not a change in polity but is a change in theology implemented in polity.

  7. This whole thought of certification process sounds sort of like what Dr. Bohlmann proposed i.e. that every three to five years a pastor would have to go through a “recertification” process to see if he would be “allowed” to remain a pastor. COurse, at that time, our seminaries stated it was simply wrong,–as I remember it. But I am not hearing much from our seminaries about this whole BRTF stuff–at least not in the public eye. I have heard from some individual profs, but one could suppose there is really little either seminary can do or maybe will do???? I would really like to see the faculties of both seminaries in a joint statement tell the Synod (us) where they stand on the BRTF and especially this whole certification process being bantered about!!!

  8. I just learned that the original presentation and survey includes a reference to the SMP program so that is not as big of a change as I made it out to be.

    My bad.


  9. One thing that was very encouraging to me was that at the Minnesota North convention, when we got to the discussion period there were long lines at the microphones. And, as I recall, every speaker except one was displeased with various aspects of these proposals. The voting delegate changes, the circuit changes, the district changes, the certification changes (here was the one who was in favor — and he was a new seminary grad!), name changes, and so on. If the task force were honestly seeking input, they would have to come away thinking that their ideas were resoundingly rejected. But that may be too much to ask…

  10. The BRTFSSG took at bit of a beating at the South Dakota District Convention, folks were lined up at the mics to express their disagreement with the proposed changes.

  11. This business about certification is very serious. Think about it this way:

    Back in the middle 1970s, after the Saint Louis seminary faculty majority and student majority had “walked out,” they formed an organization called “Seminex” (Seminary-in-exile). When the graduates of Seminex sought calls in the Missouri Synod, the biggest battle in the career of President J.A.O. Preus erupted. The Seminex graduates wanted to serve congregations in the Missouri Synod, and they had legitimate M.Div. degrees (accredited by the A.T.S.), but they were not synodically certified. So eight District Presidents said they would endorse (i.e., certify) and ordain those candidates.

    This action was seen, correctly, as secessionist. The Council of Presidents proposed a plan whereby the Seminex graduates could be certified through examination by the remaining Saint Louis seminary faculty. Only two candidates accepted this offer, the rest were placed by the renegade District Presidents. This matter was taken up at the 1975 Anaheim Convention in Resolution 5-02A, authorizing the President and his administration to start disciplinary action against the renegade District Presidents. Eventually four District President were removed from office by President Preus, by convention authorization (for details, see August Suelflow, “Heritage in Motion,” pp. 177-179, 182-189). Therefore Seminex graduates who were not certified by the Saint Louis seminary faculty were not recognized as ordained clergy of the synod.

    I recently took the online survey that Pastor Rossow has recommended at the bottom of his posting above. You should take that survey, if you have not done so yet. The last section, in response to Task Force Survey Question 19, raised a red flag in my mind. The blue-letter comments noted that the proposal would limit the seminary’s part in certification to bestowal of the M.Div. Certification itself would be done elsewhere and by others. That sounds to me like the Seminex certification problem all over again!

    Dr. Andrew Bartelt of the Saint Louis seminary has written an excellent article in the latest “Concordia Journal” (Winter 2009, vol. 35, #1). His argument is that, basically, the synod needs to certify centrally, or it will lose in practice the unity that it claims doctrinally. In other words, he is advocating that the seminaries need to retain the exclusive right of certification. I agree.

    The Specific Ministry Pastoral program (SMP), in the form adopted at the 2007 convention, ensured that men serving in Word and Sacrament ministry are to be certified by the seminary faculties. Whether or not the “distance learning” and the “vicarage while studying” aspects of the SMP program are good remains to be seen. But the control of certification by the seminary faculties is something that is absolutely necessary for the unity of our church, as Bartelt says, and it is something worth fighting for. I am not a faculty member and have never been a faculty member, so I am not arguing this out of self-interest. I am arguing it out of what is the best for our synod.

    Who has recently come out publicly against the online survey (the one recommended by BJS) and in favor of the Blue Ribbon Task Force Proposal? David Benke, Atlantic District President. I lived and studied in the region comprising the Atlantic District for four years, visiting many congregations in New York City, and a few up the Hudson and east out on Long Island. That district is, unfortunately, not representative of Missouri Synod theology and practice. There are a few exceptions, of course, and I would be happy to learn of more.

    The practice in that district, which most of them will admit to, is to only accept pastors into the district who are “liberal-by-LCMS-standards.” The unofficial, but most important, job of the Atlantic District District President is to continue that practice. Benke did not start this practice, but he has continued it.

    If certification is left to the districts, Atlantic District will effectively become its own synod. That will lead to further division, rupture, schism, and lots of other nasty things. I could name some other districts that would go that way, but since Benke revealed his colors first, it is only fair that his case should be the example.

    Centralized certification through the seminary faculties is a chief means by which “the Synod, under Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions . . . provides a united defense against schism” (LCMS Constitution III, 2).

  12. “And at the end of two years if the mentioned parties had a problem, additional training or education could be required or the district president could remove the pastor from the roster.”

    As I think about sending my sons to Sem, the thought that 8 years of higher education (time and $$) could be written off by the stroke of a pen or the whim of a DP is chilling. What parent or student would make that kind of risky investment in their child’s future? Who would want to do that to their child?


  13. Dr. Martin Noland,

    I haven’t had a chance to speak with you in while. Please look me up and email me.

    Thank you for you well-reasoned insights.

    Your friend,


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