More on rumblings about seminary closings

President Kieschnick was asked about Vice President Dean Nadasdy’s belief — told to the Ohio District convention — that both seminaries should be closed. Kieschnick said that VPs sometimes say things on their own authority (which, to be sure, Nadasdy had also made clear). But he also went on to say the current model is not sustainable and that extension classes at the Concordias might be a better option.

One of our commenters, the esteemed David Berger, noted that Paul Sauer authored an article in the most recent Lutheran Forum that deals with the LCMS seminaries and floats the sale of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and consolidating seminary options at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne.


More on rumblings about seminary closings — 22 Comments

  1. If you add the step of selling the purple palace and other synod property and giving LCMS pres an office in the basement at Fort Wayne seminary, I’d be on board.

  2. When I was working, the pres. of the company often told me, “Never manage by the bottom line.” The LCMS is guilty of bottom line thinking: letting the money make its/our/their decisions. Has anyone noticed how much of what the minions of the purple palace do is governed by money? Of course you have. What is wrong with this picture? OK–it’s not the LOVE of money, but the dependence on it in this case. If we go back to the original purposes of synod, the money issues ought to fall back into perspective.

    “It ain’t your grandfather’s priorities….”

  3. Johannes

    You almost had it right…
    “letting the money make its/our/their decisions.”

    I would humbly offer that you should have moved the backslash one to the left…

    “letting the money make it/sour/their decisions.”

  4. So – VP Nadasdy’s personal opinion is that both seminaries should be closed, and now the SP opines that the current setup of seminaries is unsustainable and that CU extension classes are a possible option.

    How many more Praesidium opinions do we need before the writing appears on the wall?

    Of course for real cost saving, maybe they might consider theological training via a Cracker Jack® box.

  5. Rev. Wright–well, to be sure, money-based bottom line management decisions often have a souring effect. I’ll give you that. It goes deeper of course–Jesus had much to say about the accountant mentality, almost all negative–damning in fact. It’s that accountant mentality that has infected the Synod–and many of our congregations. And whether you’re counting “critical events” or whatever they call them, or coins in the coffer, clinking away, it’s still bottom-line thinking. And, as you so astutely observed, that kind of thinking has a leavening, unclean, souring effect. It’s hard to talk about the “dough” without the “leaven” of bottom line thinking. Enough, already!!

  6. The Missouri Synod has gotten itself into serious financial difficulties before. In 1917, the Lutheran Layman’s League was founded to rescue the Synod from its mounting debt. The details are provided in Alan Graebner’s book, Uncertain Saints.

    During President Barry’s administration, the Schwan Foundation helped the Synod with generous funding.

    Today, we rely on Ablaze!® and Fan into Flames™.

  7. Does anyone know if this is about cutting costs or generating cash from the sale of the assets? We had someone from Fort Wayne come out a couple of weeks ago and his presentation showed that the synod contributes somewhere around 5% of the operating budget. Based on the presentation, I wouldn’t think the synod would save much by cutting off funding to the seminaries (I’m sure the sems would feel it), but selling the assets would give them more cash to set Ablaze!

  8. I wonder if with a new synodical president the funds could be generated to change the present circumstances facing the Synod?

  9. The plan to close one of the Seminaries has been around for some time – and almost always the targeted institution was Fort Wayne. One argument was that the Synod would save a lot of money by having only one Seminary. When it is pointed out that LC-MS, Inc. provides less than 5% of either schools budget and the rest comes from donors, the planners express their expectation that the money once given to Fort Wayne will find its way to LC-MS, Inc. A few dollars might but the rest will go somewhere else.
    So, the argument goes, let’s close Fort Wayne and sell the campus. The money from the sale will support LC-MS, Inc. and perhaps also endow Saint Louis. There is a major problem with this – the sale of the campus in Fort Wayne will never happen. If the Seminary is closed, the campus reverts to the donor family. Net gain: $0.
    So, let’s sell the Saint Louis campus and relocate everything at Fort Wayne. By some reports, even in a depressed real estate market, that would raise over $100,000,000. Fiscally, that makes sense but, for the powers that be, it is untenable. You cannot have those confessional types at Fort Wayne solely responsible for pastoral formation.
    Thus, Dean Naddasy’s proposal. Get rid of both schools and spread it out over the various CUS campuses. The Fort Wayne problem is solved and the money from Saint Louis goes to Ablaze. Plus… more theological gadflies called professors or confessionally trained pastors.
    Folks, this is all from the same cloth as the SMP. The Holy Ministry has been reshaped in the name of expediency. The price for that will be paid by future generations as the “gospel” proclaimed in “Lutheran” parishes becomes indistinguishable from the gospel of generic Protestantism.

  10. > The price for that will be paid by future generations as the “gospel” proclaimed in “Lutheran” parishes becomes indistinguishable from the gospel of generic Protestantism. <

    That price is already being paid today as the process is well underway. This would simply seal the deal.

    How many LCMS Lutherans today know the difference between Purpose Driven, or Willowcreek, or whatever, and Lutheran?

  11. Rev. Hering–you mean there’s a difference? Aren’t we the purpose-driven Lutheran Church? Don’t we use Willowcreek Worship, even at district conventions? And as far as “whatever” is concerned, well haven’t you read about Transforming Churches or Natural Church Development? You can’t be serious–there really IS a difference? I must have missed something…..

  12. An Unworthy Servant,
    Thanks! The rev. from Fort Wayne did mention that the land would revert to the donor family if it was no longer a seminary. The rest makes a lot of sense from the perspective of the current synodical administration.

  13. “If you add the step of selling the purple palace and other synod property and giving LCMS pres an office in the basement at Fort Wayne seminary, I’d be on board.”

    I don’t want him at Fort Wayne! The last thing we need is GK dropping into our classes and services and lunch and….

  14. Unworthy,

    Before criticizing the SMP program, maybe you’d like to ask the seminaries to see their curricula. Much sound teaching is able to be done online, and there is certainly interaction done online in the name of pastoral formation at both seminaries. SMP can be a cost effective way of training men for ministry who otherwise could not come to the seminary. Were you as uncertain about DELTO? Do you know any DELTO pastors? What about SMP pastors? Why not ask them what they think? Just wondering.

  15. Alfred,

    Here are a few questions to consider and some answers to soe of your questions.

    I do know DELTO pastors and I do know SMP students. I spent an hour interviewing a neighboring pastor about the SMP program. He has three men from his congregation in the program.

    They will end up having less than half the training that our pastors currently have. They get “ordained” after two years of the program when they are only half way through the program. So SMP pastors will be ordained and serving congregations at the point that they have received less than one fourth the training our current pastors have.

    They take less than half of the Bible courses that our current pastors have and they get ordained (again at the mid-point of the process) with only three, let me repeat, only three Bible classes and these taught not in the clasroom but online.

    In this particular case, the supervising pastor (the one I interviewed) is a colloquy pastor. So we now have a situation where a “partially” trained pastor is supervising even less partially trained pastors.

    Can some part of pastoral training take place on line? I suppose some of it can be but not all of it (as in the SMP program) and I would say not even less than half. Actually, lets have all the training of our pastors take place live, face to face with the men we have called to be our seminary professors. Why would we settle for less?

    Would you like to have your medical doctor operate on you with half the training of the traditional model? Would you like to have your medical doctor take care of you even though all his training was by corresponddence? Of course not. And in the case of the SMP we are not talking merely about the body which will die anyway, we are talking about the soul which lives forever, either in heaven or in hell.

    My favorite critique of the SMP program is this. Because they are not fully trained the SMP pastor is limited to once specific place. So I ask you and the entire synod, if you were on the receiving end of the ministrations of this pastor who has been told that his training is of such a nature that he is not allowed to go to the next towmn and minister the Gospel, would you not be asking yourself, am I receiving the proper ministrations ofthe Gospel from this man? Why is he fit to minister here but not in the next town. Is the Gospel that he is planting in my heart the real Gospel? Should I doubt my faith? Why is my pastor only a partial, geographically limited pastor?

    If you look up the minutes of the 2007 convention that passed the SMP you will see that it is a joke. It is a made up solution for an invented crisis. The motion basically says, we desire to open umpteen million congregations to fulfill the goals of the Ablaze program. We do not have umpteen million pastors therefore we need to create this paln by which we can rush pastors through for the sake of expediency.

    The Gospel should never be man-handled for the sake of expediency. It is too precious, this means of grace that brings us the very blood of Christ.


  16. If you desire to open umpteen million congregations in the model of the Alley and Jefferson Hills you probably don’t need a traditional seminary trained pastor who is fit to properly distinguish Law and Gospel, teach the full counsel of God, rightly administer the Sacraments, and properly plan and prepare to lead the liturgy. He doesn’t need to be able to study Holy Scripture in their original languages if the church is made up of small groups with laymen led Bible studies who talk about “what this Bible verse means to me.” He doesn’t need to know Lutheran theology or Church history. He doesn’t need to be able to carry out church discipline that the lost sheep may be returned to the sheepfold or occupy the office that in Christ’s stead absolves the sins of repentant sinners.

    Unfortunately, Ablaze! and SMP go all too well together and make a perfect pair. They say Ablaze! is all about doing everything we can for the sake of the lost. I say, “no it isn’t.” The lost need the truth of the Gospel, they need Word and Sacrament, not the lies of the devil, the world and our own sinful selves. From what I can tell Ablaze! and its SMP are about LCMS, Inc. trying to become a bigger business by satisfying itching ears with some cheap help. I pray I will be convinced otherwise.

  17. From what I can tell Ablaze! and its SMP are about LCMS, Inc. trying to become a bigger business by satisfying itching ears with some cheap help. I pray I will be convinced otherwise.
    Comment by Junker Jorg — July 10, 2009 @ 1:42 am

    Anyone who tells you otherwise will be lying, IMO. Lutheran has until recently (Wichita?) meant an educated clergy who could teach the Scripture from the original languages.
    Ablaze and SMP are about taking the “Lutheran” out of “Missouri.”

    I can’t entirely blame Jerry who is taking advantage of 35 years of laxity. If the majority who opposed seminex had followed up with solid study in Lutheran Christianity for every member, there would not be a majority willingness to be “generic protestant.”

    The Pastor who lets his seminary texts collect dust on his bookshelf is at fault. The congregation which does not demand that he teach (and does not show up at his classes) is even more wrong because they have also demanded more than their share of responsibility!
    Being “congregational” means more than the “right” to hire and fire Pastors! (Which is wrong, BTW!)

  18. Alfred (comment #14):

    The comment about SMP being a good option for men who can’t afford seminary is muddle-headed. When I was in seminary, I supported my expectant wife and 2 year old son working part time 10 hrs. a week at minimum wage. Various chapters of the LWML also supported me. And yet I survived without much debt.

    Jesus once sent his 12 apostles to preach with no money in their money belts, no bag, no bedroll (which was what the 2nd tunic was used for), and nothing but the clothes on their back. However, He gave them His Word and said that from that Word they would be provided for. (See Mt. 10:5ff.). Even in this most poverty-stricken seminary, God provided the men the ability to live (and support their families – cf. Mk. 1:29ff., Peter was married).

    So for the SMP advocates to say that “some men cannot afford seminary; so they should receive substantially less training, and already begin to preach and provide pastoral care as soon as their application is accepted” is denying both the providence of God and the 4th petition of the Lord’s Prayer. The real issue is theological, and not practical.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church
    Fullerton, NE

  19. My bad, Johannes. :^(

    BTW, I happen to be a DELTO pastor. And here is my take for whatever little it may be worth. DELTO and SMP are the result of generations of seminary trained pastors, too many of whom have somehow missed and now dismiss the importance of AC XIV. Of course they also dismiss the importance of the liturgy, the proper administration of the Sacrament, Confession/Absolution/vocation, etc.

    I dare say that, apart from a few, my fellow DELTOids and I do not see eye to eye on much concerning the faithful administration of the Office of the Ministry. Both DELTO and SMP proceed from a pragmatic rather than Christocentric view of the office.

    DELTO and SMP are not so much the problem as they are symptoms of the above malady. That said, it is ill-advised to take symptoms and use them as a part of the cure.

  20. don’t delto and smp candidates require district president approval? I think that is my biggest problem with the program. Giving bureaucrats control over who may receive training gives them power to fashion the next generation of pastors how they want. If there is to be such a program, the only “approval” that should be necessary for admission should be the seminary’s.

  21. What is amazing is that SMP is simply a scaled down version of DELTO. All it did is decrease the educational reguirments, and length of time before one is ordained. Yet hardly a whisper from the grassroots. Also even more amazing is the SUPPORT for the program from the Seminaries. SMP with its making a “student” a Vicar UPON MATRICULATION enables someone to preach God’s Holy Word from the pulpit BEFORE HE HAS EVEN COMPLETED HIS FIRST INTERNET COURSE!

    My prayers are with all those who are trying to be catholic and orthodox Christians within the LCMS. But remember that you are fighting a war on two fronts: one theological and one political. The problem is that the children of the light are not adept at fighting in the latter, secular realm. It takes a charism from on high to end the division.

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