President Kieschnick and other officials in higher education have issued a statement to calm the fears that the seminaries will be sold. We are pleased that such a statement has been issued because we believe that residency seminary education is the way to train our pastors. This is the clear model of St. Paul in the New Testament.
If President Kieschnick would like to keep these fears from arising in the future we suggest that he issue a statement about the real issue: “How ought we to educate our pastors?” The statement issued is rather obvious and simple which results in it sounding rather politically correct. Of course it would take clear and intentional synod action to close one or both of the seminaries. That is not in dispute. We are glad to hear that there is no concensus in the current group to do that. But it is no secret that the current leadership of the LCMS is smitten with the notion of “praxis” replacing doctrine in seminary education. (In other words, experience in the field is equally imortant, even more important than doctrinal training.)
It is also clear that this romance with “praxis” has moved the current synodical leadership to explore creative ways of doing away with residency training for pastors. The SMP program for example, has wiped out seminary residency nearly entirely, save for a few short visits for collegiality. It would be much more calming to me if President Kieschnick would issue a statement that we shall follow the traditional path of residency education for pastors that historically has resulted in a strong and confessional synod. Instead, the statement issued merely identifies the seminaries as the “hubs” of pastoral education. The seminaries as mere hubs allows for the exact approach that the current LCMS leadership under President Kieschnick has endorsed which has put the fear of God in so many around the synod including this writer. “Seminaries as hubs” allows for the sort of new, dynamic approach to pastoral education recommended by the consultants to which the president and his task force listen.
President Kieschnick prides himself on bold leadership. He has dedicated a glossy insert in each Reporter to this subject. (This in itself is odd and should give the synod cause for concern since leadership is not one of the desired traits described in the pastoral epistles.) It is his bold, out of the box leadership that has led him and others in the synod to raise the spectre of non-traditional seminary education and that is what has created the fears.
President Kieschnick cannot have it both ways. Delegates and members of synod alike, discern carefully what is being said.