2010 LCMS Convention Resolution 5-04

This is another in our series of resolutions to the 2010 Synod Convention, posted here at the request of a commentor. If you have a comment on a specific resolution, see our Resolutions page. If the one you want to discuss is not yet posted, please contact us and we will add the resolution to start discussion.

According to the commentor, “What I am not clear on is the rational for this, when there seem to be an abundance of vicarage congregations now. Perhaps I am reading to much into it, but I found the overture to be peculiar to say the least.”



To Increase Impact of Vicarage Program
RESOLUTION 5-04 starting at line 23
Overture 5-20 (CW, p. 195)

WHEREAS, The vicarage year of seminary formation is intended to provide a comprehensive opportunity for the student to learn to apply theology in a practical and specific context; and

WHEREAS, There are congregations whose context and location would provide for a rich and meaningful vicarage experience, but they may not be able to afford the cost of supporting a vicar; and

WHEREAS, It would be of great benefit to the seminaries, seminarians, and the Synod to have excellent locations for all vicars to increase the overall impact of this important year; therefore be it

Resolved, That the seminaries work collaboratively with the Council of Presidents to identify the most suitable locations for vicars; and be it further

Resolved, That the president of each district in which such vicarage locations are identified ascertain the willingness and the financial capacity to support a vicar in such congregations; and be it finally

Resolved, That the Board for Pastoral Education report to the next Synod convention their proposed plan for a Synod-wide funding model to make such vicarages possible.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


2010 LCMS Convention Resolution 5-04 — 17 Comments

  1. “suitable locations for vicars”

    If this is administered anything like the the field education program at the St. Louis Sem has been lately, “suitable locations for vicars” will be church-growth and theologically liberal congregations.


  2. I ran across this e-mail that I had sent to my district officials on April 9, 2008. I know that this is not the source of the resolution or underlying overture, but when I read the resolution, I was amazed that others seemed to be thinking along the same lines:

    I just received word from one of our adopted students in Fort Wayne that once again there are not enough congregations requesting vicars to place all of the students in this year’s class.

    With this shortage of vicarage placements, combined with the realization that most of these graduates will not be going to the type of large, multi-staff parish that usually can afford a vicar. Many of them will be going to smaller, rural parishes in our Synod – the kind that cannot fully afford to support both a pastor and a vicar. Do you think that there is any merit to the idea of developing/pursuing some type of grant that would assist smaller parishes in training vicars for this type of pastorate? I am NOT talking about a program that would subsidize the abomination I hear of in some places in our Synod, where a vicar is placed on his own in a small parish that cannot afford a pastor but rather gets a string of lower cost vicars to fill their pulpit – while the vicarage supervisor sits dozens of miles away with very little contact. I am talking about placing a vicar in a parish like [names of some rural parishes my area] – parishes that could probably afford about half of the vicarage costs on top of pastor’s salary, but not the entire brunt of it – parishes that would provide the type of close supervision and mentoring envisioned by the vicarage program but in the small parish/rural setting where these students are more likely to end up serving.

    It is not entirely clear that this is the type of situation this resolution was meant to address, but it seems like it would be covered. Help, for example, rural congregations that cannot afford a vicar in addition to their pastor to provide vicars likely headed to such small parishes the opportunity to serve under the close supervision of a pastor (not, as I have heard takes place in some rural settings, a vicar serves 50-70 miles away from his supervisor). Historically, seminarians often vicared in larger, urban/suburban parishes, then most of them were assigned to small, rural parishes for which they hadn’t yet been trained. There has been some shift in recent years to a higher percentage of seminarians going to multi-staff parishes, but an appreciable number still go to the smaller, rural parishes.

  3. In some of our parishes, you could use a vicar and a pastor to fill a block of pulpits, like the four I’ve had for the last year. I really could have used a vicar. Thankfully, the vacancy will be filled as of Sunday, so I’m back to just two.

  4. @Todd Wilken #2

    That was my thought when reading this article too Todd. Will LCMS leadership try to place vicars in locations that have questionable practices. That would be an embracing of poor practice, rather than a rejection.

  5. @Perry Lund #5

    “Questionable practices?” ” Poor practice?”

    You gotta be kidding. There’s no such problem in the LCMS. I can’t believe you said that.

    Johannes (tongue planted firmly in cheek)

  6. PPPadre #3
    “I am NOT talking about a program that would subsidize the abomination I hear of in some places in our Synod, where a vicar is placed on his own in a small parish that cannot afford a pastor but rather gets a string of lower cost vicars to fill their pulpit – while the vicarage supervisor sits dozens of miles away with very little contact. ”

    Unfortunately, this DOES happen. The supervising pastor is not always with little contact, but is certainly not in close contact. And if there is funding from Synod to pay for the vicar, why would the congregation ever try to garner enough funds to call an ordained pastor?

    Perhaps an alternate would be to use the funds a congregation usually sends to District/Synod to support a vicar? (After all, it IS a mission!)

  7. What I find interesting in the comments about placing a vicar in a congregation that can not “afford” a pastor their is no talk about our doctrine. Articles V and XIV in the Augsburg Confession.

    The resolution also forgets this doctrine. It seems to want to develope C.E.O. type pastors, who grow a church. Which is much easier to do when you do not care about doctrine. Then you can use every gimic under the son to tell people about Jesus. Remember what happened when Jesus taught the truth, John 6:66-69

  8. I was on a vicarage of three parishes. My supervisor remained in the larger town and I went to the two outlaying congregations. HE would then go to them once a month for communon, while I preached in the larger congregation. I can see nothing wrong with a vicar serving in such a situation. My supervisor made sure to read my sermons every week–usually by Wednesday so that I could re-write by Friday for the final review. My sermons in the large congregation were recorded so that he would be able to hear how I preach. Everything went well until he took a call and I was alone with a supervisor 110 miles away. Still, I felt that I had adequate supervision even though preaching three times a week. A little more work for me as I had to have a new sermon ready by Tuesday–the day my new supervisor would visit [each week]. Then once a month I would journey to his congregation and preach there while he came up to have communion at the three parishes.

    In this modern age with email and such it is even easier. I supervised a vicar who was 165 miles away. We talked daily, if not by phone then by email. I visited once a week for the purpose of going on visits and the like. He would come to my two congregations once a month to preach while I went to his single congregation for communion. Course, you may think it was okay because this was a delayed vicarage with a man who had a huge amount of experience and continues on as a great pastor to his people.

    What I would like to see [I am finally getting to the major point] is for vicarage supervisors who are not good to be removed from the program. I know of one who practically re-writes his vicars sermons to such an extend they are no longer their sermons but his, being delivered by a different voice. He is not teaching them to be pastors or helping them to become better equiped. Rather he at times seems to be in the business of trying to “break” them.

    So until the seminaries can clean up this part of the vicarage program I am not sure I would like to see a synodically funded program take off. I know they are already short of places but they need to look harder.

    I also am concerned that they send men into such things as the coffee house place in St. Louis where the “church” looks like a coffe house and acts like a coffee house. Course, once one understands that the vicars are going to places of the “new model” for the Christian congregation, one can understand why so many graduates come out and immediately start the things they start.

    I am of the opinon that no vicar should serve in a large congergation period. Why? Because most end up in small “starter” congregations where the pay is low, the attendance is low, and the people are spread out over a large area. There is not shopping mall close by, and the distance between congregations in the circuit might be large. Their vicarage experience probably is not helping them if it was in a large congregation in a large city with shopping all around.

  9. Reread Resolution 5-04!! It is based on Overture 5-20, submitted by the Concordia Seminary Board of Regents.

    What is completely and utterly missing from both the Resolution and the Overture is any mention of a pastor-mentor!!

    The seminary, the COP, the DP, the congregation, the location, the finances… all get mentioned for their importance. But not a peep about the pastor of that congregation, who more than any other member of the congregation will have the most influence on what the vicar does or doesn’t do, not only for the year he spends on vicarage, but also in his called ministry for years to come.

    Not every congregation or location is equipped to have a vicar or even should have a vicar. The same applies to pastors mentoring vicars. It takes a special kind of pastor who while meeting the obligations of being the shepherd of the congregation, being involved in circuit and district functions, being a husband and a father, is also able to provide the right guidance, training, and opportunities to a young vicar and allow him to see ‘up close and personal’ what being a pastor serving a congregation is like.

    Resolution 5-04 and the Concordia Seminary Board of Regents miserably fail to include even an iota about the importance of the pastor-mentor to the equipping of a seminarian for the work he will later do as a called servant of God.

  10. What do these locations do with respect to Augsburg Confession XIV and vicars consecrating the Lord’s Supper? Do any of these vicars get to see what a confessionally faithful Lutheran church looks like?

  11. I have been blessed to be a supervisor for several years. There are so many nervous sem students who stay awake at night wondering what kind of crazy situation in which they will be placed and fearful of what they will be forced to do in order to graduate. I doubt this resolution has the small rural congregation with a faithful pastor in mind. I want to encourage you faithful and confessional pastors to get into the vicarage program. For our congregation it is a financial stretch, but our church needs good fully trained pastors. Next year if the calls are available there should be seven pastors faithful serving that have come through here. If ten of us supervise ten vicars over a ten year period as many as hundred pastors will have encouraged to be faithul to our confessions. What a blessing to the church. These men sacrificed much to go to the seminary rather than to SMP, the need to be supported. They need our help. If the thought of supervising a vicar seems overwhelming or too expensive to consider don’t just dismiss it. That thought had crossed my mind as well.

  12. I don’t see this as a nefarious resolution. There already are several “church-growth and theologically liberal” vicarage congregations (to use TW’s classification) and thankfully there are several liturgical, conservative, and confessional congregations… as well as a bunch that fall some where in between. Typically the M.O. is to match guys with “like-minded” congregations. This doesn’t happen all the time, and the results are usually a pretty miserable year. What I think this resolution is getting at is that because of congregational budgets, there are several congregations where a few thousand dollars might make the difference between having a vicar and not having a vicar.

  13. Re: abundance of vicarage congregations … from what I understand CSL did not have enough congregations to place vicars in this year. My congregation has participated in their vicarage program for the last seven years. This year they elected to attempt to secure a grad to serve as an assistant pastor instead of continuing to participate in the program. We did not end up getting the assistant pastor, and the director of the vicarage program subsequently wrote to the congregation and begged us to consider taking a vicar, since he had several with no place to go.

  14. @Jeremy Clifton #15

    I don’t think that’s accurate. To my knowledge, all of the CSL vicarage students had assignments by call day (except for one CPE student who was looking for a suitable hospital, nursing home, or whatever). It is true that the vicarage director begged and pleaded with congregations before call day, but I’m fairly certain that there are no Saint Louis students sitting around waiting for a vicarage assignment.

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