LCMS Ministerial Growth and Support Department Eliminated – “Good Riddance,” by Pr. Rossow

The December issue of the Reporter includes an insert in which the LCMS Department of Ministerial Growth and Support announces that due to the structural changes approved at the July synod convention, their department has been eliminated. To that, I say “bravo” and “good riddance.” I pray this is only the first in a number of psychologically and sociologically ginned up programs based on felt needs to get the axe in the LCMS. It is too bad that it took a financial crisis to bring this about.

I do not know the people in the department personally. My guess is that they are very loving and sensitive people. I am not saying “good riddance” to people but to a department that is built on the chimera of felt needs and is redundant if our circuits and bishops are doing their jobs.

Here are some items discovered in the 2010 convention report (see p. 92 ff.) of the Department of Ministerial Support and Growth that bring me to say “good riddance.”

With the dismantling of this department we will thankfully hear fewer “gobbledy-gook” phrases such as “relational vitality.” It was one of the departments key goals in the last triennium. Such vitality is described by the department as church workers “living in trust, respect and love for one another.” Such trust, respect and love for fellow church workers would not be an issue if the same people and mindset that brought us this department would not have also introduced such non-Lutheran practices and innovations as contemporary worship, tolerance sensitive women communion assistants, and a communion rail wide enough for an eighteen-wheeler to pass through. We do not love and trust each other because certain folks have introduced harmful innovations that have divided us.

Another significant way to understand the work of the now dismissed department is this list of pastoral concerns that they highlighted from recent surveys and that they saw as their mission to alleviate.

  1. emotional drain
  2. long hours
  3. strain on family
  4. low compensation/pay and benefits
  5. antagonistic flock
  6. staff conflict
  7. educational debt

As important and real as they are, we do not need a synod department to deal with these concerns. “Emotional drain” is a part of the calling. Get used to it pastors. I know of very few vocations that do not involve emotional drainage and the pastoral vocation is actually designed that way by God. “He must increase and I must decrease” says John the Baptist in response to the emotional drain of the office of the ministry. Jeremiah says “would someone please get me out of this cistern.” The office of the ministry calls for men with the intestinal fortitude to survive in the cistern. Creating departments to deal with it makes us weaker, not stronger. Luther says it is prayer, meditation on the word and suffering that makes the pastor.

It is a tough job and put very bluntly, we simply need men who are up to it. I am speaking from gut-wrenching experience here. My wife can vouch for the fact that I have had such intense “emotional drainage” from serving in this office that I spent several nights with headaches leading to dry-heaves and lying prostrate on the floorof our den, trying to get as low as possible because of extreme dizziness again caused by the stress of the office. I lived through it and am a better pastor for it. This office brings emotional and physical pain.

I realize that on occasion a good pastor might succumb to emotional break-down. In that case, professional help can be sought out, recommended by the bishop and if possible, after time the pastor may be able to return to the ministry. We have seen this happen. But that does not mean that we need a department for this. This is what district presidents (i.e. bishops) are for, and all of this should happen as a matter of common sense.

Likewise “long hours” and a “strain on the family” are certainly real concerns. Pastors need to use a little common sense in prioritizing their time and their families need to be given high priority, second only to God and his calling. Common sense and good leadership from district presidents is needed to address these concerns, not an over-psychologizing commission.

Low compensation, an antagonistic flock and educational debt are hazards of the job. This is where you lay people reading this can make a difference. Speak out against the antagonizers in the congregation and do what you can to help your pastor get a decent wage. Also bishops should be involved in each of these areas, teaching the pastor how to deal with antagonism, upholding good Lutheran practice to the lay members and just simply reminding the pastor that it is difficult work taking on the devil and his minions. Instead, our district presidents are off to St. Louis, Fort Lauderdale, or Fuller Seminary in California, chasing after more psychologizing and sociologizing programs to dump in the over-burdened pastor’s lap.

Here are some more items from the convention report that make me say “good riddanceto this department.

  • The PALS program – This is a program that mentors young pastors fresh out of the seminary. Certainly good things came from this program but this should be done organically through our existing circuit structure and also by those young pastors in need simply seeking out more experienced pastors in the field and asking their help.
  • Working alongside the ELCA on the ILCCMHW (see p. 95) to improve  clergy wellness. How is working with an apostate group that violates the office by filling it with gays and women going to help a confessional Lutheran church like the LCMS?
  • Revised the “Wellness Wheel” to include financial wellness. I didn’t even know there was a wellness wheel. Maybe I could have spun it around while I was laying prostrate on the floor to help me with my stress induced dizziness. Actually, spinning that wheel around would have made me more dizzy come to think of it.
  • Identification and training of the “Critical Incident Support Team.” As far as I am concerned, the critical incident is elicited and supported by the preaching of law and gospel in which we were trained at the seminary.

Speaking of training at the seminary, this department was also responsible for on-going ministerial training. There is a great irony here. The mindset that brought us this department is the same mindset that replaced the old fashioned, real ministerial growth endorsed by Luther and Walther, doctrinal studies at conventions and conferences, with new-fangled psychological presentations and sociological programs for church growth. In our grandfather’s church we had doctrinal presentations at pastors and district conventions. Here is the irony. We created a bureaucratic solution (the Department of Ministerial Growth and Support) that is intended to increase pastoral education and yet the bureaucracy undoes the very thing it is intended to engender by dumping real doctrinal training and in its place promoting “relational vitality,” ignoring the Word of Life that alone can give the vitality and growth pastors need.

I took out my copy of Walther’s “Pastoral Theology” to compare his approach to the training and sustaining of pastors in the holy office to the work of the now defunct department. In its three hundred pages or so he says precious little about the pastor as a person and when he talks of pastoral growth, he encourages the very doctrinal studies that our new psychological and sociological mindset has diminished. The Department of Ministerial Support and Growth conducted survey upon survey upon survey. Walther had no time for surveys. He understood from Scripture where Satan would attack the office and in response wrote about how pastors are to administer God’s word and sacraments faithfully.

Ironically, there are now two more reverends who are without work because of the demise of this department. The same spirit of psychologizing, sociologizing and relational-vitalizing that brought this department into existence also brought us such questionable programs as SMP (specific ministry pastors), DELTO (long distance education and training of pastors), “lay ministers” (the classic relational oxymoron) and the like, and now because of a glut of partially trained pastors from these programs, these two men will have a difficult time finding a call.

Ding dong, the department is dead! Resources and emphasis given to the emotional well-being of pastors, while not insignificant, is bewitching and takes our eyes off the prize. Here’s to some more inane psychologically and sociologically based departments being dissolved.

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.

Comments

LCMS Ministerial Growth and Support Department Eliminated – “Good Riddance,” by Pr. Rossow — 89 Comments

  1. Sure, Rev. Walter and Mr. Pierce. A pastor is called to publicly exercise the Office of the Keys — and that is done in the congregation. He is called to preach in a particular pulpit, to baptize at a certain font, to preside at a particular altar, to absolve the sheep under his care. I do not believe the LCMS teaches a call to the Church at large, but only to a located pulpit/altar/font. A seminary professor (as seminary professor) has no such call, though he may have a call to a congregation as well. Neither does a synod or district president. Nor do staff of districts or synod bureaucracies (and I do not mean that word in a negative sense). However, they still may be in the Office of the Ministry, as auxiliaries to pastors. They are able to assist pastors in the exercise of their office. But that does not make them pastors, any more than parochial school teachers (who also assist pastors, according to our synod’s teaching) are pastors.

  2. Fwiw, I think the list of issues to which this now defunct board concerned itself is spot on. The idea that the LCMs is filled with men like unto two of the greatest prophets is a bit optimistic, no? And who is to say that Jeremiah would not make use of the kinds of help the committee provided were he still prophesying?

    The suggestion that a pastor should wait until AFTER a breakdown before he is helped seems to me not such a great idea. Would you give the same kind of advice to a pastor who is diabetic or is presenting symptoms of heart failure, that he should wait until he is comatose until he gets help? Surely not.

    I am afraid this post perpetuates the unfortunate stigma that our culture has assigned to be borne by folks who suffer with emotional and psychological problems. And this kind of thinking discourages those already discouraged from getting the help they need.

    I hate to have my first and last comment on BJS be so critical. But I was stunned when I read
    your post, Pr. Rossow. I would recommend a retraction.

  3. Mr. Strickland,

    As you wrote, you did not see some of the issues discussed here as anything more than nitpicking at first, but then later you came to understand the point of the discussion. Perhaps the same will dawn upon you in this matter too. Perhaps not. Personally, I do not think it is the biggest issue our synod faces. It just bothers me when some steadfastly (a little pun on the site’s name) refuse to use the titles (and apparently the teaching that goes with why they were deliberately chosen) our synod has agreed upon.

  4. Polity is adiaphora. That does not mean it is unimportant. Nor that we are free as individuals to do what pleases us.

  5. Now, I was taught a general call into the ministry which is confirmed by the call to an altar and pulpit or to some other ministry of the Church, such as missionary. Professors are a gray area in that we’ve really turned them into at will employees. But say prior to 1990, they were called, with the same understanding that the call was open ended. This was the issue with the attempted firing of Robert Preus, which occurred when I was a student at FW.

    What I think you’re doing is creating a distinction without a real difference. Either a person holds the office or they don’t. Any distinction between an office holder and a pastor is, in my opinion false.

    There are so many examples from history that show that this was never understood as tightly as you are suggesting. Wyneken was ordained in Germany without a call. Later, he served for 5 years as full time SP (1859-1864). He was not serving a congregation in those years. The central district in the Walther/Wyneken area called a sem grad to be a missionary, ordained him and sent him to central Tennessee, and so forth. Nobody in those days suggested that these men were not pastors.

  6. Another question I would raise, that I believe has bearing here, is are we a congregationalists or are we not congregationalists, but have congregational self government. I do not believe that the LCMS was ever intended to be congregationalist. We only have congregational self government. How one views this will affect how they view the concept of the call.

  7. Rev. Walter,

    As I recall, our synod teaches that ordination is but the public recognition/ratification of the call. So, I wonder if your example of Wyneken (ordained without a call) was one that the LCMS founders thought was appropriate. As to your being taught that there is some sort of general call to the ministry, which is then later confirmed by a call to a certain location — could you please give me references as to where I can find this teaching explicated? It seems to be almost the very opposite of what I was taught — and I was FW at the same time as you, I believe.

  8. I would like to see our DP’s and SP exercise the supervision we have given them as a synod.

    And that supervision is not that of a bishop. The Smalcald Articles (Part II, Article IV: Of the Papacy, Paras 1-9) clearly indicate that a bishop is a pastor of a church, and that all pastors (bishops) are equal in office, whether they are pastors of a small church or large church. And, of course, the Missouri Synod is not a church. In the Missouri Synod a DP or SP is not by the corporate office a pastor (bishop). If a DP or SP is called separately to be a pastor of a congregation, he is a bishop of that congregation, but not of the district or synod.

    I do not ape Rome with the word “bishop”

    Then in what sense is “bishop” used to describe a DP or SP? In the sense of his district or synodical office; but that would be aping Rome and its episcopal polity. In the sense of his separate call (in a few instances) as a pastor of a congregation; but that deals only with being a bishop of his congregation, not the district or synod, which has a congregational polity.

    I have no interest in giving DP’s and the SP any power.

    But giving men who are not bishops the title of “bishop” implies such men have the power and authority of a bishop. It also confuses the laity who wonder why titles of power are being used for people who have no such power within their office of DP or SP. As for the last guy who refused to voluntarily give up such claimed episcopal power, Lutheran laity rowed him across the Mississippi River and left him in Illinois.

    And, the Confessions do not do away with bishops but simply limit their authority to the proper use of Scripture.

    And that authority (as referred to in the SA and elsewhere) is the authority of a pastor.

    please explain the difference between one who holds the office of the ministry and a pastor?

    This is a red herring because the relevant issue within the Missouri Synod congregational polity is the difference between one who holds a divine call of pastor (bishop) of a congregation and one who does not.

    In addition to the SA reference given earlier, it is also discussed in Treatise 24 and 60. The lack of such a divine call as pastor for a DP or SP (unless they hold a separate call to a congregation) was also discussed in #30. It is not surprising that some seem to have trouble with this concept, since it is covered in Walther’s Übertragungslehre. You can read more about that in the formerly purged WT posts, Nos. 1-5, now reposted here, or in more detail in Walther’s Kirche und Amt.

    Wyneken was ordained in Germany without a call.

    In Germany Wyneken was ordained by a consistory. In America, Fuerbringer was called to an Illinois church and pastored there without being ordained for almost three years. But both of these examples were before the Missouri Synod was founded. Within the Missouri Synod, a call by a District Board of Missions to be a missionary does make a man a pastor, according to the authority and responsibilities listed in the Diploma of Vocation and its Supplement (which my father received when he became a missionary to West St. Louis County). Missionaries who do not receive a similar Diploma of Vocation associated with their calls are probably not being called as pastors. Men elected to terms in the corporate office of DP or SP do not have calls with the authority and responsibilities of pastor to a congregation.

    I do not believe that the LCMS was ever intended to be congregationalist.

    No one here has argued that the Missouri Synod is “congregationalist.” That’s just another red herring.

  9. I remember it being discussed in class at some length. About the closest I can come, on short notice, to something in writing would in Marquart’s book on the ministry, p. 159ff where he distinguishes between ordination and installation and call. He makes the point that man is ordained into the ministry for life, but serves in a particular place only so long as God wills it. If follows that he is ordained into the whole Church, which is why he is not re-ordained when he enters a new field of service. P. 159 “Ordination signals a mans entry, life long, into the sacred ministry of Christ’s Gospel and church, while installation places him into a particular charge.”

    As for whether Wyneken’s ordination was proper, of course it wasn’t. But they didn’t re do it either. It was also done in Germany several years before there was a Missouri Synod. So while improper, it was not deemed invalid. He was still considered a pastor.

  10. From what I have read, Wyneken was ordained by a superintendent acting on his own authority. Wyneken had no call to that territorial church, nor did they send him out as a missionary. He went out on his own as a free lance missionary. Something that, we also would say was not proper.

    Why is congregationalism vs. congregational self government an issue? In a congregationalist system only a congregation can issue a call. The larger church cannot issue calls. But we have a long history of the broader church, district and synod, issues various types of calls. Most common of course would be to missionaries.

  11. @Carl Vehse #60
    This is a red herring because the relevant issue within the Missouri Synod congregational polity is the difference between one who holds a divine call of pastor (bishop) of a congregation and one who does not.

    Actually it is not a red herring because you have implicitly made a distinction between one who is called to the vocation of a pastor and one who is installed as a pastor in a congregation. The question is what are the differences aside from the obvious? Is a person who is called to their vocation of pastor by God not a pastor until they are called by a congregation?

  12. Oh boy, is it not this type of wrangling over foolish titles and positions that drive so many away from church?

    As an outsider looking in, this all looks like the type of arguements I experienced in the corporate business world. Should it really be part of the church at all?

  13. As we don’t call anyone bishop (excepting the English District President, and maybe one other), this whole discussion over the term ends up being a moot point. There are rounds and rounds over titles and little discussion over “office.”

    One may rightly hold a title to an office one is no longer in. My uncle is a retired major. He no longer holds the office of “major” in the Marine Corps. However, if he goes on base to visit the PX, he gets called Major. Likewise, in the civil world we can still speak of “President Bush” (twice even!) even without them holding office.

    I would hope that anyone put into an office, be it the office of Synodical President via convention election (or however it is that we are supposed to do it now), or the office of Pastor via a call, does what that office asks of him. If one is no longer in an office they once held, whatever you call them, treat them with respect.

    + + + + + + +

    I do not know if the problem is that people do not wish to submit to authority so much (that is and always is a problem) as the fact that it seems so few men want to exercise the authority that their office gives them.

    Of course, I’d also contend that the only authority the Church has, properly speaking, is the Office of the Keys. Whenever authority is mentioned in the NT, it’s always tied to forgiveness.

    + + + + + + +

    (Besides, you all are off — if we were trying to line up the terms with the threefold office of bishop-priest-deacon, Harrison would be a priest or presbyter at his congregation, because he does not preach and preside at his own discretion but at the approval of the head pastor. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, in fact, it’s probably a good thing.)

  14. Mr. Pierce,

    Sorry for not answering your question before. What I am saying is that a pastor is one with a call to exercise the Office of the Keys publicly. That is not what synod and district presidents are elected to do. Synod and district are not the Church. The congregation IS Church in that particular place. Go back and look at the founding documents of the LCMS and you will see that they made very clear that the synod (and later, districts) were not Church, but rather an association of churches. So, to give a brief answer to your question: yes, it is a congregational call that makes one a pastor. Not being ordained (which we teach is only the public ratification of the call). Not being on a clergy roster (since the LCMS is a human institution). Not having once been a pastor (although, as Rev. Brown points out, we often use the title out of respect for having once held the office).

    If my wife died, would I still be a husband? No, although I might still think of myself in those terms. And perhaps others still speak of me as “Lisa’s husband”. When a man resigns his call (to retire, to take an office in synod or district, and so on), he is no longer a pastor. What is the shame in calling the man “President Harrison”? Synod president is a good, helpful, God-pleasing office. It is just not that of pastor (or bishop). Sometimes I wonder if the problem for some is that they have some sort of hidden antipathy for other churchly offices — as if somehow they are not as God-pleasing as that of pastor.

  15. Here’s my angle…

    In other blogs we have had debate about word usage. I have even been hammered a couple of times for what I wrote, and rightfully so. Words to have a meaning and carry a certain power and idea.

    By playing with the meaing of words, and/or interchanigng them, we are also playing with their meanings. Look in civil society and certain demoninations: define marraige… and look at have groups use and apply the word, and how they develop their govenance around that definition.

    Is our polity adiaphora? Yes. And we have freely chosen such a polity! I find it disengenous when we independently throw words around baded on our own personal opinions. That will lead to chaos and anarchy. The LCMS chose and set up a synod, and used wrods such as president, not bishop. Partly was to disassocaite form an apparence of Roman Catholicism, Aglican, et al. So when people encouter us as Lutherans, we let them know what we beleive and stand for, as in we do not us dictatorial management. We do not us pope or father for our pastors, so why do we use bishop in the sense of DP’s? And especially when we do not catechaise new members, they will bring in their old thinking and vote accordingly to past perceptions, bringin contrary and divisive arguments, undermining unity. (as an aside, the Founders chose president in the U.S. Constitution to deliberately avoind titles or royalty and al the baggage tehy contained)

    Our Consitution labels our area leaders as presidents. Do we wish honor our father and mother in our civil authorities? Look at the fight we already have with CCM, because we ignore the adopted Brief Statement that calls for the use of synodically approved materials in worship. If we wish to use other titles, which I don’t think is always the best, at least we should deal with this in appropriate channels, such as resolutions and amendments at convention. Otherwise, why do we bother with any kind of rules? and with that unhealthy attitude, when will we decide that maybe we can kil people just because, or sleep around with other people (regardless of gender), take (steal) whatever we want because we want such items. I see soem of this as attitudinal, traveling down a slippery slope, undisciplined and ripe to Satan to cause damage to the Kingdom.

    I do not think it is a trivial argument, but we also need to probe underliying motivations for such debate, and argue appropriately, with the idea of reconciliation and commonality.

    In the end, our “rules” assigned the term president. That is the best and maybe only term we should use. Then we should figure out how to use bishop, and if it describes a pastor in a parish, then DP’s will not be properly allowed to use the title in their role as president.

    We should choose us this day what we shall follow….

  16. #63:

    “Is a person who is called to their vocation of pastor by God not a pastor until they are called by a congregation?”

    This question attempts to separate into two different “calls” what has been recognized by the Missouri Synod since 1851 and reaffirmed in 2001 as one divine call (see Walther’s K&A; the Theses on the Ministry can be found in German and various English translations in Rev. Peperkorn’s STM Thesis, Appendix II). The issue is further explained in various references listed here in reposted Comments 1-3.

  17. Here’s some addition statements on the issue of the Call, taken from Professor Walther’s Draft of a Paper on Church and Ministry (Preaching Office) (1):

    “The question came up in connection with ordination: if the preacher could still exercise the functions of the Office, in the same way as if he were still in the Holy Office, when he is no longer in the Office. The answer to this was that a distinction needs to be made. If the preacher is driven out of his Office against his will, because of God and the truth, then in this case he is still the lawful bishop of the congregation that has driven him out. If he has laid down his Office voluntarily, then in that case he lost all the authority of the Office. If the Call of the congregation has ended, to which he was called, then his Office authority ends, because there is no universal Call for the whole Church; only the Apostles had this Call. [emphasis added]

    “On the question if the ordination needs to be repeated, if the preacher returns to the Office, the answer was that one has as little reason to hold to the necessity to repeat the ordination, as it is to think that ordination is pointless because it is not commanded. Meanwhile, the instillation into the Office is no different from ordination, i.e. the churchly confirmation (acknowledgement) of the vocation.”

    (1) Kirche and Amt at the 1851 Synodical Convention, Synodal-Bericht (1851), 169-171. Literal translation by Gerald Paul, found in Rev. Peperkorn’s STM Thesis, Appendix III.

  18. How did notice of a dissolution of a board turn into extended wrangling over use of a “title”?

    It amazes me that men, weekly or more often, prepare coherent structured comments on a text but can’t stick to a subject past the 5th or 6th reply!

    [OK, some of us pewsitters share the blame. But you pastors should be leading us back to the topic, shouldn’t you?]

  19. @Rev. Steven W Bohler #67

    Thank you for the response, Pr. Bohler. I think I understand your reasoning which is very clear. However, I still don’t understand why you are taking strong issue with Pr. Rossow’s pious use of the term. You are arguing from a legal definition of a pastor (not a scriptural one, since the Scriptures don’t tell us that one is a pastor only if they receive a call as prescribed by the LCMS constitution and bylaws) and concluding that a pious use of the word “bishop” is wrong. While your reasoning is clear, your argument is a bad one, I think.

  20. Mr. Pierce,

    I do not think Rev. Rossow is simply using “bishop” in a pious way (that is, merely as respect for one who had previously held the office but no longer does so). I would think he holds that DP’s and synod presidents ARE truly bishops. Perhaps I am wrong and he can correct me. If that is the case, then I would agree that we are arguing about mere titles and labels and this is no big deal.

    But, given the history of our discussions on this matter before on this site, I believe Rev. Rossow’s use of the term “bishop” for these men is meant to be what they truly are in his understanding. And if that is the case, then I think he has a problem with the LCMS’s teaching on Church and Ministry. And that is more than just wrangling over titles and labels.

  21. @Rev. Steven W Bohler #74

    Thank you for the response, Pr. Bohler. You might be correct that Pr. Rossow is using the term other than what I have argued. We would have to get more details from Pr. Rossow to clear up that question.

    @Helen #71

    Helen,

    I think you are correct. I apologize to all for my part in hijacking this thread. Some issues are nearly irresistible to my interest and this is one of them. Maybe Pr. Rossow will create a new topic on the use of the word “bishop” so we can explore this further? Until then I will cease with my pirating activities here. 😉

  22. Getting back on topic, I must say that my experience with the PALS program was a positive one. I realize that is not the case everywhere. Whomever is the facilitator makes the program. In my case that man was Rev. William Weedon. He was (and is) more of a mentor than a facilitator. There is much I have learned from sitting at his feet for three years in the PALS program. Our group in Southern Illinois District from 2002-2005 was fantastic. Pastor Weedon gave up PALS in 2005 and the torch was passed to Rev. Mark Nebel, a man whom I know well. He is another great pastor and I’m sure he continues to serve the PALS program in SID with dignity.

    I know brothers in Office who had a not so good experience in the program or who declined to take part in PALS. That’s their decision. I can only speak for mine, and mine was overwhelmingly positive.

  23. On the thread, District President Herb Mueller to Preach at BJS Conference, Rev. Rossow wrote:

    The reason I use the term “bishop” and “district president” interchangeably is because words mean things. They carry baggage. If we would stop viewing our denomination leaders as governing/administrative types (“president”) and more as the doctrinal supervisors (“bishops”) that they are, we would make some headway toward restoring the LCMS to the doctrinally pure denomination it should be.

    In #5 Rev. Wilken responded:

    Since the Lutheran Confessions make no distinction between “bishop” and “pastor,” I’m willing to call a DP “bishop” –IF he is one, that is, if he is a pastor.
    Does he serves as a called pastor of a congregation? Does he faithfully administer the Word and Sacraments (and sees to it that the congregations he oversees do the same)?
    If yes, I’ll call him “bishop.” Otherwise, he deserves the title “president,” nothing more.
    By this standard, few of our DPs qualify as “bishops.”
    I agree with Pr. Rossow, words do mean things. But “bishop” means “pastor” and nothing else. We shouldn’t apply the term where doesn’t belong, especially not honorifically.

    On the discussion thread, An Hour with the Bishop, Hope for the LCMS, Rev. Hendrickson wrote:

    Tim, before anyone gets all upset over your use of the term “bishop,” let me say that I know, from talking to you, that you mean this only in a positive sense–that your district president was acting as a good “overseer”–and not in the technical sense as advocating an episcopal polity.

    To which Rev. Rossow replied:

    Good point Charlie. Every pastor is a bishop and the only authority they have as a bishop is the authority of Scripture. I am perfectly comfortable with and welcome my district president using the authority of Scripture to protect my soul and to lead the district.

    On the discussion thread, Report from the Southern Illinois District (SID) Convention: A Model for Other Districts, Rev. Rossow states in #8:

    “Bishop” is from the Greek word “episkopos.” It means “overseer.” It is a New Testament word that is applied to pastors (Acts 20:28, Titus 1:7, etc.). It is also applied to Christ (I Peter 2:25). Every pastor is an overseer of his congregation. According to by-laws, every district president is an overseer of his district and the synodical president is the overseer of the entire synod.

    One of the advantages of using the Biblical term “bishop” to refer to our overseers instead of the corporate word “president” is that it reminds us of thier chief duty which is to oversee the doctrine and practice of those under thier oversight.

    And then Rev. Rossow adds the clincher in #10:

    As Kurt Marquart taught and wrote, the term “church” is used in the Bible to apply to the local congregation, a group of regional congregations and the church universal. “Church” is not limited to the local congregation in the Bible nor is doctrinal oversight.

    Thus, after all the tapdancing and equivocating, it now appears that the reason the DP and SP are being called “bishops” is because the district and synod are being considered as churches and the DP and SP are considered as their respective pastors. This, of course is completely contrary to the understanding of C.F.W. Walther and the Missouri Synod on the doctrine of church and ministry and the congregational polity of the Missouri Synod, which the Synod has held since 1851.

    So it is not, as some naysayers have whined, just a petty issue of “titles” diverting the initial thread topic, but instead what we are dealing with is the very Scriptural and Lutheran understanding of what is a “church.” Do the Missouri Synod’s members uphold the Synod’s (and Walther’s) Lutheran doctrinal position on church and ministry or do they now abandon this doctrine and teach a different view?

  24. @Pastor Tim Rossow #32

    Pastor Rossow, I think Pastor Bohler and Dr. Strickert have illustrated a problem we have in the LCMS. There is no proper ecclesiastic supervision among us. Our DPs and SP, along with our VPs and CCs, must divest themselves of the keys in exercising their duties. Not only do they have no divine authority in these elected positions, but there is no confidentiality in dealing with them as there is with the office of the keys the pastor, as a true bishop holds. Their fiduciary responsibility and liability to the corporation known as the LCMS does not allow for such confidentiality—it even requires full disclosure of anything that could be detrimental to the corporation and its financial interests.

    Furthermore, the advisory nature of synod and their secular nature of their elected positions prevent any true exercise of church discipline, which is always a matter of altar/pulpit fellowship, in other words “koinonia.” But it does allow for congregations to fire pastors if they can garner enough votes to do so, even if they do not have Scriptural cause.

    So as I see it, the only way to discipline false teachers is for pastors and congregations to close their communion rails and pulpits to false teachers and members of congregations who are home to the false teachers and their practices, and to refuse to worship where such false teachers and practices are employed.

    The trouble with this is members of synod are pledged to work through conventions and votes of majority rule. And of course church discipline was never meant to be a matter of majority rule, but of faithfulness to the Word. “Councils err.” The question for us is, what are we as Lutherans going to do now when the council, i.e. synod, to which we belong indeed is erring and fails to exercise the discipline a faithful church body must exercise to remain faithful and be church?

  25. @Rev. Steven W Bohler #47

    “All he can do is suspend or remove from rosters.”

    Right. As well as assist a congegation in deposing their pastor. All of which is the left hand power of the sword rather that right hand power of the Word. Somehow taking away a man’s millstone by which he makes his daily bread, rather than exercising proper church discipline seems unbecoming of a church body antithetical to ecclesastic supervision.

  26. There is no proper ecclesiastic supervision among us.

    The Synod’s “ecclesiastical supervision” does not include excommunication, which is a Power of the Keys reserved for pastors and congregations – another indication that the Synod and District are not churches. The Synod’s “ecclesiastical supervision” can only remove an individual or congregation from synodical membership. Thus the Synod’s “ecclesiastical supervision” is proper for its congregational polity.

    As for confidentiality, for excommunication to be considered by a congregation, one is past the “tell it to the church” level anyway.

    If anything, cases of synod and district ecclesiastical supervision are way too secret and the bylaws need to be changed.

  27. @Carl Vehse #80

    You are right, Dr. Strickert. Except that by virtue of its being proper for its congregational polity, it therefore is *not* ecclesastical.

    And herein lies the rub. Our synod mixes the apples of political association with the oranges of church fellowship. And so far the political association is taking precedence.

    And if Synod and District are not churches, then why and how do they hold communion services and maintain fellowship as if they are?

    Then there is our name, which means something as well–The Lutheran Church-Missourri Synod. Hmmmmm, *not* Lutheran Churches or Congregations of the Missouri Synod. But The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. So, is we or ain’t we?

    I believe this is a major area that needs sorting out as well. It seems depending upon what we want to accomplish (unity), or avoid (discipline), we claim we are or we are not.

    It seems to me, if we are to pursue “koinonia,” we are pursuing being church. For to be in fellowship means to be in church. And to be in church means to be in fellowship. And both mean to have certian things in common that make us one, as well as functioning as a body rather than independent entities each with its own distinct mission statement and without regard to our fellow members and th common message we are supposed to confess in Word and deed.

  28. Except that by virtue of its being proper for its congregational polity, it therefore is *not* ecclesastical.

    How about submitting a resolution at the next convention to change “ecclesiastical supervision/ecclesiastical supervisor” to “membership termination/terminator”? I’d vote for it. Or it could be “cat-herder.”

    Our synod mixes the apples of political association with the oranges of church fellowship. And so far the political association is taking precedence.

    Political associations are assocations of people who make collective decisions involving authority and power within that association; for an advisory body such as our synod with congregational polity that is a reasonable description. If it becomes dominating, that suggests significant doctrinal fellowship problems exist.

    And if Synod and District are not churches, then why and how do they hold communion services and maintain fellowship as if they are?

    Worship services are held through a local congregation and communion is officiated by the local congregation’s pastor.

    Then there is our name, which means something as well–The Lutheran Church-Missourri Synod. Hmmmmm, *not* Lutheran Churches or Congregations of the Missouri Synod. But The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. So, is we or ain’t we?

    “The Lutheran Church” refers to the visible church called The Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the Missouri Synod is the association containing the local churches of that visible church body who have agreed to walk together (easier said than done).

    Of course, I prefer the name, Die Englisch Evangelische Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Texas, und anderen Staaten, for clarity and historical reasons.

    I believe this is a major area that needs sorting out as well. It seems depending upon what we want to accomplish (unity), or avoid (discipline), we claim we are or we are not.

    The major area that needs sorting out is the determination of synodical and district leadership to remove deliberately heterodox individual and congregational members, including recalcitrant DPs. Until this is understood, things will not change much.

    It seems to me, if we are to pursue “koinonia,” we are pursuing being church.

    The koinonia to be pursued is that among the churches of the Evangelical Lutheran Church which have agreed (supposedly) to “walking together” within a Synod, but are not. The Synod is not and does not need to be a church.

  29. While I would agree that the psychologizing manner of the proposed “solutions” was not entirely helpful, identifying these worldly challenges for the pastor and providing resources for addressing those challenges was a good thing. We should utilize our circuit winkels better for this, but, like Pastor Juhl, I had a very positive experience with the PALS program. I had great support and guidance from my circuit, but developing those relationships with pastors outside the circuit has also been invaluable, just as networking here and through other “Lutheran Media” has served well.

  30. I’m glad you guys had a positive PALS experience.
    My PALS mentor drove a Mercedes and booked us at the most expensive hotels (don’t worry, your church will pay for it). I don’t remember anything positive about PALS, except that it gave my wife a chance to hang out with one of her seminary friends.
    I’m in a new (and very supportive/mentoring) circuit now and am glad to have “graduated” from PALS.

  31. I’m usually the one with the unknown acronyms but would some one spell out PALS for this pewsitter? Explanation beyond “it was good” or “it was unhelpful” would be nice.

  32. Thank you, Pr. Hering!
    I can’t access the page just now, but I’ll try it again later.

    @Coastal Confessional #84
    My PALS mentor drove a Mercedes and booked us at the most expensive hotels (don’t worry, your church will pay for it)

    The Mercedes may have been second hand, but combined with the eagerness to spend other people’s money unnecessarily, it wouldn’t have impressed me either.

  33. I’m coming to this post late and my questions probably won’t be answered since this is no longer a front page post, but I felt like asking anyway.

    Does this mean our seminaries don’t have to waste money on Meyers-Briggs and the other personality tests they give us?
    Does this mean seminarians don’t have to waste time taking two tests in year one, and one test in years two and four?
    Does this mean seminarians don’t have to meet with the Personal Growth Advisor to discuss the test results?

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