Fort Wayne President Rast’s Bold Statement about the SMP Program and other Interesting Notes from the Symposia, by Pr. Rossow

There was a critical exchange at the Ft. Wayne Symposia yesterday afternoon. After President Larry Rast’s presentation on the theological formation of pastors after the age of Google, a pastor went to the microphone and asked President Rast to “prophecy.” What do you see for the future of the Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) program?” President Rast did not hesitate but boldly asserted two things. First, this is a question for the LCMS to answer for herself. Secondly, President Rast proclaimed that Concordia Theological Seminary – Fort Wayne will do all that it can to convince the LCMS that its pastoral formation ought to be done in the traditional resident manner. This is a good thing for the LCMS and we are pleased that President Rast has taken this stance since the SMP program produces men who may be personally committed to the Lord’s Ministry but can never stack up theologically since they receive only half the training of the traditional approach and nearly none of that on campus.

Even though Rast supported the traditional residential approach there is nothing traditional about the new pastoral formation curriculum that he, Dr. Scaer, and the other faculty members have developed over the last few years. It is another blessing for the LCMS. We don’t have time to describe it in detail here. In short it abolishes the fourfold approach of exegetical, historical, systematics and practical departments and replaces them with a more holistic and organic approach that gets the seminarian more deeply into the heart of the Scriptures and Luther. It is simple and brilliant. It also places them into small study and mentoring groups led by professors and focusing on the translation of the Bible. This is a fitting way to do “small groups” at the seminary, as opposed to the trendy, pop-culture small group program at St. Louis. According to Rast, it can also bring to a close the last generation’s seemingly endless and foolish multiplication of felt-need seminary classes in counseling, administration, stewardship and evangelism.

There are always a lot of pastors at this conference. One old timer told me how pleased he was to see so many pastors of the LCMS were gathered to study theology. He also mentioned how pleased he was to see members of the LCMS presidium here. The list includes President Harrison, 1st Vice President Herb Mueller and 5th Vice President Scott Murray. This old-timer remarked that in past years you might not see a single member of the presidium at this conference.

The themes of the two symposia are excellent. The exegetical symposium is built around the theme of the historical truth of the Gospels. The systematics symposium is all about the central doctrine of justification.

There were a few annoying things however. One of the seminary profs made reference to “the transfiguration event.” He does not mean it in the way of the false hermeneutics that gave us this phrase and brackets off truth considering the accounts of Scripture to be nothing more than “events” in the minds of the authors with some remote possibility that they might be actual events in actual reality. Calling it “the transfiguration event” is not healthy for the church. I sent a text to a fellow pastor concerning this poorly chosen language of “event” and got a hilarious and profound text in return. (He will remain nameless but let’s just say he and I recently started getting our paychecks from the same place.) I texted him asking if he had lunch plans and to tell him that the presentation was pretty good but sadly the presenter had used the phrase “the transfiguration event.” He texted me back saying “glad to hear it was good – I’ve already had the lunch event.” His clever response makes it clear in short order that we don’t speak this way in common language. It is a manner of speaking that comes from an idealist false hermeneutic. Our seminary professors are rock solid for the most part but they have this incessant desire to read and study the false theologies of the modern age, which is fine, but they then proceed dangerously to adopt their jargon and cast nearly all of their instruction in the form of their false questions and answers. Obviously we need to know the false teachings of the modern world. I am all for that. But there is a point at which we go too far when we adopt their jargon. There is no need to call it “the lunch event.” It’s just lunch. There is no need to call it “the transfiguration event.” It is just the transfiguration.

I’ve noticed this dangerous jargon, and sometimes dangerous thought, that has come from liberal universities like Notre Dame and other places where our boys go off to study, rears its ugly head all around LCMS academia. The mushy “contextualization” jargon and thought of modern liturgiologists is what is behind the move toward contemporary worship and small group theory at Concordia St. Louis. I also heard in another of the excellent presentations here in Ft. Wayne, the dangerous inference that the “early church community” played a role in the formation of the Gospels. We also heard time and time again the phrase “the Jesus of faith and the Jesus of history.” Clearly the LCMS presenters hold that the Jesus of faith and the Jesus of history are one in the same. My beef is that our time and energy ought to be spent more on simply presenting the Gospel of Christ and Christ himself as found in the inspired and inerrant Word of God rather than casting nearly all of our efforts in the questions and false ideas of modern theology, for example, even suggesting that the Jesus of faith could be distinct from the Jesus of faith.

Let me clarify my concern with an example from the symposium. The exegetical presentations in the auditorium had an unnerving tone of details and minutia. Often the devil is in the details but we need theologians who can inspire us with broad and sweeping teachings where the minutia serve the Gospel and do not become the Gospel. At times it seemed as though the modern liberals have seduced us into asking so many questions about the historicity of the Bible to the point that the Scriptures become sterile objects of scientific study. In contrast to the annoying minutia approach of the main presentations, I found a different tone in a couple of minor papers presented in the smaller venues of the symposia. Pastors Wolfmueller and Fisk presented exegetical papers early on Wednesday morning. There are usually only a handful of attendees at these break-of-dawn presentations. It was standing room only for Wolfmueller and when it was Fisk’s turn we all had to move to a lecture auditorium because of the ectra twenty people waiting outside the room. We were not disappointed by either paper and to my point, they had a totally different tone than the papers in the main hall. Both Wolfmueller and Fisk fed us straightforward Biblical themes and led us through the Scriptures to support their point. Fisk and Wolfmueller would have no beef with the presenters in the main hall and the main hall presenters would have no beef with them. I am not pitting one against the other. I am simply asserting that I find over and over again in academic circles in the LCMS an overemphasis on the jargon and the questions of the modern liberal world that sterilize the Word of God.

I think the approach of Missouri academia from the first half of the last century was more healthy than the current tone and I am pleased that the young bucks may be moving back to that jargon and thus taking a step forward.

The golden age of Missouri certainly had its faults. One of the presenters in the main hall rightly criticized the main stay golden age Bible commentaries of Lenski as having scant reference to the sacraments. The golden age was not always golden. I see the young theologians having the new and great respect for the sacraments but also using a throw-back, common sense approach to teaching the faith with simple language.

I am all for academic study. ( have a masters of divinity, a masters of arts in philosophy, and a doctorate of ministry.) What I am opposed to is letting the modern liberal set the agenda for us. Let us make the study of the liberal agenda an important secondary matter and spend our time forming pastors by the Scriptures, the Confessions and the works of Luther. That is the point of the fine new curriculum changes at Fort Wayne but in my estimation, that right spirit has not yet come to predominate in the exegetical symposium.

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

Fort Wayne President Rast’s Bold Statement about the SMP Program and other Interesting Notes from the Symposia, by Pr. Rossow — 70 Comments

  1. President Fondow of the MN North District preached and led Bible study for us today at Crookston MN. In his presentation during Bible class, he mentioned that there were 200+ candidates actively seeking calls, and another 100 or so rostered men on the non-candidate list who were also seeking calls (he had exact numbers but I did not write them down), making well over 300 rostered men seeking calls to the parish. He also said we had 300+ calling congregations (for sole pastors, senior pastors, and associate/assistant pastors). And he pointed out that means we have more rostered men seeking calls than calls to be filled. He also mentioned that a decade or so back, about 10% of the synod’s congregations were calling men, now it is about 5%; more retired men are serving congregations. Many of these retired men do not have calls but are serving on a temporary basis; this is being changed so that these men have calls and will be categorized as “active” rather than “emeritus”. He also mentioned that in the MN North District we have 131 active pastors and 75 retired (many of whom are serving these types of non-calling churches). I believe he said the number of retired pastors in North Dakota (right next door to us) is 9 in the whole district — you see, northern Minnesota has lots of lakes!

    By the way, President Fondow is a blessing to us in our district and synod. Would that we had more such men serving our church!

  2. #50: “No DP is going to tell you how many “confessional” men he has gotten rid of by simply doing nothing for the required time.”

    That is a very reasonable assumption and this is where the naïveté of many congregations comes in. If they are even aware of what CRM is, they assume the DP is in charge (and honorable) when he does not “allow” them to call a pastor from the CRM roster. If the congregation does realize that synod (and its DPs) are only advisory, they may live to regret daring to go against him. A DP announced to our circuit that there was no shortage of pastors, “I just won’t allow any maintenance pastors in my district.” And you’ve probably seen the other horror stories told here of congregations in trouble, and pleading for help from their district, who are told, “I’m so terribly sorry that we can do nothing for you now. You should have obeyed us before.”

  3. @Ted Crandall #52
    And you’ve probably seen the other horror stories told here of congregations in trouble, and pleading for help from their district, who are told, “I’m so terribly sorry that we can do nothing for you now. You should have obeyed us before.”

    “Maintenance pastors” i.e., Pastors to the confessional Lutherans who are supposed to go away and die, so the district can be altogether “willowcreek”.

    [But don’t forget, “confessionals”, to leave a hefty endowment to that same district, because these “experimental ministries” don’t pay their way as the useful ones are expected to do!]
    If they did, places like MN SO wouldn’t be coveting the ground of faithful congregations, for money to spend on their play things!

  4. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    Two separate topics: I. Symposia; II. SMP

    I. SYMPOSIA – I too attended the Symposia in Fort Wayne, both the Exegetical Symposium and the Lutheran Confessions Symposium. AS ALWAYS, I was stimulated by the speakers, refreshed in my convictions of the truth of Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, inspired and nurtured on the pure milk of the Word and orthodox prayer in the worship services, and enjoyed the “mutual conversation and consolation of brethren” Matthew 18:20 (Smalcald Articles III, iv).

    I was able to attend all the sessions this time, except for the Exegetical Sectionals, so I regret missing Wolfmueller and Fisk. I did hear Wolfmueller’s paper at the LCA conference just prior–excellent! I am sure that both Wolfmueller and Fisk will do superbly at the upcoming BJS conference in Naperville!

    People who attend the Symposia at Fort Wayne (or the one in Saint Louis) need to realize that the intended audience there are working-pastors-in-the-parish of the Lutheran faith. Certainly EVERYONE is welcome, but the presentations may not be understandable in all their parts, or directly relevant, for those outside the intended audience.

    Laymen who have never had a formal class in theology, but who have read substantive Lutheran theological books (such as the Book of Concord)–including many of the folks who read and comment on the BJS website–will find much benefit at our seminaries’ Symposia, but may also find that some historical or technical references are unfamiliar. They should be glad that they are learning something new, even if they don’t understand everything–that is how education works, after all!

    In my opinion, the Exegetical Symposium of 2012 was one of the most important conferences in its 27 year history (i.e, 27 years for the Exegetical Symposia). The “star” speaker was Richard Bauckham (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Bauckham).

    In Richard Bauckham’s two lectures at the 2012 Symposium, he summarized the arguments found in his book “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony” (Eerdmanns, 2006). Martin Hengel says about this book “Bauckham’s convincing historical method and broad learning will also help pastors and studetns to overcome widespread modern Jesus fantasies.” Hengel is referring to various “higher-critical” methods and “quests for the historical Jesus” that were, at one time, THE STANDARD POSITION of many professors at Valparaiso University, our Concordia colleges, and Concordia Seminary-Saint Louis.

    Due to Bauckham’s lifetime work on this subject, as summarized in his Symposia lectures and book, all 20th century New Testament “higher-critical” and “Jesus-quest” commentaries, books and articles have been shown to be merely quaint antiques, and should be relegated to the specialist in the “history of exegesis”–or the dumpster. This includes all the works of most ELCA exegetes today and the Seminex exegetes several decades ago.

    To put it in layman’s terms, Bauckham’s book and his 2012 Fort-Wayne-Symposia lectures are a SLAM DUNK for biblical-confessional Lutheranism, over against the heresies of most ELCA theologians. This is directly relevant to every working-pastor-in-the-parish, both here in North America, and anywhere there are Lutherans in the world.

    II. SMP – I appreciate very much the continued discussion on SMP. But LCMS folks who have concerns need to realize they are just “blowing hot air through the Internet,” unless they send overtures about SMP to the synod. Circuit Forums are meeting now and in the near future! Overtures that will get the most attention need to start at congregations, go to Circuit Forums, then go to District Conventions, then finally to Synod. Overtures can be received directly from congregations, but District resolutions will get the most attention.

    Nothing will be done about SMP in 2013, unless overtures are sent to the synod. If you folks have concerns, do something about it, don’t just complain, please!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland


  5. [But don’t forget, “confessionals”, to leave a hefty endowment to that same district, because these “experimental ministries” don’t pay their way as the useful ones are expected to do!]
    If they did, places like MN SO wouldn’t be coveting the ground of faithful congregations, for money to spend on their play things!

    Entirely right. But now we have a faithful congregation to support, and our support is not misguided when we support ULC. MNS can covet their home or their future home all they want, but it will belong to ULC, as it should; if we all are faithful, as we should be.

  6. Old Time St. John’s :


    But now we have a faithful congregation to support, and our support is not misguided when we support ULC. MNS can covet their home or their future home all they want, but it will belong to ULC, as it should; if we all are faithful, as we should be.

    From the Save ULC website (www.saveulc.org):

    ULC is holding a Silent Auction and Craft Sale on Saturday, February 18, 2012 starting at 7:00 p.m. with bidding until 10:00 p.m. There will be lots of items to buy or bid on, some donated from local businesses, many crafted or donated by our own chapel members.

    There will also be wine and appetizers served, live music, and free babysitting. All funds raised will go to the Save ULC effort.

    You can download and print a flier to give to your friends or post on your church’s bulletin board: http://www.saveulc.org/Files/Silent%20Auction%20Flier.pdf

  7. @Old Time St. John’s #55
    My comment about leaving an endowment to [any] district was pure sarcasm! 😉

    I’m not too sure about endowments in general. They get skimmed (fees, it’s called) by their caretakers. If you have multi millions to leave, perhaps they will earn more than is taken.
    Since I’m in the penny ante range, I’ll just hope there is something left over for a cash gift to the organizations I am currently supporting.

  8. Pr. Noland, our congregation and hopefully circuit would like to introduce a resolution concerning SMP at the Texas District Convention. I am not well versed in how to write a quality resolution that would be considered (wasn’t in any of my seminary courses!). Do you or any others have a resolution written already concerning this that is well worded that our congregation and circuit could use? Thanks!

  9. helen :
    @Old Time St. John’s #55
    My comment about leaving an endowment to [any] district was pure sarcasm!

    I know, and I agreed with it.
    I also suggested that we Confessionals have an excellent alternative to whom to channel our funds. Something to keep in mind, all of us. Every little bit helps.

  10. @Daniel L. Gard #49

    According to a District President on another site, “We have around 10000 pastors on our roster in the active, candidate and emeritus categories.”

    No offense Mr Gard but this number cannot be taken seriously. As far as I can tell the true number is a carefully guarded secret. If it were widely known then the money changers seminaries would have a hard time meeting their payrolls.

  11. Kitty #60 your sarcastic comment, as humorous as you may have intended, smears and impugns the effort and reputation of many fine professors and administrators, and violates of the 8th commandment. Repent before bitterness and suspicion control your life.

  12. Kitty,

    How can I respond to you as you denigrate those who devote their lives to the formation of pastors for Christ’s Church and yet you hide behind a name like “Kitty”?

  13. Rev. McCall :Pr. Noland, our congregation and hopefully circuit would like to introduce a resolution concerning SMP at the Texas District Convention. I am not well versed in how to write a quality resolution that would be considered (wasn’t in any of my seminary courses!). Do you or any others have a resolution written already concerning this that is well worded that our congregation and circuit could use? Thanks!

    It is important that people on both sides of the SMP issue voice their opinions at the District conventions so that it can be discussed at the 2013 Synodical convention. Well written resolutions are central to this.

    A SMP proponent has plans to produce videos for 2013 to promote the program. I offered to make a free cameo appearance since every good movie needs a villain. I do hope that a matter as important as this will not be decided by videos but by collegial debate based on facts rather than emotional appeals. Give me Wittenberg, not Hollywood.

  14. @ Daniel
    Alas, I do not have the skills or equipment to create a video. I did find that my district has a blank format for resolutions. That should hopefully at least give me the framework I’ll need. I’ll post what I compose on here for any comments or constructive criticism.

  15. @Daniel L. Gard #63

    You said, “A SMP proponent has plans to produce videos for 2013 to promote the program. I offered to make a free cameo appearance since every good movie needs a villain. I do hope that a matter as important as this will not be decided by videos but by collegial debate based on facts rather than emotional appeals. Give me Wittenberg, not Hollywood.”

    It’s hard to miss the irony here: SMP vs Traditional. Videos vs. the spoken word. Visual vs. verbal. Picture vs. proposition. Image vs. proposition. It will be a challenge to compete with the glitz and slickness of a video. But, having heard you speak, I’m sure you’re up to the task.

    Here’s another voice for Wittenberg.

  16. Here ’tis for any comments or constructive criticism! Thanks in advance to all those who even encouraged folks to try and craft one of these buggers!

    To End the SMP (Specific Minstry Program) within the LC-MS

    WHEREAS, the Scriptures never speak of or recognize a distinction between men called to the Office of Ministry and the congregations or ministry focus’ into which they may be called; and

    WHEREAS, Article V of the Augsburg Confession also recognizes no distinction between ordained pastors within the Office of Ministry; and

    WHEREAS, Luther himself stated, “If the office of the Word is conferred on a man, there are conferred on him all offices which are administered in the Church through the Word…”; and

    WHEREAS, formal training and formation of pastors has always been historically seen as beginning at seminary “where the necessary basic information, tools, and skills are aquired.” (Pastoral Theolgy, Mueller & Kraus); and

    WHEREAS, knowledge of Biblical languages has always been seen as foundational to study for the Office of Ministry; and

    WHEREAS, the SMP program elimintes a majority of traditional seminary courses, studies, and training, including languages of Greek and Hebrew, and has not trained men properly or fully for the Office of Ministry; and

    WHEREAS, congregations who have such men serving as their pastor are thus not being served by men who can aptly defend, teach, preach, or handle the Word of God ; and

    WHEREAS, the faith and even salvation of such congregations may indeed suffer from such lack of properly trained pastors; and

    WHEREAS, the SMP program has ultimately been used by many churches to circumvent such training as cautioned against in 2 TImothy 4:3-4 “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths”; therefore be it

    Resolved, the the SMP program be ended immediately; and be it further

    Resolved, that the Synod instead focus resources and energy into making residential seminary education and training affordable; and be it further

    Resolved, that residential seminary education and training be the only educational route through which men are prepared and trained for the Office of Ministry ; and be it finally

    Resolved, that we as Synod continue to train, educate, and prepare men for the Office of Ministry in such a way that reflects the importance and necessity of having the best education possible for those who are entrusted with the care of souls.

    Humbly submitted,
    Rev. Willis J. McCall

  17. Rev. McCall :
    To End the SMP (Specific Minstry Program) within the LC-MS

    … I make a motion we accept this. I need a second….Whose in favor say “I”
    … I hear a second… Anyone not in favor to terminate the SMP Program?
    {…silence in the house}
    The motion has been accepted to terminate the SMP program.
    The SMP is program is now officially “TOAST.”

    Oh, no, what about the guys who are half way through their program? What do we do with them? They can pack their suitcases and move their families to one of the two seminaries like the rest of us had to. Hey, I had a full time job before I went to seminary too, yet, I had to move my family half way across the United States. These SMP students can move also.
    I love having conversations with myself. Thanks for listening though.

  18. I have always thought of the SMP program as just another way the C.O.P. could dilute Lutheran doctrine and practice and have men who are little more than uneducated, inexperienced lackeys (whether they know it or not) of 36 District Presidents.

    The Lord have mercy on those who sponsored this program and those who accept ordination for those souls they lead astray for their lack of knowledge and wisdom in the Scriptures.

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