To Restore a Biblical Pastoral Office in the LCMS

Whereas, the “Specific Ministry Pastor” (hereafter SMP) program was adopted in 2007 with the claim that it would produce “church planters and missionaries” (2007 Convention Proceedings, p. 133); and

Whereas, the SMP program to-date has produced few “church planters” or “missionaries,” but rather 70% of the students in the program are identified as “staff pastors” of large congregations (2010-11 enrollment statistics); and

Whereas, the SMP program altered the pastoral training admissions process, so that the district offices are heavily involved in the admissions process with the seminaries, and this inhibits the seminary admissions offices from
fulfilling their vocation of ensuring that candidates for seminary
admission meet the biblical requirements for admission to the pastoral ministry in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9; and

Whereas, there continues to be concern about the fact that SMP students receive about one- third the amount of training as M.Div. students, and also do not have to be graduates of a college or high school; therefore, be it

Resolved, that the admissions process for the SMP program be immediately turned over to the sole authority of the seminaries, so that all students received for the pastoral ministry, in any program, have the same process and same rigorous examination of fitness for ministry; and be it further

Resolved, that any duties held by district offices in the pastoral training admissions process be reduced to whatever they presently have in the M.Div. program; and be it finally

Resolved, that the President of the Synod appoint a Task Force from faculty members of both seminaries and members of the Council of Presidents, to review the SMP program, assess its graduates, and to report its findings and recommendations to the 2016 synodical convention.

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.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

To Restore a Biblical Pastoral Office in the LCMS — 12 Comments

  1. Norm,

    There is at least one inaccuracy in this whereas: “Whereas, the SMP program altered the pastoral training admissions process, so that the primary-and-critical decisions about who may be accepted into the program are made by district offices, not by either of the two seminaries;” CTSFW retains the ability to accept or decline all applicants to any of the programs that operate here. We have declined at least 3 applicants to the the SMP program in the past 12 months. We have also declined applicants to other programs. I won’t go into the reasons, but they have been declined.

    TZ

  2. While I agree SMP desperately needs significant improvement to be a worth while training program, I would not vote for this resolution simply because of the where as that specifically targets one person.

  3. You can change the third “Whereas” without compromising the resolution:

    Whereas, the SMP program altered the pastoral training admissions process, so that the district offices are heavily involved in the admissions process with the seminaries, and this has resulted in at least one case for which concerns have been raised aboutinhibits the seminary admissions offices from fulfilling their vocation of ensuring that candidates for seminary admission meet the biblical requirements for admission to the pastoral ministry in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9; and

  4. Where in Scripture does it prescribe 3 years plus vicarage? Seems very arbitrary and a building a fence around the prescriptions made of the pastoral office in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. Would the apostles be able to be called given the above resolution?

  5. There was no reply, so I will reiterate the questions from the previous post:

    Where in Scripture does it prescribe 3 years plus vicarage? Seems very arbitrary and a building a fence around the prescriptions made of the pastoral office in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. Would the apostles be able to be called given the above resolution?

  6. Time served requirement? Howza bout Luke 1:21-22?

    21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.

  7. @Jeff #6

    Where in Scripture does it prescribe 3 years plus vicarage?

    Easy to find three years… and you should be thankful for the opportunity to work with a mentor.

    It bothers me that the usual direction of a question like this is, “Why so long?”… never, “Why not longer?” Considering that Luther said he prayed the Small Catechism the rest of his life, I believe his suggestion is that we, pastors and people, should never stop studying.
    The Bible and the Book of Concord should be at hand, well worn, instead of parking the latter on a top shelf collecting dust, as at least one man admitted to me, some years ago. [His Elders made him take the BOC down and teach it, which made him realize its value at long last.]

  8. @Jeff #6

    Jeff and Daniel,

    The honest answer to your question I think you know– there is no requirement in the Scriptures for length of training for the pastoral office. The history of the Church bears this out, as programs of pastoral formation over the centuries ranged from very short to very long. Some, like St. Augustine, were ordained very quickly, and others might have studies their whole lives and never been ordained.

    The formation and preparation of pastors is a prudential judgment of the church, but it is guided by the duties of that divinely established Office, and the qualities those office bearers are told they must possess in Scripture. In our heavily marketed way of selling education in this country (seminary education included) I think people can perceive themselves entitled to buy or pressume their way into the Office, while nothing could be further from the truth. Christ uses His Church to call and ordain men to His Office, and the Church may do better or worse preparation for those men to be faithful in it.

    I’d argue, perhaps to Helen’s point above, that three years of study in the wrong school or wrong curriculum, and a vicarage with the wrong pastor or congregation, is far less than adequate for putting someone into Christ’s Office where he will be judged all the more severely for the performance of his duties. It is perhaps time that the Church re-focused on Biblical formation of pastors, with emphasis on the content and outcome of that formation. I don’t care how long a person soaks in the soup of Enthusiast error, it will never prepare them for the faithful exercise of Christ’s Office.

    Or, as I’ve said with tongue in cheek before, if every Lutheran pastor was told that prior to ordination they would have the large letters UAC branded with a hot iron upon their chest, maybe they would take their studies and content more seriously.

  9. @Brad #9

    if every Lutheran pastor was told that prior to ordination they would have the large letters UAC branded with a hot iron upon their chest, maybe they would take their studies and content more seriously.

    Maybe that’s the wrong place. If it was branded on their foreheads, the congregation would be reminded of their responsibilities, too. And the world could judge whether the man lived up to his vows.

  10. The point I was driving at was not to question or prescribe any particular length of time, but our tendency to ascribe “law” to things that we as humans have inferred from the Bible. Regardless of what the Lord has called you to do, I strongly believe that your education and training are merely setting you up for a lifetime of learning. So yes I would expect that even with 3 years of education, there is still much to learn.

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