To ensure education and character standards of SMP candidates

Whereas the “Specific Ministry Pastor” (hereafter SMP) program was adopted in 2007 to replace the “Distance Education Leading to Ordination” (hereafter DELTO) program, which itself was intended to “provide ordained pastoral service to congregations that cannot support a full-time pastor, ordained pastoral service to contexts where English is not spoken, ordained missionary personnel where finances and/or conditions do not permit calling a full- time missionary.” SMP also added to the DELTO program “such categories as church planter, staff pastor, and others as needs arise” (Resolution 5-10B Convention Proceedings 2007, 63rd Regular Convention, The LCMS, Houston, TX, July 14-19, 2007 [St Louis: 2007], p. 133-136); and

Whereas, in the SMP program to-date, 70% of the students in the program are identified as “staff pastors” of congregations already being served by other pastors (2010-11 enrollment statistics), which could lead to conflict of interest and less than objective supervision and critique by the sponsoring congregation or clergy mentor; and

Whereas, the SMP program has altered the pastoral training admissions process, so that the local congregation and 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 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9; and

Whereas the LCMS has considered an educated clergy to be a benefit in guiding practice and refuting error, in accordance with the Pastoral Epistles: “command certain men not to teach false doctrine” (I Timothy 1:3); “what you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching” (II Timothy 1:13); “appoint elders in every town . . . an elder must be blameless . . . he must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:5-6 and Titus 1:9); and

Whereas, currently the SMP candidate completes the requirements for ordination with less than half of the academic education of MDiv students (The simplest basis of comparison is credit hours required for completion of the program. Education includes academic course work, field education, and vicarage. According to CSL 2011-2012 Academic Catalog, resident MDiv students are required to take 119 hours of academic course work and field education, and 18 hours of vicarage; while SMP requires 17 academic courses, i.e. 51 hours. According to CTSFW 2011-12 Academic Catalog, MDiv students are required to complete 136 academic credit hours, and 3 hours of field work/vicarage, while SMP requirements are16 academic courses, i.e., 48 credit hours. Furthermore, it should be noted that SMP students do not have to be graduates of high school or college);

therefore, be it

Resolved, that that the () District in convention memorialize the 2013 Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Convention to require the seminaries to develop and increase the amount of academic course work required of the SMP students 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 the () District in convention memorialize the 2013 Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Convention to require each District President to appoint at least three traditionally-trained and Called clergy serving within their District to evaluate, monitor and supervise the teaching, preaching, and practice of each SMP student in their District, with these mentors making summary reports to the District President and student’s seminary SMP counselor every 6 months of the students first four years of service, and once a year thereafter. It would be appropriate that the three mentors would include the SMP’s Circuit Counselor, and no more than one of the staff of the congregation in which the SMP serves; and be it finally

Resolved, that the () District memorialize the the 2013 Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Convention to require the President of the Synod to 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,, 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.


To ensure education and character standards of SMP candidates — 7 Comments

  1. The one selling point of these “quick fix” programs at the conventions is to provide pastors in situations as spelled out in the first “whereas”. It would improve the resolution if such a requirement were continued. The great abuse of this program is by those who are simply looking at this from a financial point of view resulting in SMP students who do have easy access to seminary training forgoing it for economic reasons alone.

  2. @Michael #2

    Both Sems make the final decision. Districts interview the applicant and send in a report.

    Yes, and are their residential graduates as well placed if they decline to half train a DP’s choices, or aid/abet a “mega church’s” economizing?

    [Maybe what we need is term limits for DP’s?]

  3. So let me understand this correctly. The argument is that 70% of these under trained SMPastors are in “staff pastor” positions… and that is a bad thing?
    Is (part of) the argument that we want these under trained SMPastors called to congregations that cannot support a full-time pastor, ordained pastoral service to contexts where English is not spoken, ordained missionary personnel where finances and/or conditions do not permit calling a full- time missionary? In other words, doing solo ministry instead of team ministry?

    It seems that if these SMPastors truly are under trained that we would want them to be doing team ministry, because that would offer more supervision from someone(s) who are ‘traditionally trained.’

    Isn’t a superior argument to raise the academic standards (even slowly) of SMPastors? This seems like it would appease the under trained argument, and bring in more money to the Seminaries. The under trained folks would be happy, the Seminaries bank accounts would be happy, and the SMPastors are getting more training which would warrant more respect. Perhaps the down side might be the SMPastors wallet?

  4. #4: “The argument is that 70% of these under trained SMPastors are in “staff pastor” positions… and that is a bad thing?”

    It’s deceitful — the old “bait and switch” routine. We were sold a crisis-management, emergency program that would help poor little congregtions have at least something, instead of having no pastor at all. Once all the heartstrings were pulled and they made enough delegates feel guilty, as though they would be voting against helping the down-trodden, we were then presented with a program that helps large congregations that already have a pastor get him a cheap clone — 70% of the time.

  5. RD#6 I encourage you or others to formulate overtures that cut off SMP, but I don’t think they will go very far in committee. SMPP is supported by key folks at the seminaries and COP, and was broadly approved by convention (though one might argue there has been some “deceit” or “bait and switch” in redefining and adding the situations SMPP would be used). The Article XIV argument against SMPP has and will be countered by suggesting we simply ordain those serving the “functions” of pastor. I recollect it was Dr Bartelt at CSL who said if it quacks and walks like a duck, call it a duck. So if advocates are going to say these guys doing pastor work should be called pastors anyway, lets be sure they are trained. That is why in my opinion SMP is an improvement over DELTO. I think the interest in technology and alternate forms of education is a major part of the issue here, and not likely to go away.

    PSW #4 This overture addresses two concerns: First, that the SMP could develop “inbreeding”, or as some have put it “a clone” of the mentoring senior “team” pastor or of the congregation that sends them to school. Does it stretch the analogy too far to talk of the degenerative effects of such a relationship? There is at least the threat that the SMP son of a congregation is chosen to remain within the congregation to further a system, continue a worship practice, or the like; or to have an additional staff pastor on the cheap. Will the SMP receive proper feedback from the inhouse mentoring pastor or the congregation to which he “belongs”? The overture ensures the SMP receives additional outside (objective?) oversight, critique and feedback.

    Second, the SMP’s educational shortcomings are shortcomings, no matter the size of the congregation they serve. The overture seems to require more academic course work no matter where they serve.

    To me SMP advocates need to address two questions. What are the academic credentials necessary for certification, and how do we ensure oversight, critique and proper formation of pastors who are non-resident, especially as those numbers seem to be growing?

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