Overtures on SMP and District Lay Deacon Programs (by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

[On Sunday the following overtures were adopted, unanimously, both by my congregation and our circuit forum, to be submitted to the LCMS Convention Workbook. CH]

To Upgrade the SMP Program

WHEREAS, Holy Scripture sets high standards for the theological aptitude of pastors, saying that they are to be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2) and “able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9), and that “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers” (James 3:1); and

WHEREAS, the curriculum and standards for the Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) program are significantly lower than they are for the M.Div. program at our two residential seminaries; therefore be it

Resolved, that the Synod President and the two seminaries work together to upgrade the curriculum and standards of the Specific Ministry Pastor program, bringing them more in line with the curriculum and standards of the residential seminaries.

To Bring a God-Pleasing End to District Lay Deacon Programs

WHEREAS, our Lutheran Confessions state that “no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called” (Augsburg Confession, Article XIV); and

WHEREAS, Holy Scripture sets high standards for the theological aptitude of pastors, saying that they are to be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2) and “able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9), and that “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers” (James 3:1); and

WHEREAS, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has two fine residential seminaries, as well as a non-residential Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) program;

Resolved, that the various district “lay deacon” programs, where they are used to prepare people to serve in place of a regularly called pastor, be brought to a God-pleasing end by July 25, 2014.


Comments

Overtures on SMP and District Lay Deacon Programs (by Pr. Charles Henrickson) — 20 Comments

  1. Keep up the good work, Charles. I was reading over the summer news from all the district conventions. A few of them even submitted resolutions similar to these, either is strenghtening SMP, abolishing it, and pretty much the getting rid of lay ministry. I think they were Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri (I was a little surprised on that one) and South Wisconsin. But Atlalntic I believe has competing overtures about praising lay ministry, and New England finds SMP to be a great blessing. It is good we bring these out for discussion, so we can wrestle with them, and try to get the LC-MS more inline with Biblical theology.

  2. @Pastor Nathan Raddatz #3
    The “Myth” is that there’s such a thing as “Lay Deacon/Minister.” My District (NoW) loves them though, and they will fight hard to keep “Lay-Ministers,” or as I call them: “leprechauns” (because they don’t exist either.)

  3. K. closed the discussion when I was standing at the Mic to add a close off date to other district programs back when it first passed.

  4. The second resolution is very good. However, I want to see an end the the SMP program altogether. We have a glut of pastors and CRM pastors and do not need “pastor-lites” (aka DP pawns).

  5. GaiusKurios :I want to see an end the the SMP program altogether. We have a glut of pastors and CRM pastors and do not need “pastor-lites” (aka DP pawns).

    I hear you. But if that is not forthcoming at this convention, this overture would at least seek to raise the standards of the SMP program, which would be an improvement.

    The other aspect of the SMP program I would like to see changed (if we’re going to have it for a while longer) is to limit who gets admitted to the program, to “tighten the funnel,” so to speak. But I did not have time to write up an overture on that. You still have time, till March 2, to get an overture on that in. ;^) But I have a very good feeling that the whole SMP program will receive considerable attention at this summer’s convention.

  6. Eric Brown :K. closed the discussion when I was standing at the Mic to add a close off date to other district programs back when it first passed.

    I was a delegate at that 2007 convention. Yes, that was the missing piece of the puzzle. We adopted SMP, but we did not “sunset” the district lay deacon prorams, which we need to do. This overture would do that.

  7. Matthew Mills :
    The “Myth” is that there’s such a thing as “Lay Deacon/Minister.” My District (NoW) loves them though, and they will fight hard to keep “Lay-Ministers”. . . .

    Absolutely. Of all the districts that will fight, tooth and nail, against an overture to sunset lay deacon programs, the most predictable is the Northwest District. If we had a drinking game on this, and every time they used the word “Alaska” we’d have to take a drink, after fifteen minutes we’d all be under the table.

  8. @Charles Henrickson #9

    Do not discount Atlantic, and the unbelievably large shadow Pres. Benke casts over the northeast. His Presadium runs their Deacon program. And I think New England convention forwarded support for SMP, and New Jersy has a Lay Ministry program, running since 1993. They will be wider support for lay programs and SMP from more than the usual suspects. I am just hoping it is not enough to carry the day, and that this convention can start to put sense back into ministry.

  9. Who has the power to block or to allow an overture to leave committee? What are the chances of such overtures being brought to the floor for a vote?

  10. @Charles Henrickson #9
    When they play that game Pastor, ask them how many Lutheran congregations their “Lay-Ministers,” have started over the last 17 years. If they are honest, the answer is none. If they are willing to stretch the truth into a pretzel they might claim one. The goal of Lutheran Missions should be starting Lutheran congregations, not running free VBS for disadvantaged Moravian, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic congregations in the AK bush, or sending “lay ministers” to commune Midwestern Lutheran tourists visiting Alaska.

    Lenten Blessings+,
    -Matt Mills

  11. Lumpenkönig: Who has the power to block or to allow an overture to leave committee? What are the chances of such overtures being brought to the floor for a vote?

    The Synod President refers overtures to convention floor committees. “Such floor committees shall be appointed by the President in consultation with the Council of Presidents and the Praesidium.” Each floor committee brings it recommendations to the convention in the form of proposed resolutions. (Bylaw 3.1.7)

    What is brought to the floor for a vote depends to a great extent on the will of the floor committees, the composition of which depends to a great extent on the will of the Synod President.

  12. Charles Henrickson :

    What is brought to the floor for a vote depends to a great extent on the will of the floor committees, the composition of which depends to a great extent on the will of the Synod President.

    Has President Harrison made any public statement on his opinion of the SMP program? I have heard anecdotally, that He believes the program to be necessary.

  13. Out here in the AD our congregation has several who have gone through the deacon program. They have benefited much from it, and we from them. But are congregations actually hiring them in leu of a pastor? I think we should encourage all lay-persons to go through this kind of study, and I am glad we can provide it for some. But we have a regular Pastor, and I don’t think anybody is dreaming of replacing him with a lay-deacon anytime soon. It seems to me that the trouble lies in calling a lay-deacon as a Pastor, not with the lay-deacon program itself. Also, the lay-deacons are only confessionally bound at the level of the Augsburg Confession and the Large Catechism. I am a little confused by that because I was under the impression that confessional subscription was the practice of the entire synod, not just the clergy. But why would a congregation call as a Pastor for an LCMS congregation somebody who only believes part of the BoC? Or perhaps more importantly, wouldn’t such a congregation be more homogenous with the Lutheran Brethren?

  14. David Hartung: Has President Harrison made any public statement on his opinion of the SMP program? I have heard anecdotally, that he believes the program to be necessary.

    Even if one wants the program to continue, that does not mean it cannot be improved, which the overture, “To Upgrade the SMP Program,” seeks to have happen.

  15. Miguel: Out here in the AD our congregation has several who have gone through the deacon program. They have benefited much from it, and we from them. But are congregations actually hiring them in lieu of a pastor?

    Note that the overture, “To Bring a God-Pleasing End to District Lay Deacon Programs,” adds this qualifier in the resolved: “where they are used to prepare people to serve in place of a regularly called pastor.” If a district is using its lay-deacon or lay-minister program to have persons then go and publicly preach or teach or administer the sacraments, which is what pastors are called to do, then that program–or that aspect of the program–needs to stop. There needs to be a “sunset” date. But if a program is being used simply to educate laypeople theologically and to equip them to better serve locally in more diaconal roles–not in pastoral roles, i.e., Word-and-Sacrament ministry–then this overture would not shut that down.

  16. GaiusKurios :
    The second resolution is very good. However, I want to see an end the the SMP program altogether. We have a glut of pastors and CRM pastors and do not need “pastor-lites” (aka DP pawns).

    According to the Secretary’s office, there are currently 217 ordained clergy on candidate status who are available and able to take a call. Out of a total active clergy roster(not including emeritus) of around 6,000 total ordained men, that is around 3% of the total available men. I could be wrong, but that doesn’t seem to be a glut to me.

  17. Now many rural churches will have to close – such a shame to be so closed minded in these days of need!

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