Great Stuff — A Follow Up to What’s Up with Dale Meyer…

Found on Pastor Peter’s blog, Pastoral Meanderings:

 

lmssealWow… fourteen hundred people read my original post entitled “What’s Up With Dale Meyer” — 1,400 in two days.  That is some traffic for a little blog publishing the inevitably forgettable ruminations of a Lutheran Pastor in Tennessee!

Obviously I have hit a nerve.  Let me begin by saying (as I thought was clear in the first post) that I do not have a personal beef with Dr. Dale Meyer.  What I do have a beef with is the changing way our Lutheran Church seems to be viewing Lutheran Pastors.  I found the fact that a Lutheran seminary faculty was abuzz about a rather nondescript and routine issue of The Lutheran Witness that highlighted Lutheran Pastors to be telling indeed.  Clearly, the Office of the Pastoral Ministry is in play in our church body.  Witness what I have said before about such things as

  • the Wichita recension of Article XVI of the Augsburg Confession which normalized (at least for us) non-ordained serving regularly as ordained…
  • the SMP program and the entire view that residential seminary education and the extensive seminary preparation which is our history is too much, too costly, and out of touch with what we want and need in Lutheran Pastors…
  • the deacon program(s) in which 6-10 on line courses are enough to set a lay person into the job of Lutheran Pastor — seemingly permanently in those smaller parishes which are deemed unable to support full-time clergy…
  • the fact that we have cheapened up the way we fund seminary education, shifting the whole burden to the Seminaries for fund-raising and the seminarians to bear too much of the burden of its cost…
  • the impossible demands placed upon Lutheran Pastors to act more as CEOs, vision casters, program directors, street evangelists, Sunday entertainment hosts, and so many other jobs, callings, duties, and responsibilities that have not a thing to do with Word and Sacrament or the responsibilities conferred upon Pastors by the ordination rite, the rite of installation, and the call documents themselves…
  • the open disdain that some DPs in our church have for one seminary as being too rigid, too Lutheran, and too liturgical and that fact that they are on the look out for candidates for the ministry who listen to and do what people desire and want (namely, entertainment worship, progressive practice, loosening of the altar rail, “missional” focus, weak catechesis, non-doctrinal preaching, etc…)…

Now let me also say that I am just as shamed by those Lutheran Pastors

  • who believe that writing and reading an orthodox sermon is just about all they need to do as clergy in a parish…
  • or those who make every hill of conflict a hill to die on…
  • or those who practice open disdain for the people they have been called to serve…
  • or those who always seem themselves as the righteous ones and those who disagree as the unrighteous…
  • or those who do a better job of running a purity cult that proclaiming the Gospel…
  • or those who treat the ministry as if it were a 9-3 job (the old banker’s hours idea)…
  • or those who have nothing good to say about their Synod or District or any other Lutheran parish or Lutheran Pastor…  And I could go on and on…

Yes, I believe our church body is in the throws of a deep debate and in the midst of a deep divide about whether or not we will remain a distinctively Lutheran Church in preaching, teaching, worship, and practice.   Generally, I believe we have a high caliber of people serving us in Synod and District.  I do not fault them about intention even when I fault them for direction.  I am more positive today than I have been in many years.  President Matthew Harrison is doing a very fine job and is the most accessible fellow to occupy the SP Office in a very long time.  He has assembled a fine team and the whole transition to a new structure is going much better than I ever imagined.  We have District Presidents who are acting as bishops — that means not only overseeing faithful Lutheran doctrine and practice but modelling it as well.  We have two very fine seminaries (though I give the edge to Ft. Wayne)… We have a great publishing house that is putting out new and reprinted resources none of us could have imagined a generation ago…  We have people pressing us to be the Lutherans we say we are on every level of the church…

Dale Meyer and Larry Rast are in my prayers.  They are in the cross hairs much more than I am — trying to raise the funds and pay the bills and put faithful Lutheran candidates into places where will serve faithfully.  I certainly do not envy them their job.  I picked on Dale because I wondered honestly what was going on with the issue of the Concordia Journal and the Meyer Minute.  It did not sound like the Dale Meyer I have come to know.  I have to believe that these may be the stress cracks in a church whose struggles about what kind of Lutheran Church it will be have put the pressure on the seminaries.

I don’t want to repristinate yesterday’s Lutheranism.  I yearn for no golden age of Lutheranism.  I believe that we have great resources in the strong and faithful legacy bequeathed to us.  I hope we will have the courage and strength to pass it on to those who come after us.  If we spend this much time fussing over a clerical collar, then it shows we are out of sync with our past and in uncharted waters for our future.  This is a place we should not be.  We have a great history.  We have wonderful assets.  We have a great future ahead of us.  We cannot afford to be isolated or cranky and neither can we afford to be uncertain or embarrassed about our Lutheran identity.  This is exactly the time to be faithful to our past and hopeful for our future and to work as hard as we can to re-energize Lutheran parishes and raise up good Lutheran Pastors.  If you have a faithful Pastor, let him know it (my own parish humbled me with exactly this only a week ago).  If you have a struggling Pastor, encourage him and point him to the resources to help him out.  If you have a faithful parish, do not take it for granted but work as hard as you can to keep it faithful and help it prosper.  If you have a struggling parish, don’t sit on the sidelines and speak against it — work to make it better.

Wow… I feel better for saying that… I hope you feel better for reading it…

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

Great Stuff — A Follow Up to What’s Up with Dale Meyer… — 2 Comments

  1. Outstanding article. Yes, I feel better. I feel better because it addresses what the problems are. I’d feel a whole lot better if we knew how to address them.

  2. Dear Norm,

    Thanks very much for posting this superb article!

    Dear BJS Readers,

    I agree with “Joyful Noise” that this article addresses the problems, and does so in a thorough and fair way. Pastor Peters has one of the best independent-individual Lutheran blogs on the Net right now. He is worth adding to your list of web “Favorites”, or whatever way you keep track of favorite blogs.

    I looked back in his older posts, to see the originating discussion. That can be found here:
    http://pastoralmeanderings.blogspot.com/2013/04/whats-up-with-dale-meyer.html

    I think the following sentence from that post indicates what prompted this discussion, from Dr. Meyer’s end: Yesterday I spent a few hours at the office and read a letter from a donor. The letter complained about one of our recent Seminary graduates but, I hasten to add, the complaint was gently put, not angry but grieved.

    It should be noted by everyone that President Meyer realized later that he had spoken too soon: My words yesterday were ill-advised. Electronic media lets us put something up as soon as it comes into our minds…but hindsight can lead us to say, “Whoops, should have slept on that, should have made my point in a better way.” So I apologize for going public without sufficient care for how I said what I said.

    I understand. I have done that on occasion too, as I am sure many BJS readers can testify! 🙂

    Here is my take on this:

    I was in LCMS administration for six years, so I know how a call or letter from a significant donor can catch your attention. You feel like you have to do something about it, or you will get criticism from your Board of Directors. Anything that affects the bottom line (on either expense or revenue side of the ledger) has to be dealt with in some way.

    Yet, in this instance, we are talking about the pastoral office and the Word of God. The LCMS, by its failure to adequately fund its seminaries, has put them into a precarious and weak position. Both Saint Louis and Fort Wayne are highly dependent on individual donors. Many “significant” donors give to non-profits with the intent that “their Will be done,” and they use their Almighty Dollar to accomplish their Will. This has the potential for turning our seminaries in the wrong direction.

    If you don’t believe me, turn to page 8 of the Concordia Seminary magazine, Winter 2013, available here: http://www.csl.edu/resources/publications/concordia-seminary-magazine/

    There the Saint Louis Seminary reports that 2% of the seminary’s annual operating revenue comes from LCMS subsidy, while 61% come through direct gifts and endowment earnings. This is a significant change from 1970, when the LCMS subsidy was 44% and the direct gifts and grants was 7%. Both of our seminaries have only been able to survive the erosion of the LCMS subsidy because they have beefed up their Development Departments.

    It is true that a large cost overall is the cost of providing a campus, which has been paid 100% originally by the LCMS, in both cases. But that does not pay the quarterly bills.

    I encourage you all to read the Winter 2013 issue of Concordia Seminary that I linked. It is the most thorough examination of the seminary funding problem I have seen in a long time; and it is all the truth.

    If the LCMS wants pastors who are truly Lutheran, that is, more than merely Lutheran by name, it will have to pay for them, by focusing its financial and material resources where it really counts: in the financial support of its seminaries.

    Some folks can get by without seminary education. There may be a few potential pastors out there who are “ready to go.” They could pass a ordination-certification exam with flying colors with no seminary or higher-education-level training. But there aren’t too many of those.

    Our Luther forefathers emphasized formal education, because it was the only way that 99% of potential pastors could actually become competent to serve. Johan Gerhard’s dogmatics, newly translated into English, explains the competencies they expected (see Theological Commonplaces, XXV/1: On the Ministry, Part One (CPH, 2011), pp. 241-245; and Theological Commonplaces, XXV/2: On the Ministry, Part Two (CPH, 2012), pp. 101-147). I find it interesting that all of these competencies were also found in the New Testament and the Early Church, as Gerhard so eagerly demonstrates.

    For example, Gerhard quotes the Fourth Council of Carthage, which is also quoted to the same affect in the Canon Law: A man who is to be ordained as bishop [or modern-day pastor] should first be examined to determine if he is of a prudent nature, if he is teachable, temperate in behavior, chaste in his life, sober, watchful, always taking care of his tasks, humble, affable, merciful, literate, instructed in the Law of the Lord, careful or acute in the meanings of Scripture, trained in the dogmas of the church, and, above all, if he declares the testimonies of faith with simple words. [On the Ministry, Part One, p. 241; boldface is my emphasis of competencies which seminaries are responsible for training].

    I am wondering how an SMP graduate, if he has not graduated from high school, can be considered “literate.” Present policy lets anyone into the SMP program no matter what his educational background. The program should require a G.E.D. or high school diploma, at the very minimum. Of course, there may be many SMP folks who enter with plenty of ability in basic reading and writing.

    Gerhard also quotes Bishop Hincmar of Rheims: Whoever ordains an unlearned man instead of a learned man makes a master out of one who should be a disciple and is offering [to the congregation] a blind animal. (ibid., p. 241).

    If we have a “second-track” toward ordination, which the LCMS has had in the past, it should not place those graduating from that program in places where they are serving people who have comparatively a superior education. Common sense tells us that, as does also the wisdom of the early medieval church (Hincmar, d. 882) and our Lutheran forebears.

    These are matters that need to be dealt with at the synodical convention. I am hoping that there will be a few resolutions from the synod that can make some progress in this way in July 2013.

    In the meantime, encourage your congregations to support the seminaries directly, either through the Joint Seminary Fund, or by sending funds directly-and-equally to both LCMS seminaries.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

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