Great Stuff — Ordination is unnecessary. . .

Another great post by Pastor Peters over on Pastoral Meanderings:


2013 Conventon WorkbookI recently made a cursory review of both the SMP Task Force recommendations and the response of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, to the report of the task force.  Interesting reading, indeed.  The task force has some serious concerns about the proportion of the SMP program as it currently exits in Missouri.  They include:

  1. Retain the Specific Ministry Program
  2. Narrow the specificity of the Program
  3. Conduct a Study of the Various Alternative Routes to Ordained Ministry (currently there are 2 residential routes and 6 distance routes)
  4. Add Greek to the curriculum
  5. Maintain an SMP enrollment that protects residential routes
  6. Continue the various alternative routes already in place
  7. Conduct a feasibility study for an ordained diaconate (specifically in reference to additional staff on larger parishes that might have been filled by an SMP individual)

All of these seem reasonable, actually quite cautious, considering the eruption of numbers in the SMP program,  Many will question the relationship of the ordained diaconate to the SMP issue but everyone who recalls the scenarios raised to justify such a short circuiting of the regular route to ordination know that this is not unrelated and is also not a new idea even among Lutherans.  It will end up being hashed out by the Convention but clearly there is an elephant in the room when nearly 30% of all those training for the ordained ministry in the LCMS are in the SMP program and more than that when all the alternative routes are included.

The down side in all of this is that many will push for delay and more study before making any recommendations.  Absent an urgency, this may sit well with uncertain delegates.  My point is that this IS far too urgent to delay and any delay will only further entrench the position of the status quo AND erode the position of residential seminary education as the primary path to ordination.  Nobody that I know of predicted the rapid rise in SMP numbers.  Everyone I know is concerned about the future of residential seminary education (if for no other reason than cost).  It seems to me the most foolish thing we could do is the retain the status quo and study things more.  We need to act before the numbers of those in residential seminary programs becomes a minority of those on the path to ordination.

Some see the SMP program as the solution, even though a band aid, to the problem of licensed deacons (regularly performing the full compliment of duties of a Pastor but without ordination). The two programs (SMP and the licensed deacon programs operating apart from the seminaries) in the Districts) are not unrelated. In fact, these are connected from infancy. Others want to see the options further expanded (both lay service and non-residential seminary routes). So what is your pleasure — non-ordained deacons doing Word and Sacrament ministry, short circuit pastoral training programs sending out ordained but largely untrained pastors, or an even more radical definition of training, call, and ordination? According to Concordia, St. Louis’ response to the SMP task force, it may be solved by doing away with ordination since it is “by no means a necessary element.” Stay tuned for more..

The SMP Task Force Report starts on page 403 of the Convention Workbook..

Other items

I get to be in on the discussion because I will be there as a voting delegate in St. Louis in July.  I bet you wish YOU were me…

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.


Great Stuff — Ordination is unnecessary. . . — 49 Comments

  1. Dear Norm,

    Thanks for more great stuff! This one is really relevant for LCMS synod delegates.

    Dear BJS Bloggers,

    This looks to be a hot topic at the convention, based on all the printed material about it in the Convention Workbook, and based on previous discussions here at BJS.

    Before you all start commenting, remember there is a big difference between DLLD and SMP.

    DLLD are “district-licensed-lay-deacons” who are authorized to perform all uniquely pastoral functions, based on one resolution at the Wichita Convention in 1989. It was part of the Bohlmann adminstration’s legacy that is still with us. There are presently 600 of them, so that means 10% of the congregations in synod are served by DLLDs. These men have no training per se, were approved by their district, are not on the synodical roster, and are not mentioned in the LCMS bylaws.

    SMP are “Specific Ministry Pastors.” They are not much different from “regular pastors,” except that they have taken about one-third the number of courses that M.Div. students are required to take, most of which classtime was done by “distance learning.” They also presently don’t have any educational prerequisites before entering the SMP program. The 2013 Convention Workbook, explains the course requirements (pp. 425-428); although this does not compare the M.Div. curriculum with the SMP curriculum.

    SMP candidates are examined and certified by one of the seminaries, are on the synodical roster, and are mentioned in the LCMS bylaws (2.13.1, pp. 66-67 in 2010 Handbook). SMPs are part of the Kieschnick administration’s legacy, and there are only a few so far “out in the field,” although as Pastor Peters observes, they constitute nearly 30% of seminary students today in the LCMS. There is some confusion about what is “specific” in the “Specific Ministry Pastor,” and that will probably be part of the debates too.

    If delegates can try to remember these basic differences between DLLD and SMP, it will certainly help the debate and conversations prior to and during the convention.

    For those who wonder, the title of this post came from Pastor Peters.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  2. Pr. Prentice: I’ve passed your comment on to Pastor Peters. I was unsure of the reason for the title as well. Perhaps if you read the 50 some pages in the workbook it will cover that?

    I have a feeling it’s related to that .. here’s one para which seems to be suggesting making ordination optional.

    develop a more coherent and comprehensive model for certification, call, and ordination are coordinated and potentially interrelated

  3. Do we know how many men are ordained in SMP each year? It would be interesting (to me, anyway) to know how the number of SMP compares to the number on CRM.

  4. Pr. Peters raises important issues. However, he states, “Nobody that I know of predicted the rapid rise in SMP numbers.” Some people saw this coming but 70+% of the delegates did not see it as a problem. In fact, prior to the 2007 convention, I wrote a paper on the SMP Program and raised that very issue along with a number of others. It does not take a prophet to see these things coming – just common sense.

    For all the concerns that circulate about the program, I do not expect the 2013 convention to do anything meaningful about this or other critical issues. Instead, it will be left to 2016 who in turn will delay action to 2019.

  5. Dear Pastor Prentice,

    I can’t speak on Pastor Peter’s behalf. I did notice, however, that the SMP materials he pointed to do talk alot about DLLDs.

    For example, Recommendation #7 from the SMP Task Force, that he quotes in his post above, in the 2013 Convention Workbook (hereafter CW), states:

    Currently laymen (licensed deacons) who are not in the Office of the Holy Ministry are conducting Word and Sacrament ministry, contrary to our public doctrine (AC XIV). They should follow the churchly order of rite vocatus: examination, certification, call, and ordination. (p. 417)

    So DLLDs are not ordained, and for them ordination is presently “unneccesary” according to synod bylaws and resolutions. This is part of the concerns expressed by the SMP Task Force, as well as by anyone who truly upholds the Augsburg Confession. This is a doctrinal issue, not a practical or adiaphoristic issue.

    Of course, since DLLDs have not been trained in doctrine and the Augsburg Confession, they would not be expected to know what the fuss is all about. We have to cut these DLLD guys some slack because of their ignorance, but we should hold their ecclesiastical supervisors accountable, as well as anyone who wants to perpetuate this ignorance of basic doctrine.

    The SMPs might know what the fuss is about, since at Fort Wayne they are required to read the entire Book of Concord in the first two years of their studies, before ordination (see CW, p. 425). At Saint Louis, although there is a course about “confessing” the faith before ordination (see CW, p. 427), it is not clear that this is a course that studies the Lutheran Confessions in any depth or breadth. So a Fort Wayne SMP would have read AC XIV, but the Saint Louis SMP may not have.

    Why don’t the seminaries have the same curriculum? They never have had the same curriculum for M.Div. students, so why start now?

    I do hope that Saint Louis follows the Fort Wayne lead in this one area, ie., requiring reading the entire Book of Concord, since the Lutheran Confessions are what layman should use to judge the doctrines of their pastors. I think most of our LCMS congregations have at least one layman who is somewhat familiar with the entire Book of Concord. It would be very embarrassing if their pastor was not.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  6. @Martin R. Noland #8

    I do hope that the doctrinal issue of proper ordination/call to the Office is separated from the discretionary issue of qualifications for that ministry in our Synod. To my mind, and observation from the comments I’ve heard, this confusion is adding fuel to the fire.

    We should be able to settle the doctrinal issue quickly, by light of the Holy Scriptures and the Confessions. Some of the qualifications for ordination (or at least the principles involved,) can be quickly taken from St. Paul’s Pastoral Epistles. This should be a no-brainer, once people stop being evasive or rationalizing their departure from Scripture.

    That should be distinguished from what we, in our human wisdom, determine to be necessary educational or procedural requirements (residential seminary courses, distance courses, language courses, field experience, interviews, etc.) Those standards have been in flux within the broader church since the beginning, and we have to set our own opinions on interal canons before the people as exactly that, without pretending that the doctrines of men are the doctrines of God. We just need to make a good case for the best path, agree for the good order and discpline of the fellowship, and then do it.

    Anyway, I really hope something meaningful comes out of this at the Convention, but my hope has been waning that our Synod can fix any theological or practical error, regardless of how eggregious or distributed it is.

  7. As a lay person who has been considering the ministry, I think that there is a need for alternate/distance routes to the ministry. The traditional model which presupposes a residential degree program immediately after college is a good model for those at a point in life for which it was designed, but older folk who would have to potential uproot families and deal with all the associated issues potentially three times in 4 years (start of program, vicarage, and final placement) can find this truly daunting. Yes, we trust that God will provide. However, it’s a major sacrifice that could be avoided with the application of technology and forethought.

    Distance education coupled with supervision from a local pastor could allow for the creation of a truly equivalent route to ordination including Greek, Hebrew, etc.. If classes can be taught with an online/distance version, and guidance and supervision be given by perhaps several local pastors, I can imagine the academic and spiritual preparation necessary for ordination could be achieved, though perhaps in a longer time frame – 5 or 6 years instead of 4 – without the hardship of several relocation. I think this is something that the synod should consider as it would open the doors to a group of men who could potentially be great pastors, but who see the residential aspect of the programs as a hardship on their families.

  8. *************************************************************


    Another paragraph has been added to the original article; above the links to other resources, which helps explain things a lot more. Please re-read it, especially the paragraph that starts “Some see the SMP“.


  9. @Martin R. Noland #8

    Dr. Noland, I appreciate your posts, but I must correct you on one thing. To the best of my knowledge, the district licensed deacons are not licensed until they have completed a minimum level of education. I initially went through the Mid-South District deacon training program. The complete program consisted of what used to be the ten district level DELTO courses. A could not be licensed until he had completed four specific courses, one of which was on the Confessions. After completing all ten courses, a Deacon could be commissioned. To remain on the district Deacon roster, a deacon was required to complete at least one approved continuing education course each year.

    Also, the majority of deacons in the Mid-South district did not serve in Word and Sacrament ministry. To my knowledge, the Memphis area alone had at least twenty deacons, with maybe three actively serving in Word and Sacrament. Those who did serve in Word and Sacrament were not called into those positions until they had completed all ten of the initial deacon courses. You may quibble over my use of the term “called” here, but I assure you that all of those men, their supervising pastors and the District leadership considered them to be called.

    One last thing, it is my understanding that Southern District lay deacons serving in Word and Sacrament ministry are being very strongly encouraged to enrol in and complete the SMP program.

  10. Hmmmm, If we have all these other routes for a man to be a Pastor in LC-MS why would any body spend 8 years and possibly going into debt to become a LC-MS Pastor?

    In the end I believe all the different ways to become a pastor in the LC-MS destroys the office of ministry in the LC-MS. It destroys it because people will not know if they can trust that their pastor is teaching the Word of God correctly. Did they go through the seminary on a fast track, if so, what did they learn?

    To be honest, would I want a SMP Pastor be my Pastor, to come visit me when sick etc… My answer is no. I would feel he became a Pastor to tickle the ears of the congregation or the congregation sought a man they could control and do what they want against the world of God.

    These are my thoughts and my thoughts only, yet we never ask, What is gained by the alternate routes?

  11. @Pastor Roepke #15
    I am sad this is they way you feel.

    If I read Psalms at your bedside, would you not be soothed?

    If I laid hands and anointed you with oil if need, would you not be comforted.

    If I spoke forgiveness of your sins, as if Christ Himself spoke, would you no be healed of your sins?

    If I brought the bread and wine, blessed it in your midst, would you not be strengthened as well now that it is Christ’s Body and Blood?

    In my case, life was good until God called and decided to bring me into the office of the pastor, via the DELTO alternate route. He blessed me with much, yet now I work days, nights, weekends. I love it, and struggle with it.

    And yes, we did go through a fast track, I will agree, to take on roles that classic men should not go into (or become a worker/priest like me). My Church Faith has a budget of $2,000 a month for the office of the pastor. I split that up with my assistant pastor and another pastor to help make some calls.

    Yes, we at Faith struggle, and I guess to many, should not be served if they cannot afford a full-time man. Yet we know some other Churches abuse even full-time men.

    OK, perhaps Faith should stop now, give up, sell, and give all our money to the district, so they can give it to a bigger Church to serve our community.

    Pastor, I would hope you pause and look at the man called by God and then make judgements.

  12. @rev. david l. prentice jr. #18

    I still have my SMP mentor watching over me, and he will continue to watch over me until such time as I move off the SMP roster by completing either an AR certification or an MDiv. One difference between the SMP courses offered at CTFW and the DELTO program, is that one who declares as an MDiv student can apply his SMP courses to his degree.

  13. @David Hartung #19
    Yes, as a DELTO certified man, my 27 courses are good for what? Me and my ministry, they do not apply if I wanted to get an MDIV. In fact, I did investigate, I would have to start over. At least SMP has that ability to transfer. I do have a BS, so I would start from scratch.

  14. Deacons in the Mid-South do not have to have continuing education. If they are supposed to it isn’t enforced. I know this for a fact.

  15. Michael :
    Deacons in the Mid-South do not have to have continuing education. If they are supposed to it isn’t enforced. I know this for a fact.

    I have been away from the Memphis area for about five years, things may have changed.

  16. I am always amazed at the short-cuts men seek to excellence. And resorting to emotionalism as an excuse, is but a ruse. Excellence is what it is – wise men know to pursue it.

    I once sat with a man in “the Soup” (FW guys know what I mean) who told me (2nd year) that he was tired of all of the push for “theological” knowledge, he just came to the Sem to be a “pastor.” I simply said to him – “If you don’t know your theology, your congregation will quickly chase you into learning it, or you will leave the ministry.” He did not take my words well at all. In fact, he got quite angry at me!

    I had my neck broken my last month of viacrage, and was still in a “collar” far different than that of a pastor when I sat down in “the Soup” with my lunch in September, 1985. Out of nowhere came the same fellow. He plopped his tray down, and I confess openly that I expected nothing good to follow.

    Man-o-man, was I wrong! He asked my forgiveness, which I told him was his immediately, and then he told me that his year of vicarage/internship had taught him that what I told him that day over a year previous was spot-on. and he thanked me.

    That was an enjoyable lunch. I supped with a like spirit – a kindred spirit. He didn’t have to seek me out, or say what he did. He did, anyway, and I have been forever glad he did since.

    The Ministry is not a vocation for wusses. It is not a vocation for tent-folders. It is not a vocation for those who “cut-and-run.” Dare I say it? I will – it’s my blog . . .

    Ya gotta have some serious balls to be a truly Christian Pastor, and if you expect your surgeon to fix what is wrong with you, you better hope to God he has the RIGHT education, or you will die!

    The WCW (weird collar wearer) preaching to you has to REALLY knows his stuff, because he is supposed to know about life after life, that pesky matter of death aside . . .

    I’ll speak for myself – yeah, I uprooted the fam and did the deed. Next to the great deeds of the Apostles and Prophets and the Good Doctor Luther, my sacrifice of 4 years at Sem was but a pittance by comparison. To complain about the expense and the move seem to me to be little more than a childish gripe about being inconvenienced. The ever-always “I doan wanna.” Childish thinking.

    Think about it! Jesus asked the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give it to the poor, and to “Come and follow him.” None of us has been put to that test. Going off to Sem is the closest most of us ever get. And if I speak for no else but myself, those are still the 4 most enjoyable years of my life! To be surrounded by budding theologians taught by veteran theologians; to talk with a Scaer or a Marquart (RIP) in the hallways, to hear a Robert Preus expound upon the Confesasions (his was my very first class!) . . . Mastercard moment. Priceless!

    There are just a multitude of things that “in-residencee” schooling offer that no amount of SMP’ing will ever accomplish. Call me a “old crank” (but stand in line, many more are ahead of you! Heh!!) – but missing out on the Seminary experience is a great loss. I know the theological specifics that I learned there can now be learned online in various ways, but nothing online could replicate the Seminary experience. Nothing. You just have to be there,

    A man serving Jesus in a weird collar needs that experience. Winkels are brief reminders. Conventions are a bit closer, but so clouded by politics that they are sheer boredom.

    One is free to make their choice – and I get that and all in this age of individualism and me-first-ism. It is tedious to deal with it, but things are what they are.

    But I had an almost magical four years at Seminary, and I couldn’t put a price on any of the time or money spent. I wouldn’t dare. It was precious.

    You had to be there.

    Pax – jb

  17. Pastor Roepke :
    Hmmmm, If we have all these other routes for a man to be a Pastor in LC-MS why would any body spend 8 years and possibly going into debt to become a LC-MS Pastor?

    8 years is for the guys who flunked out of Greek and had to retake it several times. They would incur additional debt for failing. Yet, the SMP student did not have to worry about that. This is a very good point. Even though the SMP numbers are declining according to the convention handbook, the situation still arises where one pastor who has an MDiv is serving a church in Word and Sacrament Ministry. Next town over is an SMP pastor serving in Word and Sacrament ministry performing the same functions as the pastor who attended one our seminaries through the traditional tract. This whole mess needs to be cleaned up at the convention.

  18. Every time one of these discussions come up, I have to chuckle. I am no historian, I do know that our Synod has had alternate routes into the pastoral office since its founding. The truth is that CTS was founded as just such an alternate route. Just as there have been alternate routes the entire life of the Synod, there have also been those who bemoan that fact, and do everything in their power to eliminate such alternate routes. Nothing seems to have changed.

  19. Page 11 of the Seminary Response

    Furthermore, the Lutheran Confessions
    do not regard “ordination” as that which qualifies one for the office; rather, it is that the
    candidate be “rightly called,” of which ordination may be viewed as a recognition by the wider
    church of this man’s training and call. However, by no means is ordination a necessary element.

    One thing which I did not bring up but which Todd Wilken has brought up repeatedly is that the SMP pastors who do not complete the program still have a call and ordination. The only thing the Synod has over them is roster status. The SMP person could choose to skip the completion of the requirements and the person would retain his ordination and call even if the Synod decided to kick him off the roster. What kind of confusing mess would this bring up? What incentive is there to complete the requirements once ordination and the call have been given when the older, say retired, man who does not ever plan on serving another congregation, who is serving a small congregation as SMP pastor, looks at the circumstances and decides he does not need the effort or expense and his congregation is satisfied with him as he is… What do we do then?

  20. Where to start… First, I’m going to start using my real name in August since a) I won’t be on campus any more, and b) I was just ordained on Sunday.

    As far as the topic itself, I have opinions about the SMP program, as everyone does, but my opinions aren’t the issue here. I think the key thing right now is the comparison of the SMPP and other programs. As others with first-hand knowledge wrote, DELTO was 27 classes. DLLD programs varied by the district; my new congregation has a license deacon, who told me (if I recall correctly) that his program entailed a year of weekend-long classes, and every year he has to fill out a form to remain certified. Going off the St. Louis programs, the M.Div. is 137 credits, 18 of which is from vicarage. The SMPP is 16 classes (48 credits if each class counts as 3 credits), and 2 years of vicarage (36 credits if each year is 18), equivalent to 84 credits total. Looking at the classes, a number line up closely with the M.Div. classes. The curriculum is strongest in Practical (like the M.Div.), with 6 classes, and then 5 in Systematics, 4 in Exegetical, and only 1 in Historical. Though it isn’t as many classes, the ratio of classes in each department is close to that for the M.Div. The Alternate Route (AR) at St. Louis is 106 or 112 credits, of which 18 (again) comes from vicarage. Again, there are less classes for the SMPP, but the ratio of classes in each department is similar.

    As far as being leery of SMPs, I do not see why you should be more leery of an SMP than of any other LCMS pastor who has been certified by the faculty of one of the seminaries and placed by the Council of Presidents. The faculty have as much contact with distance students during their online class discussions and on-campus intensives as with residential students, and even that isn’t a surefire method for weeding out “bad apples.” You can “cooperate to graduate” just as easily in one program as the other. Ultimately the only way to know whether a pastor is a confessional Lutheran is by talking to him; until then, you can only trust that his seminary formation was just as effective as yours and that he also takes his ordination vows seriously.

    As far as the quote that ordination is “by no means a necessary element,” that is grossly taken out of context. The faculty wrote that in response to the recommendation of an “ordained diaconate” to note that ordination is not a magic formula (as the task force suggests with its recommendation of “ordaining” deacons instead of our current practice of “consecrating” them) but a good and proper method for the Church to recognize that a man has been rightly called into the Office of the Holy Ministry. They followed it up with a statement that an ordained diaconate “has never been viewed as helpful in the Lutheran tradition.” The whole section is against the idea of “ordaining” deacons, not against ordaining pastors. Including that statement without context could be construed as a violation of the 8th Commandment admonition to “explain everything in the kindest way.”

  21. Walter Troeger :8 years is for the guys who flunked out of Greek and had to retake it several times.

    When I was talking 8 years I was adding the 4 years of college, at a syondical college, before seminary.

  22. Here is the entire quote from the St. Louis response:

    The relationship between this recommendation and the rest of the document is unclear; nothing in the preceding pages suggests this novel and un-Lutheran approach. It is here that the biblical and theological weakness of the recommendations is most evident.

    As was laid out above, the office of pastor is Word-based, not ritual-based. To distinguish one pastor from another on the basis of education, so that the non-M.Div. pastor cannot “consecrate the elements” makes an unacceptable distinction between the means of grace, as if consecrating the elements is the chief task of the pastoral office. This has never been the Lutheran position. Furthermore, the Lutheran Confessions do not regard ordination” as that which qualifies one for the office; rather, it is that the candidate be “rightly called,” of which ordination may be viewed as a recognition by the wider church of this man’s training and call. However, by no means is ordination a necessary element.

    We are also concerned in the apparent dichotomy in this proposal between the act of the consecration of the Lord’s Supper and the preaching of the Word. To regard the act of the consecration of the elements of the Lord’s Supper to be the chief function of the pastoral office seems to indicate a shift toward a Roman Catholic perspective. This same tendency is to be seen in the nomenclature and function of an “Ordained Deacon,” which is drawn from the Roman tradition but has never been viewed as helpful in the Lutheran tradition.

    My comments:

    In the second paragraph you see that the ordination comment was not about the office of the deacon but directly related to their discussion of Augustan XIV. I am not quoting out of context. The CSL response to the ordained diaconate does connect the discussion of pastor together here. CSL response does not speak about ordination of the deacon apart from ordination to the pastoral office.

    Again, the seminarian from CSL has mistaken the points here. It is not the men of the SMP of which I or most of the commenters here are leery. We are leery of the program, of the reduction in requirements and its consequence for the pastoral office down the road, of the impact of the SMP program on residential seminary education, of the potential future problems of those who fail to complete the SMP program but have been ordained and called, and of the potential for SMP students to become the predominant path to ordination given the financial cost of the residential program and the attendant difficulties to family and life of uprooting and moving to the seminary site.

    No one that I know is questioning the intention of those in the SMP program or demeaning their character. Nothing I wrote was meant that way. This is all about a program, its wisdom, its need, its scope, and its impact upon the larger church.

  23. @Pastor Larry A Peters #30
    In fact, the problem is the some fellow “classic” men that abuse the program. Once again, I serve a Church that no man with debt, a family, should come to…God placed me here for that reason. OK, we have talked, I can step away and the Church could place a call for a man, but would last perhaps 2 years, then all the money is gone

    Yet SMP is good for certain spots, yes, certain places, but your fellow “classic” men, some do abuse it by calling SMP men to save money, have a pastor under their thumb.

    What God gives, we do find a way to abuse. It is far easier to call a SMP man, a license deacon, whatever for a Church that wants to reach out, than a Circuit to gather and create Circuit mission pastor to share duties for the greater good.

  24. @Pastor Larry A Peters #30

    To take your points in order:

    Ordination- The quote is still under the heading of a response to the recommendation for an “ordained diaconate,” whatever that would be. As far as the ordination itself, I do not see how the faculty argument is faulty: ordination is not what makes a pastor; the call is what makes a pastor. At the same time, the Church needs a way to publicly declare that a man is in the Office; in that sense, ordination is necessary. Regardless, I believe my point still holds true: Without the context of the full argument, you leave the statement open to grave misinterpretation.

    Men of the SMP- That point was not directed toward you; it was directed toward Pastor Roepke. Perhaps I misunderstood what he said; if so, then I apologize.

    The SMPP- I do share some of those concerns with you, particularly regarding what constitutes a “specific ministry,” but I hoped to show by comparing the SMP Program to the M.Div. and AR programs that the education is not as radically inferior as people seem to think. Admittedly, they take about 1/3 as many classes as M.Div. and just under 1/2 as many as AR, but that difference is made up for with the practical experience of an additional year of vicarage (and the 2 years of pastoral ministry also included in the program). I know that I learned far more about actual pastoral ministry on vicarage than I ever did in my classroom experiences, important as they were. In that way, the SMP Program may be better in terms of practical experience than the residential programs, which are in turn better than the SMP Program in other areas, specifically Systematic and Exegetical Theology.

    The numbers- First, from what I understand, the number of entering SMP students has been roughly comparable to the number of entering on-campus ministerial formation students in any given year. Second, I do not see how the number of SMP students is relevant to the discussion. There has always and will always be a need for both pastoral-theologians and pastoral-theologians. SMP would generally fall into the first category; M.Div. would generally fall into the second. The way that our Synod is set up at present, those pastors with doctrinal supervision or responsible for training future pastors must have advanced degrees (M.Div. and beyond); those who are responsible for congregational ministry have never had such a requirement. When Fort Wayne was primarily the “practical seminary” which focused on training second-career men for the pastoral ministry, there were far more students there than at St. Louis, the “academic seminary” (my terms)–approximately a 6-to-1 ratio at the height of the old system if I remember correctly. However, that did not mean that the seminaries were in competition for students or that Fort Wayne would push St. Louis out of existence; the students who would attend one would not ordinarily have qualified to attend the other. If anything about SMP is “fixed,” I think that would be a good model as far as enrollment.

    Impact- I think if used properly, “practical seminary”-type programs can be very beneficial for the church in providing capable pastors who can minister to congregations. In fact, I would think that a “practical seminary” program like SMP is far more beneficial than a lay deacon-type program because there is less confusion of the pastoral office: the man is a pastor, not a sort-of-pastor. As far as men who drop out of the SMP Program, I don’t know what the process is for dealing with those situations, but I would assume that the seminaries and district presidents have something in place, and would be interested to know what that is.

  25. @Pastor Larry A Peters #27
    The only thing the Synod has over them is roster status. The SMP person could choose to skip the completion of the requirements and the person would retain his ordination and call even if the Synod decided to kick him off the roster.

    Are you saying that, if a man has a willing congregation, he would be considered a Pastor in LCMS, even if he is off the roster?

    In that case, why the 50 year “shunning” of Herman Otten, one of three who alerted synod to the false teaching in St Louis? Marquart went on to be honored and highly placed (after 20 years exile and some prominence in Australia). Even Martin Marty, though he left LCMS, gets respect in many quarters.

    Is it a matter of “whose toes were stepped on”? (Surely all three stepped on toes.) Why the retaliation against Otten to this day? Seems he ought to be thanked. As I understand it, Otten’s call was legitimate by the rules in effect at the time it was made.

    If you’ll pardon my ignorance, please! I was overseas in ’73-74 and coming home I found my congregation sympathized with Seminex which didn’t help my “education” about events while I was away. But I have read Marquart and others as they became available.

  26. @Concerned Seminarian #32
    There has always and will always be a need for both pastoral-theologians and pastoral-theologians. SMP would generally fall into the first category; M.Div. would generally fall into the second.

    I don’t accept your “division of labor.”
    LCMS is no longer a synod of 8th grade graduates and even when they were, they knew Lutheran doctrine better than many do now. (These days, even the farmers need higher education to do their jobs.)
    I sit under men who are Pastors and theologians. When I am puzzled about something in Scripture, they can explain it to me from the original languages. That is what Luther intended and what I expect.

    If you have a congregation that doesn’t care about your education, chances are that many of those who do show up at your Bible class are more interested in the coffee and gossip than in your lesson. And that’s not only sad, the ignorance perpetuated by lazy pastors leaves them wide open to the generic protestantism all around them.

    The whining about the “inconvenience” of a seminary education appalls me! One of my Pastors was successful in business, changed course and graduated CTS when he was 50. No doubt it was very inconvenient for his family but I’m glad he had the guts to do it! The other is a Reserve Chaplain with two tours in Iraq (and his seminary education) on his record.

    [I went to a Lutheran college we couldn’t afford, in homemade clothes, with a board job, any other work I could find and very little leisure. It was the best four years of my life! The multiple religion classes I took, because I was there, have been more useful to me than the majors and minors.]

    My son went to seminary on a very tight budget and survived!
    Trying to get by “cheap” on a seminary education means that you cheat yourself, and any congregation you serve.
    ‘Nuff from me.

  27. In regards to the Deacon program in Mid-South, exams are now required and a man can now fail a class. This is a change because I know of Deacons who never took exams. They went to class, had homework assigned,and discussion the next class. Mid-South is one of the biggest supporters of Deacons.

  28. David Hartung :

    Michael :
    Deacons in the Mid-South do not have to have continuing education. If they are supposed to it isn’t enforced. I know this for a fact.

    I have been away from the Memphis area for about five years, things may have changed.

    I’m referring to men who have been Deacons longer than 5 years. Around 8 years. Never took 1 contining education class and yes they were actively involved in word and sacarment ministry. With the new DP, it is being organized better. It is a short cut to the ministry. They do everything that a pastor does. One even Baptized. Let’s face the facts. There are pastors that would allow any man with zero training to preach. These things cannot really be enforced because it is impossible to know what goes on in every church.

  29. @Michael #36

    I stand corrected. I just got off the phone with the Mid-South District office. Things have changed. The men who were running the program left and the requirement for continuing ed left with them. As I said, my last personal contact with the program was in early 2008.

  30. If you have a congregation that doesn’t care about your education, chances are that many of those who do show up at your Bible class are more interested in the coffee and gossip than in your lesson. And that’s not only sad, the ignorance perpetuated by lazy pastors leaves them wide open to the generic protestantism all around them. ”


    If you understood the SMP program, you would know that it is the congregations themselves who identify men within their midst for service, men who are already recognized as theologically faithful and capable, who already demonstrate the biblical qualifications for the office of holy ministry, and who are willing to make the commitment and life-altering changes that are required. Most, if not all, continue to serve as teachers, DCE’s and in other areas of ministry while ALSO spending nights and weekends studying. Your insinuation that these people are theologically or physically lazy is repugnant.

  31. It is difficult to discuss the SMP Program since any criticism of the program is taken by some as a criticism of the men who are part of it. Nevertheless, I need to weigh in on an important point. I apologize for the length of this post.

    There is a myth that the SMP is in the tradition of the LCMS and its earliest history. It is not. I am not a Church historian. But it does not seem to me that the current situation of an established Synod is comparable to the frontier conditions of an immigrant Church in America in the 19th century. We have resources. We have established educational institutions. We have those very things that our forefathers sought to bequeath to us.

    SMPP defenders regularly cite the precedence of Wilhelm Löhe for its innovative approach. But what was the intention of Wilhelm Löhe himself? He is cited in Moving Frontiers. Readings in the History of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, ed. Carl S. Meyer (St. Louis: CPH, 1964):

    “It is always awkward when midwives must undertake emergency baptisms, but still better for children to be baptized by midwives than not at all. Everyone understands that. In this way one must regard also the appointment of scantily educated preachers in America. They are emergency helpers (Nothhelfer); they should be nothing else and want to be nothing else. And it is their duty to work with sacred self-sacrifice to the end that better times for the church might bloom over their graves. They are to inspire their congregations for the benefit of their descendents and to induce them on the one hand to nourish and improve the seminary in Columbus and on the other hand to send capable young men over to Germany to be educated at our classical and higher schools. Thereby they will gain the right teachers for their seminary and the right men for the improvement of the church’s situation.” (p.98).

    The students trained under Löhe’s influence were not trained “contextually” but were gathered either at Neuendetelsau, Bavaria (with Löhe himself) and/or at the Seminary he founded in Fort Wayne in 1846.

    We must also note how quickly the Missouri Synod sought to strengthen the formal education of its pastors. The Missouri Synod Proceedings of 1852 includes the following:

    “The question was submitted to Synod for deliberation: whether it is not necessary to raise the Fort Wayne seminary to a higher level, to broaden the objectives of the education of its students, and accordingly to lengthen the time of study, etc. The great services which this institution has provided in training so many capable young people was acknowledged with joy. But it was the opinion that since the time of the first and greatest need is now past, the obligation remains to give the students more at least in a formal way, especially and at least to help them to a knowledge of the Latin language and thereby to a better and fuller understanding of the old church literature; besides the Latin language, other subjects, such as history, geography, the English language, etc., should be pursued more diligently.” (Moving Frontiers, p.216)

    The result of this was to establish a “pro-seminary” for these subjects prior to the study of theology. By 1856, there were three classes of students at Fort Wayne: the actual seminarians, the pro-seminarians and the preparatory students. The first studied theology, the second general studies and theology and the third general studies (Moving Frontiers, p.217).

    In other words, the historic example of Wilhelm Löhe and the Fort Wayne Seminary, cited by the SMPP, does not resemble the SMPP at all. The “emergency” situation does not now exist. The Sendlinge or Nothhelfer of Löhe’s missionary endeavor were intended as only a stop-gap measure, not a new and permanent alternate route as is the SMPP. The Sendlinge or Nothhelfer were trained as residential students, not the contextually based students of the SMPP. The Synod quickly moved by 1852 to make the residential program far more comprehensive than it initially had been, a move reversed by the SMPP.

    Further, the SMPP states something that does not appear to rest upon all available facts, “However, developments in ministerial formation since World War II have effectively eliminated this track altogether” (see citation above). Under various names (“Colloquy” and later “Alternate Route”), the Seminaries have provided an abbreviated residential program for qualified and experienced candidates. In the early 1990’s, Concordia Theological Seminary-Fort Wayne developed a “Distance Education Leading to Ordination” (DELTO) program for a highly qualified group of students. Later, CTS was joined by Concordia Seminary-Saint Louis in providing DELTO and, as a result, the DELTO program has been greatly expanded. Ethnic specific programs, representing considerably reduced academic requirements, have also been introduced and have produced numerous pastors. The SMPP worries that programs “preparing men as quickly as possible to be called and ordained in order to meet the urgent mission needs of the church” have been “effectively eliminated” but in fact actually have been expanded since WW II.

    Still, along with providing pastoral education in new and creative ways, both Seminaries have continued in the wisdom of the 1852 Missouri Synod convention by strengthening their residential academic programs. The SMPP would be more accurate if it noted that residential training has consistently improved since WW II. These have been steps forward based upon the struggles and sacrifices of the generations that preceded us.

    We live in an increasingly educated but theologically challenged culture that demands a better prepared ministry than ever before. The challenges of postmodernism, religious syncretism, liberalism, fundamentalism and a thousand other “isms” to the Biblical Lutheran faith require our best efforts, not our least efforts. The congregations of the Synod need to carefully reflect upon the history of the Synod’s pastoral formation programs. Historical precedence is indeed valuable for determining the on-going direction of a faith community. But we must be certain that the historical precedence cited is in fact a balanced and accurate reading of the facts.

  32. @Pastor Larry A Peters #27

    That whole thing about ordination being unnecessary was Walther stating that it wasn’t necessary in EMERGENCY situations for a Called pastor. Walther also stated that one must be a fanatic to not seek ordination. Why is it being brought up here and now?

  33. And as I ponder my last comment, yes, to Helen, that was a dig as I read it over (not intended, but is)…so forgive me. You are passionate about what makes a pastor, I am passionate about being a pastor.

  34. <a href

    Rich :

    If you understood the SMP program, you would know that it is the congregations themselves who identify men within their midst for service, men who are already recognized as theologically faithful and capable, who already demonstrate the biblical qualifications for the office of holy ministry, and who are willing to make the commitment and life-altering changes that are required. Most, if not all, continue to serve as teachers, DCE’s and in other areas of ministry while ALSO spending nights and weekends studying. Your insinuation that these people are theologically or physically lazy is repugnant.

    DCEs are theologically lazy. I have yet to meet one who has read the book of concord and believes it. If they weren’t theologically lazy, they would have become pastors instead of back-door phonies making a mockery of AC XIV

  35. @Libby North #43

    The DCE’s I’ve known were anything but lazy, back-door phonies.  They were mostly dedicated female youth workers who had no interest in becoming pastors.  Your insulting comment is a disgrace. Do you claim to be a Christian?

  36. @John Rixe #44

    I knew a DCE, female, condescending to the women of the congregation and yes, I considered her lazy. (She also left church work after a short while for a softer berth with more money.) Libby’s comment is anecdotal, no doubt, as mine are. [If the shoe doesn’t fit you are under no obligation to claim it for yours. I know/have known people it fits very well, or I wouldn’t waste time and ‘bandwidth’ discussing it.]

    Rev. Prentice, I hope you are a Pastor! And I hope you are able to keep learning.

    I also recognize that some who have done the residential seminary course have thereafter let their Book of Concord (and others) collect dust and their languages rust. As opportunity arises, I can be acid about that, too. 🙁 [One Pastor “out East” admitted to me that he thought the BOC was boring and only found out its value when his Elders made him teach it to them.]

    The Word says “baptize and teach”…You can’t teach what you don’t know. People who aren’t eager to keep learning aren’t good teachers.

    Good night now!

  37. @John Rixe #45
    Of course they want to be pastors! At least SMP is honest about that. DCEs exist to perform duties distinctive of the pastoral office, (publicly teaching the Faith on behalf of the church) that women are doing it makes it no better, but actually worse since until quite recently, the “children” of our youth groups would have been (and should yet be) full members of the church. Thus a female youth leader is little different from the EXCA’s women pastors, for she teaches the faith on behalf of the church to men! Truthfully, I don’t blame the female DCEs, I blame our church’s assimilation of our pagan culture for pressuring women to work outside the home teaching other people’s children instead of staying home and doing what they were meant to do.

    In terms of your last sentence, it is forgiven, I too often have too sharp a tongue, oft heightened by the relative anonymity of the internet.

  38. @helen #46
    Rev. Prentice, I hope you are a Pastor! And I hope you are able to keep learning…

    Yes Helen, hands were laid on by all my Circuit brothers, affirming me by the power of the Holy Spirit, that I am a pastor, yoked by God, and called to a higher standard as I must speak with God about the work I do as a pastor when I meet in heaven.

    Let me say, I know my limitations, yet when I do preach, I pray before to the Holy Spirit for help that my words be proper and good in His sight, and edifying to my flock.

    And when I may not have the best exegesis, etc.; I preach Christ crucified.

    And you are correct, ALL pastors need to keep learning. whether SMP, DELTO, alternate route, residential.

    I myself have attended every (OK, missed one, wife had an operation), Good Shepherd Institute at Fort Wayne, to help my preaching, teaching, and understanding of historic Lutheran practice and liturgy.

    I have attended Symposia’s and Symposium, both seminaries.

    I have gone to some special classes offered. One great one was Dr. Scaer on Holy Communion at St. John Wheaton. Just a few examples.

    I (and through the Church) called a great man of wisdom and years to assist me and my Church as my assistant pastor, not just made him emeritus assisting, we did the right thing, we called him.

    No, I do not want a pat on the back, just some understanding that the men called by God, and I pray all men of alternate route know that we have entered into a sacred place and office, but the Holy Spirit still called us, and we were affirmed; and that we will continue to learn (as ALL pastors should).

    Please, support the pastors by a good tone, and yes, push for more uniform study and education. I would be the first to agree

  39. @Daniel L. Gard #39
    Do you really think our time of need is past? We are in a dying synod. Shouldn’t the need be on the rise again? Please do not read this as sarcasm but rather as an honest question.

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