Why We Don’t Create Pastors Willy-Nilly

This past Monday, Issues Etc host Pr. Todd Wilken interviewed Pr. Paul McCain of Concordia Publishing House on “The Smalcald Articles: Excommunication, Ordination, The Call and the Marriage of Priests”. There was a short segment of four minutes that focused on the issue of people taking the pulpit without a rightly ordered call. We thought it worth excerpting this portion because it is a helpful (for laity) “translation” of our Confessions regarding how we train, certify, call and ordain men into the Office of the Holy Ministry.

Some key highlights (not a verbatim transcript) and please listen to the excerpt below:

  • There has been a problem ever since the Wichita Convention [1989] which adopted a “footnote to the Augusburg Confession, Article V” instituting lay ministers, which is a self-contradiction.
  • It’s not a matter of did they go to seminary or not, but they are not being placed formally and publicly in good order in front of the eyes of their whole church body into the Office of Holy Ministry.
  • If they are functioning as a pastor they should be a pastor, and be recognized as such.
  • It is highly schismatic and very dangerous to get “90-day” lay ministers or preachers out there.
  • As much as I trust my brothers in the ministry I don’t want the responsibility to have the authority to determine who is a pastor on my own. I want to do this with colleagues who together will evaluate, ascertain and judge whether a man is qualified to be in the Office.
  • In [the LCMS] we say that the seminary faculties are the ones who are given the responsibility to certify that a man is ready to be a pastor. It is an incredible responsibility.
  • On the basis of that certification we agree together via the Council of Presidents that a man may be placed into the Office of the ministry. At that point there is the call to a specific place where they are ordained which is the public rite of the church by which the church lays hands on him – not required, but time honored – and there is a public ceremony with prayer and intercession for that man, and he is formally placed into the Office of the Holy Ministry. At that point he is a pastor.
  • To do something other than that is schismatic and contrary to what we teach. The LCMS has been struggling with this for a long time, and we are getting better by degrees.
  • If we have individual congregations and pastors within the Synod popping up and saying, “I’ve got a great guy in my church and I put him in the pulpit; he preached a great sermon and now he’s one of our pastors.” That is unchurchly to say the least.


Comments

Why We Don’t Create Pastors Willy-Nilly — 33 Comments

  1. I agree entirely. Only a pastor, a man, called and ordained to serve the Church should preach. There is no other way that we should allow. We have abused this greatly, and I have seen it with my own eyes as well.
    Only an ordained man, installed and called publicly, has the right to proclaim in His Church’s pulpit the Scriptures entrusted to the pastors of the Church.

  2. i have no issue with the Smalcald Articles, of course, and I’m no advocate for so-called Lay Ministers. This article, however, raises the issue of the Council of Presidents. What do we say when the CoP refuses to place a man who IS certified by the seminary for ordination? What do we say when the CoP blocks a call from a calling congregation to a man who IS a seminary-certified Candidate? If we say we do things a certain way for the sake of good order, then we must also be mindful that our “good order” can be and is being abused by our ecclesiastical authorities.

  3. The CoP has been entrusted with much authority with respect to the call process. As Rev. Wilken pointed out, when the bishops refused to ordain pastors, that responsibility fell onto other pastors so that the Church (big C) was not deprived of ministers. If (or shall I say when?) the DPs fail to facilitate the calling of ordained ministers (or certified sem grads) into churches, they violate the 3rd commandment (and often the 5th also…). One could have the same conversation about seminary faculties which could, in principle, deny certification for less than Godly reasons. Just so we’re clear, my impression is that at least some of the DPs are out of bounds while the sem faculties seem ok for now.

    All this is, however, beside the point made here. Whether you love the CoP, sem faculties and the synod structure or not, it is clearly wrong to have “lay ministers.” This is a contradiction and is without Biblical, confessional, or historical support. It is much more in line with methodist and pentecostal notions of the minister as “spiritual dude who loves God and feels drawn to ministry.”

    Finally, however, I think that the current problems we have with the call process, candidates without calls, etc. are all a direct result of the recent trend towards lay pseudoministers. Congregations are being encouraged not to call an ordained minister but to find “alternate” means to be served. I know of large congregations (200+ worshipping each week) being served exclusively by unsupervised SMP ministers. Moderate sized congregations are told it’s ok to have a lay minister. Small congregations are practically forced to use lay ministry rather than to find a way to create a dual parish or another creative solution which honors the 3rd commandment and the Lord’s ministry.

    Meanwhile a layman who feels the desire to minister is told he needn’t put himself out and go to seminary — just be a lay minister/district deacon… and do the SMP route if he wants to make it more formal.

    Is there any wonder why the “clergy shortage” long expected hasn’t come and may never come?

  4. “If a layman should perform all the outward functions of a priest, celebrating Mass, confirming, absolving, administering the sacraments, dedicating altars, churches, vestments, vessels, etc., it is certain that these actions would in all respects be similar to those of a true priest, in fact, they might be performed more reverently and properly than the real ones. But because he has not been consecrated and ordained and sanctified, he performs nothing at all, but is only playing church and deceiving himself and his followers.”
    -Dr. Martin Luther
    AE 25: 234

  5. Why don’t we just intoduce a resolution to repeal that Wichita foolishness. It is an unbiblical doctrine introduced by men – we should be at least willing to force the upcoming convention to address the issue, and by the grace of God, return to our confession.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  6. Dennis,
    That would be the logical thing to do. However Harrison will never let a resolution like that see the floor of the convention. Harrison highly manages what does and what does not reach the floor of convention.

  7. @GaiusKurious #7

    And there is a key issue. LCMS leadership (COP, Praesidium, and SP) are quite proficient at keeping the truth from the masses. If only we could wake up the sleeping confessionals. That’s difficult to do while LCMS Inc. keeps playing lullabies.

  8. @Todd Wilken #3

    I agree, Todd. Obviously. So why do we let them? And how do we prevent it in our polity?

    @George #4

    George, I see the two things as related. I can’t help but see it that way, since we have over 200 pastors without Calls, and yet we feel the need to make up new offices and training methods.

    @Dennis Peskey #6

    Please have your congregation submit such a overture.

    @GaiusKurious #7

    Bureaucracy exists to perpetuate itself. That may not be its only function, but it is its highest function.

  9. At the point a man is called is a man is a pastor, not at the point a man is involved in a religious ceremony, no matter how pious or traditional.

    “Ordination as an act does not impart an additional authority that the call does not give, nor is it a sacrament.”

    The Ministry: Office, Procedures and Nomenclature (CTCR, 1981)

    Bullet point number 7 is the Romanist position.

  10. @Rev. Alan Kornacki #2

    Dear BJS Bloggers,

    Pastor Kornacki says in #2: “What do we say when the CoP blocks a call from a calling congregation to a man who IS a seminary-certified Candidate?”

    This has happened to me on one occasion that I know about for sure. It happened in the last year or two. I did not know I was being considered for a call, but a layman who has known me since I was in 7th or 8th grade submitted my name to a congregation’s call list. The congregation accepted my name, and submitted their list to the District President. The District President returned their list with information about all candidates, except me. When they asked the District President why he did not give my information (PIF, SET forms) to them, he replied, “I am excluding Pastor Noland for cause.” He would not explain the cause.

    It might explain why the only call where I had a choice was when I accepted the CHI position. My first call was straight out of seminary–I had no choice there. My second, I was on CRM–I had no choice there. My third, I was on CRM—I had no choice there. I have received no other calls in thirty years on the clergy roster.

    I think that the Council of Presidents is “blackballing” me. If not the entire group, then certain members are doing that–and I know one is doing that for sure, due to the case mentioned above.

    I am not aware that I have done or said anything against that District President, so I don’t think it is a “personal” cause for which I am being blocked from that district. I think it is a larger group of District Presidents, and it may have something to do with the people who terminated my call at CHI. That is the most logical thing that I can figure out.

    It is not that I am seeking another call. As long as my people here in Evansville are satisfied with my work, I am happy to stay here.

    What bothers me is that some District Presidents are “blackballing” me–and they won’t say why. I would really like to know so that I can “clear my record.” There is no method for doing that, otherwise I would have already done it by now.

    I share this so that BJS bloggers will understand that some District Presidents are misusing their authority over the call process–for what reason, I cannot fathom.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  11. Martin R. Noland :
    What bothers me is that some District Presidents are “blackballing” me–and they won’t say why. I would really like to know so that I can “clear my record.” There is no method for doing that, otherwise I would have already done it by now.
    I share this so that BJS bloggers will understand that some District Presidents are misusing their authority over the call process–for what reason, I cannot fathom.
    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

    This is where our synodical president needs to hear about stories like this and step in and suspend DP’s that are doing this. This action by the DP’s is WRONG and needs to stop. Manipulation of calls by the DP’s.

  12. @Ralph #12

    The Synod President knows about such things. Or, at least, his office received a copy of my book, wherein I chronicle numerous instances of DPs stonewalling congregations and Candidates. VP Mueller’s article on the November issue of the Lutheran Witness gives me little hope that such abuses will end any time soon.

  13. Rev. Alan Kornacki :
    @Ralph #12
    The Synod President knows about such things. Or, at least, his office received a copy of my book, wherein I chronicle numerous instances of DPs stonewalling congregations and Candidates. VP Mueller’s article on the November issue of the Lutheran Witness gives me little hope that such abuses will end any time soon.

    This is really sad. A complete abuse of power by the DP’s.

  14. @Martin R. Noland #11
    I saw this happen once as an elder of a calling congregation, I contacted the pastor in question myself though, had him send his data to us directly. We called him, he accepted and is still serving that congregation, though the USAF moved me on years since. Any LC-MS congregation can call any qualified candidate, and neither DP can stop you.
    Fight the good fight+,
    -Matt Mills

  15. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    What Mr. Mills says here is absolutely correct, though many laymen do not know it:
    @Matthew Mills #15

    ANY rostered pastor in the LCMS, i.e., someone listed in the Ordained Minister section of the Lutheran Annual, can be called by a congregation to be their pastor, if he is on Active or Candidate (CRM) status. Similarly ANY rostered church-worker listed in the Commissioned Minister section can be called to be a worker in their category (e.g., Teacher), if he or she is on Active or Candidate (CRM) status.

    District Presidents are responsible for SERVING congregations, not dictating over them in the matter of the call process. If a District President will not cooperate, you may do exactly what Mr. Mills did in his previous congregation.

    I am a Waltherian “congregationalist” in this matter, and I have always counseled congregations and laymen in the same way regarding the call. Mr. Mill’s method is not contrary to our Constitution and Bylaws. This is what our Constitution and Bylaws say, and what Walther taught our synod many moons ago.

    Whether or not a calling congregation follows Mr. Mill’s method, I do think it is a good idea for calling congregations to interview the short list of their candidates, either in person, or via conference call. Both candidate and calling congregation can learn a lot from such interviews, and avoid a lot of mismatching (i.e., mismatched skills or personalities).

    Trial sermons are not a good idea, for many reasons. A guy may be a “pulpit-prince” (Luther’s term, in House Postil, 1st Sunday in Advent sermon), but a complete jerk out of the pulpit, a poor pastor (Seelsorge), and a lazy bum. LCMS congregations call “pastors” who also have to preach–that is a good description of the balance of skills required.

    I have to say that my case is an unusual one. The vast majority of our district presidents do not engage in this sort of behavior toward anyone–I know most of them personally from my years at CHI–though none are on my Christmas card list. 🙂

    A blessed Advent and Christmas to you all!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  16. I know my DP engages in such activity. At a former parish I had recommended the name of a fairly well known pastor. I contacted this pastor about whether or not he would be open to receiving a call from the congregation before submitting his name. When the call list came back his name was omitted. Like with Pastor Noland it was stated for cause but no cause was ever given.

  17. @Martin R. Noland #11 Thank you for highlighting a specific abuse, Pr. Noland. It doesn’t matter how many times I hear it, it remains shocking to come across abuses like this. If the DP omitted you for cause, then the cause should have been addressed and resolved. Instead we have yet another instance of arbitrary and capricious behavior that could leave the offender and the LCMS in trouble should someone decide to pursue a legal option.

  18. @Tim Wood #18
    Yes, walking in darkness is not good. If the DP had a problem, he should have said what it is, and then Pastor Noland could share if he chooses.
    Some stuff must stay buried though, if some information came across in Confession.

    Yes, cause should be public, I guess unless (sad to say) libel and other suits may come about.

  19. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #19

    Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. :
    Some stuff must stay buried though, if some information came across in Confession.

    Unless, of course, the DP is sitting in a red chair as he prepares for a Synod Convention.

    Seriously, though, my DPs while I was on CRM never even mentioned the word “Confession.” They weren’t interested in forgiveness–not spoken in the stead of Christ, and not from those who felt the pastor had sinned against them.

  20. @Alan Kornacki #21
    Thus the “problem” in our polity, we do not have Bishops, we have men that are leaders, not pastors; and my DP would confess that. I still bow when I see him and “kiss the hand.” I think I drive him nuts. But I pray for him, he for me too.
    Perhaps my DP is not of a mold as others, and you should know that is Rev. President Gilbert.
    I bug him with some of my concerns, and I am small potatoes, and he deals with a big district.
    I feel for him, and I hope he rubs off on some of those other DP’s of lesser ilk.
    In reality, I have known only two by name and conversation.

  21. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #22

    Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. :
    @Alan Kornacki #21
    Thus the “problem” in our polity, we do not have Bishops, we have men that are leaders, not pastors…

    If, by our polity, DPs cease to be pastors (or cease to function as such), then we are to be pitied above all men. Confession and Absolution should be the first priority in any situation for someone who stands in the stead of Christ. God help us all if we’re not interested in seeking forgiveness or helping conflicting parties to forgive each other.

  22. @Alan Kornacki #23
    Well brother, it appears you are on the roles as pastor, look forward; don’t let the past hurt you and make you bitter. Perhaps that will make you a better hymn writer? Tentatio certainly can lead to some good hymns. I love Gerhardt. And I am here for you. Call someday.

    Gonna join the ACELC? I am thinking about it.

  23. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #24

    Yeah, I’m back on the rolls. That means I have a voice again, and I have a chance to help the 200+ brothers who are languishing as Candidates and Non-Candidates. Bitter was nine years ago. Now I’m an advocate, which means I’m not going to just move on.

    I certainly don’t think it’s a coincidence that I started writing hymns while I was on Candidate Status. I won’t compare myself to Martin Rinckart, but I’ve certainly been in the crucible, and the Lord has used it to open my lips.

    I’m considering joining ACELC. The last time I signed or joined something, though, my DP labeled me as a malcontent and used it against me when I became a Candidate.

  24. @Alan Kornacki #25

    @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #24

    And not only is Rev. Alan Kornacki a hymn text writer, but a very good one. I have had the privilege of seeing many of Pastor Kornacki’s fine hymn texts, and also have had occasion to help him out with a few others. God has blessed Pastor Kornacki with the theology of the cross so that the hymn base of the Church might be enlarged, and also enhanced.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  25. @Alan Kornacki #21

    Seriously, though, my DPs while I was on CRM never even mentioned the word “Confession.” They weren’t interested in forgiveness–not spoken in the stead of Christ, and not from those who felt the pastor had sinned against them.

    Confession to someone who could blackball later you doesn’t seem like a great idea.
    I don’t know the solution to that; I would say seek a Pastor Emeritus, but some of you don’t seem to think they are qualified to preside….

  26. @helen #28

    Even before I witnessed abuses, I wouldn’t have confessed to a DP. Even if he violates the seal, in our current polity and following recent CCM rulings, a pastor would have no recourse to bring him up on charges. Still, I would have appreciated an attempt to work forgiveness between congregation and pastor.

    I’m mortified that I once did PC and A with a pastor who is now a DP. He participated in the Red Chair Institutional Seal-Breaking videos at the Synod convention where Jerry was defeated, and I was disgusted that a group of clergy would think talking about sins confessed to them was a good idea.

    As for an Emeritus guy, I probably wouldn’t have an issue with one if it was someone I trusted.

  27. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #19

    Dear Pastor Prentice,

    You have some good insight in your comment #19, though it may be unintentional, when you talk about “stuff buried in Confession.”

    Dear BJS Bloggers,

    When a District President or Circuit Visitor says that a potential candidate is being omitted “for cause,” the people hearing it assume that there is some sin or error involved. If there is no sin or error involved in the person so demeaned, the statement “for cause” is actually a serious violation of the 8th commandment–more serious because there is nothing specific, and people assume the worst.

    The layman who submitted my name to the call process, as described in my comment #11 above, was so upset by the non-professional and non-Lutheran behavior of that District President that he withdrew his membership from that congregation. I have heard that he has left the LCMS altogether, although that is only hearsay. The point here is that the layman well understood that the District President implied–if he did not say so directly–that I was guilty of some serious sin or theological error that makes me unfit for the pastoral ministry. And that layman knew me wwell enough to know that neither accusation is true.

    As to the confessional seal, I have not confessed my sins to anyone in private, precisely because I have seen how such confession has been misused to threaten, to bribe, and to defrock good pastors.

    And, to my knowledge, though I am a poor, miserable sinner, I have no sins that make me unfit for the pastoral ministry–except possibly for commenting regularly at Brothers of John the Steadfast! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    The regular readers of BJS can judge whether my theology is in congruence with the Holy Scriptures or the Lutheran Confessions–since they have seen my statements and judgments here on a regular basis since the founding of BJS ca. 2008.

    I share my own personal example here with the hope that it will encourage my fellow pastors who have been falsely accused or been mistreated by their congregations, Circuit Visitors, or District Presidents.

    The Gospel pericope this week talks about Mary in her lowliness, which included gossip and accusations of her pre-marital adultery after her pregnancy was known–while in fact she was the most obedient daughter of God that He could find to bear His Son. Those who have been falsely accused, either directly or by implication, can find comfort that similarly false accusations were brought against Mary and later against her Son. It is part of the “cross” that all genuine Christians must learn to bear.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  28. @Martin R. Noland #31

    Dr. Noland:

    Indeed, never let it be said that what you have written and taught in your comments on this BJS site need to be repented of! I’m very glad to have seen the smiley faces behind your tongue-in-cheek comment and understand the jesting behind it.

    Thank you also for sharing your personal history. It is tragic in many ways, but also a blessing in disguise for you (I hope) and certainly for us. Stories like this also make me realize just how even more fearful a day it will be when our Lord returns and the unrepentant secrets of men are made plain. I guess we will find out then what the reason was for why your name was withheld “for cause.”

    God have mercy on us, lead us in true repentance, and strengthen us in true faith in Christ until that time.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

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