Pick Your President, LCMS Style, Part 1

LCMS_corporate_sealEditor’s Note:  The LCMS Presidential Election is set for June 11-14, 2016 through an online voting system.  If you were a delegate to your district convention you should have already received a notice from LCMS Secretary Hartwig about that.  If you would like to know more, click here.

Most people know little about the Synod President, less about District Presidents, and nothing about Seminary Presidents. With that in mind, nine questions posed to the three men running for Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod President shed a little light on Presidential options for LCMS voters. These questions are a compilation of the most frequently asked questions addressed to the candidates on the Synod’s Facebook page as mentioned by Reporter online in a post titled “Nominees for president answer Facebook followers’ questions.” The hyperlinks below take you to each candidate’s responses, which also contain their bio and a personal statement. The candidates are Synod President Matthew C. Harrison, Michigan District President David P.E. Maier, and Concordia Seminary President Dale A. Meyer.

We’ll take a look at three of the candidates’ answers per day, along with a minimal set of my own comments. It appears that the candidates were limited in the length of their responses by the editor, creating truncated answers in some cases, which might actually be better for some people in our meme-enculturated society. The purpose of these posts is to build awareness of the candidates, stimulate thought, and generate a helpful discussion. You’re encouraged to comment. Here we go:

 

 

Question One:

What would you do both to encourage and strengthen Lutheran parochial schools, Lutheran educators, the Concordia University System and the like?

Harrison:

“Hold fast the confession” (Heb. 10:23). Our schools are our crown jewels and a big reason we are younger than all mainline Protestant denominations. They give us a strong health plan and growing numbers in the plan. They are our strongest evan­gelism tool. “Seek the lost” (Luke 19:10). Keys: strong Gospel witness, intentional outreach, connection to the congregation, academic excellence via accreditation. The next generation of administrators is a priority! Our universities are strong but must be stronger. There can be no compro­mise with our anti-Christian culture. “But if salt has lost its saltiness …” (Matt. 5:13). Oppose any government intrusion that compromises biblical truth! Our university task force and presidents composed a ten-point Lutheran identity statement, and all have signed on.

Scott’s comments: Accreditation doesn’t necessarily indicate academic excellence the way a Lutheran would look at it. Accreditation requires the University to jump through a series of hoops which generally have no relationship to Christ’s Kingdom, and may indeed be contrary to it. Also, different and multiple accrediting agencies are involved in the different Concordias, which makes for a cornucopia of differing requirements. We can all sign on to President Harrison’s opposition to the anti-Christian culture and government intrusion, but it is a tall order to actually put it into practice. To my knowledge, the issue of Social Justice Warriors pushing for a politically correct agenda in our Concordias has received very little attention. This is an area that requires much more proactive development by the Concordia University System. The Concordia University System is working hard to improve our Concordias. The Lutheran identity statement is a good step, but it’s likely that every Concordia will claim that they already meet all ten guidelines, meaning there will be little actual change in “behavior” based on one statement and their own recognizance.

Maier:

The numerous communication outlets of Synod, speaking opportunities and discussions within meetings would be utilized to recognize the unique, invaluable ministry of our Lutheran educators, parochial schools and the Concordia University System. We share the Gospel and its transforming power! Next to Gospel proclamation and prayer perhaps our greatest blessing for influencing the world for Christ is through the students, faculty and staff of our day cares, preschools, elementary and high schools and especially through our Concordia universities. Promoting educational excellence and relevance, as well as encouraging God-honoring compensation for teachers would be emphasized … and upheld in daily prayer.

Meyer:

Each college, university and seminary has its own board of regents who, under our bylaws, are responsible for their respective institution. High schools, grade schools and preschools belong to their congre­gations or association. The president has to respect those whom the church has charged with governance of these schools. As a graduate of Lutheran schools and for 11 years the president of one of our key institutions, I know the complexities of private higher education today. Adminis­trators will know me as an understanding colleague and advocate.

Scott’s comment: Did he answer the question?

 

Question Two:

What specific things would you recommend that the Synod do to address the student loan debt of her church workers?

Scott’s comment: There’s no easy answer here. I don’t think it’s so preposterous to think that the Synod could pay for seminary tuition, but without a paradigm shift in current thinking, it’ll never happen.

Harrison:

“Pray the Lord of the harvest send workers” (Matt. 9:38). I recently gathered leaders from the seminaries, Concordia Plans, LCMS Foundation, LCEF and the Lutheran Federal Credit Union. We identi­fied facts and trends. Most students are not heavily in debt. A third are deeply chal­lenged, especially couples that borrowed heavily for undergraduate education. Sems are great at raising money and providing scholarships. Some districts provide great assistance, others far less. Concordias must monitor the debt of pre-sem students. There are debt limits in place for sem entrance. Endowments should be expand­ed significantly. Over the past triennium, Synod has provided $10 million to the sems. God help us to do more (1 Tim. 5:18; Gal. 6:6; Heb. 10:24).

Maier:

I would encourage all students at our universities and seminaries to go through a financial management program like Financial Peace University. Learning to manage our finances responsibly is critical. The Michigan District’s capital campaigns “The Future Is Now” and “Here We Stand” have given, and continue to give, significant financial aid to students going into full-time church work in our universities and seminaries. Synod should encourage such campaigns in all districts and the “Adopt a Student” program in congregations. LCEF’s Education Repayment Loan Program (http://lcef.org/loans/education_min.cfm) is an amazing blessing that should also be emphasized and utilized.

Meyer:

The St. Louis seminary has taken the issue of student debt very seriously and has worked very diligently to significantly reduce out-of-pocket tuition costs for our M.Div. students. Part of the solution is to make the needs known to the people of the LCMS, part of it is sound stewardship on the part of the seminary and part of it is working directly with students on their own financial planning and stewardship. My encouragement will be to develop a “culture of stewardship” wherein we all practice, “Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.”

 

Question Three:

In the context of our walking together as Synod, what is the best way to address the concerns of many that we have individuals who are publicly preaching, teaching and administering the Sacraments without being recognized by the church as pastors?

Scott’s comment: This seems to be a “loaded question,” inferring that Licensed Lay Deacons should be ordained.

Harrison:

“I appeal to you, brothers … that there be no divisions among you” (1 Cor. 1:10). The 2013 convention asked me to appoint a task force to (1) Provide flexibility so that 200+ parishes served by Licensed Lay Deacons will still be; and (2) Get us in line with the Bible (Rom. 10:14f.) and Confessions (AC XIV), such that men who are preaching and administering the Sacraments regularly are called and ordained. I refuse to pit mission against doctrine or laity against clergy. They should be colloquized as SMP pastors (1 Tim. 5:17). No parishes need close. CTCR and seminaries support this proposal.

Scott’s comments:

Who’s going to pay for these men to be colloquized?

Maier:

Licensed Lay Deacons (to whom the question refers, I believe) are generally worker-priests, under or uncompensated, serve under the supervision of an ordained pastor, often assisting pastors at their home congregation’s request. Highly trained, educated and certified annually, those they minister to frequently have no other recourse for Word and Sacrament ministry. I am thankful for their hard work, labor of love, allowing themselves to be used by God in surprising ways. Remembering Paul’s words, “I planted, Apollos watered,” (1 Cor. 3:6) and Jesus’ words to His disciples in Mark 9:40, “for whoever is not against us is for us,” is helpful.

Scott’s comment: What about this?

Meyer:

Those who are “publicly preaching, teach­ing and administering the Sacraments without being recognized by the church as pastors” are not being independent and unmindful of the whole church but acting according to [a] 1989 Synod convention resolution. This issue is indeed troubling the church and can be resolved in a uni­fying or divisive way. Either side can get a majority to impose its position on those who disagree or both sides together can patiently but persistently work toward a resolution that most will embrace. “Seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11).

Scott’s comment: We should seek a resolution that our confessions will embrace, not one that most people will embrace. Truth supersedes majority vote.

 

That’s it for today.  Have a fructiferous discussion.

About Scott Diekmann

Scott is a lifelong LCMS layman. Some of his vocations include husband, dad, jet driver, runner, and collector of more books than he can read. Oh, and also chocolate lover. He’s been involved in apologetics for over a decade, is on the Board of Regents at Concordia Portland, and is a column writer for the sometimes operational Around the Word Journal. He’s also written for Higher Things Magazine, The Lutheran Clarion, and has been a guest on Issues Etc. as well as the KFUO program Concord Matters.

Comments

Pick Your President, LCMS Style, Part 1 — 32 Comments

  1. Good post Scott. About funding: Seminary is not the only question. How about teachers taking on federal debt? When will the strings attached to that bind us to perversion? Can one of our Lutheran financial arms offer student loans? Don’t our students have lower default rates than average?

    Thanks!

  2. The FY 2012, FY 2011, and FY 2010 official 3-year cohort default rates published for various schools (including Concordia Seminary and Concordia Theological Seminary) participating in the Title IV student financial assistance programs is provided in this Excel spreadsheet. More information is at the U.S Department of Education website, Three-year Official Cohort Default Rates for Schools.

    Here is the loan default rate table for the LCMS CUS schools for 2010-2012.

  3. I’m praying my contact with Synodical headquarters remedies the absence of any notice from Secretary Hartwig regarding my ballot information. Maybe District President Meier is still a little pissed about me voting against his resolution to make prayer a law in the Michigan District. I want my ballot ’cause I don’t want this man as synodical president – he’s screwed the Michigan District; please not the entire Synod.

  4. The Missouri District did away with ‘lay ministers’ in their 2012 convention. I wish other districts would do the same. I think lay ministers are often the result of congregations who refuse to support a called pastor. They are trying to get by cheap.

  5. @Carl Vehse #2

    Can’t open, but thanks for the effort. Are loan default rates any better among MO synod Lutherans studying for “church work” than others?

  6. @John Marquardt #5

    I did my best checking in on all district websites (for this 2015 cycle), and was able to read most workbooks, news items, and proceedings. Midsouth is trying to lead by example by implementing the 4-06A task force recommendations, and is ending their lay deacon program. It also appears that Kansas is transitioning away from lay deacons as well. Between an overture, but a different resolution, and a newly elected DP, I’m not sure how all that is working out, but maybe they are ending the practice?

  7. Dear Scott,

    Thanks for an excellent review of these interviews. This is very helpful, in my opinion.

    Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I don’t want to make any negative comments about the candidates, so I will avoid such talk, as I hope others will too.

    Of the three candidates, it looks to me like President Harrison has actually done something about all three questions in this set. That is to be expected, since they are challenges that have been around for awhile, which he inherited from the past:

    1) Harrison helped appoint Dr. Dean Wenthe and Dr. Paul Philp to the Concordia University System. Leadership at the top in this system makes quite a bit of difference, so this was a big step forward in the area of CUS.

    2) Harrison “recently gathered leaders from the seminaries, Concordia Plans, LCMS Foundation, LCEF and the Lutheran Federal Credit Union” to address student debt. This is a big problem that needs lots of help, so this was a big step forward in the area of student indebtedness.

    3) Harrison put together the Res. 4-06A Task Force. I have read their report and recommendations, and think it is the best possible solution. It is both faithful to our doctrine of ministry and preserves the congregations who are being served by these men. I have a little more to say on this topic in the upcoming July 2016 issue of the Lutheran Clarion (to be published online here: http://www.lutheranclarion.org ).

    Questions 1 and 2 are going to be difficult to solve because of entrenched interests, and because our institutions of higher education have weak- to non-existent endowments. We were promised by those who established the CUS that one of its main projects was to build an endowment, or endowments, so that the schools would be established on firmer financial basis and students/parents would not have to pay as much to get their education. This has not happened, as our recent and previous LC-MS Treasurers have noted.

    One solution that I proposed twenty years ago was to make church-worker students a fiscal and programmatic priority on each CUS campus. In the Trinity 1997 LOGIA, I suggested one way that this could be done, though my concern was not HOW to make church-worker students a priority, but that it simply be done (see pages 71-72 here: http://www.logia.org/new-products/6-3-office-offices ).

    In the late 1990s, after publishing that article, I discovered that there were vested interests in the CUS that did not want church-worker students to be a priority fiscally or programmatically. During one interview for a CUS faculty position, a CUS administrator told me I “did not belong at their school or any other CUS school,” because I thought that church-worker students should be a priority. He said that the CUS was going in a new direction, though he didn’t explain exactly what that was.

    It doesn’t make any sense to me that our CUS students should pay more for a college education than what they would be paying for an equivalent B.A. in a public state college or university, especially when their average salaries will be among the lowest of any B.A.-level employees in the United States.

    All of our church-worker students should have lower tuition, room, board, and fees than the non-church-worker students at our colleges. But this won’t happen. The revenue and expense structure of the CUS schools won’t allow it. The universities would go bankrupt in short order if they did that. Frankly, I am surprised that some have not ALREADY gone bankrupt–Ann Arbor was a close call. The financial numbers have not gotten better at most of the schools in spite of administrators’ best efforts.

    The answer may be to do what the Wisconsin Synod has already done. Make one or two CUS schools exclusively church-worker institutions; and make the rest non-church-worker institutions. This will focus synodical financial support on where it is needed most, i.e, those students planning to be church-workers.

    You will find resistance to this plan from CUS administrators, because having church-worker students on campus is an important way that they raise funds from churches and donors. This change will not go easy or voluntarily. It will only come, in my opinion, because of external forces (i.e., government, accreditors, IRS, banks, etc.) that pressure the CUS schools and system to change

    Our seminaries are a different matter. Both seminaries have been doing excellent work in this area, since seminary students who are recent college graduates would have double the debt if nothing was done to address their debt. Concordia Theological Foundation is an important venture in that direction, as is the Joint Seminary Fund. But the indebtedness is still there, and most pastors’ initial wages are pitiful.

    More work needs to be done in this area, without a doubt!!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  8. Scott-
    you wrote…
    “Scott’s comments:
    Who’s going to pay for these men to be colloquized?”

    At the recent Gottesdienst conference this very question was asked. The Rev. Bart Day, Ex. Dir of Office of National Missions reported that for the upcoming fiscal year the Synod has already budgeted monies in anticipation of the influx of SMP/Colloquy students who formerly were licensed lay deacons. So the answer is in part, the Synod general operating fund.
    Peace, Pr. Ball+

  9. @The Rev. BT Ball #10

    I watched Pastor Harrison’s recent conference talk and was heartened. He truly wants to stay faithful AND put some issues to bed. I hope his plan will be supported.

  10. I have 70,000 in student loan debt total from going to Concordia University Wisconsin from 2002-2006 and from going to Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne from 2006-2010. I am on an income based repayment plan with Great Lakes Student Loans and based on my income I owe them $0 a month. I have to fill out the income based repayment plan form every year which is a hassle and send it in to Great Lakes every year for a total of 25 years. After 25 years of submitting the income based repayment plan they will forgive your student loan debt but by the time interest accumulates for those 25 years my total student loan debt will be around $120,000. Also when they cancel the debt on my student loans after 25 years I will be 52 years old and that $120,000 will count as income on my taxes. So when I am 52 years old as my accountant projected that I would owe about $33,000 in taxes. I will not be able to afford that when I am 52 years old and I do not know if the IRS will work with me in owing that much money to them. It is a problem many of us pastors face as we went to a Concordia University and went to seminary to be a called and ordained LCMS pastor. We can keep kicking the debt down the road with the income based repayment plan but when we turn 52 years old that $120,000 student loan debt that will be forgiven will count as income on our taxes. So I pray and hope that when I am 52 years old that there will be some way that I can come up with that $33,000 dollars because I will not be able to pay that much in taxes. Please let me know what can be done to address this student loan issue. Thank you and God bless you. Yours in Christ, Pastor Adam Carl Salinas

  11. I want a president who has enough guts to give himself a pay cut not another raise while there are pastors without calls working at grocery stores making below poverty wages.

  12. I know two of the three candidates personally and could not imagine voting for a president other than the one who chose his administration platform from scripture. President Harrison has a heart for the LCMS and her people as well as those who would become Lutheran. This is not a step up the ladder for him but a calling. This is not an easy job and it takes a walk with God in the trenches to be effective. I would hope the liberal sidecofvthe LCMS sees the wisdom of voting for the man who can help right this ship. President Harrison.

  13. “What would you do both to encourage and strengthen Lutheran parochial schools, Lutheran educators, the Concordia University System and the like?”

    To no surprise, the various responses to Question 1 did not include any mention about Overture 7-18 To Divest Concordia College Alabama from Concordia University System (2016 Convention Workbook, pp. 372-3), as well statements about other overtures (pp. 363-374) which would significantly change LCMS Bylaws on how CUS school presidents and Board of Regents are selected and operate.

    Also, Overture 7-19 To Enable Concordia University System to Maintain Doctrinal Integrity in Face of Existential Threats (pp. 373-4) mentions the “threat” of Title IX, but nowhere does the Overture recommend applying for a Title IX exemption, as 232 faith-based colleges and universities have already done.

  14. It should be noted that none of the most frequently asked questions addressed to the candidates on the Synod’s Facebook page were about Concordia Seminary and the disgraceful selection of the Reformation500 speakers over the last two years.

    Give such ridiculous selections, it would not be surprising if the Reformation500 quincentennial year presentation at Concordia Seminary was given by this person.

  15. I am not excited about any of the three candidates for president. The current president is weak (cf. Sandy Hook) and little if anything is being done to restore true unity in doctrine and practice. Harrison has been a big disappointment.

    That being said, he is still better than either of the other two. If either of the other two got elected it would be like Jerry Kieschnick on steroids. I hope that Meier and Meyer split the liberal/contemporary worship votes.

  16. @GaiusKurios #19
    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think it works that way. You need a majority to win. If the 2 libs split 51% and Pastor Harrison gets 49%, they throw out the lib w/ the lower total and vote again. At which point the remaining lib gets 51% and wins. Splitting the vote isn’t a thing in the LCMS.

  17. @GaiusKurios #19

    > Harrison has been a big disappointment.

    The blessed Dr. Barry probably disappointed people too. But do you have a long-enough memory (you only need seven years) for bad MO synod presidents.

    Your comment is a disappointment.

  18. @mbw #21

    No need to be snarky, mbw. One can express disappointment with a candidate while still recognizing that candidate “is still better than either of the other two.”

  19. @GaiusKurios #19

    @mbw #21

    We have given Harrison “straw” in most districts and “rubble” at the IC
    and expected him to build a brick house out of what was torn down for 10 years.

    Missouri will be better when people at district conventions vote Lutheran,
    …if they want the LCMS to be Lutheran.

    Disappointment is not “snark”… and Harrison with his first words from the podium anticipated “disappointment” and warned us. But we should be disappointed in more than Harrison; it’s irrational to think he could right Missouri by himself.

  20. In talking about some of the district presidents, the operative word is not “disappointment,” but “nauseous.” 🙁

  21. @Carl Vehse #22

    My point was: what SP has not disappointed? I remember more or less constant sniping about Dr. Barry. Who can remember a SP they were not _at_least_ disappointed in? Think about the alternatives, then be highly positive about what we have. That’s my suggestion.

  22. @mbw #25: “My point was: what SP has not disappointed?”

    GaiusKurios gave reasons why he stated that Harrison has been a big disappointment.

    Your statement that his comment is a disappointment is based only on your claim that other SPs in the past have been a disappointment (or bad). If you claim is true, and probably it is, then it would support GauisKurios’ comment of disappointment.

    And one can express disappointment while still being positive, as GauisKurios did in his comment.

  23. Dear BJS bloggers,

    I think it is important to note a couple of the comments here where they admit that folks criticized even the most conservative LCMS presidents we have had since the early 60s. Before that, Burgdorf chewed out Behnken frequently. So is the problem that LCMS is filled with cranky conservatives–or are they normal folks and there is a structural problem that has been around since the 1940s. I suggest you all go to the ACELC website (www.acelc.net ) and watch the video of my lecture at Nashville in April 2016, also the Q&A for my session–watch all the way to the end. Also read the paper that has sections I didn’t read. I saw a lot of “lights go on” that day. Then you just might understand how both the synod president and convention are hamstrung. If you understand that, we might be able to start fixing the problem instead of just griping about it, as conservatives have done for seventy-five years.
    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  24. @Pastor Adam Carl Salinas #14

    Dear Pastor Salinas,

    Our district has benefited from a program funded by the Eli Lilly Foundation. The program is called the Ministerial Excellence Fund, or MEF. Recent news about it is here: http://in.lcms.org/ministerial-excellence-fund-updated

    Your LC-MS district may have a similar program, so start with them first. If they don’t have a program like this, work with your brothers in the ministry, especially those in your circumstance, and get an overture on the floor of your next district convention to do something like this.

    Our MEF is currently sponsoring workshops with Financial Peace University webinars or videos. See here: http://in.lcms.org/mef-going-forward

    If your district or local area doesn’t offer this program, you can sign up for it yourself. Ask your elders whether they would be willing to have the church pay for you to attend an FPU seminar or webinar. If that is a problem, talk to your circuit counselor about it. Somebody should be willing to help you out in this way.

    Older pastors and their wives (I am including myself here 🙂 ) knew that life in the parish ministry means living on a tight budget from ordination to retirement, and thereafter until the hereafter. Luther said something about how the key to financial success is the man earns and the woman saves–or something like that. You have to wrap your mind around the fact that LC-MS parish pastors exist at the bottom end of the middle-class economic spectrum–if they have difficulties, they drop down into the top end of the lower-class spectrum.

    Your particular economic challenge is not impossible, it is just a long term goal. Financial Peace University, and other programs like it, can teach you how to achieve that goal.

    You really need to spend some time explaining your financial situation with your elders. If you stay at that parish for the long term, they should find some way to help you meet your goal. If they help you in that way, you should not take it for granted–not all congregations are so generous. But you won’t know if you don’t ask.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  25. @Pastor Adam Carl Salinas #14

    I have to fill out a form every year to pay $0 on my loan. [And I feel abused about that!] After 25 years I’ll be home free, except for the IRS. (paraphrase)

    To be “free” of the IRS as well, you need to save slightly more that $1000 a year. You probably spend more at Starbucks, or on something equally unnecessary.

    [You probably did, while you were at school, too, to run up that much debt.]

    Growing up on tales of the Depression gave me a horror of debt.
    So we put 3 kids thru to graduate degrees on a parents’ salary of around $50 K; several years they were in school simultaneously. They started saving for it when they were in high school, with fast food jobs. None of them came out with more than $5000 in debt, which they paid off themselves (and one was an LCMS Pastor).
    Nobody had money to waste!

    “What you want and what you need have become confused”… seriously!
    I’ve spent the last 20+ years on a university campus and I’ve seen what students put out on the sidewalk in the spring, because they don’t have room to lug all the goodies home (or don’t want the parents to know how much they’ve spent on non necessities).

    If you couldn’t afford a Concordia w/o going deeply into debt, you probably should have been at a state school. You might have gotten a better education, (unless you did your Greek and Hebrew).

    [I went to a Lutheran college on my father’s life insurance (for tuition) and a board job, but that was so long ago you wouldn’t believe the sums involved anyway.
    Suffice it to say that my first teaching position paid 1/10 of my last school job, but prices were also up 10 times, so the result was pretty much the same.]

    Pardon the rant, but begrudging the paper work
    to get a free ride was the last straw for me!

  26. @jv verne #15

    “I want a president with enough guts to give himself a pay cut…”

    As a good many of the laity who pay those salaries have taken a financial “haircut” regularly since 2008 (and their savings are earning zilch), it would be nice if those at the top recognized those facts.

    But I would like that on the governmental and corporate side, too, so I suppose the answer is: “Dream on!”

  27. @Matt Mills #20

    You aren’t wrong, but there are complications. The system is that if someone doesn’t get a majority on the first ballot you drop the man with the fewest first-place votes. Then you do it all over again with only two men. When there are two “parties” this procedure is guaranteed to elect a man from the party with a majority even if they split the vote on the first ballot.

    However, if there aren’t two parties then things can get very complicated. The system we have in place tends to eliminate compromise candidates, even when that candidate would win a head-to-head election against each of the other candidates.

    Anyhow, voting for your preferred candidate is probably your best option even if it’s theoretically possible that this ends up ensuring the election of your least-favorite candidate…

    Oh, and there are some overtures to clean up election procedures, 11-07 — 11-10.

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