Editor’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:
What would you do both to encourage and strengthen Lutheran parochial schools, Lutheran educators, the Concordia University System and the like?
“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.
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.
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?
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.
“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).
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 (https://lcef.org/loans/education_min.cfm) is an amazing blessing that should also be emphasized and utilized.
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.”
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.
“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.
Who’s going to pay for these men to be colloquized?
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?
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.