Monday, December 11, 2006

On Finding Pastors to Serve

Recently at the meeting of the COP (Council of Presidents), a new "alternate-route" to the pastoral ministry was again suggested. Details were sketchy, but I'll admit I already have my concerns. You can read the LCMS News Release article here.

Later in the same article they also reported on the number of vacancies in Synod:
"District presidents reported a total of 814 pastoral vacancies in LCMS congregations. Of those, 371 are in congregations that are not calling men to fill those vacancies, and 443 are in congregations that are calling. The category breakdown for the calling congregations is for 328 sole pastors, 54 senior pastors, and 61 associate or assistant pastors."

We have a problem in the LCMS regarding the ministry, which is no mystery to any who have been around a while. Recently I talked with someone in the DELTO program and discovered that there were no requirements for Greek at all. None! I know the Baptists and others don't require this. But now, after all the Luther himself said of the value of the original languages - and after his historic translation of the Hebrew and Greek Bible into German - we are allowing ourselves to say that our pastors have no need for any compentency in this area?

Of course this is only the tip of the iceberg. There was also the major 'adjustment' of the Wichita convention (1989?) when Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession was disregarded when they approved Word and Sacrament ministry for the so-called lay minister. AC XIV says "Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach in teh Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call." (McCain ed.) The "rightly ordered call" has historically been understood as the call into the pastoral ministry, not just a generic call of the baptized, or some 'call' into an auxiliary office created to support the Pastoral Office.

The need for all these alternate adjustments, though, is justified on the basis of a crisis - a crisis of too much need and not enough men to meet the need.

But how true is the so-called crisis? We have new graduates who sometimes do not get calls right away. We have men on CRM status who remain there indefinitely. We have a rising number of retired men (which will increase as the Baby-boomer generation slips into those years).

Do we have a shortage of ordained clergy? I don't think so.
--We have thousands in administrative positions in synod. Do they all need to be there? I was an administrative pastor in my previous call and it is obvious to me that there are many qualified laity that can carry out much of the business of administration the church today.
--We have men on CRM status. Are all of them such that they cannot be called? Or are our churches passing them over deliberately because of their views and convictions (e.g. on liturgy and contemporary worship) - or even their age (yes, there is an age-bias in Synod!).

Considering that we have other options within the pool of the ordained, it seems that we are deliberately looking elsewhere outside the ranks of pastors. Has anyone even discussed the worker-priest or "tent making ministry" model where a pastor becomes bi-vocational? It's possible to do. Why are we not exploring this at the COP?

And as in older years we also worked with the dual and tri-point parishes. I know that many churches chache at 'sharing' a pastor and it must seem easier to just give a church a man for his own, no matter how little training he has. But the synod functioned quite well in the past with the old order. Are we utilizing it as much as we can?

And have we really explored why our churches are biased against pastors already trained and ready to serve? This seems like the pink elephant in the middle of the room no one wants to talk about.

And finally, do we need all the beauricratic machinery that holds synod together at present? Why are there no blue-ribbon committees formed to down-size the IC?

I am concerned about the rout we are taking with the church and the ministry, and I fear that we are opening cans we will not later be able to close - cans containing theologies that will corrupt and damage our overall doctrine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On reading this article I felt a need to comment on your remarks conerning DELTO and "worker priests". Isnpt that what DELTO was supposed to be in the first place, so-called "worker priests" who were employed while training to serve a congregation? That doesn't seem to be the case. What some congregations are spending in stipends, housing, benefits, and tuition costs, they could certainly afford to call a pastor to serve them. Those in the DELTO program (or whatever acronym they are applying to it this year) are not equipped enough to serve and teach, and yet these congregations are paying enough out as to afford an ordained pastor. I thought that DELTO was for congregations that could not afford a full-time pastor?