Saturday, October 30, 2010

Seminary Numbers and An Alternative Vision

This month's Reporter has some interesting statistics on current seminary and "ordination-track" education programs.

Total Seminary ordination-track students: 767
Number of those students in residential seminary program: 545
Number of students in distance education ordination track programs overseen by the seminaries: 222 (127 SMP, 95 ??).

In other words, we are getting to the point where nearly one out of every three new pastors will not be receiving a standard 3 year + vicarage, MDiv education, with day in day out interaction with other students and faculty. Neither Q Party nor Isolation Party will mean anything to these gents. Hebrew and Greek will be hobbies they will have to pick up in their spare time.

In 2007, the SMP program was approved with a vast majority of the votes. Both seminaries sent faculty-administrators to give their imprimatur. Hope was held out that SMP would be used to rein in "lay ministry" and centralize all programs leading to ordination under seminary supervision and control. We were assured that this program would not harm the seminaries' future enrollment. We were assured that this would not become an alternative path to ordination for someone who just didn't want to pack up and move to seminary and pay the large tuition fees.

Well, that was 2007. The subsequent shortage of calls on Call Day, the economic straits hitting parishes and parishioners, the continuance of "lay ministry" programs (though three districts, at least, sent in resolutions to the 2010 convention to stop that), and plummeting seminary enrollment tell another story. (I know a man in the St. Louis metro area who graduated three years ahead of me at Seward - so he is not yet 40. He is smart, capable, as "ethnic" as I am, and currently attends a large suburban church. He is also enrolled in the SMP program. Huh?)

Questions to ask at this point:

1. What would seminary enrollment be if the SMP program and other non-residential and district "ordination-tracks" did not exist?

2. What will a clergy roster of 1/3 distance educated pastors without an MDiv look like? What will that composition mean for the quality of parish education, scholarly output, and denominational reputation? What will it mean for clergy pay?

3. How many more calls would be available if all "lay ministers" had their "licenses" revoked, and district presidents insisted that financially struggling parishes band together in 5-, 6-, 7-, or 12-point parish associations to call a real pastor? Wouldn't this be better than telling men in the seminary that they will need to be "worker priests"? If a congregation can't pay you a full salary and you will thus need a part-time job - shouldn't the first part time job to be considered be another part-time parish? Roman Catholic parishes in this area do just fine with this priest-sharing program.

An alternative vision for pastoral preparation in the LCMS

* End all anti-AC XIV "lay ministry" (see below for details on how). Also end all non-residential ordination track programs and tell the current enrollees that whatever classes they have already taken will be to their credit in the seminary residential program. This will be an easier pill to swallow once you...

* ...commit to once again make seminary cost-free for ordination-track students (You can get $780,000 to spend on this just by ending the CTCR and telling the seminary faculties to perform its functions - one of which is evidently to tell us all to plant gardens. Give me the Synod budget and the cost of making seminary tuition free and I'll find you the rest of the cuts) - this would allow the Synod to....

* ....cap enrollment at the seminaries based on an estimate of the number of calls needed four years in the future provided by the DPs plus 10%. This would allow only the top student candidates to be brought into the program and give graduates a more sure chance at receiving a call on Call Day four years hence. Drop-outs could be replaced from names on a waiting list.

(An aside: * Follow the SELK model of three years of class, ordination, one year of service as a curate, evaluation, and first permanent call.) Update: I have it on good authority in my inbox that this is not a fair representation of the SELK system.

These points would also have the happy consequence of encouraging forthright, realistic, and honest appraisals of future pastoral needs uninfluenced by the desire of the two seminaries to keep enrollment up in order to keep the doors open.

The current Reporter also tells us that, once again, baptized and confirmed membership in the LCMS is down for the umpteenth straight year. How on earth are more pastors the solution to a problem of falling membership? This is a demographic problem that will require a demographic solution (i.e., Lutherans need to trust God to plan their families instead of writing off "Be fruitful and multiply" as an artifact of a bygone era). There's simply never been a Christian denomination that was able to turn around a demographic decline via evangelism. It just ain't gonna happen, friends: ask the Shakers. If you want the LCMS to grow, or just plain exist in 50 years, then start preaching on Psalm 127:3-5.

How to end the current "lay ministry" situations

* Invite all congregations who are happy with their current lay ministers to call those men to the Office of the Ministry. If they will not call a man, then his "license" is revoked. If they continue to employ him without calling him to the Office of the Ministry, they should be disciplined just like any other congregation who seeks ministerial services outside the LCMS clergy roster.

* The men thus called should be examined and, if qualified, certified by the district in which they serve and then be ordained. Since they have not been certified by the Synod at large, they are not eligible for service in the Synod at large but will serve out their ministries in the district that certified and ordained them. Of course, they will be welcomed at the new tuition-free seminaries if they want to be on the Synod wide clergy roster.

* It should be made clear that the above district-certification process is a one time affair undertaken to correct a problem 21 years in the making and will not be repeated.

If not this plan, then what? Can we continue to consider ourselves the world leader in confessional leadership when we have thrown out one article of the Augsburg Confession? Can we expect to be the same church body with 1/3 of our new pastors lacking a formal education worthy of an accredited graduate degree? Can we expect a healthy and dedicated ministerium when each man comes out of the seminary with crippling debt?

One anecdote on that last point. When I was looking at getting an MA in classics at Washington University I first expressed my concern over cost to the department chair. His response: "Oh, well, we know we can't charge tuition for the program - because, I mean, what kind of money are you going to make with a master's degree in classics?"

Verily, the sons of this age are wiser. . .


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wedding Consulation

This is from the perspective of a Roman Catholic organist, but you'll understand.


Comme les Français III

This continues my look at Liturgies et Cantique Luthériens - a rather stream of consciousness first attempt at a review of the French hymnal to come out of Canada. This time I'll give the outline with any necessary translations of Liturgical Setting B. The final setting, Suite C, is a French translation of LSB's DS Setting IV with almost no variation - right down to the music. About the only difference is that LCL deletes LSB's rubric for sharing the peace.

Suite B has a simpler, more traditional chant throughout than Setting A - generally akin to the minor reworking of the traditional Western tones in the Common Service as we know it. Setting B incorporates many of the same post-Vatican II innovations, but in an overall framework more akin to Luther's Formula Missae, which we know as the Common Service in English. If you are a Common Service fan, as I am, but like the Prayer of Thanksgiving, Proclamation of Christ, and Invitation to Communion: Suite B is the rite you would write.

I am certainly favorably impressed with LCL, but it wouldn't be much of a review if I didn't at least cast a friendly critical eye upon the book. Now that I've gone through the three settings for Holy Communion, I do find myself puzzled on a few things.

First, the Words of Institution are not set for chant in any of the three Settings for Holy Communion. That is unfortunate, as the chanting of the Consecrations according to the Gospel tone is one of the unique and beautiful gems in the Lutheran heritage. If Fr. Saar or others with knowledge on the production of LCL are reading, what was the rationale here? Will chant be provided for this in a future accompanying volume - perhaps even published online?

Second, in the Liturgy of the Word for all three Suites, where LSB has "Introit, Psalm, or Entrance Hymn," LCL reads only "Entrance Hymn." So also between the OT and Epistle lessons - LCL has "Psalm" where LSB has "Psalm or Gradual." I hope the committee that produced LCL did not mean to encourage pastors to disregard the traditional propers. Am I missing something here?

Third (and this is a very minor point), I wonder if the setting of the Nunc Dimittis in Suite B (below) is not a bit out of place. Up to that point in Suite B, all the canticles have been straight forward translations set to unmetered chants. Then, all of a sudden, the Nunc Dimittis is set in a metered, two-stanza hymn that is thus necessarily a rather loose translation. Was there any discussion of using the Nunc Dimittis from Suite A or Suite C in Suite B? It seems to me that either of those would actually comport better with the overall feel of Suite B.


The Liturgy of Holy Communion
Liturgical Setting B

Confession & Absolution

The congregation may sing a Hymn of Invocation


All may make the sign of the cross in remembrance of their Baptism.

P: In the name. . .
C: Amen.

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord. . . [Here follows the TLH p. 15 rite]

[Here is how the Absolution is worded:]

God Almighty, in his mercy, has given his Son into death for you [vous]. In his name, he forgives all your sins. Therefore, as a called and ordained servant of Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.


Entrance Hymn
Kyrie (3-fold)
Gloria in Excelsis
The Gloria in Excelsis is omitted during Advent and Lent.

[The entire Gloria is sung by the congregation - no opening line by the pastor only.]

Salutation and Collect of the Day
P: The Lord be with you.
C: And with thy spirit.

OT/First Lesson
P: The Word of the Lord.
C: We give thanks to God.


Epistle/Second Lesson
P: The Word of the Lord.
C: We give thanks to God.


Alleluia [3-fold]
The Alleluia is omitted during Lent

The Gospel
P: The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint ______________, chapter_________.
C: Glory to thee, Lord.

P: The Gospel of the Lord.
C: Praise to thee, O Christ.

Hymn of the Day
Creed (Nicene or Apostles' - with a Church "catholique" in both, by the bye)

Prayer of the Church
P: Let us pray for the people of God in Jesus Christ and for all peoples according to their needs.

P: Lord, in thy mercy,
C: Hear our prayer.

Conclusion of the prayers:
P: Look upon these for whom we pray, according to thy mercy, through thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
C: Amen.

Offertory [Ps. 51]
Offering Prayers [As in Liturgical Setting A]

Liturgy of the Sacrament

P: The Lord be with you [vous].
And with thy spirit.

P: Let us lift up our hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.

P: Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.
This is meet and good.

P: It is truly meet, good, and salutary...[Some of the more interesting Proper Prefaces included in the hymnal: The Holy Week preface is also appointed for Holy Cross Day; The Common Preface is appointed also for Reformation and other occasions; Preface for Apostles, Evangelists, and Pastors; Preface of all the Saints and Martyrs; Preface for Weekdays is also appointed for St. Michael and all the Angels.]

Sanctus [Interesting French in the first half of the Sanctus: Holy God, Holy God, Very Holy God: Lord God of armies, the universe is full of thy glory. Hosanna...]

Prayer of Thanksgiving
P: Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of all creation... [Same as in Liturgical Setting A]

The Words of Our Lord

Proclamation of Christ [Same rite as in Liturgical Setting A]

Our Father [read or chanted by all to a more traditional tone than in Setting A: much easier to sing.]

Pax Domini
Agnus Dei

Invitation to Communion [Same as in Setting A]
Nunc Dimittis [hymn setting in two stanzas, not unlike the HS '98 setting: Let me from this time/Lord, go in peace/For according to thy promise/Thou madest my eyes see/The glorious salvation/For which I waited unceasingly//Salvation which the universe/So many different peoples/Shall receive and believe/Help of the weak/Light of the Gentiles/And the glory of Israel]

Postcommunion Collect [Same three options as in Setting A]

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gottesdienst on Issues, Etc. Today

I'm scheduled to be the first (online) hour of Issues, Etc. today (3-4:00pm CDT) with Fr. William Weedon (and maybe Fr. Brian Holle) discussing "lay ministry" and prospects for restoring AC XIV in our fellowship. Tune in today live or download the podcast later.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Comme les Français II

Here is an outline, with translations as necessary, of Liturgies et Cantiques Luthériens' first setting of the Divine Service. It obviously shows a strong affinity with the post-Vatican II Lutheran revisions of the Divine Service familiar to Missouri Synod folks. While not generally a fan of the direction of the post-Vatican II stuff, this setting does include some nice touches taken from the liturgical renewal movement that I think are well done - especially the taking of the traditional prayer before receiving the Lord's Body right into Order.



The Liturgy of Holy Communion: Liturgical Setting A

Confession and Absolution

The congregation may sing a Hymn of Invocation.


All may make the sing of the cross in remembrance of their Baptism.

P: In the name...

P: If we save we have no sin...[here follows the LW II/LSB I rite]

[Here is how the absolution is worded]
Almighty God in his mercy has delivered his Son into death for you [not thee - and throughout this, the plural second person is used]. In his name, he forgives you all your sins. As a called and ordained servant of Christ [which sounds better in French: a servant called and ordained of Christ], I forgive you all your sins, in the name...

[I find this use of the 2nd person plural odd - but I'm not a native French or joual speaker by a longshot...]

Liturgy of the Word

Entrance Hymn
Gloria in Excelsis
The Gloria in Excelsis is omitted during Advent and Lent

Salutation and Collect of the Day
P: The Lord be with you.
C: And with thy spirit.

OT/First Lesson
Epistle/Second Lession

7-fold Alleluia

P: The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint _______ Chapter _______
Glory to you, Lord (twice)

P: The Gospel of the Lord
Praise to you, O Christ (four times)

Hymn of the Day


Creed (either Nicene or Apostles')

Prayer of the Church


Offertory [The Lord alone is my light - a setting of verses from Ps. 27]

Offertory Prayer [three options here:]

Merciful Father, we offer thee with joy and thanksgiving (action de grâce) that which we have already received from you; ourselves, our lives (temps) and all our goods, signs of your goodness and symbols of your love. Accept them by the love of the one who gave himself for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Almighty God, who favorably accepted the sacrifice of Abel and the offering of the poor widow, likewise accept the gifts which we present to thee, so that they may serve for the advancement of your reign and the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ....

Lord God, all that is in heaven and on the earth belong to thee, and it is from thine hand that we have received everything. Bless this offering which we present unto thee for the service of your Church and of our brothers; through Jesus Christ. . .

Liturgy of the Sacrament

P: The Lord be with you
And with thy spirit. . .

Proper Preface
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of all creation, for thou hast had pity on us....[LW II/LSB I prayer]

The Words of Our Lord

Proclamation of Christ
P: Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus

P: Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, by giving us your body and your blood to eat and drink, you bid us to recall and confess your holy cross and passion, your blessed death, your repose in the tomb, your resurrection from the death, your ascension into heaven, and your return for the last judgment. Remember us in your kingdom and teach us to pray:

Lord's Prayer [read or chanted by all]

Pax Domini
Agnus Dei

Invitation to the Communion
P: The gifts of God for the people of God.
C: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof; speak only a word and I will be healed.

Nunc Dimittis
Postcommunion Collect [same three prayers as in LSB]

Monday, October 25, 2010

Coming soon to a democracy near you

UPDATE: Can anyone out there find a way to contact Fr. Norro so that Gottesdienst might take up a collection to pay his 320 Euro fine and find out if there are any other legal expenses which need to be defrayed?

Our brave and godly brothers in Finland continue to suffer from State persecution. How much longer until Lutherans in Canada, Australia, the UK, and the United States face similar treatment for "human rights violation" or "hate speech"? Indeed, I believe there have already been roughly similar cases in Australia and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal - I'm sure our readers from Commonwealth countries can fill us in more on this.

From the Finnish State media:


HT: Fr. Scott Adle

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The place of "I forgive you..." and a poll on omitting the Preparation

We all learned in our history books that the Mass proper begins with the Introit - that the rite of preparation is just that. In days of yore, Lutherans insisted on communicants who made regular use of individual confession and absolution and thus prepared themselves that way. After the days of Pietism, things have obviously changed: all of our Divine Services now include a rite of public confession with either absolution or declaration of grace and individual absolution is perpetually in the process of being recovered (since the first MO Synod constitution!) with little outlook for recovery.

I have argued here and in the print journal that the old Common Service had it right in refusing to use the indicative-operative formula of absolution (I forgive you...) for public services and opting instead for declarations of grace or prayers (May the Almighty and Merciful Lord forgive us....; Grant this, Lord, unto us all.). In my opinion, this was the greatest improvement in LSB over TLH: restoring the option of using the old Common Service with the declaration of grace instead of TLH's innovative mass absolution.

I am convinced that one of the main reasons our people feel no urgency to recover the historic Lutheran practice of absolution is that since 1941 our orders have encouraged us to toss about the indicative-operative absolution in public worship to a room full of people about whose faith and repentance the pastor cannot likely have an intimate knowledge. Why go to Confession "for the sake of the absolution" if I get the very same absolution each and every Sunday? Since 1941 the currency of the indicative-operative absolution has been infinitely cheapened through usage inflation.

This hit me squarely between the eyes when I was translating the first setting of the Liturgy of Holy Communion in Liturgies et Cantique Luthériens (which I'll post later this week, Dv). I had always understood the "you" in the General Absolution as "thee" - as in TLH's Benediction. It's an individual blessing given, as it were, serially to a group. But in LCL it is not te that is used but vous! And now that I think about it, the editors of LCL are correct in interpreting the intent going back to TLH: while the Benediction is in the singular (thee) the Absolution is in the plural (you). But how can any Sacrament be given to people as a mass of people? We don't baptize crowds indiscriminately (y'all) we baptize individuals (thee). Likewise, with the Supper - it is given for thee.

How can you say "I forgive you" to a whole room of people, some of whom are visitors, many of whom are unexamined, and all of whom have made only a generic, rote confession that rises not even to the level of the Catechism's "one or two things"? Yes, the reply comes, but that's why it's prefaced with "Upon this your confession. . . ": if it's not really your confession, if you don't really mean it, then the absolution does not really count for you.

To which I reply: Bosh. So now we are cheapening sacramental words by making them conditional? This cuts against the grain of the gift our Lord gives us in John 20. Why do you need to make it conditional? If you don't think this person has true repentance and faith then these are not the words you should be saying to them, for, "Our word to you was not yes and no..."

(An aside: I gained some grudging respect for a certain pro-open communion professor at the seminary when he said to our class of first year seminarians: How can you not commune everyone if you just forgave them all their sins a couple of minutes ago? He was right: how can you not? Is your answer, "Upon this your confession"? That's a pretty lame response in my book; those words just won't carry that weight. Either commune them or stop it with the blanket indicative-operative absolution that you don't actually intend to cover all the people who hear the words.)

So either way you cut it, the words based on Jesus' institution of Absolution in John 20 (I forgive you...) are, in this parish pastor's opinion, most properly used only in individual settings. Or, to say all this much more succinctly: You should not say, "I forgive you," to someone unless you know, as much as any responsible undershepherd should know, that you shouldn't be saying, "I bind unto you..."

As I said above, we've covered this ground before. If you want my advice, make use of the LSB option for using a prayer for forgiveness or a declaration of grace in public settings. But there is another option for doing away with the general indicative-operative absolution: to omit that rite of preparation altogether and begin the Divine Service with the Introit as our history books taught us was once the case.

How often, if at all, is this done in your parish? Under what circumstances? How was it received by the congregants? Has it had any affect on the number of people who seek the Sacrament of Absolution?


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Comme les Français I

Upon our own Fr. Beane's suggestion I picked up a copy of Liturgies et Cantiques Luthériens, the new hymnal of our brothers in the LCC/ELC (l'Église luthérienne du Canada). From conversations with various friends and acquaintances, I know that the ELC worked closely with CPH on putting this together - but that would have been obvious anyway. LCL shares with LSB the same dimensions, fonts, type-setting, and so forth (though in Bourbon or et bleu).

The similarities don't end there - these are, after all, hymnals of two churches in fellowship with each other - but this is in no way a French LSB. Even where the editors took over features they liked from LSB, LCL is its own book. Indeed, it is clear they benefited from seeing LSB and building on the fine work done in that hymnal. For example, the choice of prayers in the inside cover was obviously influenced by this feature in LSB. But the LCL editors added a prayer for "After Individual Confession and Absolution" and the wording of many of the prayers is not a French translation of the English. For example, compare this translation (all translations below are mine) of LCL's prayer before Confession & Absolution to LSB's collect:

My God, give me the light necessary to recognize my sins and the grace to hate them with all my heart and to confess them with sincerity. I ask thee this grace by the merits of Jesus Christ my Savior. Amen.

Almighty, everlasting God, for my many sins I justly deserve eternal condemnation. In Your mercy You sent Your dear Son, my Lord Jesus Christ, who won for me forgiveness of sins and everlasting salvation. Grant me a true confession that, dead to sin, I may be raised up by Your life-giving absolution. Grant me Your Holy Spirit that I may be ever watchful and live a true and godly life in Your service; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

Both prayers are good, right, and salutary - but the LSB prayer is, shall we say, a little preachy: its intent is obviously to teach. The LCL prayer is simple and devotional. Both kinds of prayer are good - but I think LCL struck the better tone in matching this kind of praying to a pre-confession prayer.

The sanctoral calendar in each volume provides interesting comparisons - no St. George, patron of the English, for our francophone friends; no saint Denis for us. LCL has a bit fuller calendar than LSB - about 10 more commemorations are listed, something of an improvement, but one still wishes for a full Lutheran calendar from a major denomination. Daily Divine Service Book reproduces such a calendar based on Loehe's efforts - but a daily meditation on the lives of the saints is still not available from any major Lutheran body.

The LCL includes only a version of the three year lectionary. As someone who is quite fond of the historic lectionary for a number of reasons - not least of which is the ability to read the sermons of the fathers on every Sunday's text - I find this disappointing. In the comments, perhaps someone can fill us in on the status of the historic lectionary up North.

Closing out the lectionary section is a very handy calendar showing the dates not only for Easter but also Ash Wednesday, Ascension, Pentecost, which proper number in the 3 year system falls on the week after Trinity (and Fr. Stuckwisch wonders why I don't like this lectionary!), and the first Sunday in Advent all the way out to 2054 (LSB does only Easter out to 2050).

The Psalms in LCL are a great improvement over LSB save in one regard: LCL also does not include all the Psalms, in fact, it appears to include even fewer than LSB. This is a much lamented "feature" of our hymnals and I won't spend time on it here. The improvements over LSB come in the music and layout of the text. The text is very easy to read, in a single column, and uses bold print to show where the movement in the tone comes. Several psalms also have antiphons, which remind me of the psalm settings in Hymnal Supplement '98. The psalm tone itself is on a different system than LSB and is obviously more akin to the Gregorian originals - which is not surprising as the way in which French is sung is more amenable to the Gregorian stress patterns. And the tone for each psalm is not only included above each psalm, but also repeated if the psalm spans more than one page. For those of us who find it very helpful to keep our eyes on the notes when we sing the Psalms, this is a big plus. Another user friendly feature is that the upper outside corners of each page give what Psalm is on that page whereas LSB simply has "The Psalms." As my elementary school students can attest: it can be tricky to find a Psalm in LSB.

This is getting long and I'm not even out of the Psalms yet. . . next time: at least one of the three Suites liturgiques for Holy Communion.


Monday, October 18, 2010

This Week's Poll: Baptism

We didn't get a poll up last week what with the festivities in Kewanee, and with all the other news around here we also didn't get a chance to call attention to the last poll we had on the reservation of the Sacrament. A slight majority of our readers reserve the Sacrament either against the next communion (34%) or specifically for distribution for shut-ins throughout the week (18%). For a number of reasons I've stated before, I prefer the minority position of consuming all that is consecrated at the Mass, at that Mass (47%).

But on to a new topic today. How is Baptism most often celebrated in your parish? From Luther's Taufbüchlein it is clear that the prevailing practice was baptism outside of the Divine Service. In our day, I suspect that it is quite the opposite.

I'm torn between the two. On the one hand I like to use the full baptismal liturgy and setting this Sacrament apart with its own service. On the other hand, if one makes a habit of this the congregation rarely gets to see a baptism. But using the whole Baptismal liturgy in the Divine Service is often impossible because of scheduling on Sunday morning (my early service simply cannot run 15 minutes over, for example, or I cannot make it to the second parish on time).

At right please note what the prevailing practice is at your parish and in the comments give your thoughts on this pastoral dilemma.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Church Workers

While we're at it, there are plenty of lousy terms to go around. "Public ministry" is certainly one of them, but I think the worst has to be "church workers." I think of guys in hard hats.

It would be funny, but the truth is that it denigrates the Holy Office.

I suppose someone could answer that you need a term for that section in the synodical website. What are you going to call pastors, teachers, and deaconesses (are they listed in there too?), all at once.

Answer: how about "Pastors, teachers, deaconessess"? Is that really so hard?

In addition, "church workers" has to be about the clumsiest designation I've ever heard.

Of course it has plenty of longevity. I think St. Leo the Great was the first to use it, during the controversy with Dioscorus. Just kidding.

New administrations in the LCMS have a way of putting their mark on things. The Bohlmann administration gave us the current LCMS cross (ah, more on that later, sometime); the Barry administration gave us those nice little "What About" tracts; the Kieschnik administration gave us, well, you know . . .

So here's a suggestion to pass along: how about the Harrison administration making a review of our nomenclature?

Church workers? Honestly.


Friday, October 15, 2010

The Ministry of (not or) the Word

Over the past couple of days I have been participating in a private discussion with a handful of sharp reverend fathers concerning the ministry, AC V, and the efficacy of the Word. A perennial question, it seems, when these discussions take place among us is: what about the Word apart from the ministry? The Word is the Word is the Word, right? So reading the Bible at home is the same or better than hearing a sermon. Or is it? Or something.

Doctor Nagel's chief insight, in my opinion, is that we should receive the gifts of God as he gives them. When we start cutting them into pieces - always with the excuse of figuring out a hard case, or of gaining greater theological acuity - we mess it up. This brilliantly simple and clear insight works with so many topics: family morality (sex, marriage, babies: one gift), the apostolic succession (Office of the Ministry is one gift - you can't cut the presbyter bit out of the apostle and only give that to some guys while giving the whole episkopos shebang to another), and here with the Ministry and the Bible.

Luke actually takes the time to really drive this home to us in the Acts of the Apostles. In chapter 8, with Philip and Ethiopian, we see that while the Church only knows doctrine from the Scriptures (sola Scriptura), she never knows a Scripture that is alone apart from the Ministry. "How can I understand what I read unless someone guide me?" Indeed! Ministry and Word - a gift given together. But just so that you don't get the wrong idea , a few chapters later we have the Bereans. Even an apostle is not to be believed just because he says so - the Bereans are noble for keeping the ministry connected to the Word by holding the minister to the Word.

So can a person become a Christian apart from the ministry? Can a person become a Christian apart from the Scriptures? Refer the person asking the first to the Ethiopian and the person asking the second to the Bereans.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gottesdienst Spies Are Everywhere

Well, it doesn't really rise to that level of intrigue. A student anonymously sent me the outline used at CSL's new monthly (or maybe it's biquarterly) small group meetings which occur in lieu of chapel on a given Tuesday. Since it came to me anonymously, I'd appreciate it if any of our CSL readers could chime in below in the comments to verify that this is in fact what is being used. At any rate, it's not a "secret" document, or at least it shouldn't be: the LCMS at large is paying for this and has oversight of the seminaries, so folks have a right to know what's going on.

I had a chance to ask Prof. Gibbs about this doing away of chapel every once in a while when he was down at our SID pastors' conference. He said it arose from a campus-wide study of Life Together a couple of years ago. Thus I quipped that it was quasi quasi-monastic: an imitation of Bonhoeffer's imitation of the lighter side of monastic life.

Sigh. Wouldn't our future pastors be better served by learning the church's worship from Lutheran Service Book? Isn't this teaching them that corporate worship can just be replaced by small group study? Or perhaps that small group study really is the same thing as gathering corporately to hear Christ's called and sent minister preach the Word?

And those are just some of the problems you think of before you even read this. . .

S for Scripture

Read the Lesson. Note, highlight, or underline words or phrases from the text that catch your attention. When you are done, look for a verse or phrase that particularly caught your attention, and write it below:

O for Observation

What do you think God is saying in this verse? Paraphrase and write this scripture down in your own words below:

A for Application

Personalize what you have read, by asking yourself how it applies to your life right now. Perhaps it is admonition, forgiveness, deliverance, instruction, encouragement, revelation of a new promise, or corrections for a particular area of your life. Write how this scripture can apply to you below:

P for Prayer

This can be as simple as asking God to speak this Word to you, interceding for others
in the basis of this Word, or seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance to live out this Word in
faith. Prayer is a two way conversation, so both speak to God and listen to God’s voice through His Word! You may write the prayer(s) out here:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On the President's Part Time Job

Father Matthew Harrison, President of the LCMS, just received a call to serve as assistant pastor at a local St. Louis area parish. Such things don't happen without a little prearrangement - so what does this decision by Fr. Harrison mean?

Overall, I think it is a positive development. It is a loud signal of two things. First, his desire to take a churchly approach to administering the LCMS. Second, it is the latest chapter in Fr. Harrison's obvious affinity with the early history of the LCMS (See: At Home in the House of My Fathers).

It is this second point that contains a potential negative aspect to this new part time job for the president. It was once common in the Missouri Synod to say that a "clergyperson without portfolio" (In Dr. Scaer's felicitous phrasing) was not really a clergyperson. That once you didn't have a call to a parish you were not rite vocatus, could not administer the Lord's Supper, ceased to be a minister.

This is nonsense and I have already been somewhat disappointed by analyses of this new part time time job that have called on AC XIV. Father Harrison received his call to serve the church in the process that culminated with his ordination and included his seminary education, examination, and election to the pastoral office.

Your ordination marks the end of the path of the church making you rite vocatus. Everything after that is detail work.

So let us congratulate both Fr. Harrison and the parish that will gain his not inconsiderable pastoral service on a part time basis. And let us hope this portends a churchly approach at the purple palace. But let's not return to that unfortunate theology that would insist that he wasn't rite vocatus this past Saturday.


Octoberfest Review

If you weren't in Kewanee this past Sunday, Monday, and/or Tuesday, then I am sad to tell you that you missed the Best Octoberfest Ever. It's hard to summarize two hours of conversation, four hours of presentation, and a sermon from Prof. Scaer - but he brought the house down. The main attraction at Octoberfest is really the gathering of good pastors - what an encouragement to drink a beer and converse with these guys! Next year, do what it takes to get to Kewanee. And watch for more regional gatherings. . .especially in the Kansas City area.

Finally, like all the sermons in the back of CJ, this Octoberfest had Three Main Points.

* Scaer: Serve the congregation for the sake of Christ, not Christ for the sake of the congregation.

* The liturgically minded Gottesdienst Crowd (tm), to a man, marry far above their station.

* That new guy from Iowa East with a buzz cut is a MENSCH.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Poll on Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament

We had some more discussion on the practice of reserving the Sacrament of the Altar last week and part of that discussion turned toward us all wondering just how widespread the practice is. The poll this week will at least let us know how widespread the practice is among the readers of this blog.

October is also the season for pastoral conferences - so don't forget to sign up for the best pastors' conference of them all in Kewanee!


Friday, October 1, 2010

Update on the Pastor Glut in the LCMS

With the new administration in the LCMS, there seems also to have come some forthright speaking from the top on the actual level of need for new pastors in the LCMS.

COP Secretary Rev. William Klettke, president of the New Jersey District, reported that, as of September, 209 LCMS congregations were calling sole pastors; 33, senior pastors; and 33, associate or assistant pastors. He also reported 203 congregations with temporary non-calling vacancies and 395 with permanent non-calling vacancies.

As a frame of reference, Klettke also listed the numbers for September 2007: 349 congregations calling sole pastors; 58, senior pastors; and 83, associate or assistant pastors. That same month, there were also 418 congregations listing non-calling vacancies, compared to the total of 598 in September 2010.

In 2007, the report did not distinguish between temporary non-calling and permanent non-calling vacancies, Klettke said.

"There is not a lot of mobility these days," said LCMS First Vice-President Rev. Herbert C. Mueller Jr., referring to the report and the state of the economy. He also added, "This is the lowest number of calling congregations that I remember and the highest number of non-calling congregations."

The COP's next meeting is Nov. 16-17 in Nashville, before the 2010 Lutheran Church Extension Fund Fall Leadership Conference there.

Please note, the pastoral labor market is about 40% tighter than it was just three years ago.

If you are planning on going to seminary, have a back up plan. No one can guarantee that you will come out of the seminary - which for almost all students means lots of debt, and for many students means great family disruption - with gainful employment. If anyone tries to tell you that of course you will get a call, that it will all come right, that a pastoral shortage is just around the corner - he is simply wrong, or daydreaming, or a liar: and it's you and your family who will have to reap the consequences, not the fellow with the rose colored glasses.

If anyone tells you that we are headed for a time when guys just need to plan on being "worker-priests," please refer him here. A worker-priest situation is a sad necessity for far too many pastors today. Woe betide the fellowship that seeks to turn a sad necessity into a chosen pattern of ministry against a Dominical command.