At the conclusion of the meeting, COP Secretary Rev. William Klettke, president of the New Jersey District, reported that 221 LCMS congregations were calling sole pastors; 37, senior pastors; and 45, associate or assistant pastors. He also reported that 430 congregations were listed as having temporary non-calling vacancies.
Numbers from all 35 LCMS districts were included in his report, Klettke said. He also noted that since the September COP meeting in St. Louis, districts had reported 21 new starts and seven closures.
What does this hold for May? I assume that those 37 congregations looking for senior pastors won't be looking for seminary graduates. That leaves 261 calling congregations. Do half of them really want seminary graduates? Doesn't there need to be some room for mobility among veteran pastors as well?
Given these numbers do we really need the SeminaryLite of SMP?
And those 430 "temporary non-calling vacancies"? What does one make of them? Didn't we used to keep track of "permanent non-calling" and "temporary non-calling"? Have we lumped those into one category now? I can't see a bail out fund of calls coming from them this spring.
Will the LCMS rationalize its seminary process? Can both seminaries survive without a new method of funding their mission? You've seen my plan for how to save them.
Some have argued that this dip in demand for pastors is like unto the dip in demand experienced during the Great Depression. Things will turn around, they say. But our problems are much deeper today than a mere lack of money in some congregations. In the 1930s we had a robust birth rate and (though we didn't know it then) we were just 10-15 years away from another influx of German Lutheran immigration and a cultural baby boom. None of those things holds for today. Surely it is passed time to face facts and plan for the future we are likely to have instead of kicking the can down the road. I do not envy our Synod's leaders at the district, Synod, and seminary level. I pray God gives them wisdom for the hard days ahead.