Friday, January 20, 2012


Undoubtedly you have by now seen that the former bassist of Megadeath is enrolled in SMP through CSL. Well, good for him. I wish him every blessing in Christ.

The scandal in this story is not that the LCMS is about to get another praisebanding pastor - we've got a bushel and a peck of those a-ready. Nor is the scandal in that CSL is trying to get publicity from a semi-celebrity enrollé: any self-respecting institution of higher ed would do the same.

The scandal is this. SMP was sold to the Synod on two premises. First, that we have a shortage of clergy and thus need to ease academic requirements to fill the gaps in our ministerium. This is just false. Seven years on of shortages of calls in May have pretty much convinced even the bureaucrats to stop saying otherwise. Second, SMP was sold as needed to help fill special ministry situations, specifically mentioned were ethnic enclaves. I know, I was there when Larry Rast and Andy Bartelt sold it to us in convention: this was the big selling point. SMP would get guys who just could not otherwise go to seminary through - especially poor folks from ethnic communities who desperately needed native pastors and didn't have 4 years to wait and lots of money to spend.

I've already given you anecdotal stories about good old fashioned German-descended white guys getting in to SMP. I don't need to give you my private anecdotes anymore. Here is a real live rich white guy with a Vikingish last name (and beard!) who gets in to SMP. Why could not the Rev. Sem. Ellefson have just learned Greek and Hebrew and moved to St. Louis for 4 years like the rest of us? He would have received a much better education and been better prepared for the ministry for it. Does anyone honestly disagree? Does anyone honestly think that the regular 4 year programs and the SMP program provide equal preparation for the Ministry?

No. No thinking man of any experience in the Church thinks this. SMP is a second class, dumbed down, mostly distance ed, speed route to ordination. In that it is very unwise. But at least it is not asking men to pretend to be pastors when they are not, as in lay ministry, which is evil.

So, in a contest between unwise and evil I'll vote for unwise every time. But we could stop both. We could end SMP and lay ministry. We really could. All we need is a little leadership. I was glad to see that Larry Rast dared to speak some truth at the Symposia. Any one else in high places want to take up this baton?



  1. Why is Dr. Rast speaking up NOW when he was partially responsible for getting SMPP passed in the first place? I remember seeing him up there up on the stage in Houston 2007. In fact, I took a picture of it.

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  3. Fr. Schenks,

    2007 was a different time in the LCMS and Rast was in a different position. I give him credit that now that he is the man where the buck stops, he is taking a lead in supporting full seminary education as opposed to SMP.

    K - Rossow has the quote over at Steadfastlutherans:

  4. The actual purpose of SMP was to take the individual districts and their "lay ministry programs" and at least get them under some sort of Seminary oversight. I think it has done this rather well... I don't think many districts are doing things on their own... thus, it's main job has run its course.

  5. Fr. Brown,

    No, I don't think this was either the purpose or the result.

    The districts still have lay ministry programs - especially NWD, NED, and KSD. And there are still countless lay ministers out there.

    SMP is being widely utilized by big churches that want to train up their own assistants from within the organization.

    It's not curbing "lay ministry," it's creating a less than fully educated underclass of pastor, and it's allowing larger suburban parishes to hand pick their assistant pastors while isolating them from the Synod as a whole. Unwise from top to bottom.


    1. "And there are still countless lay ministers out there."

      According to the LCMS website there are 153 commissioned lay ministers.

      From the same document we see that there are 9,632 clergy persons, 5,550 of whom are serving in our 6,162 parishes. If we could assume that the number of multi-pastor parishes evenly balances out the number of multi-parish pastors (which is probably not a safe assumption, but I have no other data to offer) that means that there are 612 congregations that are not being served by a pastor. That's 10% of our parishes that do not have a pastor to call their own.

      Again, I'm sure that number is not entirely accurate, but at least it's a starting point until more accurate numbers are made available.

  6. Fr Curtis,

    Fr Brown is right that that was one of the purposes. I remember someone from on high saying as much. Whether it panned out is a different story.

    I think one of the harder problems with removing SMP is the fact that we now have 100 guys paying the seminary big money, yet the seminary doesn't have to house or feed them, and the classes have already been taped. They just need to have a prof organize an online forum, and bring the students in a couple times a year for intensives. This has got to be cheaper for both sides of the equation.

    Couple this with the (obviously) smaller resident population, and seminaries that hired more profs when they had the large classes, and it makes for something that is very easy for the seminaries to officially lament, but never really push for fixing. You were correct a while back -- funding of the seminaries is probably the main issue around several messes. Whoever gives them the money can make suggestions that will be listened to.

  7. Fr. Alde,

    Who said that was a purpose? That was a *wish*. The convention in 2007 specifically turned down a resolution on the floor that would have required just that. There is no requirement on paper anywhere that lay ministry programs be folded in to SMP. So long as that is nowhere on paper, it is nothing beyond fond wishing. Lay ministry continues apace. . .


  8. SMP was presented as a way of providing pastors to small congregations that had no pastor.

    It quickly became a way of providing pastors to large multi-pastor congregations that want to "roll their own" and circumvent the Seminaries as much as they can.

    What will it turn out to be in the future? A bigger problem than the one it was designed to solve, that's what. TW

  9. TW - you got it spot on my friend.

  10. SMP is nothing less than 1/2 of DELTO.

  11. In SMP a person becomes a Vicar "upon matriculation". Thus he is enabled to preach and in some circumstances preside over the Eucharist BEFORE he has even logged on to his first internet class.

  12. Pr. Curtis,

    I am not a pastor or a father of any children.

    Mr. Schenks

  13. What will it turn out to be in the future? A bigger problem than the one it was designed to solve, that's what. TW

    Dr. Hemplemann was also behind getting it passed in 2007. I remember Pr. Dissen telling them at the Floor Committee meeting that they now had two greased pigs to deal with. Dr. Hemplemann did admit that SMP was only a means to get ordained men into the pulpits.


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