From Todd Wilken: I understand that there is a question on the synod’s vicarage application asking the applicant if he is comfortable with any “contemporary liturgical elements.” Of course, it’s a trick question. Like much of the information in the vicarage and call paperwork, this question is based on the assumption that might be something wrong with an applicant who simply answers “No.”But what if the honest answer is “No”?
Of course it is no secret that the same kind of question is on the Pastor's SET (Self Evaluation Tool) which is used by DPs to find out what their Pastors think of themselves and forwarded to congregations looking to call a Pastor. In the SET as well as, apparently, the vicarage application, the question is not a trick question but a means of punishing those who do not agree with the direction toward contemporary worship forms and contemporary worship music. For every DP who uses this information to make sure that he is getting a Pastor who will lead worship and use music consistent with our Confessions, there are a dozen who use it to make sure none of those narrow minded, judgmental trouble-makers get into their districts.
Let's be real here. Flexibility on the issue of worship is considered an asset and anything else triggers a loud buzzer and blinking red light marked REJECT. It is a shocker that this sieve is being used already in vicarage to separate out the wheat from the chaff (the chaff being those who think worship by the book). In the end what counsel would you give? Nothing much different from what Todd Wilken suggests -- lie and figure that you can live with about anything for a year and then bite your tongue until ordination and installation are complete. An alternative would be to say that I uphold the Synod's Confessional position on worship forms and music. That would delay the inevitable question and probably assure you of a call to make an appointment with the Vicarage Director at the Seminary but I doubt it would get you off the hook.
By a few measures I am considered a "successful" Parish Pastor -- I have served in two parishes whose membership, facilities, ministry, and finances have grown substantially during the time I have served there. I wonder if I would make it through the vicarage and placement process today without severely curtailing my tongue and hiding what I really think. Is this what it has come down to?
I do not blame the seminaries. They have to place these vicars and candidates and in order to do so they need the support and cooperation of the District Presidents. They are at the narrow end of the funnel and determine what gets through and what does not. We already know of Districts which refuse candidates and vicars from Ft. Wayne (or deeply restrict their access). Now we have one more hurdle placed before the seminaries - it is as if we all must play the game of contemporary worship and music or we will be disqualified.... Let's pray and work for this to change!