In the preliminary sections, the Concordia Seminary response takes us through a little history lesson. One glaring omission from the section on the New Testament is the lack of any clear statement that the pastoral office is not established by the Church but by the Lord and is not optional for the Church. Second is the implication (either accidental or intentional) that the primary focus of this office is to preach Christ (absent any equal weight given to the Sacraments) as if the function were divinely initiated but not the office. I may be reading too much into what is missing but it seems to me that this omission may be telling.
In the section of the Reformation, the seminary that once was home to Dr. Arthur Carl Piepkorn has now decided the rite vocatus includes no reference at all to ordination. Hmmmm.... That's different (as they say in Minnesota when they disagree). It would seem absolutely incredible to focus on "call" as we understand it today to be the definition of the Latin, especially considering that Rome in the Confutation seems to have had little concern about Augustana XIV as a clear statement of catholic teaching and practice.
We read from the Seminary:
Ordination is not mentioned, probably because Melanchthon wanted to avoid the sacramental implications associated with it, even if he could admit, by changing the definition of “sacrament,” that Lutherans approved ordination as they understood it (Apology XIII). “Properly called” (in Latin, rite vocatus; in German ordentlichen Beruf) meant, in 1530, “decently and in order” according to the expectations of the Roman Catholic party within the German Empire.
It seems highly speculative that Melancthon was so concerned since the whole nature of the first twenty or so articles of the Augustana was to establish those areas largely in agreement with Rome. It seems to me that the authors of the Seminary document are slanting history a bit to justify their own conclusions (read further).
In the end the Concordia Seminary response says:
- There is no need to narrow the specificity of the SMP program. Here the claim is made that there is no Biblical or theological warrant for such narrowing. In effect the Seminary response admits the glaring weakness of the SMP program when it asks why would smaller congregations need a pastor with “lesser training” than a congregation with several pastors on staff? In essence the Seminary is admitting the flaw within the SMP program, namely that it provides clergy with equal responsibility but lesser training.
- The Seminary does not believe study is needed by others; they insist that they are doing all the studying necessary for the integrity of the program. Personally, I find this a big disingenuous.
- The Seminary thinks Greek is nice, good if you have it, but unnecessary. I might ask (as one who had Greek for all of Junior College and Senior College) why is it necessary for any if it is not necessary for all? It seems a stretch to justify this at the residential seminary level and insist it is burdensome and unnecessary at the distance learning level. Many find Greek burdensome. If it is optional for some, should it not be optional for all? I am being a devil's advocate here since I think Greek IS beneficial.
- The Seminary is not worried about the effect of the SMP program on residential seminary education. If I were on staff at the Seminary, I would be concerned. Sure, the SMP people so far might not have enrolled in the residential program but the greater issue is whether over time we will be able to justify the high cost of residential seminary training when a cheaper route exists which does not require you to leave your home, job, and "ministry location." That pricey real estate in St. Louis is not cheap to maintain and the faculty is not free. Perhaps we could sell it all off, train everyone by SMP program rules with parish pastors serving as part-time instructors. Well, we could. Then what would Concordia Seminary say???
- Concordia Seminary seems to think that the idea of an ordained diaconate is problematic at best and downright unLutheran at worst. Interestingly, the sem folks seem to undermine their whole position earlier when they say: the Lutheran Confessions do not regard “ordination” as that which qualifies one for the office; rather, it is that the candidate be “rightly called,” of which ordination may be viewed as a recognition by the wider church of this man’s training and call. However, by no means is ordination a necessary element. Here it seems the Seminary is trying to distance itself both from the licensed deacon programs of the Districts (which I also regard as suspect) and lump the whole thing together to say not now and not ever. Personally, I think that if we need to assist the pastoral office, a permanent diaconate could be just the thing -- and it is thoroughly consistent with the catholic and evangelical tradition our Confessions claim.
In the end I am less impressed with the Concordia Seminary response than I had hoped. It seems to say, keep what we have, don't worry be happy, and we will make sure everything is okay. None of those can I agree to without a great deal of anxiety -- especially given the track record of our Synod in convention and the direction of the Seminary in St. Louis over the past several years.
Here are the resolutions offered to the Convention in the wake of both reports.