Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Troubling News

Although I am not one to peruse the many blogs of those wired into the political campaign for Synodical President or those seeking to make a stand on BRTFWHATEVER restructuring proposals, I have heard a number of disconcerting things related to Synod, the election of President this summer, and the transformation of the LCMS structure.

First and most important is the sad news that between 20-40 seminary graduates do not have calls.  While there are those who say that work is being done to secure calls for those without and that a summer placement is still possible, it highlights a serious disconnect between image and reality.  For years we have been hearing the push for more seminarians, we have invented ways to short circuit the seminary route (DELTO, SMP, etc.), and we have been raising more and more money to cover the costs of preparing these men.  Why?   Because we have been told the need is urgent, that many are retiring or near retirement, and that many Pastors are leaving the ministry for a variety of reasons.  It turns out that such is not exactly the case.  We have a very small number of congregations issuing calls for Pastors from the field (something less than 100 for all of Synod!!)  We have an ever increasing number of non-calling congregations who are not planning to call a Pastor but remain permanently "vacant" (choosing to cover their needs with part-time or retired Pastors serving as needed or deacons -- many of which doing Word AND Sacrament ministry in violation of our Confessions).  We have a shrinking number of call situations also because Pastors who own their own homes are not as mobile as those who used to live in rectories or parsonages (especially as the housing market has declined).  And we have an increasing number of non-candidate Pastors on our clergy roster (those without calls, not seeking calls, or employed outside the Church). Things are not good in this department -- all the way around.

Second is the issue of the election.  A St. Louis newspaper article interviewed the current President, Kieschnick, who is quoted as believing he has high job approval numbers even thought he was trounced by nominee Matt Harrison in the nominations tallies from the congregations.  Another source has him saying "I will win; I have a plan" (perhaps secret or not).  This is disconcerting because while there have always been political overtones to this election to churchly office, this represents an over the top political campaign which is distinctly unchurchly.  In addition, we have had character defamation on both sides and vitriolic publications on both sides -- all increasingly more unseemly.

Third is the restructuring issue.  Come to find out that a half a million -- read that $500,000 -- was spent on consultants relating to the packaging of the restructuring proposals, surveys of opinion, and the best way to market these proposals to the larger church as well as the convention delegates.  The study is confidential and only bits and pieces have come out but the whole thing has the stink of a political movement.  While not everything can be transparent, this is an area where transparency is essential.  We as a church body are being asked to make wholesale change in who we are and how we work.  Much of it will end up centered in the office of Synodical President (staff control and accountability, direction and oversight, and budgetary control).

While I do not know who to blame or who to laud at this point, I know that it is time we prayerfully giver answer to these issues and challenges.  The life of this church body will hinge on decisions made in Houston in July... and Houston, we have a problem...


Carl Vehse said...

The Final Report to the President's Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance from Bredholt and Co. is now available to read.

Pr. Chris Hinkle said...

Could the lack of calls be a prelude to growth? There have been periods in synod's history where "excess" candidates were sent to plant multiple congregations.