Saturday, September 25, 2010

Some Thoughts on Brain Drain...

A million years ago, before many of my readers were born, the Missouri Synod suffered a schism in which the complaint was made that the people leaving represented the intelligentsia of the LCMS.  This was called the brain drain of Missouri when 801 (the old name for Concordia Seminary, St. Louis) became a ghost town and Seminex was set up at 1500 North Grand.  Considering that Missouri had deposited much of the teaching authority of the Church to the Seminaries (make that Seminary since Springfield was considered a practical "how-to" school instead of a full fledged seminary), it is easy to see how this conclusion might have been made. 

In the years following, there were some brains in Missouri but since these were the conservative brains they were not as brainy as the brains who left.  The Preus brothers, certainly brains but markedly conservative ones, were seen as villainous brains who should have used their schmartz for good instead of for evil.  Others, like Bohlmann and Scharlemann were considered brains who defected to the dark side.  It appears, at least in Bohlmann's case, that his defection was not fully complete.  Oh, well, I digress in the fun of painting these painful events in Missouri's history with a bad attempt at humor.

The point was that the brains who left were bright, outgoing, world engaging, highly respected, academic, and the future of Lutheranism types.  They took with them the best of Lutheranism's hopes -- the good was that some of them at least helped birth a new Lutheranism in the ELCA in 1988.

Now we swing 20 years after the ELCA and 36 years after Seminex, and we hear of another brain drain.  This one is made up of the intelligentsia of the ELCA who are abandoning Lutheranism mostly for Rome (though a few went to Constantinople).  They are decried as Lutheranism's bright lights who have left us empty of the folks with the kind of schmartz necessary to save Lutheranism from its ugly slide into the abyss of generic or mainline Protestantism.  But, these folks left not for wider gates and broader paths.  No, they left for the narrow way of no women's ordination, for the rigid imprisonment of the mass form, for a centralized hierarchical authority, and for a teaching magisterium with teeth.

Missouri's brain drain headed for open minds and open hearts.  ELCA's for closed minds and closed hearts (meaning to culture and its influence upon the Church).  Well, which is it?  Have the brains changed or the causes changed or is it possible that we decide brain drain on the basis of who that agrees with me left and who that agrees with me stayed?

Missouri's brain drain was overplayed.  We have at our Seminaries (Fort Wayne, in particular) world class theologians and Bible scholars who are the bright lights of Lutheranism in a sea of rather dim and dark lights (at least across Europe and America).  We have individual scholars in their own rights who choose to live in and exercise their pastoral gifts within the parish setting (the list of names here is phenomenal).  We have a resurgent publishing house putting out the reprints of the best of the past, new works never before available in English, and brand new works by many of these newer authors (both from within academia and the parish setting).  We have musicians and theologians and liturgiologists who put out now only a hymnal but a wealth of material surrounding it and an amazing technological feat to help the parish pastor apply it to the Sunday morning setting.

Yes, there are some folks I miss terribly... folks who left for the ELCA, for Rome, and for Constantinople.  Yes, there are some folks who we thought were one thing but whose actions since leaving have proven otherwise and, sadly, we have not lost much in their leaving.  Yes, some of those who made an exodus away have left a gulf of emptiness but it was quickly filled.  And the folks who filled the gap have proven to be very good for Missouri and for Lutheranism in general.  I need look no further than the Office of President of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod to point to one example. 

So, I am not so sure about this brain drain thingy.  Missouri has done okay.  I cannot say for the ELCA because the full impact of her choices are still being wrestled with and new church bodies have been formed in result.  But God has not left us with out brains enough to lead us ad fontes -- to the sources that both formed us, define us, and guide us in the way we relate to others and to the world.


Rev. Kevin Jennings said...

Hi, Pastor Peters!

Don't forget the best part of the walkout story! After "walking out" to DeMun Ave., the walkers returned to the campus to eat lunch!

Anonymous said...

These 4 scholars come to mind when the LC-MS brain drain is discussed:
Martin Marty, Jaroslav Pelikan, Jack
Dean Kingsbury, and Frederick W.
Danker. They left in the 1970's and
were considered world-class minds in
their respective fields of expertise
as well as authors of numerous highly
regarded books.