Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Who can be a bishop?
Roman Canon Law 378.1 expects the candidate for the episcopate to be a priest outstanding in strong faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence and human virtues. The same canon states that a priest who is to become a bishop must be at least 35 years old; must have been ordained at least five years previously; and must have a licentiate or doctorate degree in either Scripture, theology, or canon law.
So who can be a District President?
Any Pastor on the clergy roster who is not under restriction or suspension and can get the required number of votes.
Don't get me wrong. I am NOT impugning the character of our current lot of District Presidents (sounds like a business title to me). I am NOT saying that what Rome does should make our tail wag as well. I am NOT saying that academic qualification equates to pastoral gift and skill. I am just wondering why it is that we have practically no qualifications for those we elect to positions endowed with episcopal responsibility (if not character and office)?
A few days ago I questioned whether or not it was wise that the only qualification of those lay folk who go as delegates to District and Synod conventions is that they were duly elected. I wondered aloud if we should not also make sure that those elected can speak to something more than their own conscience and, in fact, by catechetical training be equipped to speak for the Church.
My point today is that we have practically no qualifications for those who serve as our District Presidents. Granted that they are not elected for life and can be unelected (but that happens seldom). Certainly they do not occupy the same authoritative office as a Roman Catholic Bishop (thinking teaching office here since the truth is that by-laws give to DPs almost more raw discretionary power than Roman Bishops have by canon law bound to procedure and subject to review by Rome). But should we not have something more than informal qualities and electability to set in office those who supervise doctrine and practice among us and for us?
Again, the point of this is simply to raise a question. If we expect the DPs to serve as teachers as well as Pastors, theologians as well as administrators, perhaps we should expect something more than competence and more in the area of real aptitude and gift. You tell me if I am out of line...
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I think the bigger problem is that we have DPs who are administrators and not really parish pastors anymore (my Oklahoma and one or two other districts being exceptions). The District President ceases to be the first pastor amongst the pastors, but rather becomes something else.
I'm a circuit counselor - I have duties, but I'm still expected to be first and foremost a pastor, to be immersed in Scriptures and preaching and pastoral care - which shapes how I view even my duties as a CC. If the DP isn't in the parish... what shapes how they view things?
We probably need to figure out what we want the District Presidents to be -- and if they are going to be anything other than just a pastor who happens to also have extra responsibilities to the district, when we probably should establish criteria that fit that office which we have created. Of course, I would that every district were like Oklahoma... but oh well.
District Presidents and even the President of the synod are NOT bishops; they are administrators. Lutherans have been particularly guilty of divorcing spiritual/pastoral care from administration. I know the current President of the Synod is trying to rectify that.
But, consider this: The term President in of itself implies bureaucratic leader. It is something voted upon by delegates who may themselves may not be well catechized. As a result, campaigns are focused more on directions of the synod, much like a business model, and less talk and action about the Church. Changing the term President to Bishop will not solve the problem, I grant. But, maybe it would force the Lutheran church to think that pastoral care is more important than administrative abilities for its leaders.
Coming from Evan-jello-calism, I haven't got the lifelong view of Lutheran polity (vastly different, and yet in some ways the same as Baptist).
I came from a world of elected convention presidents. They generally were administrative policy makers. Arguments over theology (if there was one) usually took the back seat over monetary-related policies. Theology was less likely to be a concern than social issues.
I think this is a symptom of the American disease - pragmatism. William James did us no service. As long as people see themselves as "rugged individuals" instead of a brick in the building (St. Paul's analogy) this will be a problem. The pragmatic will win over the pastoral until American Christians are less worried over cash value than the cure of souls.
District Presidents and even the President of the synod are NOT bishops
I am not so sure that this is true. The Constitution of the Synod defines the principal duty of the Synod President and the District Presidents as "ecclesiastical supervision." This means that the DP is to supervise the teaching and practice of the pastors and the congregations in the district, to provide guidance, advice, and (where necessary) admonition and correction of heterodox teaching and practice.
That sounds pretty close to the function of a bishop in Church bodies having an episcopal polity.
If the DP isn't in the parish... what shapes how they view things?
True. Ask any public school teacher if the administrators that have been out of the classroom longer than 4 years can still understand teaching from a classroom teacher's perspective.
Why can't the LCMS adopt a structure similar to the WELS?
"Evan-jello-calism." Love it, love it, LOVE it! And I am SO going to use it!
If we expect the DPs to serve as teachers as well as Pastors, theologians as well as administrators, perhaps we should expect something more than competence and more in the area of real aptitude and gift. You tell me if I am out of line..."
I am trying to reconcile this idea with this former post.
When we talk about why some men are Pastors..., the discussion inevitably goes to talent or ability -- as if Pastors were born and the job of the Church were merely to recognize those who possessed the requisite abilities or talent for pastoring. But the Church is not running an American Idol or America's Got Talent competition. This isn't a talent show.... It is not as simple as can this man... do the job. Would that it would be such an easy thing to discern -- ability.
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