Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Bishops needed now more than ever. . .

I read a while back “The End of the Imperial Episcopate,” in which Father Jay Scott Newman has some ideas about that which has created a climate for the Roman Catholic Church's current dilemma. One of the things he wrote is something that I have been saying for a while, not about Rome but about the LCMS and, indeed, all Lutheran bodies.  He suggests that too many bishops have become simply distant managers, administrators, whisperers to governmental agencies and elected officials, and CEOs of a religious enterprise instead of being bishops -- that means administering ecclesiastical oversight as models and supervisors of faithful doctrine and practice within their jurisdictions.  While he is positing this as something that has contributed to today's problems in Rome, I believe it is true across the board, certainly within my own denomination.

For too long we have minimized the importance and the essential character of ecclesiastical supervision and instead emphasized administrative competence and a coaching role for those who are assigned episcopal ministry.  That has been to our poverty.  We do not need bishops to serve as politicians, managers, administrators, counselors, visionary leaders, or coaches.  We need bishops who act like bishops -- people who teach, shepherd, watch over, hold accountable, and, if and when necessary, discipline those within their charge.  You can quibble about the title bishop (as I am sure some commenters will) but the essential role and responsibility of bishops must be handled faithfully by those to whom it is assigned or the church (no matter the denomination) will be disfunctional and chaotic. The administrative and managerial roles of the institutions can well be handled by laymen and lay women who have both skills and commitment to the faith and the church.  We need bishops who know the parishes and the pastors and who watch over the flocks within their care for the good of both parish and pastor. 

The same, of course, is true in the parish.  We suffer because for so long pastors have either been told or decided to be something other than pastors (life coaches, visionary leaders, encouragers, counselors, inspirational or motivational personalities, etc.) that our people have forgotten what it means to have a pastor as much as the churches (speaking in broad terms here) have forgotten what it means to be a pastor.  We have minimized the pastoral responsibilities and lumped them off on others to make time and room for duties that are never mentioned in Paul's descriptions to Timothy and Titus or hinted at in the NT.  We are in danger of having sheep without shepherds, vulnerable to being prey for the wolves, or starving for lack of solid food from the means of grace.  We certainly do not need pastors to be counselors, administrators, board chairmen, facilitators, vision casters, or whatever to the neglect of their priestly, liturgical, and sacramental calling as servants of Christ.  In the end, we need people to be faithful to their particular callings at all levels of the clergy and among the lay, within all the domains in which they live and work.

Might it be a good time for us to spend refreshing ourselves on the Table of Duties?


Anonymous said...

One big quibble. It would help if you clarified what you mean by counselor. I fear too many confessional pastors don't understand that they are to be seelsorgers in the care of souls. The LCMS approved group, DOXOLOGY has very good resources, especially the ones by Beverly Yahnke (read them first). Don't wash your hands and shuttle people off to a psyche counselor without understanding how much a pastor is needed in the care of souls for those wounded by others and/or their own sins. And this will involve much needed prayer and counseling from the pastor. Too many Christian psychologists cause more harm than good.

Spiritual Care Papers - DOXOLOGY

Lutheran Layman

Anonymous said...

I greet my LCMS District President as "Bishop." It's really hard to "trump" Scripture on this one over Church polity.

Joseph Bragg said...

Trying to recreate the Church is futile. The role and function of true bishops still exists today in the True Orthodox Church. They are true spiritual fathers and guardians of the Faith. They are chosen from the ranks of monasticism for humility, holiness, love and faithfulness - not worldly consumerism/business models.

Anonymous said...

The parish pastor needs to be a theologian in residence.
He needs to be teaching Bible classes to the laity not only
on Sundays but also during the week. This is in addition to
the Adult Instruction Classes for the unchurched and the Youth
Confirmation Classes.

A parish pastor needs to study the Word of God on a daily
basis not just for sermon preparation bur for personal growth.
Our parish members deserve to have a pastor who can teach and
preach the Word of God

David Gray said...

If the Eastern Orthodox Church was what it claims it is then there would only be one Orthodox church in the United States.

Pastor Peters said...

I don't use the term counselor because I am not a therapist and that is typically what people read into that term. I will advise people on the basis of God's Word, hear their confession, absolve them, etc., and if you want to call that counseling, then feel free. Most of the folks who use that term don't equate it with what I mentioned. . .

Anonymous said...

"They are chosen from the ranks of monasticism for humility, holiness, love and faithfulness - not worldly consumerism/business models."

Joseph Bragg said...

I seem to be unable to make my point. My comments are always referred back to an organization known as the Orthodox Church. What is understood to be the "official" Orthodox Church - otherwise known as world Orthodoxy cannot be equated with "The Church". The words "The Orthodox Church" do not denote an organization or denomination but the Body of Christ as identified by it's Orthodox teachings and practice. Any organization can call itself orthodox, just as do some Presbyterians and others. A group cannot be Orthodox if they publicly hold and defend false/heretical teachings. An organizational structure, beyond Bishop, Priest and Laity is not essential to the Church. The Orthodox Church (Body of Christ) remains one and undivided by those who continue to hold the Orthodox Faith. People seem to be unable to think in terms of the Church in any way except as an official denomination and unable to understand how those who fall into unrepentant heresy separate themselves from the Church.

Carl Vehse said...

Anonymous on November 14, 2018 at 9:15 AM

For what it's worth, you can greet your DP as "Bishop" or "Mr. President" or "Jim" or "Hey, you."

But Scripture has no prescribed title for a district executive of a man-made synodical organization of congregations and individual members. Thus, as one district has been repeatedly chastized, the DP, as a DP, is not to be formally referred to as "bishop" within the polity of the LCMS.

Those who cannot agree with such a synodical position are encouraged to leave the Synod.

Chris Jones said...

Mr Bragg,

I seem to be unable to make my point.

If you are unable to make your point, that is because you are not plainly saying what you mean. If you speak of the "Orthodox Church" then people are going to assume that you are referring to that group of Churches that the phrase "the Orthodox Church" usually refers to. If you are, in fact, referring to something quite different from that, it is your responsibility for making it clear exactly what you are talking about.

Most people -- even most Christians -- have no idea what the phrase "True Orthodox Church" refers to. I take it that your point is, that the only place where the true orthodox Christian faith is to be found, and the only place where genuine bishops are to be found, is in one of the Old Calendarist Orthodox Churches. If that is what you mean to say, then by all means say it. But if you talk about the "Orthodox Church", please do not be surprised if people think you are talking about the Orthodox Church (or "World Orthodoxy" as you call it).

Chris Jones said...

Dr Strickert,

I have no position on whether an LCMS District President may be referred to as a bishop.

But I am intrigued by the notion that those who do not agree with "a synodical position" are "encouraged" to leave the Synod. First of all, who is it that is "encouraging" pastors and congregations to leave the Synod (since individual laymen are not actually members of the Synod)? Does the Synod itself, officially and authoritatively, "encourage" leaving the Synod? In what Synodical statement or ruling does it do so? Or, is it simply you, as an individual, who are "encouraging" pastors and congregations to leave the Synod?

Secondly, and more interestingly, when people are "encouraged" to leave the Synod, where are they being told to go? Are they supposed to cleave to one of the many available heterodox Church bodies? Or are they expected to apostatize from Christianity altogether? How can it be good for a person's spiritual well-being to leave an orthodox Church body?

Perhaps the good of the souls in question is not uppermost in your mind when you are "encouraging" them to leave. You may be entirely right that one ought not to refer to a DP as a bishop; but is it really a point over which you are willing to cast your brothers and sisters in Christ into the outer darkness?

Anonymous said...

The public schools have the same problem. School administrators do not teach, and they gradually forget what it is like to do so. They earn at least twice as much as a school teacher for less than 1/2 the workload. They don't care about the working conditions of the teachers they are supposed to supervise. LCMS DPs are office administrators and not the pastors out working the streets. The office of the LCMS DP is not considered a "called position."

One solution to the problem: LCMS DPs need to leave the comfort and seclusion of their offices and become, at minimum, part-time associate pastors. If the trend for future pastors is the "worker-priest" model, then why can't DPs also actively assist as an associate pastor in a congregation? Where is the LCMS convention bylaw to make this a requirement?

Matt Harrison also works as a parish pastor. When will the DPs follow his example?

Carl Vehse said...

Mr. Jones,

I was encouraging those who cannot agree with such a synodical position to leave the Synod. I did not encourage people to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Speculating, without evidence, on what is uppermost in my mind should be avoided, unless you are a professionally certified mindreader, or you prefer, in Luther's words, to roll around in the muck and root in it with your snout.

You need to work harder not to put words in my mouth. I did not claim that one should not refer to a DP as a bishop; in fact, in the beginning of my previous post I stated the opposite. What I did state is that it is the Synod's position, repeatedly asserted, that DPs, as DPs, are not to be given (or assume) the formal title of "Bishop."

As for encouraging those who cannot accept or agree to the Synod's position being the equivalent to "cast your brothers and sisters in Christ into the outer darkness," such a comparison is Pecksniffian nonsense.

Ted Badje said...

Administers, or Pastors, or otherwise. The DPs are doing a poor job of handling congregational issues. There are so many pastors who were removed from congregations for other than theological reasons, and are waiting to be open to receive a call. There was an earlier blog entry that there are tooo many congregations for the DPs to handle. Most congregations in the LCMS are under 200 people. I find the too many congregations argument to be specious.

Anonymous said...

Ted Badje wrote:

"There are so many pastors who were removed from congregations for other than theological reasons, and are waiting to be open to receive a call."

Indeed. If all of those CRM pastors were placed in congregations, only then would I believe the argument that there is (still) a shortage of pastors in the LCMS. Why decide to enroll in seminary if the risk of being placed on CRM status is so high?

Anonymous said...

The point here raised by Pastor Peters is extremely important, but I suspect that IF in fact we had district presidents actually acting the part of the Biblical model of overseer in their exercise of ecclesiastical supervision we would soon here confessionalists screaming bloody murder if a DP were, say, to demand to read their sermons and prepare for them a plan for improvement as pastors. Then just wait for all heck to break loose and this pining for oversight to fly out the window.

Carl Vehse said...

It's hard for DPs to carry out their Synodical Bylaw responsibilities of ecclesiastical supervision, even if they want to, when decision like CCM Opinion 11-2598 are allowed to stand by the CCM and by the SP and Synodical Convention.

CCM Opinion 11-2598 shamefully splits hairs between an ordained member of Synod partaking in the Lord's Supper in a heterodox (or apostate) religious service, and taking part as a co-officiant in the Lord's Supper in a heterodox (or apostate) religious service.

Joseph Bragg said...

Chris Jones,

When I am asked to define the Church in terms of Old Calendarists or the GOC,etc., it simply speaks to the problem of not being able to perceive the Church except in terms of an official title, jurisdiction or organization. I can define the Church no better than to say it is the local gathering of baptized believers, around the Lord's Table, under a bishop who has apostolic succession, who holds and preserves the apostolic faith unaltered as taught and practiced by the saints, fathers, confessors and holy synods and councils. Each such local church is the Church Catholic. All such Churches and believers form a communion of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in love and unity which may or may not result in some formal organization. The Faith defines and marks the Church, not an organization.