Author Topic: Megadeth Bassist to be an LCMS pastor thanks to SMP  (Read 15555 times)

Mike Gehlhausen

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Re: Megadeth Bassist to be an LCMS pastor thanks to SMP
« Reply #90 on: January 24, 2012, 11:27:35 AM »
I've never filed for bankruptcy, and I've been blessed in that regard to have means to pay my creditors.  I agree with you in principle, but I also see a bit more gray shading than your response would appear to allow.

One might say similar things regarding divorce. Extenuating conditions often exist there as well.  Indeed, we are to deal with each other with grace and forgiveness.

But we are talking fitness for the pastoral Office and not grace and help for a fellow Christian.

I have absolutely no problem with a congregation which judges that the financial, legal, and emotional issues which come with bankruptcy may present at least a temporary incapacity for a pastor to discharge his Office.  The congregation which finds that their pastor can still serve them well through such a crisis is free to do so, but I believe it wrong to tie their hands in such a judgment and force them to do so.

Mike

David Garner

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Re: Megadeth Bassist to be an LCMS pastor thanks to SMP
« Reply #91 on: January 24, 2012, 11:32:40 AM »
I've never filed for bankruptcy, and I've been blessed in that regard to have means to pay my creditors.  I agree with you in principle, but I also see a bit more gray shading than your response would appear to allow.

One might say similar things regarding divorce. Extenuating conditions often exist there as well.  Indeed, we are to deal with each other with grace and forgiveness.

But we are talking fitness for the pastoral Office and not grace and help for a fellow Christian.

I have absolutely no problem with a congregation which judges that the financial, legal, and emotional issues which come with bankruptcy may present at least a temporary incapacity for a pastor to discharge his Office.  The congregation which finds that their pastor can still serve them well through such a crisis is free to do so, but I believe it wrong to tie their hands in such a judgment and force them to do so.

Mike

I would agree with that.  I apparently misread you -- I thought you were saying bankruptcy should disqualify one from the Pastoral office, not that it might.  My apologies.
Orthodox Reader and former Lutheran (LCMS and WELS).

Mike Gehlhausen

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Re: Megadeth Bassist to be an LCMS pastor thanks to SMP
« Reply #92 on: January 24, 2012, 11:36:11 AM »
I've never filed for bankruptcy, and I've been blessed in that regard to have means to pay my creditors.  I agree with you in principle, but I also see a bit more gray shading than your response would appear to allow.

One might say similar things regarding divorce. Extenuating conditions often exist there as well.  Indeed, we are to deal with each other with grace and forgiveness.

But we are talking fitness for the pastoral Office and not grace and help for a fellow Christian.

I have absolutely no problem with a congregation which judges that the financial, legal, and emotional issues which come with bankruptcy may present at least a temporary incapacity for a pastor to discharge his Office.  The congregation which finds that their pastor can still serve them well through such a crisis is free to do so, but I believe it wrong to tie their hands in such a judgment and force them to do so.

Mike

I would agree with that.  I apparently misread you -- I thought you were saying bankruptcy should disqualify one from the Pastoral office, not that it might.  My apologies.

I was not clear either and apologize.

I was simply addressing the DPs who found in certain cases that bankruptcy shows an inability to manage home and family.  I find no reason to question that assessment.

Mike

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Megadeth Bassist to be an LCMS pastor thanks to SMP
« Reply #93 on: January 24, 2012, 12:24:24 PM »
I would agree with that.  I apparently misread you -- I thought you were saying bankruptcy should disqualify one from the Pastoral office, not that it might.  My apologies.


Perhaps before a DP evaluates the pastor's ability to continue serving should bankruptcy be looming in the near future, he should also evaluate the congregation's stewardship. Are they paying compensation worthy of the pastoral office? Are members tithing? While not often stated, there's a congregation's tacit prayer: "God, keep our pastor humble, and we'll keep him poor."


Certainly not all congregations try to get by with paying their pastors as little as possible, but there are some.
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Dan Fienen

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Re: Megadeth Bassist to be an LCMS pastor thanks to SMP
« Reply #94 on: January 24, 2012, 12:43:34 PM »
Let's also not forget that one of the risk factors for divorce is financial problems.  It is easy for someone of my age or a bit younger to say that the 4 year program (three residential, one vicarage) is the ideal system, we did it, we sacrificed to do it, so can this younger generation that wants a short cut to a cheap seminary education.  We got (comparatively speaking) a cheap college and seminary education.
 
Time was that going to college was relatively cheap.  Those days are long, long gone.
 
I know of men who went to the St. Louis Sem. and also got their PhD. at a nearby university at the same time - it was affordable then.
 
I don't have the answer, but dumping the entire burden on aspiring pastors certainly is not the answer.
 
Dan
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James Gustafson

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Re: Megadeth Bassist to be an LCMS pastor thanks to SMP
« Reply #95 on: January 24, 2012, 01:11:53 PM »
How much does the church need to pay their Pastors?  Wasn't one of the arguments against having married priest the fact that a married person has children to raise and it will cost more to give them a living wage because of that?  I'm reminded of a quote;

You in England cannot understand how completely engrained it is into our people that a priest is a man who sacrifices himself for the sake of his parishioners. He has no children of his own, in order that all the children in the parish may be his children. His people know that his small wants are supplied, and that he can devote all his time and thought to them. They know that it is quite otherwise with the married pastors of the Protestants. The pastor's income may be enough for himself, but it is not enough for his wife and children also. In order to maintain them he must take other work, literary or scholastic, only a portion of his time can be given to his people; and they know that when the interests of his family and those of his flock collide, his family must come first and his flock second. In short, he has a profession or trade, a Gewerbe, rather than a vocation; he has to earn a livelihood. In almost all Catholic congregations, a priest who married would be ruined; all his influence would be gone. The people are not at all ready for so fundamental a change, and the circumstances of the clergy do not admit of it. It is a fatal resolution.
(A. Plummer in "The Expositor", December, 1890, p. 470.)

Probably not an argument to find much favor in these quarters, but I'm reminded of it anyway  :P  ;)

George Erdner

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Re: Megadeth Bassist to be an LCMS pastor thanks to SMP
« Reply #96 on: January 24, 2012, 01:24:20 PM »
In all the reminisences about how economical things were in the olden days, is everyone keeping in mind the rate of inflation?

Timotheus Verinus

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Re: Megadeth Bassist to be an LCMS pastor thanks to SMP
« Reply #97 on: January 24, 2012, 01:43:23 PM »
It's not just inflation George.

Having worked in the business world, from small one employee services to Fortune 10 corporations,  for .. ? 20 years full time ... and more than that on and off (term contracts at request) I see some alarming symptoms. There is a tendency by us all to become blind to things as they unfold, when we have a system that has worked in the past.

I used to have to LITERALLY at least every quarter, close the door to my office. Stand up on my desk. And ask the invisible CEO in the chair, "What exactly or you doing and why?" I tried doing it as a mental exercise, but found that I was very talented at delusion and excuses, and unreasonable frameworks. I finally just had to get up and stand on my desk. Many folks bring in trusted outside consultants for that reason. In fact, I made good money doing that for a few years.

I'll just name a few of these symptoms, but there are many of these alarms going off. Short term Peter to Paul adjustments, thinking the problem is temporary and not systemic. Peter goes broke pretty quick, and Paul is left in a hole he didn't see coming. Since Pr Messer and others have been frank, I'll use an example of my own here for LCMS.

My DELTO costs were to be helped by the churches. Usually that starts with District. You go in with the assumption that District will make the payments, and you would work with them. That quickly was shown not to be. I also had support from a couple healthy churches and the local mega church. This illusion unravelled pretty quickly. Short version. District had no money, the congregations weren't really budgeted, and I was faced with asking the Mega church to consider their educational support distribution, knowing it would take dollar for dollar away from the Hispanic ministry support. (and I couldn't do that to the Hispanic ministry) Bottom line it came completely out of my pocket, and because of confusion, with a momentum of "we need $x,000 this week" bubble, from classes unpaid. I wrote the check out of pocket, but the reality of regular costs led me to propose, "I really need to skip a class, to get finances in order." I was told, "Don't worry about it you have to take the class now or else the DELTO cohort will end, we'll 'let you' work out payments, just sign up. You have to sign up now." I had classmates making payments in similar "surprises" with their credit cards at 14% + interest.  I put an end to it, and transferred to ALTS, but it still took a few months for me to pay off the "take your time" accrued payments. That system was broke, and quickly gets to $10,000 and more in 'surprises of have-to-do's' (Note-SMP hasn't resolved this either)

Now we think this is growing pains of confusion. But its not. It is an alarm that the assumptions are wrong. You have to fix the assumptions. So an example is seen also in normal sem frameworks. The only churches that can afford to help with the debt pressures, don't call 'out of sem' grads. Those grads go to the churches that "can't afford the experienced pastors." ie. can't afford to help the pastor with debt. That is an alarm that something is broke.

You don't fix broken systems by figuring out a way to make them work. That's like using duct tape to get the wrong sized wrench to be functional, sort of. The duct tape ends up costing more than the right sized wrench.

A second symptom is the "virtual ponzi scheme" of cost management with "help" on price pressures. You see it in subprime housing bubbles, car "leasing", and educational programs. There is a basic real world value and cost. A house payment should balance rent as a percent of income, or be a little less in cost to value. Everything else is speculation and leveraging the future.

This is the spiral of what is truly economically affordable. Let's say I can pay $10,000 a year for school. That's my budget. Now a rich uncle gives $5,000 per student to the school for help. What happens is not that I pay "5,000". No the school says we can do even better teaching if we charge $15,000, and I can pay it because the economics say I can pay $10,000, and they get $5,000. This spirals up and up and up until the rich uncle says, "I'm broke." One note- This is NOT inflation, its a ponzi scheme effect.

The school provides a "better education" for the $15,000 instead of the $10,000. But it drifts in value. Think this way. You get a $13,000 education for your "$10,000" (and uncle's $5,000 of course.) That balloon will burst. It is why you see creative cost value distance ed etc. systems replacing the brick and mortar. Every time we try to help, instead of managed value, this ponzi scheme takes root. It is why entrepreneural companies like DEC and MCI (before they got sucked into corporate buy outs) used to restructure every five years or so. They grew with that reorg system until Verizon, IBM etc. absorbed them. Cost value, and steadily increasing value.

The school will scream "You are getting a $13,000 education for your $10,000!" and that is true. But the festering sore of $13,000 for $15,000, can not continue long term, and it won't. Sometimes you have to ask, whether you really need a marble floor in the new library, just because you have the money. And who is paying for it?

It ends like this. I can manage $10,000. My uncle throws in $5,000. You find a mega ministry to kick in $5,000. The Ice Cream company gives you $10,000. My church back home says we'll manage $5,000. The money - $35,000 a year. Guess what tuition becomes? $35,000. But wink wink you only have to find $10,000, and you can do that right? Works until my uncle dies, the megachurch decides to go to Africa, the Ice Cream company doesn't "like your theology," my church back home get's under water on their new building mortgage, and you send the $35,000 bill to me with my $10,000 check book.

Now it's true that I get a $25,000 education for my $10,000 (oops I mean $35,000 of phoney money, which isn't really there, and if I am on the front side of the ponzi scheme) and that has to be good for the church when I get there .... but you know what ....

I don't ever get there, my grandson is left with the bill and can't go to the seminary, and the churches end up paying the retired pastor $100 a week ....


That's called broken. And I see dozens of alarms like these two. FWIW

TV

« Last Edit: January 24, 2012, 02:37:46 PM by Timotheus Verinus »
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John_Hannah

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Re: Megadeth Bassist to be an LCMS pastor thanks to SMP
« Reply #98 on: January 24, 2012, 02:15:51 PM »
I must say that I've learned something here today. I had no idea of the depth of this problem. It is serious. Pastors Messer and "TV," thank you for your careful description and your honesty.

Peace, JOHN

Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

Dave Benke

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Re: Megadeth Bassist to be an LCMS pastor thanks to SMP
« Reply #99 on: January 24, 2012, 02:35:51 PM »
I think this is mostly a very salutary conversation.  First of all, are GregoryLJackson's statistics accurate? 

The first thing I would address as a seminary president would be the endowment.  The best way to bring down the tuition is to establish a first-tier endowment that covers basic costs of faculty.  I believe both seminaries are after that, Dr. Dale Meyer in particular being a leader in that regard.  I can understand PrMesser's route being expense-cutting to keep both seminaries as is in place; it's not that tough - either cut expenses and redirect monies from what's been cut, or raise more money.  As any long-timer in budgeting would tell you, though, the way people feel best is to increase the income while holding expenses at realistic levels.

The latest Concordia Seminary magazine Winter edition has the title "Broadening the Paths to Ministry."  I believe this is widely held as not only acceptable but as salutary for the future of the seminary and the people of God it serves.  Simple as that.

Dave Benke

Dan Fienen

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Re: Megadeth Bassist to be an LCMS pastor thanks to SMP
« Reply #100 on: January 24, 2012, 02:50:07 PM »
As that pastor of a congregation that helps support a Lutheran Day School there is a question that haunts me.  When does the inadequacy of resorces lower quality of the institution to the point that it would be better not to do it all than to do it so poorly?
 
It is amazing how much can be done on how little, but there comes a point where the little becomes not enough to make it worth the effort.  There are a number of ways to stretch the dollars to keep a school going.  One can actively seek outside grants and support - there are foundations and programs that will give money to schools, even Lutheran schools for specific projects, programs, equipment and other resources, as well as people in the community who will also contribute.  One can keep costs down by underpaying teachers and staff - they are dedicated and by and large will put up with a little (as in receiving a little compensation for their work) to keep the school going.  One can be very careful in buying equipment, educational resources and consumables (paper, pencils, workbooks, etc.).  One can draw ever greater resources from the supporting church(es), shrinking their programs to keep the school going - but that also risks deminishing a major source of support for the school by neglecting service for the church members.  One can raise tuition for the school to bring in more revenue.
 
Obviously, all could be solved if the church members would just dig deeper to provide the resources for church and school.  A good stewardship program is essential.  If everybody tithed, all the financial problems would be over (or at least not nearly so accute).  But realistically, is that going to happen?  Some will respond, but will enough?  To hold that out as the solution and only real concern is not realistic.
 
Eventually the question needs to be asked whether we simply have the resources available (not should the resources be available if everybody did what they were supposed to do) to continue to do a quality job or have we reached the point where the quality is dropping to the unacceptable level.  Here quality must be judged on three levels - quality of education provided, quality of support for the workers (if in effect a major source of funding for the school is underpaying the teachers, something is wrong), and quality of the rest of the ministry of church(es) since so much of the resources are needed by the school.
 
This is a question that faces our entire pastoral preparation system.  We want to prepare good pastors for our congregations and people.  The standard old way of doing it was excellent - for all the griping we have turned out pastors as well educated and prepared (in my not so humble opinion) as any, and better than most.  But the costs are mounting.  We are faced with reducing quality.  So far, it seems, the biggest reduction in quality has lain in the debt load that entering pastors are carrying.  That debt load may be sustainable now (it's being done but at what cost to pastors, their families and the churches they serve), but is there any indication that it will not get worse?  A realistic appraisal of what a new pastor face would be discouraging to many.  Our Seminaries are also having to be very frugal in their expenses.  Frugal is good but too much cuts into quality in the long run.  Ideally the Synod should come along a pick up a bigger share of the costs.  But many (most?) (nearly all?) are struggling themselves to make ends meet.  My congregation could contribute more to Synod and seminary if we did not support a school, but as it is?
 
We have tough choices ahead of us.  The old system was good, but can we do it much longer?  It is easy to demand that everybody else pay for it.  What can we, realistically do as a church body?
 
Dan
« Last Edit: January 24, 2012, 02:59:11 PM by Dan Fienen »
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LCMS87

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Re: Megadeth Bassist to be an LCMS pastor thanks to SMP
« Reply #101 on: January 24, 2012, 03:49:04 PM »
In all the reminisences about how economical things were in the olden days, is everyone keeping in mind the rate of inflation?

It's pretty general knowledge that two areas of the economy have been outpacing inflation for some time now:  Medical Care and Higher Education.  You know, inflation 2%, medical care 10%.  To paraphrase one of our inimitable politicians, it doesn't take long and you're talking real money. The seminaries may not match exactly what's happened in the rest of higher education--there are some things that are unique about the seminaries--but the same trends affect them.  Both areas are ones where current trends simply cannot continue.   

One of issues that exacerbates the problems for the LCMS' Concordia Universities and Seminaries is that they are very lightly endowed.  Partially this is because there was a time the church discouraged endowments, promising support and knowing that independence had led to many universities departing from their founders' Christian orientation.  Additionally, until recently, the Concordias trained mostly pastors and teachers.  Their modest salaries didn't tend to lead to multimillion dollar gifts to endowment funds.  There are no simple and easy solutions.  Only God knows where it will all end.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2012, 03:50:49 PM by LCMS87 »

Weedon

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Re: Megadeth Bassist to be an LCMS pastor thanks to SMP
« Reply #102 on: January 24, 2012, 04:15:38 PM »
I've started to chime in two or three times today, but I'm just not sure what to say.  It is a mess.  The Synod doesn't fund the seminaries so they have to get money to operate from somewhere - so that comes from the students borrowing massive amounts of money to give to the Seminaries and then being sent over and over again into parishes where a "living wage" is just not on the table.  It was heart-breaking to read about Pr. Messer's and TV's experiences. 

Endowments are nice, but they (I think) historically come from folks who are alumni, no?  And we sure don't have many millionaire pastors out there. 

Something that hasn't been mentioned but probably should be is that if this is a bad situation for the pastors, it is even worse for the deaconesses.  How often are they the first to be RIFed - and that's only those lucky enough to have gotten calls.  We continue to recruit women - gifted and talented women - for this field of service, but we as a Church body seem at a loss to find places of service for them.  And this is hardly a new problem. 

I think the one thing we'd all agree on is that the status quo is not sustainable.  It makes no sense.  I'm not sold on SMP (meaning absolutely no disrespect to my brothers in office like Padre who entered by alternative routes - I firmly believe that it is call and ordination and NOT seminary education that makes a man a pastor, pure and simple).  I'm not sure that we're actually using it the way it was packaged and sold to the Synod in Convention; in fact, I'm rather certain we are not.  But what on earth is the way forward? 

Dan Fienen

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Re: Megadeth Bassist to be an LCMS pastor thanks to SMP
« Reply #103 on: January 24, 2012, 04:44:10 PM »
I know that this thread is primarily about LCMS pastoral preparation but I have to ask - how are things going in the ELCA?  Are they having the same kind of problems as we are in graduating students with crushing debt loads?  Have they come up with ways to help deal with the problem or avoid the problem that we could learn from?
Dan
Pr. Daniel Fienen
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Mike Gehlhausen

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Re: Megadeth Bassist to be an LCMS pastor thanks to SMP
« Reply #104 on: January 24, 2012, 04:50:19 PM »
Just in case you missed this amidst all of the posting in this thread, Pr. Fienan.

The big difference between Seminary when I went and today is the married student body - generally with kids.  I even lived off campus and bought a car to go out on vicarage and ended up with less than $6K of debt when I entered my first parish (and that was after attending Synod's junior and senior college as well as seminary).  I am not pointing a finger but putting a finger on the big and obvious difference.  I got married on vicarage and my wife, the nurse, enabled us to pay our bills with help from my home congregation and scholarships.  We had a cheeeeep apartment with no real furniture and we did little for entertainment but that was a choice we made.  I know that there are those who cannot make those same choices with three small kids, a wife, and such.  I am not so much making a comparison but trying to explain why the costs are so dramatically different.  It is not really that the cost of seminary has skyrocketed beyond control but the living costs of a family have added to this to make it a great burden.

I know some of you will not like what I have to say but I think the whole darn system was better when we had at least junior college, senior college, and seminary and mostly first career students -- better for the church to know who these candidates for the ministry were and easier for the student.  I am not putting my head into the sand and know we will probably not go back there but the current situation is untenable in comparison -- we cannot come up with mega bucks to literally pay folks to go to seminary nor are we going to shift back to more first career sem students where the living expenses are less.

But the bottom line in this is that SMP is not a solution either.  Not by a long shot.

From an ELCA perspective...

It's not just married people with families (although they get the most attention):

I graduated from undergrad with no debt, spent about 4 years working, bought a house, saved a little, etc.  Moved to seminary, sold the house, moved into the cheapest housing on campus - single dorm rooms.  My first year I took classes full-time and worked 50+ hrs/week (part-time children's ministry at a local congregation + Starbucks (health insurance!)).  My second year I realized I was crazy and dropped the congregational work, keeping Starbucks.  Last year was internship, and this year I'm mostly focusing on classes, while working at the new coffee shop on campus about 15 hrs/week. (yes, I'm going to have a bachelor's degree from the #1 Midwest liberal arts school and a master's degree, and still my most marketable skill is making coffee...this has not escaped me...or my parents...).  In the last three-and-a-half years, I've done everything possible to earn money and keep expenses down.

Nevertheless, I'm still going to have $25K in debt when I graduate. 

Some friends and I were discussing this very issue a few weeks ago, after reading a fairly provocative letter to the editor in The Lutheran.   Here's what I think: many, many other major corporations offer tuition reimbursement for (relevant) advanced degrees.  If the "wider church" is affirming that an individual is indeed called to the ministry, then it seems to me like they should (at least help) financially support the answering of that call.  (Note: some synods are doing a great job of contributing to students' loan payments after they take a call there, and they should be acknowledged for that). 

Of course, the Church isn't a for-profit institution, and they have far less excess cash floating around than Starbucks or 3M or Best Buy.  But there's got to be a better solution to this.  Either we figure out how to say "Yes, we affirm that you are called to this ministry and we will do everything we can to support you in that call and get you trained and ready to go, including the financial side", or "I'm sorry, if you can't afford this education, that determines the legitimacy of your perceived call." 

No one seems to be willing to do either, at this point.