Author Topic: The Differences Between Lutherans Today  (Read 5410 times)

Kevin Vogts

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Re: The Differences Between Lutherans Today
« Reply #30 on: November 01, 2019, 08:19:52 AM »
this is reflective of myself and most of the ELCA pastors that I have known over my career.  Are there outliers?  Of course there are.  Everybody has them.  The challenge I think is that we all too often get fixated on those that are on the fringes

It seems to me that "broad middle" stems from a time when the ELCA and its predecessor bodies retained seminaries with a strongly Lutheran ethos.  However, already in the mid-2000's a friend in the community where I served attended what was at the time considered the most traditional ELCA seminary.  I bumped into him at the gas station when he was home at Thanksgiving and asked how things were going.  He replied, "Well, I have four professors this semester, all of whom are female, two of whom are outspoken lesbians, and none of whom are Lutheran."  Three were members of other Protestant bodies and one was an atheist.  When he inquired about this with the academic dean he was rebuffed: "We need the very best faculty possible, regardless of their personal religious beliefs."

The ELCA and its partner denominations have also to some degree embraced regional rather than denominational seminaries.  While ELCA students at non-ELCA schools "affiliate" with an ELCA seminary, through which they receive their vicarage and online courses in "Lutheran formation," I would suggest that it is mistaken to think one can put a Lutheran patch on an education otherwise received at a seminary of the ECUSA, PCUSA, UCC, UMC, or others.

It is my observation as an outsider that as new graduates fill the ranks of ELCA clergy, what were once "outliers" are becoming predominant.  It is largely ancillary groups such as STS that are preserving a Lutheran spirit.

The difference in the LCMS is that the seminaries themselves both seminaries are cultivating a strongly Lutheran mindset.  In our case, it is ancillary groups that sometimes introduce a different spirit, in matters such as worship.  But, my sense is that the LCMS itself is now providing well-received resources for the "holes" once filled by these ancillary groups, and their influence is waning.  And it seems there is a ceasefire in the "worship wars" and we are stabilizing around a core philosophy of worship that looks a lot like what I was taught 30 years ago.

My own alma mater (St. Louis, '86) is in a time of transition, with a new president being selected after Dr. Meyer's many years of admirable service.  As discussed elsewhere in this forum, the four electors for his replacement are a good indication that there will be a excellent successor who will continue to provide strong confessional Lutheran leadership.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2019, 08:33:31 AM by Kevin Vogts »
Rev. Kevin Vogts, Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church
Paola, Kansas
www.trinitylcms.org

peter_speckhard

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Re: The Differences Between Lutherans Today
« Reply #31 on: November 01, 2019, 09:15:46 AM »
this is reflective of myself and most of the ELCA pastors that I have known over my career.  Are there outliers?  Of course there are.  Everybody has them.  The challenge I think is that we all too often get fixated on those that are on the fringes

It seems to me that "broad middle" stems from a time when the ELCA and its predecessor bodies retained seminaries with a strongly Lutheran ethos.  However, already in the mid-2000's a friend in the community where I served attended what was at the time considered the most traditional ELCA seminary.  I bumped into him at the gas station when he was home at Thanksgiving and asked how things were going.  He replied, "Well, I have four professors this semester, all of whom are female, two of whom are outspoken lesbians, and none of whom are Lutheran."  Three were members of other Protestant bodies and one was an atheist.  When he inquired about this with the academic dean he was rebuffed: "We need the very best faculty possible, regardless of their personal religious beliefs."

The ELCA and its partner denominations have also to some degree embraced regional rather than denominational seminaries.  While ELCA students at non-ELCA schools "affiliate" with an ELCA seminary, through which they receive their vicarage and online courses in "Lutheran formation," I would suggest that it is mistaken to think one can put a Lutheran patch on an education otherwise received at a seminary of the ECUSA, PCUSA, UCC, UMC, or others.

It is my observation as an outsider that as new graduates fill the ranks of ELCA clergy, what were once "outliers" are becoming predominant.  It is largely ancillary groups such as STS that are preserving a Lutheran spirit.

The difference in the LCMS is that the seminaries themselves both seminaries are cultivating a strongly Lutheran mindset.  In our case, it is ancillary groups that sometimes introduce a different spirit, in matters such as worship.  But, my sense is that the LCMS itself is now providing well-received resources for the "holes" once filled by these ancillary groups, and their influence is waning.  And it seems there is a ceasefire in the "worship wars" and we are stabilizing around a core philosophy of worship that looks a lot like what I was taught 30 years ago.

My own alma mater (St. Louis, '86) is in a time of transition, with a new president being selected after Dr. Meyer's many years of admirable service.  As discussed elsewhere in this forum, the four electors for his replacement are a good indication that there will be a excellent successor who will continue to provide strong confessional Lutheran leadership.
There is a tendency to view academia as the de facto magisterium of the Church, and education less as formation and more as a strictly academic exercise. In such settings, it makes perfect sense to have an atheist with many degrees in the very latest teach at a seminary. It isn't her faith that matters, and she isn't trying to form anyone spiritually. She's trying to make sure that future pastors are not out of tune with academia.

Just as I might tell a parishioner not to worry so much about whether the new pastor has a good chanting voice or a dynamic preaching style just so long as he faithfully presents the Word, so this academic dean can assure any concerned seminarian not to worry so much about whether the professors are faithful just so long as they're the most highly qualified to teach the very latest that academia has to offer. 

D. Engebretson

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Re: The Differences Between Lutherans Today
« Reply #32 on: November 01, 2019, 09:38:59 AM »
Seminaries are unique academic institutions.  They are distinct from other places of higher learning, such as universities, in that they exist to primarily teach future pastors and church workers.  In the LCMS it was a long practice to make sure the professors had at least a minimum of parish experience.  It made sense.  If you were teaching a future pastor wouldn't you want to have some insight into parish life?  I would be concerned about a seminary that employed a professor that had no declared faith at all since the influence of that professor would seem to be ultimately counterproductive to forming people for ministry, let alone Lutheran ministry.

Unless the purpose is no longer to primarily train and prepare pastors.  In which case it should be called a graduate school, nothing more. 

And if the purpose of these seminaries is no longer to prepare distinctively "Lutheran" pastors, then they should drop the name Lutheran and become generic institutions. 
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

Kevin Vogts

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Re: The Differences Between Lutherans Today
« Reply #33 on: November 01, 2019, 10:38:51 AM »
There is a tendency to view academia . . . less as formation and more as a strictly academic exercise.

it was a long practice to make sure the professors had at least a minimum of parish experience

In that regard, I was disturbed recently attending a concert by one of our seminary choruses when the program's description of the seminary's mission included (paraphrasing) "preparing pastors, deaconesses, and academic scholars for service to the church."

When I was a seminarian the latter would never have been included.  It was drummed into us that all pastors should and must be "academic scholars" throughout their lives.  I recall one professor explaining passionately that our seminary education was not the end but only the foundation for and beginning of our theological scholarship, that the goal was to create in Missouri Synod pastors' studies thousands of de facto mini seminaries and graduate schools where the learning and growth would continue throughout our lives.

Also, when I was a seminarian it was greatly discouraged and looked down upon for an M.Div. student planning to seek ordination to openly aspire to an academic career.  Such a career path should seek you out, not vice versa.

I suppose that reference to "preparing . . . academic scholars for service to the church" could simply allude to the fact that our seminaries now offer expanded doctoral programs that have found favor with many other denominations, and quite a few professors from other bodies have their doctorates from one of our seminaries.  But I still found it inaptly worded and hope it doesn't reflect a change in the attitude that all our pastors should and must be "academic scholars" and those clergy aspiring to teach theology in the LCMS should have actual pastoral experience.
Rev. Kevin Vogts, Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church
Paola, Kansas
www.trinitylcms.org

Dave Benke

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Re: The Differences Between Lutherans Today
« Reply #34 on: November 01, 2019, 11:10:33 AM »
There is a tendency to view academia . . . less as formation and more as a strictly academic exercise.

it was a long practice to make sure the professors had at least a minimum of parish experience

In that regard, I was disturbed recently attending a concert by one of our seminary choruses when the program's description of the seminary's mission included (paraphrasing) "preparing pastors, deaconesses, and academic scholars for service to the church."

When I was a seminarian the latter would never have been included.  It was drummed into us that all pastors should and must be "academic scholars" throughout their lives.  I recall one professor explaining passionately that our seminary education was not the end but only the foundation for and beginning of our theological scholarship, that the goal was to create in Missouri Synod pastors' studies thousands of de facto mini seminaries and graduate schools where the learning and growth would continue throughout our lives.

Also, when I was a seminarian it was greatly discouraged and looked down upon for an M.Div. student planning to seek ordination to openly aspire to an academic career.  Such a career path should seek you out, not vice versa.

I suppose that reference to "preparing . . . academic scholars for service to the church" could simply allude to the fact that our seminaries now offer expanded doctoral programs that have found favor with many other denominations, and quite a few professors from other bodies have their doctorates from one of our seminaries.  But I still found it inaptly worded and hope it doesn't reflect a change in the attitude that all our pastors should and must be "academic scholars" and those clergy aspiring to teach theology in the LCMS should have actual pastoral experience.

On several counts I think you may be missing the mark here, Kevin.  First of all, at least one of the Missouri seminaries offers a Ph.D., which is not only offered to parish pastors.  More importantly, though, Lutheran seminaries in the post-church climate are also outposts for clear and deep theological study for the purpose of better engaging the academic world, not so?  Recently a good number of my congregation's youth have headed off to tier one academic institutions - Northwestern, Boston University, etc., with more to follow.  Are there any Missouri Synod Lutheran professors there?  Not a one.  Is there an opportunity for Lutheran formation there?  Not much.  I think it's also possible to conceive of training at the seminaries that adds to or prepares for engagement on the level of apologetics not only with scholars but in the classroom. 

Are there seminary students best equipped for service to the Church beyond the parish?  Why wouldn't there be?

To Don's and your point, without a doubt the primary purpose of the seminary should be to prepare pastors for congregations.  But, at least to me, not the exclusive point.

The other side of the equation is that there are fine theological students who have almost no ability to relate to people.  Can caring for and about people, God's people, be completely a matter of training?  I don't think that's the case, and that's after I've argued it passionately on a case by case basis from both sides for four decades.   

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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Differences Between Lutherans Today
« Reply #35 on: November 01, 2019, 11:14:26 AM »
It seems to me that "broad middle" stems from a time when the ELCA and its predecessor bodies retained seminaries with a strongly Lutheran ethos.  However, already in the mid-2000's a friend in the community where I served attended what was at the time considered the most traditional ELCA seminary.  I bumped into him at the gas station when he was home at Thanksgiving and asked how things were going.  He replied, "Well, I have four professors this semester, all of whom are female, two of whom are outspoken lesbians, and none of whom are Lutheran."  Three were members of other Protestant bodies and one was an atheist.  When he inquired about this with the academic dean he was rebuffed: "We need the very best faculty possible, regardless of their personal religious beliefs."


Which seminary was that? Some years ago I spent a month of continuing ed at Wartburg Seminary and they were in the process of interviewing for a NT professor. The best candidate, and the one they called, was a Methodist. When I asked a theology professor about this, he said that there was a limited number of non-Lutheran professors the seminary could call; and he was the best candidate for the position.


The interview included questions about his understanding of Lutheranism. Part of the interview was public so we could hear questions and his answers.


One of the changes from the ALC to the ELCA is that the seminary faculty no longer endorses candidates for ordination. Each synod has a candidacy committee that does that. The committee is to meet with candidates before they get into seminary and throughout their training.


While it is the seminary's job to teach Lutheran theology and incorporate that into each of the subject matters, it is the candidacy committee's job to ascertain if the candidate has learned it and can take it into the parish.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2019, 11:18:42 AM by Brian Stoffregen »
"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]

Steven W Bohler

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Re: The Differences Between Lutherans Today
« Reply #36 on: November 01, 2019, 11:40:55 AM »
Rev. Stoffregen,

You wrote: "While it is the seminary's job to teach Lutheran theology and incorporate that into each of the subject matters, it is the candidacy committee's job to ascertain if the candidate has learned it and can take it into the parish."

How does that work?  Part of the reason, I believe, the LCMS has the seminaries certify for ordination is the thought that the seminary faculty (and staff) have had three years of direct and personal interaction with the student.  And so, they ought to have a decent handle on his preparedness for the office -- not just the "academic" stuff but also the personal skills and psychological make-up of the man.  Sometimes that does not really happen -- I think we can all tell stories of men who should not have been sent out, but were.  But in the ELCA's structure of having the synod's candidacy committee do the certifying, how much time and what kind of settings do they have with the one seeking ordination?

Charles Austin

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Re: The Differences Between Lutherans Today
« Reply #37 on: November 01, 2019, 12:05:53 PM »
Pastor Bohler:
But in the ELCA's structure of having the synod's candidacy committee do the certifying, how much time and what kind of settings do they have with the one seeking ordination?
Me:
Quite a lot, If they do their job right. Regular meetings, retreats, synodical events, and other occasions.
Retired ELCA Pastor. Iowa native. Now in Minneapolis. One must always ponder both the value and the dangers of poking the bear. Aroused and stimulated, the bear usually shows its true self. Or it might leap to an extreme version of itself. You never know with bears.

Steven Tibbetts

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Re: The Differences Between Lutherans Today
« Reply #38 on: November 01, 2019, 12:53:48 PM »

One of the changes from the ALC to the ELCA is that the seminary faculty no longer endorses candidates for ordination. Each synod has a candidacy committee that does that. The committee is to meet with candidates before they get into seminary and throughout their training.

Not quite.  The ELCA seminary faculty makes its recommendation to the synodical Candidacy Committee as the Committee discerns whether it will approve someone for ordination.  That recommendation is not simply regarding seminarian's academic progress, but includes the faculty's evaluation of whether or not the candidate is suitable to be a pastor or deacon in this church.  While it is certainly possible for a Candidacy Committee to approve someone who does not have a positive faculty recommendation, it isn't bloody likely.

In the ELCA the seminary faculty doesn't have the final word, nor does it have the only word.  It does have an indispensable one.

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Dan Fienen

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Re: The Differences Between Lutherans Today
« Reply #39 on: November 01, 2019, 02:06:48 PM »

There was a time when the primary purpose of the LCMS system of higher education was to prepare church workers. Seminaries produced pastors, our colleges produced teachers, other professional church workers, and prepared for seminary. For good or for ill, those days are gone.


There are not nearly enough church work students to support our colleges. If we were to revert to church worker training we would need to close at least half of our colleges, I would estimate, maybe more, for lack of students.


So the mission has expanded. Our colleges have added other courses of studies and generally they are surviving, even thriving. It is, I judge, of benefit to the church to provide opportunities for our young people to have the opportunity to receive a good education in their chosen field in a Lutheran context. It keeps our colleges active. As to whether the LCMS should subsidize our colleges for training for secular vocations, How much does our Synod actually subsidize these schools anymore? I don't have exact statistics, but of the LCMS elementary schools it is typical for half or more of the students to not be members of the supporting congregation. Is it fitting that congregations subsidize the education of students who are not members? Think of it as a mission opportunity - and one that is partially funded by the mission prospects.


Seminaries are, or should be, trade schools first and foremost. They are to prepare students to be pastors in congregations. Now, proper preparation should include a number of things, one of which is an academic background in theology so that they can be a theological resource for their congregants and that they can be knowledgeable member of the Church. Balancing the need for academic excellence with the practical needs of pastoral formation may not always be easy. Trade offs are necessary. And some students are likely to be better suited for the life of the academy than the parish. I remember one prof when I was in seminary that I thought was the poster child for requiring parish experience of sem profs, but what parish would you want to sacrifice to give him that experience, and I doubted he would have actually learned much other than that parishioners can be stupid, ignorant and stubborn.


Again, there is a place in the seminary for the academic pursuit of theology, both to provide background for pastors to be and for those who are suited for academic theology. But if a seminary envisions its mission as primarily turning out academic theologians, it has failed.
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Steven W Bohler

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Re: The Differences Between Lutherans Today
« Reply #40 on: November 01, 2019, 02:12:09 PM »

One of the changes from the ALC to the ELCA is that the seminary faculty no longer endorses candidates for ordination. Each synod has a candidacy committee that does that. The committee is to meet with candidates before they get into seminary and throughout their training.

Not quite.  The ELCA seminary faculty makes its recommendation to the synodical Candidacy Committee as the Committee discerns whether it will approve someone for ordination.  That recommendation is not simply regarding seminarian's academic progress, but includes the faculty's evaluation of whether or not the candidate is suitable to be a pastor or deacon in this church.  While it is certainly possible for a Candidacy Committee to approve someone who does not have a positive faculty recommendation, it isn't bloody likely.

In the ELCA the seminary faculty doesn't have the final word, nor does it have the only word.  It does have an indispensable one.

Pax, Steven+

Thank you, Rev. Tibbetts.  This, along with what Rev. Austin posted, helps immensely in understanding -- so, it isn't really the synod committee replacing the seminary's endorsement, but rather that they have the final say.  There seems to be some benefit to that. 

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Differences Between Lutherans Today
« Reply #41 on: November 02, 2019, 01:54:59 AM »
Rev. Stoffregen,

You wrote: "While it is the seminary's job to teach Lutheran theology and incorporate that into each of the subject matters, it is the candidacy committee's job to ascertain if the candidate has learned it and can take it into the parish."

How does that work?  Part of the reason, I believe, the LCMS has the seminaries certify for ordination is the thought that the seminary faculty (and staff) have had three years of direct and personal interaction with the student.  And so, they ought to have a decent handle on his preparedness for the office -- not just the "academic" stuff but also the personal skills and psychological make-up of the man.  Sometimes that does not really happen -- I think we can all tell stories of men who should not have been sent out, but were.  But in the ELCA's structure of having the synod's candidacy committee do the certifying, how much time and what kind of settings do they have with the one seeking ordination?


I went through the old system in the ALC. Besides the diploma giving me the M.Div. degree, I received another certificate that says in part: "This certifies that Brian Paul Stoffregen has completed the study of theology as prescribed by the theological faculty of the American Lutheran Church and in doctrine and life has been found qualified for the Christian Ministry."


I have no first-hand knowledge of the ELCA's process. What I've heard is that the committee's involvement with candidates varies from synod to synod. Ideally, the create a relationship before the student is approved for seminary and continue to have interviews and evaluations throughout the four years of seminary. I believe that they need committee approval to matriculate through each year of seminary.
"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]

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Re: The Differences Between Lutherans Today
« Reply #42 on: November 02, 2019, 02:06:42 AM »
Thank you, Rev. Tibbetts.  This, along with what Rev. Austin posted, helps immensely in understanding -- so, it isn't really the synod committee replacing the seminary's endorsement, but rather that they have the final say.  There seems to be some benefit to that.


They not only have the final say, but the first say. I believe that Committee approval is necessary to enroll in seminary. This means that the committee interviews the candidate. Evaluates the psychological tests that are required. Interviews the candidates pastor(s).


It is also not always an issue of yes or no, but sometimes conditions are given that need to be met. I know of a candidate whose committee asked him to successfully complete a year of CPE before they would endorse him. He did. They did. He's now serving in his second Call. Another friend was asked to take a second internship. He and his first supervisor didn't get along too well and he had a poor evaluation. He also had some difficulties getting his academic work in on time. After two years of internships and five years of classes, he was endorsed and is serving as a pastor in our church. Another friend, who had a poor internship decided to no longer pursue ordained ministry. She was unwilling to go through the extra steps that were required of her.


One of the problems with the old system - and it happened to three of my classmates - is that after completing the four years of seminary, they were told that they wouldn't be certified for ordination. In the new system, they are told after each year if they should continue on, drop out, or do something extra.
"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]

Dave Benke

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Re: The Differences Between Lutherans Today
« Reply #43 on: November 02, 2019, 02:44:21 PM »
One of the problems with the old system - and it happened to three of my classmates - is that after completing the four years of seminary, they were told that they wouldn't be certified for ordination. In the new system, they are told after each year if they should continue on, drop out, or do something extra.


I like this concept, with provisos - the candidate should pretty much know all the way along the road how he/she is doing, so it's not as though a bomb drops at the end of each year.  I would imagine that's the way it works out in reality.  At the same time, passing the course work should not be the only criterion. 

That happened to me at the beginning end a couple of times.  In the Missouri Synod there is a district committee that interacts with the seminary and the candidate including holding an interview prior to the candidate's entrance into the seminary.  That committee is set up according to certain guidelines by the district president. 

Several times the pre-candidates did not get through that interview.  In those cases, the plea was that they could handle the course work.   Which was not among the primary issues with those candidates.  So what I'm reading here is similar, but with probably more interaction by the ELCA Synod than the LCMS District. 

Anyway, valuable info.

Dave Benke

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Re: The Differences Between Lutherans Today
« Reply #44 on: November 02, 2019, 03:32:26 PM »
Comparing notes with Bishop Benke:

Our graduating class from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis had 142 seminarians receive their first call.
Another 36 in our class went on to do Graduate Study, either at the seminary or elsewhere.
I am not aware of any of my classmates who were told they would not be certified for ordination.
However, three members of my class came back from their vicarage and had bad experiences with
their supervisor and decided to drop out of the seminary.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2019, 03:57:28 PM by Dave Likeness »