Author Topic: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced  (Read 136414 times)

Dave Benke

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Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« Reply #810 on: February 09, 2021, 05:39:38 PM »
When the dark of Covid is over and the light of healing shines upon congregations and across our denomination, what percentage of congregations in the LCMS will either close or have to close? Probably at this point, given the hyper individualism, a done deal for a number of churches as nobody reached out to them and they didnít reach out either. Will be interesting to see how the visible church is refined through this time.
I think you'll see a fair number of them limp along with pure supply preaching. It gives retired guys a very part-time, low pressure gig for some extra money and lets a congregation of 20 or 30 people gather in the place they love. It will become common enough to be considered a "no harm, no foul" approach that isn't good but also isn't bad enough to do anything about.

Of course, that's not only been happening but has been the de facto "plan" for the last 10-12 years, until ole Pr. Schaefer gives it up, and then a two/three point emerges, in the rural zones.  The difference I think is that in these times those groups have shrunk, and/or people from them have either shuffled off the mortal coil or shuffled on to another church.  Underneath it the energy level has diminished, the dynamis of the Gospel. 

To Will's point, the early Lutherans understood the fourth article of the Gospel a la Schmalkald - the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren, without the democratic or (maybe, I don't know the history that well) competitive overdrive.  As an example, I tried three or four multi-point parishes in various contexts.  Ground zero for me was that the people would have to love one another in triplex the way they loved one another in their single church setting.  In many of those (ok, most), that did not happen.  And the reason it didn't happen wasn't bad pastors.  The reason was the ingrown nature of those fellowships - there was no room for "outsiders," or anyone new.  I obviously worked on that pretty hard, as did some of the leaders.  But say it was a three-pack, one of them would come to a meeting with "the four of us met last week and we decided we're going to go it alone."  Nothing much more, there just was no love in the food, no room for more love. 

At any rate, Tim is on point here.  Something's going to give. 

Dave Benke

FrPeters

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Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« Reply #811 on: February 09, 2021, 09:49:20 PM »
Maybe something is going to give. . . we will see.  Some of those dying have been dying for so long they were kicked off of hospice.  That said, what is so wrong with a congregation serving its members as it slowly dies?  We have no ecclesiology that would prevent it. I would prefer that we did but we don't.  If there is a willing retiree and a congregation with a few bucks, what are we to do about it?  We can try and persuade them but what skin is it off our noses if they choose not to listen?  Again, I am not advocating for this but admitting that the ecclesiology the LCMS has chosen cannot prevent it, can it?
Fr Larry Peters
Grace LCMS, Clarksville, TN
http://www.pastoralmeanderings.blogspot.com/

peter_speckhard

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Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« Reply #812 on: February 09, 2021, 09:53:36 PM »
Maybe something is going to give. . . we will see.  Some of those dying have been dying for so long they were kicked off of hospice.  That said, what is so wrong with a congregation serving its members as it slowly dies?  We have no ecclesiology that would prevent it. I would prefer that we did but we don't.  If there is a willing retiree and a congregation with a few bucks, what are we to do about it?  We can try and persuade them but what skin is it off our noses if they choose not to listen?  Again, I am not advocating for this but admitting that the ecclesiology the LCMS has chosen cannot prevent it, can it?
But the question becomes how the church serves the town in which such a church is located? Do they send a missionary to start a different LCMS congregation? That will be taken by the dying church as trying to kill it by sucking away potential members.

Dave Benke

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Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« Reply #813 on: February 10, 2021, 09:01:39 AM »
Maybe something is going to give. . . we will see.  Some of those dying have been dying for so long they were kicked off of hospice.  That said, what is so wrong with a congregation serving its members as it slowly dies?  We have no ecclesiology that would prevent it. I would prefer that we did but we don't.  If there is a willing retiree and a congregation with a few bucks, what are we to do about it?  We can try and persuade them but what skin is it off our noses if they choose not to listen?  Again, I am not advocating for this but admitting that the ecclesiology the LCMS has chosen cannot prevent it, can it?

I agree with Peter here - the "skin off our noses" is that
the closed-in, dying congregation is the one with the privilege of Gospel ministry and mission in that community and outside of those receiving chaplain care, the privilege is being squandered
the opportunity abounds.  Living and working in NY Metro, our leadership has always stated that what we have is boundless opportunity.  Are we squandering it or taking it?

Let none hear you idly saying/there is nothing I can do.  Many of us grew up with that phrase from "Hark, the Voice of Jesus Calling"
It applies to congregations, leaders, circuit visitors (LCMS) districts/synods as well.

There should be nothing wrong with a difficult conversation.  The science of systems tells us the closed family system of the church in a denomination with our autonomy ecclesiology, which in many ways parallels and independent/Baptist ecclesiology, is difficult to open.  It is indeed skin off my nose if I don't make that attempt as a leader.  I think we're averse to honest and difficult conversation, and end up talking about the good old days or punting the issue down the line way too often.

Dave Benke

Randy Bosch

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Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« Reply #814 on: February 10, 2021, 09:07:22 AM »
Maybe something is going to give. . . we will see.  Some of those dying have been dying for so long they were kicked off of hospice.  That said, what is so wrong with a congregation serving its members as it slowly dies?  We have no ecclesiology that would prevent it. I would prefer that we did but we don't.  If there is a willing retiree and a congregation with a few bucks, what are we to do about it?  We can try and persuade them but what skin is it off our noses if they choose not to listen?  Again, I am not advocating for this but admitting that the ecclesiology the LCMS has chosen cannot prevent it, can it?

Where are the representatives for the "dying congregations", the outreach to them, their voices in this discussion?
Forgive me, for it appears that the LCMS (and probably ELCA and other denominations) are on the road to a centralized top-down approach - maybe even a dreaded algorithm - to determine fates from afar.  Will a black ribbon task force be formed to empower a Synodical Grim Reaper?

Harsh?  No more so than some of the discussion hereon. 

Size cannot be the parameter - I would hypothesize that a goodly number of small congregations are very healthy and serving their community with great vigor on behalf of the Gospel - perhaps even more successfully than some touted super-sized congregation.  You will never have a super-sized congregation in a small city or town.  In some larger cities, in some denominations, the mega-churches have sucked parish life out of their vast service area and as noted put older, smaller actual "parishes" onto life support. 

So what if a blessed family financially supports a small congregation?  Are  the large congregations supported by the correct proportion of widows mites?  Praise God if they are, but also praise God if even they are kept financially afloat by a few generous members.

Whether one likes LCMS style congregationalism or not, legally many small congregations are not only independent corporations but are the captains of their own fate with constitutional and other legal protections from being crushed by big brother.  Perhaps Synod can deny further membership to some for not adhering to yet-to-be ordained statistical criteria; perhaps if faced with such a draconian approach many who are not tethered in by financial instruments and "modern" constitution amendments will just depart or allow themselves to dissolve, to be reformed in another body.
Sounds familiar.

Where's the prayer?  Where's the voice of the diagnosed from afar congregations?

I've become grumpy about this navel gazing (of other people's navels) for a while, so it's time for my prayers about this dissection of souls as well...


FrPeters

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Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« Reply #815 on: February 10, 2021, 09:35:32 AM »
Everyone would surely agree that the dying congregation taking care of its remaining members is not optimal and may even be doing some harm to the overall mission of the faith, but most of these are in urban settings or rural settings where, frankly, districts don't have the money to plant and subsidize anything.  And our polity prevents the district from shutting them down.  If they can find somebody to serve them, what can we do about it?  The power here is the power of persuasion but if persuasion does not prevail, what "punishment" can the district or synod apply?

There may be another component to this in cases where the dying congregation is near other congregations and a case could be made that one strong congregation is better than several at death's door.  But in our polity, they make the decision to unite.  All we can do is persuade.

There may also be another component.  I have seen in a few instances where the small congregation is the one that uses the hymnal and Lutheran liturgical form on Sunday morning but the closest LCMS parish is into contemporary Christian worship of a more generic evangelical stripe.  In this case, their refusal to close is a witness.  Are they wrong? 
« Last Edit: February 10, 2021, 12:09:00 PM by FrPeters »
Fr Larry Peters
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http://www.pastoralmeanderings.blogspot.com/

D. Engebretson

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Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« Reply #816 on: February 10, 2021, 09:36:42 AM »
I live and minister in one of those rural and more lightly populated areas where people often talk of the risk of 'dying churches.'  In fact, I have spent over 20 years in this area, some of it working with other, smaller congregations in addition to my own.  At this point in time we have a particular challenge, and it's not just closing supposedly under-performing congregations that resist closing.  With the indoor retreat of the pandemic the usual ways of reaching people have changed dramatically.  There was a time when you encouraged people to bring a friend to church as a way of introducing them to the faith.  But now we have a hard time just getting many of our members to do that.  And with a lack of real in-person interaction among people for the better part of a year, how do you encourage real outreach?  The online, live-streamed option has its benefits, and I am using it regularly.  It has opened some doors, but how many of these will be long term?  I am hoping that once we move beyond the strict and restrictive stage of this health crisis people will begin to again want to explore the value of community, especially community around Word and Table.  At this point the challenge is keeping the doors open long enough so that we are poised for that mission once the field turns from virtual to real again. 

Having just attended a DOXOLOGY retreat recently that was held for a joint meeting of the circuit visitors of the North and South Wisconsin District, I am even more acutely aware of another, quiet crisis that may be receiving too little attention.  As with the psychological fallout in the population in general (rise in suicide rates, abuse, etc.), we have the emotional and spiritual stress and strain within the ministerium to face as well.  We are talking about what churches may survive the pandemic with doors open, but how many clergy will remain to the bitter end to see the light of the new day?  I will be honest and admit that I think about retirement every day (I am 60 and yet five years away from Medicare).  I am deeply committed to my parish and have great support and thank God for the stable finances.  But I, along with countless others, feel an almost intangible weariness as well, with a insecure feeling that we are not doing all that we can do (which brings lingering guilt, among other things).  Our clergy are an unseen and under-reported group suffering from the emotional/psychological/spiritual fallout of this strange and prolonged season we are in.  At least I can see some people inside my church.  I feel for those who minister in states with draconian lock-down measures still in place.  The end stage of this crisis has yet to be seen and evaluated.  There will be other, large issues for the church to deal with that we may only now beginning to realize.  As a side note, I have to wonder if the seminaries are preparing their graduates in different ways given these new and continue stressors that may be a face of the church of the future.   
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

Randy Bosch

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Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« Reply #817 on: February 10, 2021, 10:14:03 AM »
The Wyoming District consists almost exclusively of small congregations and a great percentage of them in rural towns or villages.  I wonder of the Atlantic District folks who dialogued with them several years ago learned anything about the health and survival of those congregations and pastors who live in a far more fragile circumstance than many?

I also wonder if anything can be learned from the history of Lutheranism in fraught places.  I read an excellent article by Dcs Betsy Karcan of Concordia-Chicago about Lutheranism in Lithuania (https://lutheranreformation.org/history/lutherans-in-lithuania/  )  Don't toss off the idea - the history of Lutheranism in Lithuania has some striking parallels to America - not in wars, genocides, and unfriendly governments (yet, and pray to God that those conditions never happen here).

What can the church in America learn from its most isolated and fragile non-urban cohorts, and from the isolated and fragile cohorts from abroad, that focus on their "how and why" that might be worthwhile church-wide?

peter_speckhard

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Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« Reply #818 on: February 10, 2021, 10:17:06 AM »
Maybe something is going to give. . . we will see.  Some of those dying have been dying for so long they were kicked off of hospice.  That said, what is so wrong with a congregation serving its members as it slowly dies?  We have no ecclesiology that would prevent it. I would prefer that we did but we don't.  If there is a willing retiree and a congregation with a few bucks, what are we to do about it?  We can try and persuade them but what skin is it off our noses if they choose not to listen?  Again, I am not advocating for this but admitting that the ecclesiology the LCMS has chosen cannot prevent it, can it?

Where are the representatives for the "dying congregations", the outreach to them, their voices in this discussion?
Forgive me, for it appears that the LCMS (and probably ELCA and other denominations) are on the road to a centralized top-down approach - maybe even a dreaded algorithm - to determine fates from afar.  Will a black ribbon task force be formed to empower a Synodical Grim Reaper?

Harsh?  No more so than some of the discussion hereon. 

Size cannot be the parameter - I would hypothesize that a goodly number of small congregations are very healthy and serving their community with great vigor on behalf of the Gospel - perhaps even more successfully than some touted super-sized congregation.  You will never have a super-sized congregation in a small city or town.  In some larger cities, in some denominations, the mega-churches have sucked parish life out of their vast service area and as noted put older, smaller actual "parishes" onto life support. 

So what if a blessed family financially supports a small congregation?  Are  the large congregations supported by the correct proportion of widows mites?  Praise God if they are, but also praise God if even they are kept financially afloat by a few generous members.

Whether one likes LCMS style congregationalism or not, legally many small congregations are not only independent corporations but are the captains of their own fate with constitutional and other legal protections from being crushed by big brother.  Perhaps Synod can deny further membership to some for not adhering to yet-to-be ordained statistical criteria; perhaps if faced with such a draconian approach many who are not tethered in by financial instruments and "modern" constitution amendments will just depart or allow themselves to dissolve, to be reformed in another body.
Sounds familiar.

Where's the prayer?  Where's the voice of the diagnosed from afar congregations?

I've become grumpy about this navel gazing (of other people's navels) for a while, so it's time for my prayers about this dissection of souls as well...
There is a big difference between small and insular. I've always been an advocate for the small, dying, traditional congregation as at the very minimum something that deserves empathy and respect rather than condemnation. Sometimes there is very little one can do-- the population is shrinking or changing in ways the people in the church can't keep up with, the children are moving away, jobs are disappearing, etc. But other times the church is small because everyone who attends knows each other and they like it that way. They prefer the feel of a tight knit, rural church, but they are now located in a suburb, which they have to admit is there but which they make no effort to turn into a mission field. They do what they always do, and if anyone wants to join them, great. But the congregation is their social club. They do fine things. They send Bibles to foreign lands. They donate baby clothes to the needy. They help out at shelters. You name it. But they very rarely admit new members.

I've also been in the negotiations for potentially merging with dying congregations or otherwise absorbing them and becoming a single, multi-site parish. Inevitably the people are extremely protective of the building and who makes the decisions. There is often suspicion and resentment. Inevitably, the larger church has several former members of the smaller church in it, usually people who wanted their kids in a church that had other kids in it. "Well, we'd have kids here, too, if all the people with kids didn't abandon us for places that had more kids." People's congregations are like their children. They may criticize them, but any hint of judgment from outsiders is out of bounds. You betrayed your friends and hurt the congregation by leaving for that bigger church, and now you want to act like everything is fine and we should work together? It is a hard, emotional dynamic. 

peter_speckhard

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Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« Reply #819 on: February 10, 2021, 10:36:11 AM »
I live and minister in one of those rural and more lightly populated areas where people often talk of the risk of 'dying churches.'  In fact, I have spent over 20 years in this area, some of it working with other, smaller congregations in addition to my own.  At this point in time we have a particular challenge, and it's not just closing supposedly under-performing congregations that resist closing.  With the indoor retreat of the pandemic the usual ways of reaching people have changed dramatically.  There was a time when you encouraged people to bring a friend to church as a way of introducing them to the faith.  But now we have a hard time just getting many of our members to do that.  And with a lack of real in-person interaction among people for the better part of a year, how do you encourage real outreach?  The online, live-streamed option has its benefits, and I am using it regularly.  It has opened some doors, but how many of these will be long term?  I am hoping that once we move beyond the strict and restrictive stage of this health crisis people will begin to again want to explore the value of community, especially community around Word and Table.  At this point the challenge is keeping the doors open long enough so that we are poised for that mission once the field turns from virtual to real again. 

Having just attended a DOXOLOGY retreat recently that was held for a joint meeting of the circuit visitors of the North and South Wisconsin District, I am even more acutely aware of another, quiet crisis that may be receiving too little attention.  As with the psychological fallout in the population in general (rise in suicide rates, abuse, etc.), we have the emotional and spiritual stress and strain within the ministerium to face as well.  We are talking about what churches may survive the pandemic with doors open, but how many clergy will remain to the bitter end to see the light of the new day?  I will be honest and admit that I think about retirement every day (I am 60 and yet five years away from Medicare).  I am deeply committed to my parish and have great support and thank God for the stable finances.  But I, along with countless others, feel an almost intangible weariness as well, with a insecure feeling that we are not doing all that we can do (which brings lingering guilt, among other things).  Our clergy are an unseen and under-reported group suffering from the emotional/psychological/spiritual fallout of this strange and prolonged season we are in.  At least I can see some people inside my church.  I feel for those who minister in states with draconian lock-down measures still in place.  The end stage of this crisis has yet to be seen and evaluated.  There will be other, large issues for the church to deal with that we may only now beginning to realize.  As a side note, I have to wonder if the seminaries are preparing their graduates in different ways given these new and continue stressors that may be a face of the church of the future.
Yep. I think dreaming about retirement is a symptom of a serious problem, but the last few months have really been the first time I tried to figure out how much longer I have to go. And I'm only 51. Like you said, it is an intangible weariness.

For many pastors (and I would guess you saw this at your retreat) everything has become a grind. Then they feel guilty for feeling like the privilege of working in the Lord's vineyard is a grind. Then they wonder why someone dedicated to proclaiming forgiveness would have a hard time with feelings of guilt. And there is no avoiding the sense of being trapped. What are you going to do, switch careers after so much training and several decades in pastoral ministry? To what? So they rededicate themselves to this career, but the yoke doesn't seem to be easy, nor the burden light, even though they have to tell everyone else that the yoke is easy and the burden is light. Not a good place. This weekend I'm exploring these ideas under the rubric of "It is good, Lord, to be here."   

"I'm gonna lay down my burden..." That spiritual should be talking about spiritual renewal in worship or else the day of death. Too often (and not just for pastors, but for all kinds of vocations) it seems like a song about retiring. Not a symptom of vocational health, but a reality nonetheless in a shrinking church becoming a moral anachronism in its surrounding culture and beset by all kinds of Covid difficulties.

Dave Benke

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Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« Reply #820 on: February 10, 2021, 10:43:48 AM »
The Wyoming District consists almost exclusively of small congregations and a great percentage of them in rural towns or villages.  I wonder of the Atlantic District folks who dialogued with them several years ago learned anything about the health and survival of those congregations and pastors who live in a far more fragile circumstance than many?

I also wonder if anything can be learned from the history of Lutheranism in fraught places.  I read an excellent article by Dcs Betsy Karcan of Concordia-Chicago about Lutheranism in Lithuania (https://lutheranreformation.org/history/lutherans-in-lithuania/  )  Don't toss off the idea - the history of Lutheranism in Lithuania has some striking parallels to America - not in wars, genocides, and unfriendly governments (yet, and pray to God that those conditions never happen here).

What can the church in America learn from its most isolated and fragile non-urban cohorts, and from the isolated and fragile cohorts from abroad, that focus on their "how and why" that might be worthwhile church-wide?

Good interaction on this theme, thanks Randy, for being crabby.

And of course there is a difference between "small" and "insular," as Peter points out.  The Wyoming model is almost exclusively multi-point parish.  The description we often heard was that the pastor of two/three congregations
a) spends a lot of time driving
b) is called to the membership, not the community
c) is surrounded by Mormons
d) spends a lot of time studying

It was really something in the interaction in NYC to see the interactions with our urban pastors who were out and about in their neighborhoods, teeming with people and trying to reach out to those in all circumstances. 

The "mix" I thought was appropriate during my quarter century reign of terror at church-level two was to create opportunities for communication among those with common ground or history and assist when possible in re-dreaming how those congregations could impact their community more thoroughly in combination or even by finding a totally new way.  In other words, less about deeds and property and more about purpose.  And in terms of worship, which always seems at least on this board to come up, it really wasn't usually the worship style that was at issue, particuarly traditional worship.  No problem from me as a leader or from those redreaming the dream.  It was for lack of a better word hospitality.  The connection between traditional worship and coldness to the outside world is in my opinion not direct at all.  What is direct is whether anyone says "Hi there" when you walk in the door, or whether there's actual invitation, and whatever worship form is in use.  If those are missing, the message is pretty clear - this is not for you.

Dave Benke

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Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« Reply #821 on: February 10, 2021, 01:26:39 PM »
Dr. Thomas Egger is a native of Muscatine, Iowa.  He is firmly grounded in the
fertile black prairie soil where the tall corn grows.  His Midwest roots would
serve him well if he accepts the Call to become President of Concordia Seminary,
St. Louis. It would great to see the Seminary Cafeteria serve corn on the cob
at least once a week. 

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Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« Reply #822 on: February 10, 2021, 01:59:41 PM »
This was the article that started my thinking from Thom Rainier.  The title is Is types Churches that have Died During the Pandemic".

His list:

1.  The aged church
2.  The fighting church
3.  The deferred maintenance church
4.  The Run--off--the--pastor--church
5.  The neighborhood looks different church
6.  The infant church

Link to full article...https://churchanswers.com/blog/six-types-of-churches-that-have-died-during-the-pandemic/

Dave Benke

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Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« Reply #823 on: February 10, 2021, 02:46:52 PM »
This was the article that started my thinking from Thom Rainier.  The title is Is types Churches that have Died During the Pandemic".

His list:

1.  The aged church
2.  The fighting church
3.  The deferred maintenance church
4.  The Run--off--the--pastor--church
5.  The neighborhood looks different church
6.  The infant church

Link to full article...https://churchanswers.com/blog/six-types-of-churches-that-have-died-during-the-pandemic/

That's a great list, Tim.  I hadn't thought of the fighting and unhappy with pastor congregations, but pretty obviously, those would be highly vulnerable, as would the brand new effort.  When it comes the the "neighborhood looks different," around here they all look the same - depopulated.

Dave Benke

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Re: Nominees for Concordia Seminary President Announced
« Reply #824 on: February 10, 2021, 04:10:11 PM »
Pandemic or no pandemic, if the median age of your parish is 76.....you have problems.
The aged church will have a rough time reversing their demographics. It is no secret
that a parish with young families will attract other young families.   The aged church
obviously will have more funerals than infant baptisms.  The pastor becomes a type
of family chaplain who ministers to the elderly and dying.   As each member passes
away, another financial contributor to the parish budget is gone.   

Bottom Line:  The ministry of Word and Sacrament in an aged congregation is a real
challenge.  However, Christ has promised that He will be present among us and will
never leave us or forsake us.