Author Topic: LCMS Inc 2020 Report  (Read 37052 times)

Dave Benke

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #180 on: December 29, 2020, 06:06:32 PM »
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The other thing proposed here appears to do away with district offices, creating about a hundred regional leaders (6,000 congregations divided into groups of 60). I'm not sure if that is a healthy consolidation and would like to see further comment. What happens to the liquidated assets?

Part-time doing just ecclesiastical supervision -- not even close to the bevy of people and their total compensation on the district's payrolls now.  If the part-time people need help, the old model was to supply a vicar but given the numbers of congregations not quite able to pay for a full-time pastor and benefits, it would not be hard to find good people and reimburse the congregations for part of their time.  I am NOT think of a CoP type group of 100 meeting four times a year but perhaps an annual meeting just to bring everyone up to speed.  Again, ONLY ecclesiastical supervision.  No handling district staff or budgets or scouting properties or being a one man fire department to go wherever flames burn etc... 

As far as their liquid assets, they belong to the Synod and could be sold off and the money put into the endowment to help support starting new congregations.

For the record, I think the old chestnut of 100 districts of 60 is a bad idea.  Very bad.  It would serve to further fragment and balkanize, it fails to take into account in its part-timiness the scope and difficulty of ecclesiastical supervision, create an even bigger mess for worker movement, push some of those 100 guys into an early grave, and it gives off a money-grab vibe in the "endowment to start new congregations" mode even though in probably half the cases there's no money to grab. 

Any and all ideas for denominational futures should be examined because we're heading down the steeper decline.  This is not one I have much use for, that's all.

I went through this once for someone or somebodies else and came up with a way to have LESS districts, not more - I think the number in the end was 15.  Regional approaches would proliferate under that model - the potential for more coherent planning and movement of workers, and types of service offered.  So the money saved in that case would go to the new districts for what were determined to be their primary needs.   In this way, the movement of the national church body subsequent to its restructuring 10 years ago could be more realizable.  The idea of that restructuring was to push out to the districts a lot more of the action.  With less districts, there COULD be less entropy and more action in both mission and ministry.

Right now, though, it's going to be more of a time for healing, coming out from hibernation maybe toward the end of 2021 and reassessing.

I did get my letter saying the next letter was coming for our congregational vote on the Stretch Year, so eventually one vote for the Stretch. 

Dave Benke

FrPeters

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #181 on: December 29, 2020, 06:36:11 PM »
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For the record, I think the old chestnut of 100 districts of 60 is a bad idea.  Very bad.  It would serve to further fragment and balkanize, it fails to take into account in its part-timiness the scope and difficulty of ecclesiastical supervision, create an even bigger mess for worker movement, push some of those 100 guys into an early grave, and it gives off a money-grab vibe in the "endowment to start new congregations" mode even though in probably half the cases there's no money to grab. 

Interesting comment from someone who was a part-time bishop of a 100 or so congregation for how many years? 

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I went through this once for someone or somebodies else and came up with a way to have LESS districts, not more - I think the number in the end was 15.  Regional approaches would proliferate under that model - the potential for more coherent planning and movement of workers, and types of service offered.  So the money saved in that case would go to the new districts for what were determined to be their primary needs.   In this way, the movement of the national church body subsequent to its restructuring 10 years ago could be more realizable.  The idea of that restructuring was to push out to the districts a lot more of the action.  With less districts, there COULD be less entropy and more action in both mission and ministry.

So making districts 1/3 larger than Michigan is now will make us more efficient and more effective?  How many staff would you need to be able to serve so many pastors and congregations?  How would you do effective supervision of doctrine and practice in such large and spread out districts (ecclesiastical supervision being the only reason for having districts in the first place). The AD would have to merge with the New England, NJ, Eastern and part of the Southeastern to come up with 400 congregations.  Where would the District Office be located and how accessible would it and its staff be spread out so far?  Or perhaps the Mid-South (1,000 miles across) could merge with the Southern, Oklahoma, and Kansas Districts and locate its office where?  We already have a couple of districts about the size I suggested. 

We can certainly disagree about such things as size but the reality is that we are congregational in our tilt and nobody can tell any congregation to close or merge or become a dual parish.  I have been involved with a couple and it is a long term process of wooing and winning over congregations to the idea of such partnership.  People talk about institutional planning and such but in a congregational body like ours the larger institution is not even called church and its members keep touting the idea that Synod is only and always advisory.  Why do we expect a national church structure to act as one when we as a Synod resist the whole idea that Synod can do anything but suggest things to us?
Fr Larry Peters
Grace LCMS, Clarksville, TN
http://www.pastoralmeanderings.blogspot.com/

Dave Benke

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #182 on: December 29, 2020, 07:15:26 PM »
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For the record, I think the old chestnut of 100 districts of 60 is a bad idea.  Very bad.  It would serve to further fragment and balkanize, it fails to take into account in its part-timiness the scope and difficulty of ecclesiastical supervision, create an even bigger mess for worker movement, push some of those 100 guys into an early grave, and it gives off a money-grab vibe in the "endowment to start new congregations" mode even though in probably half the cases there's no money to grab. 

Interesting comment from someone who was a part-time bishop of a 100 or so congregation for how many years? 

Quote
I went through this once for someone or somebodies else and came up with a way to have LESS districts, not more - I think the number in the end was 15.  Regional approaches would proliferate under that model - the potential for more coherent planning and movement of workers, and types of service offered.  So the money saved in that case would go to the new districts for what were determined to be their primary needs.   In this way, the movement of the national church body subsequent to its restructuring 10 years ago could be more realizable.  The idea of that restructuring was to push out to the districts a lot more of the action.  With less districts, there COULD be less entropy and more action in both mission and ministry.

So making districts 1/3 larger than Michigan is now will make us more efficient and more effective?  How many staff would you need to be able to serve so many pastors and congregations?  How would you do effective supervision of doctrine and practice in such large and spread out districts (ecclesiastical supervision being the only reason for having districts in the first place). The AD would have to merge with the New England, NJ, Eastern and part of the Southeastern to come up with 400 congregations.  Where would the District Office be located and how accessible would it and its staff be spread out so far?  Or perhaps the Mid-South (1,000 miles across) could merge with the Southern, Oklahoma, and Kansas Districts and locate its office where?  We already have a couple of districts about the size I suggested. 

We can certainly disagree about such things as size but the reality is that we are congregational in our tilt and nobody can tell any congregation to close or merge or become a dual parish.  I have been involved with a couple and it is a long term process of wooing and winning over congregations to the idea of such partnership.  People talk about institutional planning and such but in a congregational body like ours the larger institution is not even called church and its members keep touting the idea that Synod is only and always advisory.  Why do we expect a national church structure to act as one when we as a Synod resist the whole idea that Synod can do anything but suggest things to us?

To part a - True, true.  Our whole staff was part-time throughout my tenure, and we made it work for 100 congregations.  However, to part b - economies of scope and workload were always duplicated around our quadrant of the US, which is the Northeast.  Plus, the movement of workers would have been better served with a larger swath of landscape, and a staff that was able to be customized to our circumstance. 

Just to give a way of seeing things and people in this mix - I don't necessarily like Philadelphia.  Phillies, Eagles and Flyers, for three.  But - the folks from that metropolitan area think just the way we do in New York and New Jersey - they are us, including Syracuse, Albany and Buffalo.  And in many ways it is similar in Boston, Hartford and New Haven, and even Pittsburgh.  It would have been/could be great to work with a team from those metro areas to put some spike in the mission punch on a leadership basis.  And at the same time to connect the many small town/rural settings in setting a course.  Merger and closure aren't the starting conversations - mission is the starter.

Anyway, the last part of your post is pretty exactly an area of lived and learned experience for me.  For the first couple years as a DP, I would mutter to myself "the only power I have is the power of persuasion; I'm advisory, I give advice, and that's all."  About halfway through the second term the whole thing flipped and I would say, "The only power I have is the power of persuasion; I'm advisory, I give advice, and that's more than enough."  There's a leadership category, I'm convinced, called "persuasive encouragement."  It's not really Law, it's under the heading of the "mutual consolation and conversation of the brethren," which in the Schmalkald Articles is Gospel.  You listen, you learn, you shoot the breeze, you pray, you assemble and designate the team, and let 'er rip.  That's the prism through which leaders serve, and lead.

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #183 on: December 29, 2020, 07:18:09 PM »
We have worked with a great relationship with another local congregation. We helped worked on planning together, called a pastor together and started funding the pastoral salary together. Their leadership is spot on and the pastor has done a great job.

My point is that we didn’t need an LCMS resolution, we didn’t need the District to sanction it, but what we did have was hearts that beat together on the two congregations. St. John’s, where I serve wasn’t weakened by this but strengthened. The District and the DP especially was gracious and open, he supervised us to a degree and helped us find a fine young pastor.

If we weren’t so provincial and risk averse we may be able to do something things like this.

We can fix our culture, not by politics, but simply by learning to get along together. Sin and grace, as many have discussed, seem to resolve in relationships and not so much in institutional arguments, debates and perceived slights.

Commencement2020

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #184 on: December 29, 2020, 10:50:52 PM »
Thank you, Mark Hofman for your recent posts. I forgive you for your self-pitying post.

(the following is in general & not specifically to Mark)

No one wants to wait for hindsight. Less than a decade ago I read an interesting article in which a Church of England vicar described how he had an unusual and vivid dream which symbolized taking his megachurch and separating it off into small worshiping groups. Then, after they organized and prepared for this, serious electrical issues were uncovered at the facility they had been using and they were immediately without a place to worship. Of course they followed through with the multi-site strategy right away. The vicar believed this was God's will.

Recently I was struck with a three-part dream, each part was brief and appeared to be like a movie trailer sampler: 1. People on earth ascending into heaven, especially Jesus. 2. A scene from Shackleton's voyage 3. Some Lutheran church bureaucrat talking on a screen

From this I realized I needed to write on ALPB Your Turn about how to pull off a "Shackleton" to so speak. I didn't understand the first part of the dream; now I think it symbolized "Thy Kingdom Come". (Due to a possible relationship I had with a previous dream years ago when I asked an (unanswered) question of "Where should I go?", I checked to see if people are allowed to relocate to South Georgia island. Fortunately they are not so thankfully I am not expected to interpret this part literally.)

So I spent more time posting than normal and I do not regret it. People here responded more than I expected; my posts usually do not generate responses because they often don't fit the conversation in the first place.

So to make decisions, besides doing the demographics and finances and such you can search the Lord and ask Him for answers. Contemplating the demographics and finances can be part of this searching the Lord. Searching is especially good for those in leadership roles who have already imbibed the collective group spirit. To get strong dreams, it is possible to do things like tent camping, (or if this is not possible, leaving the window open at night), fasting, and praying. Not being sleep deprived, not consuming any more alcohol than what is distributed on Sunday, and having a good conscience is necessary. This may take awhile but eventually you receive an answer. Or if enough people try this, then some will receive an answer and can share it with those who don't. (If you have a habit of following your advice from dreams, in time it becomes obvious which source(s) are trustworthy. And if they aren't you tell it to go to hell so it stops.) And if you aren't sure or it is too symbolic you can keep up the search for discernment.

Once I wrote up some theological-ish stuff on this so copy-and-paste is good. If you think I am a wacky charismatic this is supposed to legitimatize me.

Theologians

Aquinas-Whether divination by dreams is unlawful?

(an argument against the interpretation of Dt. 18:10 applying to all dreams. I believe the Vulgate mistranslates it to include the interpretation of "dreams" as one of the things forbidden)

(copy and paste this into your browser if you want the entire text http://bit.ly/HqeTWN )

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Now dreams are sometimes the cause of future occurrences; for instance, when a person's mind becomes anxious through what it has seen in a dream and is thereby led to do something or avoid something: while sometimes dreams are signs of future happenings, in so far as they are referable to some common cause of both dreams and future occurrences, and in this way the future is frequently known from dreams. We must, then, consider what is the cause of dreams...

The spiritual cause is sometimes referable to God, Who reveals certain things to men in their dreams by the ministry of the angels, according Num. 12:6, "If there be among you a prophet of the Lord, I will appear to him in a vision, or I will speak to him in a dream....

Accordingly we must say that there is no unlawful divination in making use of dreams for the foreknowledge of the future, so long as those dreams are due to divine revelation, or to some natural cause inward or outward, and so far as the efficacy of that cause extends. But it will be an unlawful and superstitious divination if it be caused by a revelation of the demons

Luther-LW Vol. 7 Lectures on Genesis Ch. 38-44, p. 139

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Dreams sent by God are impressed on the dreamers in such a way that they are conscious of keener feelings than is the case with the common dreams of other men and also of animals. Pharaoh had the same feeling, and God moved his heart to take note of the dream, especially when it was repeated.

Luther's Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, Volume 21
(older translation from http://bit.ly/HqeTWN)

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There is no man which shall do a miracle in my name that can lightly speak evil of me.

Answer: That is true, as I have said, that God does not allow miracles to be done by bad men, unless they are in public office; because God does not give miracles on account of their person, but of their office.

But if real miracles are done by a single person, that person must certainly be pious, as some are, who have special revelations, through dreams, visions, etc.; but these miracles must have the tendency to praise and further Christ and the gospel.

Thus you have two kinds of miracles that are good and honest, first, those which are done by pious persons who are Christians; then also those done by wicked persons, who yet are in office and teach correctly; but that we are always to judge according to this sure test, which is to be applied to all kinds of persons, whether pious or impious, in office or out of office, whether the miracles have the tendency to praise Christ and to strengthen your faith. But if you discover that they are pointing you in a different direction, as to go upon pilgrimages, pray to saints, deliver souls from purgatory, and in short, to rely upon your works and establish a righteousness of your own; then say: If you would perform all miracles for me, so that I could see and make sure of them, I would still not believe you; for Christ has sufficiently warned me against that.

Historical examples

Martin Luther, Table Talk, http://bit.ly/17qWV0K

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The dream I had lately, will be made true; `twas that I was dead, and stood by my grave, covered with rags. Thus am I long since condemned to die, and yet I live.

Katie Luther

http://bit.ly/19LLC2R (Google Books) and http://bit.ly/190tPWb (website, same text)

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To George Spalatin

Four young noblemen, who blamed Luther for their sister's escape from the convent, were lying in wait to murder him.

November 11, 1525

Dear Spalatin — Gladly would I be present at your wedding to rejoice with you, but a hindrance has come in the way, which I cannot overcome, viz. the tears of my wife, who believes you would be deeply grieved were my life imperiled. She has a presentiment that my life is in danger, having dreamed last night that murderers were looking out for me on the way. I think this not unlikely, since I hear that the rescue of the Freiberg nuns has roused the wrath of the nobles in Herzog George’s lands.

Although well aware that, wherever I may be, I am under the Almighty’s protection, without whom not a hair of my head can be injured, still I am full of pity for my dear Kathie, who would be half-dead with anxiety before I returned. So do not grieve that I cannot be with you on the occasion of your wedding. May God’s grace and blessing rest on you.

Frederick the Wise -- I will just link Rev. Webber's website, which features it at the bottom of this page: http://www.angelfire.com/ny4/djw/lutherantheology. smithprophecies.html His dream is more symbolic in character. It is discredited by Schaff ( http://tinyurl.com/ln92ftp ), on the grounds that it is not mentioned in historical texts prior to 1591. The "original manuscript" that Walther referred to when he reprinted this dream in Volume 4, issue 4 of the 1847 Der Lutheraner was, according to the librarian, a copy made much later.

Dreams in the early Missouri Synod
Here are two dreams published while Walther was editor of Der Lutheraner:

By Meuer, in Der Lutheraner, about the dream of Myconius in 1546:
http://tinyurl.com/lfj6n26 (same) http://tinyurl.com/p4kf8vl

Published by C.H. von Bogatzky about a letter of a noble woman who left with her six children to a Luthearn area in 1703 (also in Der Lutheraner):
http://tinyurl.com/nbvw89a

This ( http://tinyurl.com/ls82reo ) is a precognitive dream from Katie Luther, interpreted by Melancthon, and later described by Martin Luther. It predicted the death of their 14-year-old daughter. (Melancthon wrote about dream interpretation in his De anime.) It was reported in the 1917 Lutheran Witness: http://tinyurl.com/lwbtcwp .

[Side note: Melancthon also had a precognitive dream about his daughter's death. In his case, his daughter was grown and came to visit him with his grandchildren. His dream was darker in tone than Katie's dream: http://tinyurl.com/mo33gak

Melancthon had a four part classification of dreams:

1. Natural dreams, related to your emotions or what you think or see

2. Prophetic dreams, which "are effected by the stars which awoke inborn prophetic powers." ( http://tinyurl.com/koffn6r )

3. Divine dreams inspired by God

4. Satanic dreams inspired by the devil

For Melancthon, the dreams recorded in Scripture were either of divine or prophetic origin. One had to evaluate dreams based on the context of the dreamer to try to figure out which ones were really #1 or #4 in origin. For an example of a #4 dream, he believed that an angel guarded a Christian's bedroom to keep the devil out, but when this failed, the devil caused nightmares. On the other hand, dreams which appear to convey God's Word were to be regarded as from God if they agreed with Bible and were not contrary to either Law or Gospel. Even then, Melancthon did not always presume to be able to interpret visions, such as the one reported by the honest men of Brunswick ( http://tinyurl.com/m7dgf5k ).

For Luther, these categories would be the same except I don't think he would have agreed with #2 due to his voluntarism and his rejection of astrology (which was a result of his voluntarism). Rather, he would have counted such dreams as divine. Unlike Melancthon, Luther didn't try to explain any of the dreams of the patriarchs as prophetic but instead considered them all divine miracles.]

Modern example

Jeannelle is a member of this Missouri Synod church ( http://bit.ly/1aNZvvf for directory info) in Klinger, Iowa . She was diagnosed with Bipolar II, is a grandmother, has taught Sunday School, and identifies as a Lutheran. She was Baptist before she married her Lutheran husband. Her blog, http://midlifebyfarmlight.blogspot.com , has many examples of dreams, including precognitive ones. I liked this one:

http://bit.ly/1dg7l4z

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The following dream story happened in late summer of 2005: One morning, as I was waking up, a strange dream scene came and went. In it, a thing which looked like a watertower tank was flying low over our field by the road. The tank then landed across the road, in our neighbor's cornfield.

Again, on this morning, I happened to tell Husband about the dream, once I got to the barn. The following day, Husband, one of our sons, and my stepdad were up on the roof of our house, putting new shingles on. Suddenly, Husband hollered for me to bring the binoculars to him.......he said two police cars had just speeded by on our gravel road. (We live 1/4 mile off of it.) From up there on the roof Husband could see commotion on the road over by our neighbor's place. Pretty soon we heard and saw an ambulance go wailing by. Husband kept watching, and eventually said that it appeared a cement truck had gone into the ditch and overturned. Husband could see that the cement mixer's tank had rolled into our neighbor's cornfield! He looked down at me from the roof and said quietly, "Your dream." I hadn't even thought of that yet.

It turned out that the cement truck driver had lost control on loose gravel; he probably had been driving a bit too fast. Our neighbors rushed to the overturned truck's cab and found the driver conscious, but with his arm was pinned. It took the emergency workers 1-1/2 hours to extricate him from the cab! He had a badly broken arm and broken ribs, but no injuries that were life-threatening.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2020, 11:01:33 PM by Commencement2020 »

Rev. Edward Engelbrecht

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #185 on: December 30, 2020, 11:22:37 AM »
Thank you, Larry and Dave, for your comments on the 100/60 option for church administration in the LCMS. Not sure whether our longstanding organization into districts is better or whether the 100/60 option would be an improvement. I would note that the current approach was not able to protect me and others from mobbing practices. I'm not sure that the 100/60 could either. To end those practices will require a cultural change in the synod.

Has anyone developed a list of pluses and minuses for districts versus 100/60 mini-districts? Has the 100/60 option been proposed at convention?
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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #186 on: December 30, 2020, 01:36:07 PM »
You've got to get past that thing about elder blame and elder removal, Mark.  Or not; up to you , but it makes your 20/20 hindsight screen grumpy, almost bitter, as you obviate against the old decisions, and for the oldster retired pastors to step off from taking vacancies or small parishes so that some tbd team of younger wiser folks can redistribute congregations and their assets. 

It gets in the way of the actual dialog about decision process.  For instance in the case of the CBC property, it was illuminating to me to refresh that time-frame and see that this was also when the "free tuition" game was played.  So that magical thinking concerning financing combined with unrealistic plans regarding a growth pattern for training.  That it wasn't sustainable fits in a more complete picture.  The underlying reality, of older and older lay membership with less and less kids/grandkids coming into the picture, which was the case 20 years ago, and is now playing out, has always been the prime factor even as it's less able to be included as a factor at upper levels in Protestant denominational futures.  The virus, in my opinion, has actually assisted in putting that major deficit on the full screen not only in our denomination, but around the horn in Protestantism and in many ways in Christianity in this country and Europe.  The process has been failing because the underlying reality has primarily been faced at the local level. 

My recent favorite is calling some friends and finding they were on their way to the Christmas Eve Midnight Candlelight Service.  I asked how slowly they were driving, given the time.  They responded that the midnight service was now being held at 2 PM so the members could go home to dinner.  Which is at 4.  No need for candles.  Plenty of sunlight at 2PM.  Entirely senior citizen congregation.  Anyway.

The senior-aged pastors caring for senior-aged smaller congregations also has a shelf life.  The process of determination is not going to be best approached by head-butting, in my opinion.  Some of the oldsters might also possess a little wisdom, might actually help move things along, might actually be (uh-oh) in wider church leadership.  Even from your point of view, you should at least be able to say "with God all things are possible."

Dave Benke

Your second paragraph is what in various manifestations all my conversations and efforts for 15 years have been about.  Stop the magical thinking.  Look at things with clear eyes.  And make plans for where we actually are at, including everything that is already baked in but not fully exposed yet.  And make those decisions now, while you still have some of the strength of the elders.

And your first paragraph, really the first sentence, is true.  But in my 15 years of experience trying to address this, the denial is so deep, the only thing I've ever been halfway successful with is being a jerk, which lets someone like say Scott not be a jerk but be the reasonable person and move things in the right direction.

As far as "with God, all things are possible", true.  But that moves back to the mystical.  And on good days I can see it happening at a local level.  It has been a long time since anything institutional has felt hopeful.

Thanks for these words - honest and helpful.  You and Scott - one bad, one good.  It is the way of the brotherhood.  Santa knows - be good for goodness sake!

An actual conversation from the early 2000s at a national LCMS Convention.  My brother Bob was at the time shepherding a congregation very near to the congregation of one Walter Otten.  Walter Otten sees the two of us hobnobbing in the hallway, strides up and says, "Two brothers - how can one be so good and one be so bad?"  In the way of actual brothers, Bob and I at the exact same moment responded with the same exact words - "You must get that a lot!"  Of course, Bob and I broke up laughing.  Walter, to his eternal credit, had no idea what we were talking about and went on his way.  Which only made our laughter last longer.  C'mon, man.

Dave Benke

I’m glad to play the role of non-jerk in this discussion, Lord knows I’m certainly good at being a jerk, though. ;D

Dave, to your point about the wisdom of the old-timers I find myself apprehensive in some ways.  I always enjoy hanging and talking with the old –timers and I don’t want to come across as a sort of King Rehoboam in spirit.  But I find myself wondering if the Achilles’ heel at present is that previous generations were privy to and benefitted form the largest period of church growth, which is why we keep getting a regurgitation of various programs that have yet to work.  That’s good but it also skews the standards and expectations to this day.  If the referent point is an unprecedented period of growth then failure is inevitable according to that standard.  I may be wrong but I’m inclined to connect the purchase of the CBC with this generational blindspot.  I also don’t think it was an accident that this occurred during the Kieschnick era which was the pinnacle of Boomer leadership in the Synod.  In some ways the pendulum had to go in that direction after Barry, but it was also a strange time, especially as a seminarian in St. Louis.

I noted a few comments back that I think death, metaphorical and literal, must take place before Synod or whatever comes forth can truly step into new life.  I wonder if we’re still too enmeshed in the old ways or more resistant to it than we'd care to admit.  I think we like to believe that the onerous is on the conservative side of the isle because of who are SP is, but it's also on the liberal side, too. New programs are not necessarily new if you know what I'm saying.  It's like when Christ Esget was chosen over Jon Diefenthaler as our regional VP and many of us in our region were upset about that.  It was frustrating but from a leadership standpoint it makes perfect sense to me why President Harrison picked Esget. To have Diefenthaler in the current praesidium would have been really weird and may have caused more internal problems.  It also would have been a rehash of the past and reflective of what I noted above. 

Peace,
Scott+

Mark Brown

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #187 on: December 30, 2020, 01:40:16 PM »
Dave/Fr. Peters, a question in the 15/100 line.   Isn't the talk of bigger/smaller meaningless without an update in the process of how we do the most important things?  It is the processes that are broken, not necessarily the polity.

The biggest job, but also what I imagine to be the biggest trouble for whoever is tasked with that church admin role is "the call list".  What has shocked me in this age of online everything is that our process is so broken yet incapable of change.  In working with congregations in that call process, the toughest thing is the match between finding a pastor who would be interested in the congregation and a congregation who would be interested in that pastor.  Setting up 20 somethings is easier.

It would seem to me that the first step of any reconfiguration would be the creation of a clearing house.  An Ecclesial Supervisor posts a vacancy and opens a time window.  Pastors that might be interested in that call would post their info package.  The Supervisor could then curate the list, knowing that everyone who is on it is at least interested.  That curation could be as trivial as "here is everyone", it could be as serious as talking to each man and presenting the top 3.  Instead of passing along a list of 16 names - who the congregation calls each, and 11 of the 16 say no, 3 of the 16 say yes to everything but don't mean it, and only 2 are possibilities, but those two inevitably pale in comparison to the three who say yes because the process feeds their ego - instead of that current process, you get to pass along a list of those who are interested. That keeps the Ecclesial Supervisor in the process and gives a chance to shape a good list.  It would also give a Supervisor a clear signal - hey, your guy is submitting a lot of packages - that some attention needs to be paid.  It would also give a bunch of pastors a feeling of something beyond absolute helplessness.

100 supervisors would probably know the congregations well enough to know what they want, but not have enough reach to create a list.  Our current configuration, made more so if you went to 15, might have the reach to create a list, but they have no idea about the congregation, nor about the individual pastors in their midst.

Bring the process into the late 20th century, and the job itself might become more manageable. Make any sense?


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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #188 on: December 30, 2020, 01:41:11 PM »
Thank you, Larry and Dave, for your comments on the 100/60 option for church administration in the LCMS. Not sure whether our longstanding organization into districts is better or whether the 100/60 option would be an improvement. I would note that the current approach was not able to protect me and others from mobbing practices. I'm not sure that the 100/60 could either. To end those practices will require a cultural change in the synod.

Has anyone developed a list of pluses and minuses for districts versus 100/60 mini-districts? Has the 100/60 option been proposed at convention?

Mobbing - organized ganging up - is group bullying.  And it's often done in a cloak and dagger way.  As a for instance, there was a congregation in which the leadership wanted the pastor to be gone, which I didn't know, and for which there was no prior evidence.  Every year we sent out a compensation guideline for church workers to each congregation.  And I would append a note to use these as guidelines in the spirit of biblical "laborer is worthy of his wage," etc. etc.  There was a little mini-evaluative tool in there along with markers for size of congregation, area served, etc., all designed to assist in upgrading pastoral/worker compensation.  So I get a phone call inviting me to a meeting of the council with the pastor.  I figure it's to get them to new levels of giving.  But - unbeknownst to me, they have taken those tools, weaponized them, and proceed to let the pastor know, with me present, that he has scored at .3 on a 1-5 scale, and set the pastor's new compensation at 90% below what he had been paid.

Of course, I interjected that the guidelines were not meant as a weapon, and that they couldn't just whack away most of the pastor's compensation.  Then the actual meeting transpired, at which there was a lot of yelling.  My understanding was that the bottom line purpose of the  meeting by the gang was not about the pastor and them, but about me getting very actively involved in helping them get rid of the pastor.  In the words of Bob Marley - one love/one heart/let's get together and feel all right.  Not.

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #189 on: December 30, 2020, 01:52:45 PM »
Dave/Fr. Peters, a question in the 15/100 line.   Isn't the talk of bigger/smaller meaningless without an update in the process of how we do the most important things?  It is the processes that are broken, not necessarily the polity.

The biggest job, but also what I imagine to be the biggest trouble for whoever is tasked with that church admin role is "the call list".  What has shocked me in this age of online everything is that our process is so broken yet incapable of change.  In working with congregations in that call process, the toughest thing is the match between finding a pastor who would be interested in the congregation and a congregation who would be interested in that pastor.  Setting up 20 somethings is easier.

It would seem to me that the first step of any reconfiguration would be the creation of a clearing house.  An Ecclesial Supervisor posts a vacancy and opens a time window.  Pastors that might be interested in that call would post their info package.  The Supervisor could then curate the list, knowing that everyone who is on it is at least interested.  That curation could be as trivial as "here is everyone", it could be as serious as talking to each man and presenting the top 3.  Instead of passing along a list of 16 names - who the congregation calls each, and 11 of the 16 say no, 3 of the 16 say yes to everything but don't mean it, and only 2 are possibilities, but those two inevitably pale in comparison to the three who say yes because the process feeds their ego - instead of that current process, you get to pass along a list of those who are interested. That keeps the Ecclesial Supervisor in the process and gives a chance to shape a good list.  It would also give a Supervisor a clear signal - hey, your guy is submitting a lot of packages - that some attention needs to be paid.  It would also give a bunch of pastors a feeling of something beyond absolute helplessness.

100 supervisors would probably know the congregations well enough to know what they want, but not have enough reach to create a list.  Our current configuration, made more so if you went to 15, might have the reach to create a list, but they have no idea about the congregation, nor about the individual pastors in their midst.

Bring the process into the late 20th century, and the job itself might become more manageable. Make any sense?

The way I would invariably do pastoral vacancies was to be personally involved throughout in the congregation.  So - first meeting with everybody in the congregation to get the lay of the land, feel the fellowship, understand the dynamics.  Then I talk through the process about three times until it's understood, one item always being that if the congregation is in conflict, I need to know now because that's going to delay things.  Then I'd hang out on Sundays with them either preaching or being at other Sunday events, more informal, to get my own read of whether there are factions or whether there's unity, and what the opportunities could be.  You can't not do these things, in my opinion.  They're mandatory.

The issue of who's available for where and when is just tough.  I agree that the tech could be used better - now that they've messed with the lcms.org site on congregations (in my opinion very purposefully to keep information at a minimum) I think the ecclesiastical supervisors have a different set of data by far than the average bear can access.  Cultural changes have made it clear that when it comes to the decision to move or not move, often the wife and family are of the highest input and importance, even though they're not called by the congregation.  That's not really on any of the info. 

So - to your point, whatever the state of the process is currently, it needs to continue to be personal at a high level of involvement.  We're not moving Amazon technicians from one site to the next (and we have AOC to thank for the empty lots in Queens in that regard!). 

Dave Benke

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #190 on: December 30, 2020, 02:21:51 PM »
Dave/Fr. Peters, a question in the 15/100 line.   Isn't the talk of bigger/smaller meaningless without an update in the process of how we do the most important things?  It is the processes that are broken, not necessarily the polity.

The biggest job, but also what I imagine to be the biggest trouble for whoever is tasked with that church admin role is "the call list".  What has shocked me in this age of online everything is that our process is so broken yet incapable of change.  In working with congregations in that call process, the toughest thing is the match between finding a pastor who would be interested in the congregation and a congregation who would be interested in that pastor.  Setting up 20 somethings is easier.

It would seem to me that the first step of any reconfiguration would be the creation of a clearing house.  An Ecclesial Supervisor posts a vacancy and opens a time window.  Pastors that might be interested in that call would post their info package.  The Supervisor could then curate the list, knowing that everyone who is on it is at least interested.  That curation could be as trivial as "here is everyone", it could be as serious as talking to each man and presenting the top 3.  Instead of passing along a list of 16 names - who the congregation calls each, and 11 of the 16 say no, 3 of the 16 say yes to everything but don't mean it, and only 2 are possibilities, but those two inevitably pale in comparison to the three who say yes because the process feeds their ego - instead of that current process, you get to pass along a list of those who are interested. That keeps the Ecclesial Supervisor in the process and gives a chance to shape a good list.  It would also give a Supervisor a clear signal - hey, your guy is submitting a lot of packages - that some attention needs to be paid.  It would also give a bunch of pastors a feeling of something beyond absolute helplessness.

100 supervisors would probably know the congregations well enough to know what they want, but not have enough reach to create a list.  Our current configuration, made more so if you went to 15, might have the reach to create a list, but they have no idea about the congregation, nor about the individual pastors in their midst.

Bring the process into the late 20th century, and the job itself might become more manageable. Make any sense?
One problem I see with this scenario would be that most pastors have really nothing to go on but location and whatever pictures are available at the website. Am I interested in serving at Holy Moly Lutheran in Upnort, Wisconsin? I have no idea, but it might be perfect. Or it might be a bad fit. Should I "apply"? If I don't, no call will ever come my way; by not applying anywhere I've cut off the possibility of God calling me elsewhere. I better be sure I'm in the perfect fit where I already am. But if I do apply, not knowing much about it, I've implied I'm interested based purely on location and a few basics of the job description, and I've also implied that I'm not necessarily perfectly content where I am and think God might be calling me elsewhere.

In the current way, if the good people at Upnort contact me, I can ask a few questions before agreeing or not agreeing to an interview or visit. I tell my congregation, "Hey, they contacted me, I can't just ignore them." If I don't get the call or decline it, there is no harm to my existing situation. But if the system is such that pastors apply in some way, then my congregation knows that I did that. Even if I don't get the call or decline it, I've destabilized my relationship to my congregation by making it clear I had my resume out there. A lot of possibilities for abuse of such a system.

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #191 on: December 30, 2020, 02:29:12 PM »
I wonder, Peter. I think it is our traditional posture that a pastor is USUALLY open to a call. Not shopping for one, but open. The sort of database Mark proposes could, of course, clearly indicate when that is NOT the case for a given pastor, and that way no congregation wastes time vetting and including him in their list. But I do think our current system is WAY too much under the thumb of the DPs and the result is the creation by and large of “districts in their own image.” They naturally want like minded folk (who will re-elect them!). And I’m not trying to be overly cynical about that; nor discounting that a DP may well be seeking the best for a given parish; but it is hard to cut out the potential to put “your guy” on the list, believing that those who think like you do are clearly the better choices! This is a phenomenon that is not limited to either extreme of Synod; the middle road guys, I believe, operate in like manner. My point is just that I’m not sure that actually putting all the data on pastors who are open to calls directly in the hands of the parishes without the clearing house of the DP is a bad idea.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2020, 02:33:44 PM by Weedon »

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #192 on: December 30, 2020, 03:10:00 PM »
Dave, Yes so much yes to what Rosters and Statistics has done to what is available on line.  I registered an official "what the heck are you thinking" at that, eventually talking for over an hour with the guy behind the DB.  And yes, the action was done to hide stuff, because denial always works.  And yes, the DP's have access to a lot more.  But either they don't know how to use it, or just won't share it.  Probably a combination of both.

Which ties in with Weedon's comments.  The DP's have a stranglehold on so much.  And all they usually do is end up getting in their own way and making the synod's problems worse.  And if they aren't as involved with the congregations as you (Dave) highlight, it is exponential trouble.

C'mon Peter, any pastor with enough on the ball to want to call them has more than location and pictures.  In 30 mins of phone conversation you'd have enough to know.  You used to be able to get a good financial picture from R&S as well as a 10 year story, alas that now takes a few calls. (Although putting it pack into a clergy system could happen.) Before throwing in the resume, I'd call the CV and the nearest two local pastors just to find out the basic story.  But in that system the only way that a current congregation would know anything is if you got the call.  It might make it interesting if you decided to stay, but I don't think much different than currently.  Because even in the current system, if you got the call you chose to keep participating in the process.  And having the DP involved in making a list still gives the same amount of deniability.  I'm sure you would still have DPs putting "their guys" on lists regardless of interest.

What I really find as an advantage of such a system would be the mirror that it would hold up to both congregation and pastor.  Finding out who is interested in you is valuable information.  Looking in the mirror is often a spur to change.  And as Lutherans we hold up the use of the law as a mirror.

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #193 on: December 30, 2020, 03:58:03 PM »


What I really find as an advantage of such a system would be the mirror that it would hold up to both congregation and pastor.  Finding out who is interested in you is valuable information.  Looking in the mirror is often a spur to change.  And as Lutherans we hold up the use of the law as a mirror.
That's a good point about congregation's self-perception. The active members are who they are because they love the congregation. They have a hard time seeing why a pastor wouldn't want to serve among them. Maybe getting no bites would force them to take stock of the situation more honestly.

I'm more content than most with the current system, I guess. Calls and even inquiries about calls are disruptive. I like knowing that if one comes along I can take it seriously, but I don't have to periodically check on what's out there or initiate anything. To me, the system you propose would feel like every vacancy I heard about functioned like an initial inquiry from a call committee. I think I'd be likely to become a closet comparison shopper and become less content no matter what call I was serving. But I've never felt like I was on the DP's naughty list, either, so I've never personally experienced the downside of the current system.

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #194 on: December 30, 2020, 04:05:58 PM »
Dave/Fr. Peters, a question in the 15/100 line.   Isn't the talk of bigger/smaller meaningless without an update in the process of how we do the most important things?  It is the processes that are broken, not necessarily the polity.

The biggest job, but also what I imagine to be the biggest trouble for whoever is tasked with that church admin role is "the call list".  What has shocked me in this age of online everything is that our process is so broken yet incapable of change.  In working with congregations in that call process, the toughest thing is the match between finding a pastor who would be interested in the congregation and a congregation who would be interested in that pastor.  Setting up 20 somethings is easier.

It would seem to me that the first step of any reconfiguration would be the creation of a clearing house.  An Ecclesial Supervisor posts a vacancy and opens a time window.  Pastors that might be interested in that call would post their info package.  The Supervisor could then curate the list, knowing that everyone who is on it is at least interested.  That curation could be as trivial as "here is everyone", it could be as serious as talking to each man and presenting the top 3.  Instead of passing along a list of 16 names - who the congregation calls each, and 11 of the 16 say no, 3 of the 16 say yes to everything but don't mean it, and only 2 are possibilities, but those two inevitably pale in comparison to the three who say yes because the process feeds their ego - instead of that current process, you get to pass along a list of those who are interested. That keeps the Ecclesial Supervisor in the process and gives a chance to shape a good list.  It would also give a Supervisor a clear signal - hey, your guy is submitting a lot of packages - that some attention needs to be paid.  It would also give a bunch of pastors a feeling of something beyond absolute helplessness.

100 supervisors would probably know the congregations well enough to know what they want, but not have enough reach to create a list.  Our current configuration, made more so if you went to 15, might have the reach to create a list, but they have no idea about the congregation, nor about the individual pastors in their midst.

Bring the process into the late 20th century, and the job itself might become more manageable. Make any sense?

I would agree that greater technology assisting the process would help.

A while back a congregation approached me about a call. Before any paperwork was issued, they called me up and asked me if I would be interested. They felt comfortable doing this because they knew me. I had to tell them, no, and gave them a few practical reasons for my answer. A database where I could put those reasons might save them and others trouble.
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