I appreciate the focus The Lutheran Witness has placed on pastoral education, most recently in the May issue. Pastors are necessary for the mission of the church, and seminaries are necessary to produce pastors. In fact, one of the reasons for forming our Synod was to establish seminaries to train pastors. Unfortunately, recent issues of Reporter and Concordia Journal state that Concordia Seminary in St. Louis receives only about 2 percent of its budget from the national budget of the LCMS, and due to the economic downturn, drastic cuts in its operating budget were necessary. Similar funding challenges exist at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne.
While there are certainly larger issues at play, the need right now is for short-term financial assistance while we await new funding models to be developed and put in place. While “bailouts” are for self-standing, for-profit businesses, financial assistance in the form of donations is for not-for-profit ministries like our seminaries. The question of how we arrived at this point really isn’t relevant right now—that is a matter being addressed elsewhere by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Structure and Governance, the Board for Pastoral Education, the seminaries themselves, and, most likely, by the next Synod convention. For now, we simply need to address the current need at our seminaries while we are working on a solution for the larger issues.
I suggest that each congregation and calling entity within Synod take up a collection and mail it as soon as possible to the Joint Seminary Fund. The specific program I recommend works something like this: (1) Ask each person in our congregations to give one dollar per pastor serving them and (2) that this program be called “One Dollar Says Thanks for Pastor!”
The dollar per pastor is intentionally low so that we can encourage the largest degree of participation, since it is good for everyone to say thanks for their pastor(s). These dollars, together (hopefully) with Thrivent matching funds, will express our appreciation, help out in a time of specific need, and, as noted, be sent directly to the Joint Seminary Fund. I also encourage us all to pray for our seminaries and our faithful folks serving there. Pray also that better funding models will be put in place to support our seminaries for the sake of Christ’s mission among us.
Rev. Ernie Bernet
St. Mark Lutheran
Mineral Wells, Texas
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