By James Heine
ST. LOUIS — At its meeting April 28-May 3, the LCMS Council of Presidents (COP), acting as the Synod’s Board of Assignments, assigned first calls to 139 candidates certified for the pastoral ministry. Also, the COP approved 114 vicarage placements and assigned 39 commissioned ministers to their initial calls.
In addition, the COP attended placement services at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.; held its regular meeting with the faculty of Concordia Theological Seminary; and received reports from Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, Chief Mission Officer Rev. Gregory K. Williamson and his staff, and Pastoral Education Executive Director Rev. Dr. Glen Thomas, among others.
For a related story on call-day activities May 1 and May 2, click here.
In his report to the COP, Harrison noted that the 2012 district-convention season “is in full swing.” The tenor of the conventions “I’ve attended thus far has been quite healthy and with little contentiousness,” he said. Serious issues had been wrestled with, he added, but “for the most part in a cordial and respectful manner.”
Harrison also noted that districts “are struggling honorably with the financial challenges they all face.”
At the Synod level, “we have come through the budget process in good shape,” Harrison said. While borrowing against restricted funds stands at $11 million, that number is down significantly from the recent past, he observed.
Regarding ecumenical activities, Harrison noted that contacts with significant Roman Catholic leaders continue, as well as with leaders of other church bodies, both national and international.
During a separate portion of the meeting, Harrison continued his role as discussion leader of Walther’s Theses, focusing this time on Thesis VII.
As part of its continuing focus on ecclesiastical leadership in a post-church culture, the COP invited the Rev. Bill Woolsey, senior pastor of CrossPoint Lutheran Church, Katy, Texas, to highlight the work of “FiveTwo,” an organization dedicated to providing a personal how-to to sacramental churches and encouraging them to more effectively reach the lost in their communities.
Woolsey said nine church planters created the organization three years ago in response to this question: “What would it look like to work with church planters around the Synod?”
The organization’s name, he added, is a reference to Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 with five loaves and two small fish.
FiveTwo’s work is “built around our common belief that God provides mysterious life-changing power through Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and those gifts should be at the center of our mission work,” Woolsey explained in a handout to the COP.
In addition to its continuing focus on the church in a post-church culture, the COP also continued its discussion about pastoral formation, first through an update on the PALS (Post-Seminary Applied Learning and Support) program presented by Thomas and then during the COP’s annual conversation with the faculty of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, where the topic was “Seminary Pastoral Formation from Application to Placement.”
(The COP held its annual meeting with the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Feb. 19. There also, a principal topic was pastoral formation.)
In his presentation, Thomas explained that PALS is an intentional effort by the Synod to help pastors — and their wives — through the transition from seminary to congregation. Participation is optional, and about half of the eligible pastors in participating districts attend PALS meetings, Thomas said.
He explained that reasons for nonparticipation vary, from a pastor or congregation not seeing the value of the program to issues of time, work and scheduling conflicts, travel distances, and lack of funds.
Thomas noted that recent improvements to the program include new courses for the curriculum, better training of facilitators, a steering committee and improved communication, including the “PenPALS” newsletter.
At Concordia Theological Seminary, the discussion included not only seminary education (formation) and PALS, but it also highlighted the importance of identifying men for the holy ministry, the application process, and post-seminary continuing education.
Pastoral formation is an intentional process that begins when pastors guide their young (or not-so-young men) toward the ministry, observed Dr. Carl Fickenscher II, associate professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions and dean of Pastoral Education and Certification at Concordia Theological Seminary. It includes screening by districts and seminary officers in the admissions process, is emphasized throughout the seminary years with close personal interaction in and out of classes, and continues throughout one’s years of ministry.
“Forming pastors for the church is why our seminaries are here,” Fickenscher explained in an email to Reporter. “God’s work is always about what goes on in congregations — pastors and people working together — which means we at the seminaries are always seeking to shape men who will grow together with their congregations in faithfulness to God’s Word.”
Part of the discussion focused also on 2010 Convention Resolution 5-05A, which charges the COP and the seminary faculties with presenting to the 2013 Synod convention a report on how best to certify clergy and hold them accountable for continuing education.
In addition to the reports or presentations by Harrison, Thomas and Woolsey, the COP heard from the following:
- LCMS First Vice-President Rev. Dr. Herbert C. Mueller, chairman of the Colloquy Committee, on the men who have been certified for colloquy and placement in ministries of the Synod. The program provides opportunities for ordained men from outside the Synod to be prepared for pastoral service in the LCMS. At any given time there are approximately 25 men at one point or another in the process, Mueller said.
- Dr. Bruce G. Kintz, president and CEO of Concordia Publishing House, on the value of The Lutheran Witness as an official periodical of the Synod and as a communications vehicle for districts.
- The Rev. Dr. R. Reed Lessing, associate professor of exegetical theology and director of the graduate school at Concordia Seminary, who offered a Bible study on Isaiah 55.
Before the meeting closed May 3, COP Secretary Rev. William Klettke, president of the New Jersey District, reported that 186 LCMS congregations were calling sole pastors; 42, senior pastors; and 39 associate or assistant pastors, for a total of 267 congregations calling pastors.
Numbers from all 35 LCMS districts were included in his report, Klettke said. Also, his report reflected the new placements announced May 1 in St. Louis and May 2 in Fort Wayne.
Klettke also noted that since the February COP meeting, LCMS districts had reported 17 new starts and five closures.
For Klettke, the meeting was his last as secretary of the COP. He will retire as president of the New Jersey District at the end of his current term. The district will elect a new president at its triennial convention May 31-June 2 in Philadelphia.
In addition to Klettke, those retiring or stepping down from the COP because of term limits include the Rev. James Keurulainen, president of the New England District; the Rev. Dr. Lane R. Seitz, president of the Minnesota South District; the Rev. Kenneth E. Lampe, president of the Mid-South District; the Rev. Dr. Jon T. Diefenthaler, president of the Southeastern District; and the Rev. Randall L. Golter, president of the Rocky Mountain District.
The COP next meets Sept. 15-18 in St. Louis.
Posted May 31, 2012