By James H. Heine
ST. LOUIS — At its regular meeting Feb. 16-19, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Council of Presidents (COP) adopted unanimously “an open letter of comfort” that addresses the recent controversy surrounding the participation of a Synod pastor in a community prayer vigil/service held two days after the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Also, the COP visited Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, where it held its annual meeting with the seminary’s faculty, and toured Concordia Publishing House.
In addition, the COP continued its regular study of two topics: ecclesiastical leadership in a post-church culture and the office of the public ministry.
In his opening remarks to the COP, Concordia Seminary President Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer thanked the council for its presence. “It was a good thing some years ago when the council proposed these meetings,” he said, “for I have seen distrust between us diminish … and an increase in genuine fraternal discussions about how we can better serve together in our Savior’s mission.”
It is one of the great blessings of his life to be a member of Concordia’s faculty, Meyer added. “About 90 percent of us have earned terminal degrees, we serve the wider church in numerous ways, we are aware of what’s going on in the church and in American culture … and are committed to the doctrinal position of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.”
“My brothers here are striving, struggling to make the transition of bringing the infallible Word of God to people in a culture that doesn’t accept the Word’s validity for life.
“We know that you district presidents are in a similar bind,” Meyer said. “That’s why we treasure this time together. More than any other leaders in the church, you’re out there.”
Also on the agenda for the combined faculty-COP meeting were:
- a presentation by the Rev. Dr. Glen Thomas, LCMS executive director, Pastoral Education, of the recommendations of the Seminary Admission Task Force. A discussion of the recommendations followed Thomas’ presentation.
- a presentation by the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Kloha, dean of Theological Research and Publication, on the development of continuing-education opportunities and online resources for pastors offered by the faculty of Concordia Seminary.
- a report by the Rev. Dr. Dale L. Sattgast, South Dakota District president, on the work of the 2010 Resolution 5-05A Task Force, which addressed the issue of pastoral formation.
Before the meeting with the seminary faculty, the COP heard from Ken Krueger, president of The Foundation for Called Workers. The foundation has established a loan-repayment assistance plan that allows congregations to help new pastors with educational debt. The plan can reduce the stress placed on many of the Synod’s new pastors and prevent the psychological and family problems that often accompany it, Krueger said.
Others making presentations to the COP included:
- the Rev. Dr. Jon Diefenthaler, past president of the LCMS Southeastern District and church-relations adviser for Lutheran World Relief (LWR), Baltimore, who offered an update on the work of LWR and its continuing partnership with the LCMS. LWR has partnerships in 35 countries and connections with 151 “NGOs” (non-governmental organizations), Diefenthaler reported. He thanked the COP and the Synod for its ongoing support.
- the Rev. Dr. Terry Tieman, executive director of the Transforming Churches Network, an LCMS Recognized Service Organization that has partnerships with 32 LCMS districts, who offered his insights on revitalization. Revitalization, Tieman reminded the council, is a long-term process, one that can take at least three to five years. In rural congregations, the timeline may be longer, he said. Critical to the process are learning communities and coaching, Tieman noted. “Change without support and accountability doesn’t happen,” he explained.
- the Rev. Dr. Herbert C. Mueller, LCMS first vice-president, and Synod Secretary Rev. Dr. Raymond L. Hartwig, who updated the COP on the schedule and status of the 2013 LCMS convention. Nominations for the principal offices of the Synod were to be received by Feb. 20, the Convention Workbook will be posted online as soon as it is ready, with hard copies mailed to delegates by April 27. Floor committee meetings will take place May 17-20 in St. Louis, Mueller explained.
Hartwig also provided a status report on the new procedures for election of the LCMS president. As approved by the 2010 convention, voting for the president of Synod will take place in mid-June and the results of the election will be announced in early July. (For more information about the convention and important convention dates, see the “Convention News” section of Reporter Online.)
As required by 2010 Resolution 7-08, “To Study Time Limitations for Initiating Dispute Resolution Process,” Hartwig also discussed with the COP ways to avoid delays in resolving disputes in a timely manner. Per the resolution, Hartwig will make recommendations to address this issue in his 2013 report to the convention.
First calls and placements
Acting as the Synod’s Board of Assignments, the COP assigned first calls to 14 candidates certified for the pastoral ministry. Also, it approved 19 vicarage placements and assigned 41 ministers of religion–commissioned to their initial calls.
COP Secretary Rev. Dr. Chris C. Wicher, president of the Eastern District, reported that 309 LCMS congregations were calling sole pastors; 32, senior pastors; and 81, associate or assistant pastors — for a total of 422 congregations calling pastors.
Numbers from all of the Synod’s 35 districts were included in his report, Wicher said.
Also, Wicher reported that since the November 2012 COP meeting, LCMS districts had reported 14 new starts and 11 closures.
The COP next meets April 27-May 1, initially at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., and then at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. The meeting will be held in conjunction with the 2013 Call Day services at the seminaries. Also, the COP will hold its regular meeting with the Fort Wayne faculty during that gathering.
Posted Feb. 28, 2013