By Melanie Ave
ST. LOUIS (July 24, 2013) — Floor Committee 5 (Seminary and University Education) got a good workout Wednesday at the 2013 LCMS convention with three different appearances before convention delegates.
After many ups and downs and back and forths across the stage, Committee Chairman Rev. Dr. Dale Sattgast, president of the LCMS South Dakota District, thanked LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, the convention’s chairman, for the exercise.
“You’re welcome,” Harrison replied.
By the time the gavel rang out for the last time, delegates had approved six of the committee’s resolutions dealing with two LCMS seminaries and 10 colleges and universities.
Left pending were two of the committee’s biggest issues, Resolution 5-03E and Resolution 5-04, both pertaining to the Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) program, a four-year distance education that was begun by the 2007 convention at the two seminaries.
One of the pending SMP resolutions — now in its fifth incarnation — deals with the creation of a group to provide “leadership, coordination and oversight” for the program. The other SMP resolution calls for continuing and strengthening the program.
Sattgast said he has been assured by Harrison that the committee can finish its business Thursday, the last day of the convention, even though it was not originally on the schedule.
Also left pending was Resolution 5-11B that calls for amending Bylaw 22.214.171.124.3 regarding prior approval for the appointment of seminary faculty.
LCMS First Vice-President Rev. Dr. Herbert Mueller, acting as convention chairman, called for the orders of the day before the convention had time to vote on the issue.
During the discussion Sattgast told the delegates that a “difference of opinion” remains about the resolution despite a “very cordial meeting” with the two seminary presidents.
Before the convention, the Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer, president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, sent a letter to delegates opposing the resolution, Sattgast said. The Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast, president of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., sent a letter of support to the floor committee, he said.
Sattgast said the committee may present a modified version of the resolution Thursday.
An issue that drew a healthy amount of debate Wednesday was Resolution 5-08A, which establishes a standard for the continuing education of pastors.
The Rev. Keith Less, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Chestertown, Md., and a circuit counselor, renamed “visitor” by the convention, thanked the committee for the resolution.
“I now have something to go to my circuit to ask them to do,” he said. “We are the only profession on the planet that does not require continuing education and we should have it.”
The Rev. Carl Noble, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Perham, Minn., asked the floor committee about prior efforts to promote the continuing education of pastors by conventions in 1998, 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2010.
“Are we now finally, after today, will we have established a standard?” asked Noble, who supported the resolution. “I don’t mean to be sarcastic. Do we always plan and never do anything?”
The convention delegates applauded.
One delegate said he didn’t feel like the resolution had any “teeth.”
Sattgast said the committee “spoke long and hard” about including stronger language in the resolution, but concluded it was too legalistic.
“The accountability is there if this resolution is adopted,” he assured the delegates.
Delegates endorsed the resolution with an 89 percent approval vote.
Delegates also approved:
- Resolution 5-06A revises Bylaw 126.96.36.199 regarding college and university faculties. It was approved by a 95 percent majority vote. According to the committee, the resolution was necessary to clean up the bylaws so the university boards of regents “can govern more effectively.”
- Resolution 5-05B amends the bylaws regarding the boards of regents and the Concordia University System board of directors. It received a 91.6 percent approval vote.The presidents of Concordia University, Irvine, Calif., and Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis., spoke in favor of the resolution.“We all support the notion that regents should be faithful to Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions and to the doctrinal position of the Synod,” said Dr. Kurt Krueger, president of Concordia, Irvine.
The Rev. Dr. Patrick Ferry, president of Concordia Wisconsin and Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Mich., said the presidents of the universities had some serious concerns with earlier versions of the resolution, but supported the version before the delegates.
“We have confidence going forward that we will continue to address the interests that we all share in maintaining Lutheran identity and quality Lutheran higher education,” he said.
- Resolution 5-09 amends Bylaw 188.8.131.52.2 regarding the election process for college and university presidents. It was approved with a 95.1 percent majority vote.One delegate recommended an amendment that required faculty members of search committees for university and college presidents to be members of the LCMS roster.Rachel Eells, an advisory representative from Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, Ill., opposed the change.
“If this Bylaw were amended in the way proposed, our College of Business could not be represented on the search committee, as they have no rostered workers,” she said. “As a former Lutheran school teacher, I’m all too aware that the church and its institutions cannot function optimally if all the work of the church is done without the teamwork of non-rostered colleagues.”
The approved resolution deleted the rostered requirement, and now only mandates that faculty and staff members on the search committees be members of LCMS congregations.
- Resolution 5-12 that encourages, promotes and supports the recruitment of Hispanic and Spanish-speaking students and faculty into church-work professions was endorsed by 95.5 percent of the convention delegates.
- Delegates also approved Resolution 5-07 to thank God for Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis., and Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Mich. The two universities began operating as one entity July 1, but each university will retain its own name and identity.The convention showed their support of the two universities by standing and clapping.
The Synod convention is meeting under the theme “Baptized for This Moment,” from Acts 2:38-39, July 20-25 at the America’s Center Convention Complex.