The Mother of Society

If authority is the father of society, then compassion is its mother.

Society is a group of individuals coming together to govern themselves under a predetermined group of laws, rules, or social contracts.  This cannot be denied.  The flip-side of the societal coin, however, is the compassion that its citizens have for one another.  You can’t have a society of rules without having mercy.  For the society which is heartless will not be able to sustain, for the merciful compassion of mothers and fathers is how children are able to survive and thrive.  Children cannot raise themselves, feed themselves, teach themselves the rules.  It is the duty of parents not to just put a roof over the heads of children, but to create a home to learn and grow and become compassionate themselves.  “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” -Proverbs 22:6

Unfortunately, we, as a society, have chosen to remove compassion from our society for the sake and benefit of those who would be mothers and fathers.  Or, rather, as of late, mothers.  We are not mercifully defending those who cannot fight for themselves, but rather we preserve the choice to fulfill our physical desires, without reserving compassion for the potential result.  We make the life we lead comfortable, rather than to be compassionate for the life that cannot be without us and our protection.  Mothers and fathers should be merciful because their children require mercy to live.  A society that uses abortion as a means to maintain status quo for those who would be mothers and fathers is a society that does not value life, and has no compassion for those who could live in the society and still require compassion.

You cannot have a one sided coin.  What would become of a society with only rules and laws, but no compassion?

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” -Colossians 3:12

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A New Method to Build a Pastor

Having observed from the sidelines some of the discussion regarding the seminary programs and paths to ordination (here, here, and here, just to link a few), I’ve heard quite a number of solutions for how to form pastors in the LCMS.  I was a pre-seminary student at one of the Concordia Universities, so I’ve seen the process from the traditional side.  I’ve also done my share of reading on the SMP program, so I understand the intent for beginning it.  The SMP program, however, isn’t being used only as intended.  It’s forming pastors as fast as possible without the cost or time of the traditional path.

Cost and time may be the problem.  So I submit to the blogosphere the following ideas for changes to the seminary ordination path.

1)  The seminary needs to be free for ordination-seeking M.Div. men.  Cost is the biggest obstacle for those to whom the SMP program should be available:  pastors for the newly planted, the multi-lingual, or the special-needs congregations.  We are, however, a Synod with limited funds and a pair of seminaries already having financial issues.  The question then is, how can we make the seminaries free for M.Div.?  It’s time to decide as a Synod that the education of our ministers, teachers, D.C.E.’s, etc. is the most important thing we can do.  We need to let the bodies who are trained to do this do the work, and not the Synod.  The most amazing things I saw after Hurricane Katrina were the vans, trucks, and trailers lined up in front of the local Wal-Mart and grocery stores, packing up food and water, and driving south the day after it hit.  FEMA hadn’t even gotten up out of it’s chair yet to take a look at the issue, and many individuals were streaming into the void to provide for those most affected.  The Synod does great and powerful work, but it’s first job should be to provide education and $$$’s for those that educate.

2)  Limit enrollment for ordination-seeking men.  It is time for the seminaries and the Synod to be responsible enough to plan for the future and budget it’s resources ($$$ AND pastors) appropriately.  That means that the district presidents must provide every year to the seminaries and Synod a projection for pastoral openings 4 years out.  Then the seminaries can divide the number between themselves and each add 10 percent for attrition.  This will help to provide each graduate with a call to fill.

With a limited enrollment, the incoming students should be further subdivided.  Up to 25% of the incoming class should be second-career students.  It’s important to have a perspective tempered by time spent outside of a classroom.  Congregations have benefited from these pastors for years, and we should continue to prepare them for service.  Also, up to 25% of the students should be the original target for the SMP program.  Purposefully providing for the multi-lingual, the church-planter, and the specialty parish will change the outlook for our Synod and our seminaries.  If one-quarter of our pastoral students are preparing to step foot into a mission field, it will have an effect on the whole class.

3)  Make the M.Div. program a cohort-style program.  Organizing the curriculum into a cohort-style, pre-arranged program will save funds because the costs will be predictable.  Number of classes will be steady from year to year, and the seminarians will have a group of men to bond with as they move through their time at seminary.

4)  Reduce the M.Div. program to 3 years.  A cohort-style program means that the class schedule would need to be pre-defined, removing the ability for students to try and plan a schedule.  This means that the electives would have to go.  No electives and an arranged schedule of classes could move the seminarians through the required classroom courses in two years.  A vicarage in the 3rd year would become more like an actual internship, and would set them up to keep the mindset of working with parishioners.  This would also speed up the seminarians who need to move into specialty calls.

5)  Push electives to the fourth year as an optional and online program.  And charge for it.  The learning a pastor receives from electives is still important, but it’s not required to administer sacraments, teach the Scriptures, or preach the Gospel.  Seminarians who would like to add to their learning can do through online classes.  The technology is available, we have experience with it as a Synod (Wisconsin and St. Paul have very successful online programs), and it’s time to make it available.  The electives they take in the 4th year would cost them tuition, but could be used toward an additional Master’s degree, or even a Ph.D.  By this time, they would be a called and ordained pastor, would be receiving a salary, and supporting their family.  Some would say that they won’t have the time in their first year to take classes.  If that’s the case, then the online programs will be available to them in the future, or could be taken at a pace that would not remove them from there duties.  And the pastors in our congregations would still be learning and developing.  That, and other individuals in the Synod would be able to pursue advanced degrees from our seminaries online, giving others access to the amazing and intelligent individuals teaching at our seminaries today.  Also, the classes would provide another form of financial support for these institutions.

6)  Add local supervision as a replacement for the 4th year.  Let’s not push our new pastors out of the nest so quickly to cause issue.  Create a local supervision committee, or a mentorship program to provide for these men who have just lost a year of support on campus.  They will be fine, their training will be as excellent as it always is at St. Louis and Fort Wayne, but they may want to have someone to lean on or look to for questions or concerns that may have been addressed in the 4th year during classes.

I believe that it’s time to adopt the technology available today for our seminarians, and to help them start out without the overwhelming debt which the seminaries require today (and if they have come from one of the Concordia universities prior to seminary, watch out!).  We can get them in and out quickly and still give them an effective and biblically-sound education, while saving our Synod and seminaries money.  The adoption of a program like this would require us to end the SMP and lay minister programs.  All the better, for these cause nothing but division and frustration amongst the Synod membership.  And why would we want to create ministers with “restrictions” (direct from lcms.org) to their ministries?  Let’s provide the right number, at the right time, for the right reason:  To spread the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory alone.  Amen.

Responsibility and Contraception

Let’s face it, sex is fun.  It feels good.  Really good.  No one who has, can, or does partake of sex will deny that is one of the most enjoyable activities for humans.

It’s important to note that sex creates people.  That’s what it does.  Having sex makes more people.  Again, this isn’t news to those of us who have had, or will have, sex.

What do more people create?  The answer to that is much more complicated.  So let’s talk about this not as “more people”, rather a person.  Because sex creates just one person (well, most of the time, but we’ll leave twins or more out of this).

The first thing sex creates is another mouth to feed, not just our own.  Sex also creates a relationship with the other person who is biologically part of the mouth to feed, whether you like that person or not.  Although, if you’re willing to have sex with someone, I would hope you like them a little bit.  Sex creates dirty diapers, sleepless nights, field trips, college tuition, brothers, sisters, and/or grandchildren (because sex creates more sex, no one will deny THAT statement).  Sex creates borrowed cars, boyfriends, sporting events, school pictures, punishments, cell phone bills, and trips to DisneyWorld.  Simply stated, sex creates responsibility.  Responsibility is a consequence.

How does contraception fit in to this responsibility and consequence?  Contraception allows for the removal of responsibility and consequence while leaving the capacity to feel good.  Perhaps that’s over simplifying the discussion.  But contraception means that one doesn’t have to consider what will happen after having sex.  Instead, one can just think about having more sex.  Without the risk of responsibility.

Because no one wants to be responsible, right?