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Wednesday, June 28, 2006 

Another Modest Proposal...

Today we have another modest proposal from A. Blaise. Monsieur Blaise's previous post recommending a new translation of the Book of Concord was very well received and still generates a large number of "hits." Enjoy!

“Consequently the church cannot be better governed and maintained than by having all of us live under one head, Christ, and by having all the bishops equal in office (however they may differ in gifts)…” (SA II:IV:9)
“But if our opponents would only listen to the complaints of churches and pious hearts! Our opponents valiantly defend their own position and wealth. Meanwhile they neglect the state of the churches, and they do not see to it that there is proper preaching and administration of the sacraments in the churches…Those who are now bishops do not perform the duties of bishops according to the Gospel…” (Ap. XVIII:3, 12)

The more things change, the more they stay the same. So it would seem in the church of the 16th century and that of the 21st. In the modern Missouri Synod, we of course mostly shun the title “Bishop” (save the English District). “District President” sounds so much more American and democratic. But the office seems the same and the abuses similar to the 16th century days and complaints cited above. Except, in the 16th century, those who exercised ecclesiastical supervision at least made a pretense of holding office in a Christian congregation where the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments was nominally required of them. Our current DPs in Missouri with only one or two exceptions (i.e. Atlantic DP) are not pastors anymore except in name. They serve no congregations, they have no pulpits, they administer the sacraments rarely, and preach only at anniversary celebrations, giving the same tired accolades over and over and over (if you can call that preaching). Pretty much the 16th century bishop revisited.

It’s rough being a DP these days in Missouri. You have to spend long hours bossing people around and collecting money. Even if you’re inclined, there’s no time and you’re not really supposed to preach the Gospel, give the sacraments, or make hospital visits. Even good, orthodox men seem easily corrupted by such an office. They come in with good intentions, but soon are the same sort of no preaching, no sacrament, no Gospel giving louts of which our Lutheran fathers complained. And so the church suffers today in astonishingly similar ways as it suffered in the 16th century. Money is king, along with numbers and organizational unity (though you can’t say the Synod is wrong about anything anymore, according to our Synod President. I guess we even have an infallible hierarchy again, but that’s a subject for another time). So our DPs sow seeds of dissent and cause considerable trouble for orthodox pastors, and seem to lack any sympathy whatsoever for the needs of humble parish pastors serving diligently in small parishes with little help or encouragement.

But there is a fairly simple solution! Several years ago, the former President of the St. Louis Seminary, Dr. John Johnson had a six month sabbatical coming to him. Instead of using it to sit on a beach in Tahiti, he went back to the parish and served six months as a pastor at a church in Houston. By all accounts, it was a great experience for Dr. Johnson and for that congregation, and served to connect him in a real and powerful way to the office he holds and for which he prepared men to enter.

So here’s a modest proposal: how about we pass a resolution at the next Synod convention (since such resolutions are infallible and unconditionally binding on all Synod members now!) that every District President serve at least six months of every three year term in a parish. And not just any parish: it is easy to serve in a big mega church and run a few volleyball leagues, chair a couple of boards, and pat all the lay leaders on the head, without preaching more than once or twice a year, or ever making a single shut-in visit. No, no they must be required to serve a church that has no more than 100 members average Sunday attendance, allowing the pastors of such congregations some rest and respite. If these congregations were in urban areas with challenging conditions and high crime rates (especially muggings), all the better! Then they’d really get a taste of modern parish life! Then they could truly empathize with the least of Christ’s servants.

I hear the cry “but Districts would grind to a halt without our DPs! Their strategery (sic) and what not is vital for the church to survive!” But I recall a presentation by the former SED DP, Dr. Scherer. He informed the brethren of a little known fact from the animal kingdom: if you shoot the lead buffalo in a herd, the whole herd stops and is easy prey for hunters. But if you shoot the lead goose in a formation, he drops out and is quickly replaced and the geese fly on. “Don’t be the buffalo, Dr. Scherer admonished: be the goose.”

We read ad nauseum anyway about “servant leadership” and how the mission of the clergy is not to actually minister but equip others to do the real work. What DP does not preach such things? So let them put their feet where their mouths are. If they are such dynamic servant leaders and have done their jobs properly for a year or two, they should be able to walk out of their cozy corner offices for six months and not even be missed. Surely they are all geese, are they not?

So let’s get those cards and letters flying into Synod, my dear fellow Lutherans, imploring the Synod to require the Six Month Parish Ministry Tour (small parish, less than 100 members in worship, inner city, high crime rate, lots of muggings) for all our DPs. They will be better, the church will be better, and our complaints may at last find redress…

A. Blaise

I thought you didn't like the French? Monsieur Blaise sounds awfully french to me!

I never said I didn't like the French. What I said was, "They are a bunch of cheese eating surrender monkeys".

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