Placements of 292 church workers — both ordained and commissioned ministers — were approved by the LCMS Council of Presidents, meeting Sept. 13-16 in St. Louis.
The COP, comprised of the 35 LCMS district presidents, the LCMS president, and five Synod vice presidents, also discussed major topics relating to church and culture, the report of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Structure and Governance, and church relations.
With each district president reading the names of candidates in his district, the COP officially placed 255 Ministers of Religion-Commissioned. The new workers include teachers, deaconesses, and directors of Christian education, Christian outreach, parish music, and family life ministry. The workers — graduates of LCMS institutions as well as those who completed colloquy study — were placed in congregations, schools, human care agencies, missions, and outdoor ministries.
Also approved were 37 candidates placed in pastoral ministry. They included 10 graduates of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne; 20 from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (including two graduates of the Cross Cultural Training Center at Concordia University, Irvine, Calif.); six who completed pastoral colloquy; and one graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, Ont.
The COP approved 52 vicarages.
Forty-six of the vicars are students in the Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) Program, which began this fall. SMP students are assigned as vicars to serve in a local ministry while they study for the pastoral ministry through a combination of distance education, mentoring with local pastors, and on-campus seminars. This is the first year for SMP, a program adopted by the 2007 convention.
The council reinstated 19 Ministers of Religion-Commissioned, making them eligible for calls to serve in schools, parishes and other ministries.
With all but one reporting, the district presidents reported 736 congregations with pastor vacancies. The total included 267 congregations calling for sole pastors, 31 for senior pastors; 44 for assistant or associate pastors; and 394 congregations not calling but are being served through other arrangements.
Prior to reviewing the draft of a document offering guidance on worship styles and practices on Sept. 13, the COP heard a presentation on “Church and Culture” from Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, executive director of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations. Summarizing a Bible study he led at the April COP meeting, Lehenbauer said Christians are called to be both “culture-critical” and “culture-friendly” as they participate in God’s mission.
Lehenbauer shared observations growing out of his attending a conference on the “emerging church” movement. He noted that, despite significant theological disagreements, the LCMS can gain insights into developments in contemporary culture from voices within the emerging church.
Many emerging church theologians, Lehenbauer noted, are critical of a “consumerist approach” to church growth and argue that what the church does must always be grounded in what it believes. He said some emerging church leaders “have helpful things to say” about listening to and addressing the “big questions” that people are asking in today’s culture about God, salvation, and the nature of truth and reality.
Rev. David Johnson, executive director of the Commission on Worship, also attended the session and thanked the COP for its effort to offer worship guidelines. In response to a 2007 LCMS convention resolution, the CTCR and Commission on Worship are discussing a model theological conference, perhaps in August 2009, on the topic of worship. The resolution suggests a conference “to build greater understanding of our theology of worship and foster further discussion of worship practices that are consistent with that theology.”
In small groups and plenary, the COP gave several hours to discussing proposals from the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance. Leading the discussion, Rev. Larry Stoterau, president of the Pacific Southwest District and a task force member, said the recommendations seek to strengthen congregations as primary mission centers for reaching communities and the world, while maintaining good stewardship.
The council also heard a presentation by Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger, director of church relations and assistant to the president. He cited distinctions between inter-Christian relations and church fellowship. The closest relationship is church fellowship — where there is complete agreement in doctrine and confession, he said.
“Inter-Christian relationships occur when we relate with each other in the LCMS, but also when we relate to Christians from other churches,” he said, citing examples of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogs or the Committee on Lutheran Cooperation. He said that talking about church fellowship does not exhaust the topic of church relations and inter-Christian relationships,
Posted Sept. 25, 2008