I’m sorry, but I had a difficult time reading and understanding Dr. Gilbert Meilaender’s November Reporter Commentary on the negative aspects of organ transplants.
I agree that the possibility of hastening death and selling body organs and tissues is morally, ethically, and theologically wrong, and the idea of a widow potentially calling up a (somehow) known heart recipient to listen to the beating heart of her deceased husband for emotional strength is bizarre – but in desperation, plausible.
As a parish pastor, a long-time Lutheran social services area director, and since retirement a health education consultant, I’ve had many years of professional and personal experience in the area of end-of-life decision-making and care, including organ and tissue donation. I’ve witnessed the deep appreciation and blessings from those who have been the recipients of these donations, as well as the donors’ families.
Dr. Paul Janke
Synod finances, salaries
Thanks to Roland Lovstad for his excellent November article featuring Synod corporate executives who express confidence that their entities will “stay their course” on the current “stormy financial seas.” These men are to be commended for exercising prudence with investing and allocating funds that have been placed in their care.
On Page 9 of that same issue is salary information about Synod employees.
I have no quarrel with the salaries that are offered laymen who head the administrative offices of various boards, commissions, and departments of the Synod, since we need to attract and retain qualified and seasoned employees to serve our church body.
But is it wise to use the same yardstick when we ask pastors and commissioned ministers of religion to serve? I think not, and I offer two reasons.
One: A good number of faithful members of LCMS congregations receive inadequate wages, and are struggling to get by. Our leaders rightly ask these members to be generous in their support of mission and ministry. But when clergy seek to motivate members who receive far less pay than they, couldn’t it put such leaders in a bad light? To some, their words of encouragement might seem to have a hollow ring.
Two: While some pastors of large congregations receive generous salaries, others – especially those in small congregations – are poorly paid. This obviously will or might lead to some pastors begrudging the generous salaries that others receive. Wouldn’t some clergy seek positions in large congregations or Synod offices for ulterior motives? Possibly so – and then their ministry might become tainted, since they essentially serve as hirelings.
Some readers may take exception to my reasoning. However, some men who have been willing to serve in a noble cause have been tempted to achieve beyond what they were able to withstand. They have pierced themselves with many sorrows. None of us would want to see such brothers for whom Christ died stumble and fall. Surely not.
Response to ‘suggestions’
I thank Rev. David Schneider for his letter, under the heading “Suggestions for sems,” in the November Reporter. A great deal of thought obviously preceded its writing. Obvious also is Rev. Schneider’s love for the Lord of the Church and His mission.
The Synod’s two seminaries and its Board for Pastoral Education (BPE) are more fully engaged than most people realize in considering the issues raised in this letter. The funding of theological education, the best means to provide theological education, student indebtedness, and the ability of congregations to support a full-time pastor are separate, but related, topics.
To demonstrate how complex these issues are, I would observe that there are fiscal and logistical challenges inherent in the plan proposed in the letter. Positioning a seminary faculty member in each district to act as a “coordinator” for the theological education offered by others in the district (pastors who are paid a stipend) does not seem to be the best stewardship of the theological expertise possessed by these faculty members. Having these men deployed while maintaining sufficient faculty strength for residential seminary education (for students to complete their final one or two years as suggested in the letter) would also pose a significant fiscal and logistical challenge.
Our seminaries are leading the way among North American seminaries when it comes to distance education – a second solution offered in the letter. Yet, distance education is not inexpensive to provide. It requires a significant investment in technology and faculty workload. The fiscal solution is not as simple as merely doing more distance education and less residential education.
The proper mix of residential and distance education in the formation of pastors will continue to be discussed as a more extensive assessment of distance education is accumulated. The primary question to be considered when contemplating any modification of theological education is, “How can the very best pastors possible be formed?” Our Lord’s mission deserves nothing less. Cost is a very important factor, to be sure. But we must be careful not to sacrifice quality as we seek to lower cost.
In fairness, I did not interpret the letter to be advocating a lowering of quality standards, nor did I understand it be criticizing residential seminary education.
Suffice it to say that the Synod, its seminaries, and its BPE are deeply engaged in these issues. We need the continued involvement of many, such as Rev. Schneider, in the ongoing discussion. Again, I appreciate his thoughtful letter.
Dr. Glen Thomas
Glen Thomas is executive director of the LCMS Board for Pastoral Education. – Ed.
Please send letters via e-mail to REPORTER@lcms.org or by mail to REPORTER Letters, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295. Please include your name, postal address, and phone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. — Ed.
Posted Jan. 9, 2009