By Melanie Ave
ST. LOUIS (July 23, 2013) — Convention delegates Tuesday approved one resolution and sent another back to Floor Committee 5 (Seminary and University Education) for wording tweaks.
Convention delegates voted to send Resolution 5.03B, pertaining to the Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) program, back to the committee by a 61.6 percent majority.
Several delegates requested wording changes to the resolution — which would amend Bylaw 2.13.1 — and require the Synod president to appoint an SMP committee to evaluate the program and submit its recommendations to the president before each Synod convention.
The Rev. Douglas Stowe, pastor at Divine Savior Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wis., said he opposes the resolution and believes it places the program in a “perpetual state of uncertainty” by requiring an evaluation every three years at convention.
“Labeling the SMP as ‘unique’ in the first line seems to be prejudicial against SMP,” he said of the resolution’s wording. “Either this is a program and part of our polity or it is not. But to hold it at arm’s length in our governing document seems less than helpful.”
One delegate asked that the new makeup of the SMP review committee include two lay members in addition to the LCMS executives and seminary and pastoral members.
After consulting with committee members seated behind him, committee Chair Rev. Dr. Dale Sattgast, president of the LCMS South Dakota District, said he would suggest the Commission on Handbook include laity.
But, as a delegate noted, that would need to be submitted to the Commission on Constitutional Matters first.
“These darn parliamentarians,” LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison joked from the stage.
The Rev. Dr. Andrew Bartelt, a professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, said one of the strengths of the SMP is that it brings “together the support of the whole church for common goals, not just one side of the aisle, or the other for that matter.
“That’s really a bit at stake here as well, to keep moving forward with a healthy sense of checks and balances,” he said. “Yes, we need to continue to evaluate and review the SMP. We’ve had a committee that has done that and one of its strengths is that it represented the whole church. Whatever that committee will be in the future it needs to be representative of the whole church with all stakeholders of the SMP. The membership should be selected from below — not top down.”
The Rev. Dr. Carl C. Fickenscher II, supervisor of the SMP program at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., said the seminary is committed to making the SMP program “truly excellent.”
“Basically at the seminary … we are delighted to do whatever the Synod asks us to do in this route to the seminary,” he told the convention.
After the vote, Sattgast expressed some concern about having time to address the committee’s remaining resolutions in the waning days of the convention, especially the much-anticipated Resolution 5-04B that calls for strengthening the SMP program.
But Harrison assured the convention that he could shuffle the schedule to make sure committees have ample time to have their resolutions considered.
In other business, delegates endorsed Resolution 5-16, which gives “God praise and glory for Concordia Seminary’s 175th anniversary.” The seminary in St. Louis begins its 175th academic year in September.
After the resolution was approved, delegates rose and sang the Doxology in honor of Concordia Seminary’s long history, which includes educating 13,000 pastors “to serve congregations, mission stations and chaplaincies throughout the world.”
Floor Committee 5 is scheduled to return on Wednesday.
The Synod convention is meeting through July 25 under the theme “Baptized for This Moment,” from Acts 2:38-39, July 20-25 at the America’s Center Convention Complex.