Thursday, July 14, 2016

What Is a "Non-Candidate" Pastor, and Why Has the LCMS Eliminated The Category?

The LCMS (the acronym for the "Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod") historically had only a few categories, or divisions, for its clergy. To be on the "clergy roster" of the LCMS usually meant a pastor who served in a "called" position, that is, called to serve as a pastor of a congregation of the LCMS. Those not currently in a "called" position were often pastors studying for graduate degrees, or similarly occupied, until they finished when they would also take a called position. So how did the various categories of roster membership grow "like topsy" to include such a thing as a "Non-Candidate", and why did it take the LCMS this long to get rid of it?

As the old joke goes, there are two types of people in this world: those who divide everything into two categories, and those who do not. Those familiar with some aspects of Lutheranism, at least in North America, might put the LCMS into the first of these categories, which would make sense. The LCMS tended to avoid at least two aberrations in its theology of the pastoral office (sometimes denoted as "The Office of the Public Ministry"); one aberration could be called "functionalism", which errs in holding that the church (in effect, the local parish), and not God, has established the Office of the Pastoral Ministry as a function of what must be done. The other aberration could loosely be called "neo-sacerdotalism", which holds that the clergy is an office created by God without specific reference to the Word and Sacraments as practised among the local parish, or other corporate manifestation of the church. Perhaps in a similar manner to the various controversies surrounding biblical criticism, the LCMS appears to take an Hegelian approach that does not resolve into the expected "Synthesis". The Thesis and Antithesis continue in the church, the antithesis being condemned, but not to the point where it is entirely extirpated.

In the realm of biblical criticism (itself a modern and contentious term; it is better expressed as biblical studies of some sort) this has meant that the LCMS has embraced the grammatical critical method while rejecting the worst aspects of the historical critical method. The LCMS embraces inerrancy but rejects fundamentalism and their associated ideas of inerrancy as formulated by the Scottish Common Sense philosophical school. When it comes to the pastoral office, the LCMS seems to reject functionalism, but not enough to extirpate any trace of it.

For those of us (including this writer) who believe the pastoral office is created by God and clergy are ordained into it (by God acting through the church), then the action taken by the LCMS convention on July 13th is indeed welcome. The convention decided that “all current candidates and non-candidates be granted candidate status effective immediately” and that “candidate status will be for a period of ten years”. The convention also decided "That all references to non-candidate status be removed from the Bylaws (Bylaw, et al)", abolishing the category entirely. This returns the clergy members of the LCMS to something much closer to the earlier "CRM" distinction (yet another acronym; you see this variously described as "Candidatus Reservatus Ministerii" or "Candidatus Reverendi Ministerii"). Clergy who are CRM as ordained to the pastoral office and are willing to take a called position.

At some point, CRM became "Candidate" in the LCMS Handbook, and then there arose yet another distinction, that of "Non-Candidate". So if ordained members of the LCMS are either "Active", "Candidate", "Emeritus" and "Non-Candidate", what, pray tell, would be the point of having "Non-Candidate" members, if all of these are ordained clergy? Having been all of the above (with the exception of "Emeritus", I think), I am at a loss as to what a "Non-Candidate" would be in reality. It appears to be a "distinction without a difference", but I will let the official form for "Application for Inactive Status" explain it:

A "non-candidate" member is one who is eligible to perform the duties of any of the offices of ministry specified in Bylaw section 2.11 but who is not currently an active member or an emeritus member and who chooses not to be a Candidate member. The member may be continued on the roster for a period of up to eight years by act of the president of the district through which the member holds membership. The non-candidate shall, by January 31, make an annual report to the district president who shall evaluate the member's eligibility for remaining on non-candidate status. The non-candidate's report shall include current contact information and the member's efforts to fulfill the responsibilities of an advisory member of the Synod. Non-candidate members are eligible to serve in ministry situations upon approval of their district presidents and according to the guidelines established by the Council of Presidents. The Council of Presidents may grant an extension of non-candidate status for a second period of up to eight years upon request of the appropriate district president.

So how would this differ from "Candidate"? In the one area of greatest importance, it does not differ at all. As the synodical convention stated, "Candidates and non-candidates in good standing are eligible to receive a call (CCM 09-2546)" (CCM, yet another acronym, is "Commission on Constitutional Matters", and the decision is number 09-2546). The other distinctions - willingness to take a call on the part of Non-Candidates and the rather Orwellian language that Candidates demonstrate "a spirit of.cooperation in any efforts to address any unresolved issues involving fitness for ministry" - might be signifigant, but not signifigant enough. Both are eligible to receive and accept calls.

Why would the convention take this step? The obvious answer is that the distinction of clergy who are "Inactive Members" (which created the subsets of Emeritus, Candidate, and Non-Candidate) is an aberration, and was only recently introduced in 1998. The synod realised its mistake, and tried to correct it some 18 years later, some 5 conventions after the one that instituted the aberration. The other answers are more complicated, and deserve further attention in another post. Suffice it to say here that in practice it may have been too tempting to shunt come clergy into the "Inactive Member" categories to avoid dealing with other difficulties (like problem parishes). This is, to say the least, debatable, and I only have anecdotal data about this. But if so, the synod in convention has done quite a bit to disapprove of anything like this practice.

The Saint Timothy Society is Now a Recognised Service Organisation (RSO) of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

Sometime back in 2007 the Evanglical Lutheran Church of Kenya (ELCK) invited Rev. Tom Aadland to teach at their seminary in Matongo, Kenya following his last term as Presiding Pastor of the American Association of Lutheran Churches.  At the end of that year the Saint Timothy Society for Lutheran Seminary Scholarship was chartered and incorporated to support that work and become a 501c3 organisation in 2008 (for our readers outside the United States, that's one of those pesky codes for non-profits and charities that allow donors to deduct their contributions when paying their income tax; for our readers inside the United States, you have our empathy for having to deal with the current tax code).  We've chugged along for the past nine years doing a lot more than we thought we could largely due to Tom Aadland's excellent success in raising money.  This is often the way of Churches and Church societies; we fail to understand that we can't do what we intend to do, and due to that lack of understanding we manage to do those things anyway.

At some point the Saint Timothy Society decided to apply for what is known as "RSO status", that is, to become a Recognised Service Organisation (RSO) within the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LC-MS).  This came to completion in July of 2016: RSO recognition was given by the LC-MS, the signatures on the agreement were completed by the beginning of August of 2016, and the Saint Timothy Society now appears on the website (and in the RSO directory).

Your humble writer (blogger? that's a word now, eh?) has gained even greater humility (and proud of it!) by being called as the Chaplain for the Saint Timothy Society, which I accepted on July 14, 2016.  So the sporadic postings here will become somewhat less sporadic and will include more information about the Saint Timothy Society, in addition to University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis.  And in the next week I hope to have comments and contact info working on this blog.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Saint Timothy Society Has Been Accepted as a Recogized Service Organization (RSO) of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS)

On July 5th the Saint Timothy Society was offered Recognized Service Organization Status by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Details to follow.

For those who are fond of acronyms, that means the Saint Timothy Society has been accepted as an RSO (Recognized Service Organization) of the LCMS (The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod). For the rest of us, it means that the Saint Tim Society will continue its efforts to help support Lutheran Seminary scholarship and education overseas, most notably as part of the work Tom Aadland does at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya's seminary in Matongo, Kenya. As of this date, we're still waiting to hear in which District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod the Saint Timothy Society will reside. This writer is a member of the clergy roster of the LCMS as a member of the English District, and we're waiting to hear back from them if they would like to be the home of the Saint Timothy Society.