Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Weakness of a Seminary Education

There is one major weakness of Seminary Education as we know in the LCMS. For 4 years those who are training to be a Pastor have no pastor of their own.

"Well, what do you mean? They are surrounded by pastors. The profs are pastors, the administrators are pastors, their field work supervisors and vicarage supervisors are pastors!"

Well, no, no, and sort of.

A Professor is not a pastor. When I showed up to Scaer's Christology class, I did not show up to have my sins forgiven. I did not show up for guidance. I showed up to learn Christology. And moreover, Dr. Scaer had a duty to test me, to quiz me, to examine me and find my flaws so that if I did not understand Christology, I would fail.

That's not being a pastor. But that's okay - that's being a Prof, and that's what Dr. Scaer is called to be.

An Administrator is not a pastor. Their job is to administrate - to determine if a person fits a moral standard for an office, to funnel money, to shuffle numbers and students around. To judge.

That's not being a pastor. I don't care if you've gotten an M. Div - I don't care if you on occasion speak the Gospel or preach in Chapel... that's not being a "pastor". Fundamentally, pastoral care isn't your job.

As for Field Work and Vicarage Supervisors -- I love Pastor Crown. He taught me much... but he wasn't "my pastor" or only my pastor. He was my Supervisor - he was there to grade me, to determine whether or not I pass.

I do not grade my members. I do not determine whether or not they pass classes or whether they should be fired from their jobs.

I preach. I administer the Sacraments. I forgive their sins. I visit them while they are sick. I pray with them and over them while they are dying. I comfort them in their loss. And even if they go astray, I correct them - not with threats, but with gentle urgings to what is good.

We spend four years without a pastor - we spend four years with theologians who sit in judgment over us. Is it any wonder, then, that so many pastors can tend towards becoming legalistic tyrants who try to shape or form "good little christians" by force?

It's just what we've spent the previous 4 years learning.

Seminaries - call a Campus Pastor. Let him run the Chapel. Let him tend to worship and be a pastor to your students. He can visit them and their families when they are ill. He can listen to their burdens and forgive their confessions. He can give counsel and advice and comfort... and all without any position of judgment.


William Weedon said...

Wisdom! Let us attend!

Peter said...

As a recent St. Louis grad, I can tell you that St. Louis does have a campus chaplain who hears confession, preaches, provides pastoral care, and is not part of the certification process. Chaplain
Stein does a very good job, and I fully agree that it is a helpful position in the life of the seminary. Thank you for bringing up this important topic!

Joshua Woelmer said...

As a current student at CTS, we have discussed the benefits of having a chaplain or campus pastor, but simply put, the seminary can't afford such a position. The Dean of Chapel takes care of the worship life, while our Dean of Students does a great job in being with the students in time of need. He's visited families in the hospital, been at a funeral, and done countless other tasks that would normally be done by a pastor. There are downsides though: he's a part of our certification process, so seminarians shy from going to him for C&A.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Joshua - that's the thing... he's part of the process.

And you know what -- can't afford it is a lousy, lousy reason.

With as much staff and faculty as they have, they can't shift or move things around for one position? Not one?