The new Lutheran Witness arrived the other day. I assume it is for the month of May. The President's page, which is now prominently featured in the front of the magazine, was all about the shortage of pastors in the Missouri Synod - how we will need more pastors each year in the next ten years than we have been producing in any year for the last 35. The arguments were true. The statistics were doubtless accurate. The appeal to action was as it has been for decades.
This week we also received notice that a number of men will graduate from the seminary and not be placed immediately because there are too few calls for graduates. I didn't write down the numbers, but it was something like 18 St. Louis Graduates and 13 from Fort Wayne that will wait for someone to need one of those hundreds of pastors that we will need each year (something like 280) badly enough to call them. Meanwhile, the roster of congregations designated as "vacant but being served" (and therefore NOT calling a pastor) continues to grow in almost every district.
Of course, we must also add to the list the four hundred (plus!) pastors still on the roster who have been removed from their calls by various mechanisms due to the unchristian actions of their congregations. Men are fired, their compensation reduced or eliminated in order to force them out without technically 'firing' them , they are harassed daily and endlessly until
they collapse physically, or emotionally, and finally resign for the sake of a) their health, b) their families, c) the well-being of the few Christians in their congregations, or d) simply to escape the pressure-cooker their office has become. All of this, of course, with the approval, and often the participation of their District Office. In one case in Missouri, a pastor was forced to resign with
a small severance package, or be terminated immediately with no severance package, and the district president announced to the Circuit Pastor's Conference that he had "never seen that sort of situation handled in such a Christian manner before". That begs the question, of course, "How can something so ungodly be done in a 'Christian manner'?".
This all follows the time tested principle that if you just keep saying the same old things, and act as though nothing is happening, nothing is changed, most people will never notice. Stories are told of Jews during World War Two who were moved from their homes to concentration camps, and did not actually understand what was happening to them until they were being herded
into the gas chambers themselves. They were told that things were fine, they were being resettled in a new place, that things were a little rough for a short while, but nothing was amiss. They didn't pay attention to much -- not that it would have helped them a great deal -- because they were constantly being reassured that things were just fine.
During the time of the Synod's greatest upheaval, the official line from the Synod was that we are united in confession and moving forward. Until the Seminex debacle in the 1970's, most everybody seemed to believe that line. Even conservatives deeply involved in the controversies considered their adversaries to be friends who had just gotten a little mis-guided. "Oh, yeah, Ott. He's always been a little like that!" And any attempt to hold one to their words or their actions that went against the official line of the Synod was labeled a violation of the Eighth Commandment, true or not! (Actually, that is still happening!)
So, this past week we heard about the sorry situation of men who trained for at least four years, sometimes eight, and found no call at the end of their training, and at the same time, and impassioned plea to encourage young men to consider training for the parish ministry because we are going to be so short-handed in the very near future. Talk about the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing!
Lord, have mercy upon us!