Friday, May 6, 2011

More Thoughts on "Those" Pastors

This morning, I received an email from a brother LCMS pastor concerning my last post.  In very kind and respectful language, this fellow explained to me why he thought it was wrong to equate discriminating based on the color of a pastor's skin with discriminating based on the seminary that a pastor attended.  I know that this pastor isn't the only one to disagree with me, so I thought I'd post my response to his email here in order to explain my thoughts in greater detail.  

Here's an excerpt from his email, with his permission:

The latest post you have on black vs Ft Wayne is not entirely accurate. Prejudice because of color strips away anything else about an individual -- I look at you and I say "This is the one thing that matters." 
But a school is a place of education and forming. And like it or not, back in the day, there was a bit of a distinction between the sems of our Synod... Ft. Wayne in the past was doing enough things to make a distinction. It certainly affected the view people had of their students. But that is not a pre-judging. It is hearing what is being taught.
While I agree that racism strips away anything else about an individual, I would argue that the chief offense of racism is that racism is rooted in empty accusations/assumptions of sin.  So, for example, if a man does not want his daughter to marry her black boyfriend because he believes that this black man will be more likely to commit adultery than a man of another race, he has broken the eighth commandment by assuming that this young man is going to break the sixth commandment.  So, without cause, without proof, without evidence, he condemns his neighbor by looking at the man's race and concluding, "you will not be faithful to your marriage vows."

And, at its core, this is the same thing that an LCMS congregation does when she concludes that a graduate of CTS ought not be trusted with her altar, font and pulpit.

Of course, I understand how congregations reach this conclusion.  After all, the recent placement services at each seminary certainly give some credence to the perception that Fort Wayne is a higher-church institution, while St. Louis is a bit more "flexible."  (Although I don't know that streamers fall under the category of "contemporary," as much as they do the category of "why they heck do they have streamers?")  Likewise, if a congregation wants a pastor that approves of contemporary worship (whatever that means), it makes sense that you'd want to avoid the seminary that neither practices nor endorses CW.

But even if that makes sense, it doesn't make it right.  Because it's a Lutheran pastor's job to examine the worship practices of his congregation in light of Scripture and the Confessions, regardless of her worship "styles."  And it's also his job to return his congregation to faithfulness in practice if ever she has strayed.  That's what God has charged pastors to do and it's what congregations should expect their pastors to do. 

So whenever a congregation assumes that a Fort Wayne pastor is going to behave like a tyrant break and thus break the fifth commandment against her, she breaks the eighth commandment against him.  Whenever a congregation assumes that a Fort Wayne pastor is more likely than the other kind to make laws where God has given us freedom, she is emptily assuming him to be a sinner.  Likewise, whenever she assumes that the Fort Wayne fellow is going to lead with a spirit of intimidation and arrogance and not a spirit of love and service, she is once again accusing him of sin without cause.

So this is why I made the analogy of racism.  Just as it's wrong to use the color of a man's skin to accuse him of sin, so it's also wrong to use a man's alma matter to accuse him of the same thing.  And just as a Christian ought to assume that his neighbor is going to honor his marriage vows, so a congregation should also assume that her brother is going to honor his ordination vows.

My name is Pastor Hans Fiene.  Thanks for reading.


Pastor Bakker said...

Why do our profiles even include the seminary from which we graduated? Why do our DPs need to know who went where?

I agree with you, Hans, that there is no reason whatsoever for this to be an issue in our church.

Soon enough the question from congregations who start to notice the difference will not be, 'which seminary did you attend?' but, 'did you go to seminary or did you become a pastor through one of the alternatives?'

Pastor Kevin Jennings said...

While in the seminary at St. Louis, when guys from The Fort would come for a visit (basketball game, spying (just kidding!), etc.), they'd usually start the conversation by saying, "We're the Theological seminary." My response usually was, "Right, and we're the ones who don't have to keep reminding ourselves of this." I meant it in fun, and I hope my brothers received it the same way.

I've known guys from Ft. Wayne AND from St. Louis who are rigid and unbending, and I've known guys from both places who sailed off the left side of the world. However, the vast majority of the brothers I've known from both places have been solid, faithful pastors. And, that's what a congregation should expect their pastor to be: solid, faithful pastor, no matter where he went to school.

I think Pastor Bakker raises a valid question, one on which I offer comment on regular basis, solicited or not.