Is there room for dinosaurs in the ELCA?

At our most recent synod convention, we had the “opportunity” to watch DVD’s about a number of ministries that were in many ways unique, but had this in common: each was an example of what might be characterized as “the latest new thing.”

It’s a common practice at synod conventions to share news and information about new ministries like these; and the truth is in a church whose largest seminary tries to produce graduates who want to be involved in or responsible for “the latest new thing” so they produce “missional leaders,” one would expect to see presentations like these on a regular basis.

Interested as I might be in “what’s new” or envious as I might be because I’ve never been in a synodical DVD, I find myself wondering how important or appreciated are parish pastors educated, called, and sent to preach, teach, administer the sacraments, and provide “the care of souls” that many of my contemporaries and I understood we were intended and have since graduation and ordination tried to be.

Some years ago some members of the Luther Seminary faculty began to speak in terms of a false dichotomy as they sought to distinguish between parish pastors who were “chaplains” (a word said with some disdain, as if there was something wrong with trying to faithfully care for one’s “flock”) and what are now described as “missional leaders.”  How thankful I am to have benefited from taking classes from professors who understood it was their calling to educate and train pastors who in our own context would understand our ministry to include both “chaplaincy” and the congregation seeking to serve a larger community.

How grateful I am also to have been called by two congregations in my ministry (the first for 10 years, the second for 27 years) and to work with pastors and other staff members, who have had a similar understanding of my calling and theirs.

What I wonder is who will serve the congregations, and who will educate and support the pastors that those congregations seek, who understand their calling to be the church does not involve or necessitate their being “the latest new thing?”

Even if there is room for dinosaurs like me in God’s kingdom, will there after very long be any left in the ELCA?