08 September 2010

A Bit More on an Unusual Vicarage

I've had two email exchanges today that explain a bit more about the nature of the vicarage to LCEF, and I thought they were definitely worth the sharing.  I am very appreciate for the openness that both showed in engaging the questions raised with kindness and directness.

First, from Karen Drier:

Dear Rev. Weedon:

I have been a member of the LCEF staff for over 30 years and on numerous occasions I have had the opportunity to witness many, many opportunities when a pastor on staff provided great comfort and reassurance. For example, the death of a co-worker who passed away unexpectedly without any connection to a church home or family. My boss and I visited with the family before they made the difficult decision to remove life support. There were very young children involved and some days I am still haunted by the experience – was there something I could have done differently to change the life of this young woman. Yes, I had my pastor who I could turn to and did but to talk about her life and sudden passing with a pastor who knew her was a wonderful comfort. Without going into all the details, Rev Jeff Miller (member of the LCEF staff at the time) officiated at the funeral so the eternal life promised to each believer upon the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was proclaimed.

Another employee faced a brain surgery not once but twice. This employee had a church home but of another denomination – one that didn’t visit or nurture the sick. It was LCEF staff who stood by her side with her family, who sent cards, made phones calls and visited with her in the hospital. This employee eventually had to go on permanent disability and when that happens the people who worked side by side with this individual also needed counseling and care to understand how such a terrible experience could happen to such a wonderful human being.

I remember very well when LCEF President Art Haake passed away after a morning jog, an employee was killed in a car accident on her way to work, and an active energetic employee woke up one morning paralyzed never to return to work again. The stories go on and on. I have been a lifelong Lutheran and can tell you from personal experience it was a tremendous comfort to be reminded of a Savior who never leaves nor forsakes at times such as these.

Not everyone at LCEF is an LCMS member of a congregation because we are governed by the laws of our great country. This means there are members of our staff in need of the saving grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We have even had the awesome opportunity to baptize a co-worker. Because of the work I do for LCEF I have also had the experience of speaking with a pastor or church worker where the call ended with a prayer.

I have been reading lately that there are people who have turned from “church” as we know it. They will never again sit in a pew or participate in Holy Communion. Their choice. My heart breaks when I hear of such stories or of such facts. The church of the Bible and when Jesus walked this earth was a church of community where we took care of each other without pause to reflect on the cost to do so or the risk to our personal well being. God has blessed LCEF at this time with an individual which great business experience and talent. He also has a heart calling him into ministry. Our Seminary is offering an opportunity for men to go through a training experience where they will be equipped to do ministry. How God will use this individual is a beautiful mystery to me outside of the opportunities I have described to you earlier. But I know in my heart that God will use this individual to further His kingdom. The new LCEF President Rich Robertson (new because he joined our staff in January this year) is a very relational person. He believes we will accomplish so much more being out in the field working face to face with the people in congregations than on the phone or through emails. I can’t help but think having a trained Institutional Chaplain on staff will lead to endless possibilities of sharing our faith to all kinds of people.

In closing, the SMP programs offers Vicar training as an Institutional Chaplain. LCEF is a ministry of the LCMS that provides expertise in stewardship and financial consultation. LCEF actively supports LCMS districts and congregations. This role will benefit the organization in terms of internal expertise (under the supervision of Revs. Gundermann and Miller) to provide theological and doctrinal consultation relative to LCEF’s core business of supporting ministry through loans and investment. Lastly, our more than 100 employees will benefit by having a focused individual to provide pastoral care for their families and themselves.

Thank you for your inquiry and giving me the opportunity to share my views and experience; please do not hesitate to contact me if you have additional questions. May our good and gracious Lord continue to bless you in all your efforts to serve Him!


Karen S. Drier
Assistant Vice President, LCEF Information Center
1-800-854-4004, extension 6327

Karen's comments were very helpful because I'd not really thought of an institutional chaplain working in the LCEF - I always thought along the line of our nursing homes or hospitals or such.

Second, Vicar DeBeir was also kind enough to contact me and provide further information for me about the nature of his vicarage.  I specifically had asked if they had chapel and what sorts of things he'd be doing.  Here's his helpful reply:


To answer your questions ...

Yes, we provide chapel twice a week at our office.  Typically if you are providing chapel on a Tuesday or Thursday you would be providing both at the IC and LCEF.  We are in a separate building from the IC (across the street).  I have been providing chapel both at the IC and LCEF since 2005.  I have my homilies reviewed by ordained ministers, always have - and have learned a lot in so doing.

As Karen indicated, the vicarage is to provide pastoral care for our more than 110 plus employees at the LCEF building, facilitate bible studies, provide hospital visits for employees and their families (all of which is under supervision) LCEF recognized the need to train an employee in this regard and nominated me ... I then went through the whole process of qualification, admission, etc.

For the organization it should benefit LCEF in terms of developing internal expertise (under the supervision Revs. Gundermann and Miller) to provide theological and doctrinal consultation relative to LCEF's core business of supporting ministry through loans and investment.  As well as specifically enhance my area of responsibility, ministry services.

Yes, my understanding is that after ordination, I will be limited to this ministry context.  LCEF is a unique ministry that is blessed to partner with many areas of the church.

There is another chaplain in my cohort, the rest of the men are from congregationally ministry contexts (urban, rural, suburban) of various age ranges.

I think my 15 minutes of fame on your blog is about up, but it has been an interesting day.  I'll do my best to introduce myself to you on the 11th, that will be a great day, indeed!

I wish you continued blessings on your ministry, and thanks, again, for regularly updating your blog ... it has served as a blessing for me, particularly your Homilies as well as the quotes provided from our church fathers.

Your brother in Christ,



Josh Schroeder said...

I wish there had been more time to ignorantly gripe and complain about this before the facts emerged. I haven't had a good foot in the mouth for a few weeks. ;-)

William Weedon said...

Oh, I don't think it should have been an occasion of ignorant gripe and complaint. The question that remains in my mind is whether situations such as this one (and I pray Vicar DeBeir has a blessed vicarage) were actually what the Synod in convention had described to them when they approved the SMP program? I was not at that convention, but from what I recall, this sounds like a different animal, no? Just my $.02.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

This is why we should reintroduce the three fold office - give them a good deacon, and all things would be happy and clear - because it sounds like the fellow is doing precisely what a Deacon would - bringing spiritual comfort and leading non-divine services.

I don't know if it was intended, but I think it sort of works. Of course, I tend to be a fan of institutional chaplaincy.

William Weedon said...

This is the same man who told us we were bishops and not to forget it a week ago??? ;)

I agree, the three-fold office's restoration would be a blessing for the Synod.

Anonymous said...

As far as I can recall, this is certainly not the use the SMP program was approved for. Frankly, I don't see how the thing is theologically sound since it involves the creation of a sub-class of pastors with a limited call. Doesn't this violate the spirit of BOC on the equality of ministers, especially Treatise on P and P of the P? If someone wants to defend the SMP program on this point I'd be interested to hear it.

Bethany Kilcrease

George said...

regardless of all the questions surrounding the SMP program in general, I do wonder about a "SMP" person living in St. Louis or Fort Wayne!

I get the principle of distance education and/or alternate routes. Whether I like them or not, I understand the idea. But what about a person living in St. Louis? Does that person have a good reason not to go through the full curriculum or at least a residential alternate route program?

Moreover, I'm sure that LCEF could use a chaplain. It's a relief to know that a vicarage at LCEF isn't loan approval or fundraising, but actually involves training in ministry. I still wonder about it's place in the church. Are the LCEF employees mostly Lutherans (or at least Christians?) -- then their regular pastoral care should presumably come from their churches. If not, then I guess this is an evangelism vicarage, not a chaplaincy.

I'm struggling because I think the more contact people have with the word of God and the more pastoral care available is better -- but why don't we have chaplains serving at Monsanto Chemical Company, the NY Stock Exchange, or whatever.

You see, chaplaincy is usually something that we do for displaced people -- that is, living far from their "home" (e.g. military, campus) or in places in constant need of pastoral care (e.g. hospitals, military).

Anyway, I wish this young man the best. I pray that God would form him into a faithful steward of His Word and give Him many opportunities to serve.

I'm hardly convinced, however, that this is a good idea for the Church or His own calling to be a minister of the word.

in Christ,

Anonymous said...

It looks like those pushing/supporting the SMP are re-defining the OHM and the Call. It's already standard practice at our Seminaries to "Call" graduates apart from a congregation. Maybe it's time to officially adjust our explanation of the OHM and the Call?

William Weedon said...


I've had the same question for some time. To tell God that a man can be divinely called to ministry in this context, but not in that? How is that theologically justifiable? Big questions there for us to sort through.

stb said...

Since he is supposed to be giving theological counsel to the LCEF, I wonder if Vicar DeBeir is familiar with this text: http://books.google.com/books?id=M4gRAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=die+Wucherfrage&hl=en&ei=qniJTN6WNMK78gaSiJzHAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCwQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

Luther: "Wo man Geld leihet, und dafuer mehr oder besseres fordert oder nimmt, das is Wucher, in allen Rechten verdammt." Read the whole thing. Walther and Luther consider this to be the case even in view of inflation. Maybe the Lutheran Brethren still take this seriously.

stb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The IC, which is swarming with fully trained and ordained Pastors, needs an SMP Vicar to help with its spiritual needs?

KFUO, as I remember, was allowed to argue successfully that it's mission was religious enough to require the hiring of lcms Lutherans, at one time.
[Yes, I know. Don't choke on whatever you're drinking!]

Why would Lutheran Church Extension Fund be required by law to hire non Lutherans/non Christians? [Pardon my ignorance, if that's what it is.]

Finally, I concur with the opinion that there is no reason for someone living in St Louis (or Fort Wayne) to take a short cut to ministry.