Colloquy – What’s That?
Since I’m still fairly new at this First Vice President thing, people regularly ask me, “Well, what does the First Vice President really do?”
“There are many things in which I’m involved,” I respond, “but the activity that takes up at least a third of my time is the colloquy program. It’s the one thing the bylaws specifically give me to do (besides the comment that the vice president does whatever the president asks him to do).”
“Colloquy? What’s that?” is the most common response.
“Colloquy is our program whereby pastors of other church bodies have the opportunity of qualifying for pastoral ministry in The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.”
“Really? How does that work?” Let me explain.
The Bylaws of the Synod establish a Colloquy Committee for Pastoral Ministry (there is also one for commissioned ministers, but that will be the subject of another blog), of which the First Vice President of the Synod is designated the chairman. Pastors from other church bodies and certain licensed deacons in the LCMS have the right to apply for admission to the pastorate in the LCMS by colloquy.
“Colloquy” is from a Latin word, “colloquium,” which simply refers to a conversation. Applicants prepare, with the help of the district president of the district from which they are applying, an application package which is then submitted to the Colloquy Committee for examination.
If and when the committee believes the application package is satisfactory, the committee will invited the individual for a colloquy, that is, a theological conversation intended to discover what the pastor believes, teaches and confesses for the sake of Christ’s church and the lost world. As a result of that conversation, the committee makes decisions regarding the applicant.
What are some possible results from this colloquy? The bylaws give the committee wide latitude in what is prescribed for each applicant. The committee may, on the basis of the interview, accept and certify the individual on the spot! Or the committee may decline to interview (if the application is not satisfactory) or it may decline to accept the person after interviewing him. Often, however, the committee makes requirements for the applicant to fulfill before being certified.
What are some of those requirements? We might require the man to take particular courses at one of our seminaries, or we might ask him to serve a vicarage, or we might require him to do some mentored readings, or perhaps different combinations of these requirements. Both the examination and the requirements are quite thorough and exacting.
Who is on the Colloquy Committee? The First Vice President of the Synod is designated as the Chairman of the Committee. The Committee also includes a district president appointed by the Council of Presidents, plus the two seminary presidents (or their representatives).
What happens to colloquy applicants once they are certified? They become similar to 4th year seminarians who have completed their courses, are certified for pastoral ministry, but have not yet been placed in a call. Colloquy applicants generally return to the district from which they came, but they must receive a call and be placed in that first call by the Council of Presidents before they are placed on the roster. If a colloquy applicant is bringing his congregation with him into the Synod, this process is coordinated with the corresponding district president.
Who is eligible for colloquy into the pastoral ministry? It used to be that commissioned ministers and other lay leaders could apply for colloquy. However, some years ago the Synod required such folks to go directly to one of our seminaries for their “alternate route” program. Those who are eligible for colloquy are the following: 1) Pastors who are presently serving as a pastor of a congregation of another church body (who have been trained in a Master of Divinity program leading to ordination with the requisite number of academic credits) and have at least three years of pastoral experience; 2) Men who have been trained for the pastorate in a program leading to ordination with the requisite number of credits (who may have served as a pastor in another denomination in the past) and who, at the time of application, have been communicant members in good standing of an LCMS congregation; 3) licensed lay deacons in the LCMS who have served in the full Word and Sacrament ministry for at least ten years and whose congregations have expressed in writing their desire to call the man should he be certified. There are other requirements, but these are the three categories of men who are eligible for colloquy. Of course, one must subscribe to our Lutheran confessions by personal conviction.
How many people does this involve? It’s hard to give you an exact number because this fluctuates as people enter and leave the program. However, generally we have about 25-30 men at some point in the process at any given time.
Why are people coming for colloquy? Many men are attracted to The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod for the sake of our clear confessional theology. They want what we have – a clear confession of faith in Christ alone as the Savior of the world, that we are saved by God’s grace alone, for the sake of Christ alone, received through faith alone and testified by Scripture alone.
A personal observation, if I may: working with the colloquy applicants and the committee is very rewarding work! It involves me at the heart of what it means to be a faithful Lutheran pastor in our Synod. All the members of the committee enjoy seeing these men enter the Lutheran ministry by conviction that our Synod confesses the truth of Holy Scripture.
You may ask, “What do I do if I’m interested in colloquy?” The first step in the process will be to approach the district president of the area in which you live. Check the directory on this web site or ask any pastor of a local LCMS congregation. He will know whom to contact. The district president will provide you with the latest application form and will help you with the application process.
God bless you always, in Jesus!
+ Herbert Mueller
First Vice President
Chairman of the Colloquy Committee for Pastoral Ministry