I wax synodical. Bo-ring.
The good news for all in disagreement is that the problems I cite will never change, because the top priority of the seminaries is to remain solvent, and the obvious way to do that is to enroll as many students as possible, and the way to do that is not to exclude any possible student. Penny wise, pound foolish is a discussion for another day.
Factor 1. Recently I spoke with someone acquainted with a pastorless church. Soon one of its members will become an SMP student. "He's willing to be their pastor," I was told, "but he's not willing to drag his family to the seminary and wherever else for four years."
I sympathize. Well do I remember the hardships of men who dragged their families not only to the seminary and wherever else for four years, but even dragged them to a synodical college before that to complete pre-seminary training requirements. Without SMP, it wasn't enough simply to be willing to be a pastor. The seminary was a place and a community and a concrete committment, not merely a pragmatic entity. Many things about it were unpragmatic.
Factor 2. My husband has few "seminary friends." The reason for this, I think, is that we were married a week after we graduated from college. He never lived in a dorm or even on campus. His hours outside of class were devoted to earning wages and maintaining me.
This makes for a different fraternity of pastors than was produced in the old days when seminary students were not permitted to be married. Surely there were many disagreements among those men, but they knew each other well, having spent a lot of time in close academic, spiritual, and living quarters. They were more like brothers because they had lived more like brothers.
Factor 3. Yes, I attended the seminary as a student myself. Once a student informed another student in my presence that you didn't want any chicks in a certain venerable professor's class because that professor would be considerably less forthcoming, especially on a certain topic. Frankly, I think the church would have benefited a lot more from that professor's unbridled forthcomingness than it did from me sitting in classes for pastors.
Now we factor the common factor. I think the camaraderie of our pastorate is in bad shape. In making the seminaries more "family friendly," in characterizing them as having been segregated rather than consecrated and legalistic rather than judicious, we have reaped pastors who are less fraternal with each other. I do not think there would be more agreement among them if they had formed stronger bonds during their training, but I do imagine there might be less animosity and more charity, less suspicion and more respect*. They would disagree, compete, labor, and love more as brothers than as acquaintances or coworkers or self-selected friends. I do not mean to idealize brotherly love (I have some brothers myself :D), but it is a gift we are unwise to undermine among our pastors so carelessly. Dudes need dudes, and they need them close, and they need them without chicks around, and the more exclusively dudely their undertaking, the more do they need those things.
A bunch of men living together under compulsory celibacy has its own set of problems, and I don't know that second career pastorization should be categorically excluded, and I am not advocating the construction of a girl- or layman-proof fence around the seminary campuses (not that such a thing would help if and when the seminaries cease to possess locality). But we are foolish not to give serious thought to the implications of the drastic changes pastoral formation has undergone in the last couple of generations. What have our pastors gained from the changes at their rightful alma maters? Might they get along with each other better, even and especially in disagreement, if they had ever necessarily taken up the habit, so to speak? Would a more personally united pastorate make for a more personable and united Synod? And a bunch of other stuff.
*I particularly have trouble imagining (and I am 100% imagining here, so I may be 100% delusional and wrong) any sort of "alternate route" pastor achieving a parity of respect with pastors who got at it the old timey way. Ordained is ordained, but they are simply not equals in terms of effort. This is math, not meanness. It seems to me a formula for resentment all around.