To find out more about the NOW Leadership Initiative (L.I.) download the PDF Bible Study Toolkit here.
Read and Access “Workers for His Harvest: For Conversation Among the Congregations and Pastors of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Concerning Public Word and Sacrament Ministry” (click the “download” button)
Read and Access President Linnemann’s January 2019 Letter to the Congregations and Workers of the Northwest District —Provides context for the “Workers for His Harvest” Document. (Click “download” button)
Read and Access the 2016 Synod Resolution 4-06A “To Regularize Status of Licensed Lay Deacons Involved in Word and Sacrament Ministry.” (Click the download button)
In this six-page paper (presented by the author in January 2017 during the Exegetical Symposium at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Indiana), Dr. Juedes offers a concise introduction to a view that supports “deacon” as an office from a Lutheran theological perspective. Dr. Juedes supports each of his main points with documentation of his exegetical study of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.
Here are some excerpts:
ON THE ROLE OF THE FIRST DEACONS AS A MODEL FOR INTEGRATING THE GREEKS
“People who think the Seven (deacons in the book of Acts) were tasked to help the poor struggle to explain why stories of them baptizing Greeks don’t fit the theory. But if we see that the Seven were tasked to assist the apostles in converting and integrating Greeks into the church, everything makes sense. Luke offers the Seven as a model for how to assimilate Greeks because this problem plagued the Church for generations, from the Jerusalem council to Corinthians eating food sacrificed to idols.”
ON THE TEMPLATE PROVIDED BY ACTS FOR THE OFFICE OF DEACON
“….Acts 6 lays out five elements of the deacon office which are the pattern for today:
- Deacons are a separate office with a ministry similar to, but distinct from apostles, overseers and pastors; neither “layman” nor “pastor.”
- The office of deacon and overseer overlap because deacons assist and expand their ministry,
- Deacons are called by local congregations and publically ordained.
- influential spiritual ministry of deacons requires spiritual and character qualifications as in 1 Timothy 3
- Ministry portfolio is broad, and varies in response to needs of congregations and overseers.”
ON WHAT THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS SAY
“….The confessions speak of deacons as being ordained. In the modern Missouri synod “ordain” is a word restricted to pastors, but in the New Testament and Confessions it is a multipurpose word used of bishops and deacons also. Lutheran practice is that one must have a call before he can be ordained. Since the confessions consider deacons to be ordained, they also consider them to be called.
Overall, the Lutheran confessions teach that deacon is one of three orders, or offices, of minister, one type of called and ordained clergyman, neither pastor nor layman, with liturgical functions….”
ON THE USE OF DEACONS IN OTHER LUTHERAN BODIES
“….We identify modern deacons by looking at their functions not their titles. A list of 18 Lutheran and nonLutheran bodies that have deacons, and their titles, is available. In general, liturgical churches give deacons pastoral functions while nonliturgical churches limit them to social ministry. The recent American Missouri Synod (i.e. the LCMS) is an anomaly in that it has no nationally recognized office of deacon.
There are two gaps in synod’s view of deacons. The theological knowledge gap is that recent American Missouri Synod tradition does not realize that the Confessions consider deacons a biblical office nor that there are three orders. The administrative gap is that there is no roster of deacons.”
In this publicly available document translated into English, the faculty of Seminario Concordia, Buenos Aires, Argentina, provide their position in response to a growing trend within their church body. Included at the end are letters of support from the Presidents of Lutheran Churches in Brasil, Guatemala, and Argentina.
Why share this document on this website, originally focused on issues regarding Licensed Lay Deacons? As the reader will find out in the position paper provided by the IELA Seminario Concordia faculty, there is an important discussion going on in the wider global Lutheran church about the nature of the Office of the Public Ministry, the Priesthood of All Believers, and the role of the Lutheran Confessions and Scripture in determining ministry practice within different cultures and contexts.
We thank Rev. Dr. Anthony Steinbronn, District President, New Jersey, for offering permission to use the following thoughts on the “priesthood of all believers,” with special focus on Luther’s treatise, Concerning the Ministry to the Bohemian Christians. Click here to read the original post on Rev. Dr. Steinbronn’s blog on the New Jersey District Website
In 1523, Martin Luther wrote a treatise to the Bohemian Christians titled Concerning the Ministry. In that treatise, he dealt with two ministry situations: (1) the right of congregations to elect their own pastors and (2) the right of, and command to, God’s people, as the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:4-10), to be engaged in the ministry of the Word (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23, 51-52; Romans 10:13-17).
That is why we, as Lutherans, affirm that the Predigtamt (AC V) is the highest office in the church and from it flow all other offices in the church. Consequently, both the office of the pastoral ministry and the office of the priesthood of all believers have been entrusted with the ministry of the Word so that they might make known this “justifying faith” (AC IV) in the lives of others as they proclaim, tell, share, and witness the Gospel through the spoken Word in its various forms (Predigtamt).
One normative example from the Book of Acts, in which His people are actively engaged in the Predigtamt, is recorded in Acts 8 and 11. It is the account of how the the priesthood of all believers (Priesteramt) are scattered because of a significant persecution that broke out in Jerusalem in response to Stephen’s witness and message — and wherever His people were scattered, they “went about preaching the Word” (Acts 8:4)…
“and on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered through the region of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles…now those who were scattered went about preaching the Word. Philip went down to a city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ” (Acts 8:4-5)
“now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to none except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of theLord was with them and a great number that believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:19-21)
In these selected verses from the Book of Acts, we have the priesthood of all believers engaged in “the ministry of the Gospel — the spoken Word” (Predigtamt); and we witness the Holy Spirit bringing people to saving faith, whenever and wherever He wills, just as Augsburg Confession Article V declares.
The following excellent and extensive quotation is from Dr. Robert Preus regarding the meaning of Predigtamt (AC V) and its relationship to the ministry and work of the whole church.
“Notice that in this passage no mention of the office of the pastor is made, no mention of man, of rank, or ordo. Rather an activity is spoken of, a function, a preaching activity (ministerium docendi evangelii). This is the means whereby faith is created and nourished, the means whereby the church is born and nourished. And thus this ministry becomes the essential work of the church. Notice the prominent place given this ministry by Melanchthon. The article on this ministry of the Word follow directly upon his presentation of the work of Christ and justification by faith, and it precedes the articles on the new obedience and the church (Art. VI-VIII), for there can be no new obedience or church without this ministry.
It is important to note the functional non–institutional nature of this ministry. Melanchthon is simply speaking here, as elsewhere, of the preaching of the Gospel Word, or of the work of the Gospel Word. This fact is illustrated clearly in the Schwabach Articles VII as they speak on this point. ‘To obtain this faith, or to bestow it upon us men God has instituted the ministry of the oral word (Predigtamt oder inundlich Wort) namely, the Gospel through which He causes this faith and its power and use and fruit to be proclaimed, and through it as through means He gives us faith along with the Holy Spirit, as and where He wills. Apart from this there is neither means nor way, neither mode nor manner to receive faith.’
There can be no doubt that this article, like AC V, describes the work of the church, or more properly, God‘s work through the church in causing His kingdom to come. This conforms to the Confessional notion that God is the author of baptism and of the Sacrament of the Altar. The church‘s mission, or ministry, is God‘s mission through the church. And it is a ministry with a completely soteriological and eschatological goal. The kingdom of power (creation, preservation, providence, civil government) is totally in the service of the kingdom of grace, namely, God’s Gospel claim upon men.
The Lutheran Confessions see this ministry as the work of the whole church in contrast to a ministerium leviticum which still dominated the hierarchical notion of the Romish church (Tr. 26). This functional view of ministry destroys all ranks (Tr. 7-13). What, then, is the office of the pastor? He is simply the public servant of the church, rightly called to teach and preach publicly and administer the sacraments (AC XIV).
The pastor does nothing that the church is not commissioned to do.
The ministry of the Word today is seen as the continuation of the apostolic ministry which in turn was the continuation of Christ’s ministry (Tr. 9), Christ’s opus proprinin, which is to proclaim the Gospel.” (Robert D. Preus, “The Confessions and the Mission of the Church,” The Springfielder 39 (June 1975), No. 1: 22-23).
 “…since they are the people of God it is due them that no one be set over them without their election, and the bishop ought to confirm no one whom they did not know and approve of as suitable” (LW 40:11)…”then call and come together freely, as many as you have been touched in heart by God to think and judge as you do. Proceed in the name of the Lord to elect one or more whom you desire, and who appear to be worthy and able. Then let those who are leaders among you lay hands upon them, and certify and commend them to the people and the church or community. In this way let them become your bishops, ministers or pastors. Amen. The qualifications of those to be elected are fully described by Paul in Titus 1:6ff. and 1 Timothy 3:2ff.” (LW 40:40)
 “…the command, to declare the wonderful deeds of God, is nothing else than to preach the Word of God” (LW 40:22); “the ministry of the Word is the highest office in the church, that it is unique and belongs to all who are Christians, not only by right but by command” (LW 40:23) and “a Christian is born to the ministry of the Word in baptism” (LW 40:37).
 “To obtain such faith God instituted the office of the ministry, that is, provided the Gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where He pleases, in those who hear the Gospel (Tappert 1959:31).”
 This understanding of Predigtamt in AC V is predicated upon its definition and usage in the predecessor documents of the Augsburg Confession developed by Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon and others: “To obtain such faith or to give it to us, God has instituted the preaching office or the spoken word (that is, the gospel) through which He has this faith proclaimed, along with its power, benefits and fruits. God also bestows faith through this Word, as through an instrument, with His Holy Spirit, when and where He wills. Apart from it there is no other instrument or way, passage or path, to obtain faith” (Schwabach Article 7; July 1529). “On the external word we believe that the Holy Spirit, properly speaking, gives this faith or His gift to no one apart from preceding preaching, or the spoken word, or the gospel of Christ. Rather, the Holy Spirit works faith through and with this word when and in whom He wills” (Marburg Article 8, October 1529).
 “Another example is provided by Stephen and Philip, who were ordained only to the service at the tables (Acts 6:5-6). Yet the one wrought signs and wonders among the people, disputed with members of the synagogue and refuted the council of the Jews with the word of the Spirit (Acts 6:8ff.), and the other converted Samaritans and travelled to Azotus and Caesarea. By what right and authority, I ask?
Certainly they were not asked or called by anyone, but they did it on their own initiative and by reason of a common law, since the door was open to them, and they saw the need of a people who were ignorant and deprived of the Word… And the Eunuch converted by Philip (Acts 8:36)… [the Eunuch] undoubtedly taught the Word of God to many, since he had the command to make known the wonderful deeds of God who called him from darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
From his word (the Ethiopian Eunuch’s) resulted the faith of many, since the Word of God does not return in vain (Isaiah 55:11). From faith sprang a church, and the church through the Word received and exercised a ministry of baptizing and teaching, and all of the other functions enumerated above [Luther listed seven functions of the priesthood of all believers: “to teach, to preach and proclaim the Word of God; to baptize; to consecrate or administer the Eucharist; to bind and loose sins; to pray for others; to sacrifice; and to judge all doctrine and spirits” (LW 40:21)].
All these things a eunuch accomplished through no other right than that inherent in baptism and faith” (LW 40:38).
The following essay was submitted to this site, and we share it to support ongoing discussion on topics that revolve around the theology and use of licensed lay deacons.
Our goal is to provide the one-stop spot for the discussion on Licensed Lay Deacons (LLD) for the following reasons:
1. The NOW District has over 70 LLD’s in service today,
2. We (NOW District staff and Board of Directors) find their supervised ministry a valid and responsible expression of each local church’s identified ministry needs per our congregational polity,
3. There is substantial theological difference in the LCMS regarding the Office of the Public Ministry and how we implement it locally,
4. The Resolution from 2013 Synod Convention on LLD’s asked the Synod President to use “all means at his disposal to promote study and discussion of this vital issue,” and we desire to support that resolution to promote study and discussion, and,
5. We believe further discussion and dialogue (rather than voting) on this specific topic is essential to walking together with a caring spirit for the greater church.
As you may see by perusing the posts/essays/reports on this site, rather than there being a single interpretation held by all confessing Lutherans, there are valid theological differences in the LCMS on the Office of the Public Ministry, the “priesthood of all believers,” and how they interact at the congregational level.
The best way to deal with these is to provide more time for the discussion, and focus on dialogue and the process of discernment. Thank you, Rev. Swan for providing your essay to support this process of group discussion and discernment.
“…To the best of my knowledge the increases (over two decades) can be summarized as follows: from 1 to 13 congregations; from 0 to 19 teaching posts/ preaching stations; from 1 to 6 worship languages; from 25 to 610 baptized members; from 45 to 770 pre-baptism learners; from 7 to 49 new leaders-in-training; from 3 to 23 teaching elders; from 4 to 23 women leaders; from 0 to 6 evangelists; from 0 to 4 seminary students; and from 0 to 2 pastors.”
This report “snapshot” is provided by Rev. Dan Kunkel, missionary emeritus, Ghana, West Africa.
Rev. Kunkel’s Service as An LCMS Missionary:
- 1973-1994 — Evangelistic Missionary, LCMS World Mission, Ghana, W. Africa, among 7-plus language groups, church planting, school planting, and leadership training and community development.
Why do we share reports like the one by Rev. Kunkel accessible below?
IN A PREVIOUS POST ON THIS SITE we offered (already publicized by the SE District on their website) answers by all three candidates for Synod president, one answer being specifically about the use and function of Licensed Lay Deacons. President Harrison noted in his comment that “…I have come to realize that the LLD issue raises other perhaps even more fundamental issues. Some are convinced that our seminaries and the manner of training our pastors in residence is completely outmoded and should be replaced with a 100%, in-context training by local mentors. I have noted elsewhere that this model had been tried for decades on the mission field and has failed spectacularly to grow churches.”
As a follow-up to that post, this site welcomes a response from LCMS missionaries on the following:
- Data and experience from the mission field either supporting or reversing the assertion that extending the Office of the Ministry through a variety of auxiliary functions or offices under supervision has been “a spectacular failure in growing churches,” (President Harrison), and,
- Theological perspectives on this approach on the global mission field.
The “snapshot” of two-decades of ministry below was provided as a response to this request.
Of interest is the “farm system” approach that allowed a flexible AND responsible (supervised, mentored, regular training provided) response to the needs of a growing mission field. Here is another excerpt from Rev. Dan Kunkel’s report:
“The Lord of the harvest greatly blessed and multiplied the Office of Ministry through this team ministry of missionaries and pastors serving together with local languages-proficient disciples, teaching elders, and evangelists.”
In this paper originally shared with TF 4-06A, Rev. Dustin Parker of Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, CA, provides a helpful metaphor for understanding the different variances of service in public ministry, along with direct quotes from Luther and Walther on the service of deacons.
A concept running through his paper is that the service of LLDs is
a) complementary to the pastoral office as one of many functions,
b) extends the pastoral office under supervision, and,
c) has credence in theology and practice among the “Lutheran fathers.”
Here’s an excerpt from Rev. Parker’s own thoughts in his paper:
“[regarding deacons] I would use the illustration provided by the commissioned and non-commission officers of our armed forces. The first group of officers are those commissioned (ordained) in the regular manner by going to a service academy (either West Point, Annapolis, the Air Force Academy or one of the schools like Norwich, VMI, Citadel. These officers serve regular unending commissions, usually with combat arms. This would be equivalent to those trained in our two seminary’s and the Concordia Irvine CMC program.”
“The second group are products of various ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) programs. Some of them serve full careers, but as reserve officers in specific roles in support of combat officers. For example, supply, communications, logistics. They aren’t usually used in combat units, unless as cannon fodder. They are however, full commissioned officers with the “command” responsibility. These would be the SMP trained and ordained pastors.”
“The third group are non-commissioned officers, warrant officers, sergeants, corporals. These have authority and responsibility delegated to them by officers above. They have no authority or responsibility, save that which is delegated. They work with smaller specific groups to accomplish goals officers give them. They may, in certain battle situations, be tasked with more, or less. They serve as valued advisers to young officers, but again, do not have authority over them.”
And, an excerpt from a Luther quote in the paper:
“To whom ever the office of preaching is committed, to him the highest office in Christendom is committed: he may then also baptize, celebrate Mass [the Lord’s Supper],and perform all the cure of souls [Seelsorge]; or, if he prefers not to, he may tend only to the preaching and leave the baptizing and other auxiliary functions to others, as Christ did, and Paul, and all Apostles, Acts 6” (St. L. X: 1548).29 i
And, an excerpt from a Walther quote in the paper:
“…Therefore, the offices of Christian day school teachers, almoners, sextons, precentors at public worship, and others are all to be regarded as ecclesiastical and sacred, for they take over a part of the one ministry of the Word and support the pastoral office.”
“…before they were allowed to study to be a trained lay preacher… they had to already have planted two village churches in their area….”
This report is provided by Rev. Dr. Paul Mueller who returned two weeks ago from a trip to Liberia and serves as Executive Director of the Center for Applied Lutheran Leadership (CALL), Concordia University–Portland, Oregon.
Dr. Mueller’s Service as an LCMS Missionary:
- 1983-1990 – Evangelistic Missionary, LCMS World Mission among the Kisi, Lofa County, Liberia, W. Africa
- 2005-2009 – Regional Director – Africa, LCMS World Mission
In 1979, mission work was begun by the LCMS in Liberia, W. Africa, and missionaries worked in the country until 1990 when they were evacuated as a result of the war. The LCMS had four upcountry missionaries and one serving in the capital city, Monrovia. During that time, though the missionaries did the initial work of planting village churches and training non-literate leadership, that same work soon became the responsibility of lay preachers – they preached in the villages, cared for the worshippers, led weekly worship, and even planted more village churches. None of them were pastors.
When the war erupted and all missionaries were evacuated, about 30 villages in the entire country of Liberia had Lutheran congregations worshipping – none of them with pastors. At that same time, many Liberians also left the country, fleeing for their lives. As a result, Acts 8:1-4 was resurrected – those who were scattered preached/proclaimed the word everywhere they went, even as they were being persecuted, jailed, and beaten.
As they scattered and proclaimed the Good News, new ministries were started in Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire where the Liberian Lutheran Christians fled and where there were no LCMS missionaries. 50 village churches were started in Guinea by the lay preachers – there were absolutely no pastors doing this work. They preached and baptized. As a result, there is now an Evangelical Lutheran Church of Guinea in a country where there were no LCMS missionaries, and where no other protestant church but the CMA was allowed by Guinean law to do mission work. That Guinean Lutheran Church continues to grow. Very few local pastors are available to do the work, so the national Lutheran church relies on the large cadre of lay preachers to do the work today.
Cote d’Ivoire also, as a result of the war, now has a Lutheran church body. Once again: there are very few pastors who then continue to rely on the many lay preachers to carry out the work of the church. In both Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire, to my knowledge, none of the pastors has had any academic training equivalent to what is offered in the states, in Europe, or even in Kenya or Nigeria. They have been trained locally by missionaries, or by other African local leaders who have had more experience and local training.
Since 1997 when many Liberian refugees were able to return to Liberia from Guinea, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, and even Ghana, (though there was still fighting and unsettled movement by many people), lay preachers who returned began the work to re-plant the village churches. From the 30 or so village churches worshipping before the war, there is now a robust Lutheran Church with about 15-20 pastors. One of them has St. Louis/Ft. Wayne Western academic training, one has a degree from Matongo Lutheran Theological College in Kenya, some have limited training from the seminary in Nigeria, but most of the pastors received minimal training from the Coordinating Center for Theological Studies (CCTS) located in the small village of Jembe in Sierra Leone.
The faculty of CCTS included one missionary, visiting instructors, and local indigenous leaders who had received the same training and had local church leadership experience. Lay preachers from Sierra Leone and Liberia, as they were able, would go for a month of training with several months off before the next session would begin. Many only returned as local family and village opportunities allowed. But in order to begin that training, they had to have already planted two village congregations.
Let that be noted again: before they were allowed to study to be a trained lay preacher, and then maybe continue on to be ordained as a pastor, they had to already have planted two village churches in their home area.
Today, that Lutheran church in Liberia has 15-20 pastors, 140 worshipping congregations in villages scattered throughout the country, with about 20,000 members.
Those results (and its continued missional growth) have been achieved by God blessing a model of leadership which primarily uses lay preachers. Most of the phenomenal growth has been done mostly without missionaries on the ground, without outside funding, and without pastors in every village congregation. The Lutheran Church in Liberia is a great example of spectacular success using a lay preacher model very similar to our own Licensed Lay Deacon model in the states. These faithful lay leaders serve in Liberia with the blessing of the Liberian Lutheran Church and the blessing of the LCMS.
Mission Training Center (MTC) is the premier partner with the NOW District in training leaders across the Northwest and beyond. A major “track” in the MTC offerings is associated with training of licensed lay deacons.
Rev. Dr. Paul Mueller, Executive Director of the Center for Applied Lutheran Leadership (CALL), the umbrella organization for MTC, provided the following information from a powerpoint he uses when speaking of the deacon training that occurs through MTC.
Southeastern District President, Rev. Dr. John R. Denninger recently asked all three candidates to respond on the issue of LLD. The PDF below is originally available here.
President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison’s comments (found in full in the document below) should especially be noted.
For example, Harrison says, “What was originally viewed as “temporary” went to permanent, and left us violating both Scripture and our Lutheran Confessions teaching on the office of the ministry.”
It is important to recognize that the accrued resources on this website raise the theological question whether the assertion above is the case, or whether, in fact, LLD ministry is actually supported by both Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. At least, it should be clear if you spend some time here reading the resources that within the LCMS there are strong theological cases being made for the function of LLD, and it might be appropriate for the LCMS to have more time for theological conversation before a vote on the LLD issue.
Harrison also says, “I have come to realize that the LLD issue raises other perhaps even more fundamental issues. Some are convinced that our seminaries and the manner of training our pastors in residence is completely outmoded and should be replaced with a 100%, in-context training by local mentors. I have noted elsewhere that this model had been tried for decades on the mission field and has failed spectacularly to grow churches.”
It is important to recognize that the assertion above about “spectacular failure” has no attendant supporting facts, examples, or data. To make a claim of this magnitude regarding LCMS mission requires some form of verification for it to have credence. Furthermore, the NOW district can speak specifically to a model similar to this here in the Northwest (LLD Ministry) that has, in fact, spectacularly succeeded in maintaining and growing churches (for supporting evidence, please see Dust Kunkel’s essay and subsequent response to Rev. Eric Lange).
This site welcomes a response from LCMS missionaries on 1. data and experience from the mission field either supporting or reversing the assertion that extending the Office of the Ministry through a variety of auxiliary functions or offices under supervision has been “a spectacular failure in growing churches”, and 2. theological perspectives on this approach on the global mission field. In the meantime, we direct the reader to the essays in support of Lutheran missions and a flexible and theologically-faithful delivery of the Gospel available in Missio Apostolica (Now called Lutheran Mission Matters) provided by the Lutheran Society for Missiology.
Rev. Dr. David P.E. Maier sums up his response with the following words: “I would strongly encourage that there be uniformity across our Districts in the educational standards for, and continuing education of, deacons by asking our Concordia Universities – and the best of District Deacon education and licensing programs – to coordinate a standard curriculum, qualifications, and system for deacons. In this way we can have theologically trained and licensed deacons – honored and recognized by the church – ready to serve the church.”
Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer suggests the following, “As weighty as this issue is, more serious is the way we work toward a resolution. One side can get a majority of votes to impose its position on those who disagree. That would be handling the issue according to the law, and from the Bible we learn the principle “the law brings wrath” (Romans 4:15). A better way, more Lutheran will be to work patiently but persistently toward a fraternally reached resolution that most will embrace. “See peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11). Hence I do not favor a cut-off date. How could we appear before the Judgment seat of Christ and say that we passed a resolution that forbade Your Word and Sacrament from being ministered to people? A resolution to move toward ordination through practical ways (colloquy, SMP, CRM) without deadlines seems to me the most peaceful way forward. Progress should be reported to the 2019 convention.”
Just published in the May edition of Lutheran Mission Matters.
This document, titled “Celebrating the Ministry of Licensed Lay Deacons: A Theological Review of the Task Force Report on 2013 LCMS Convention Resolution 4-06a” is a “two for one” deal. Written by NOW district pastor and regional vice president, Rev. Michael Von Behren, the essay provides a theological review of the report of Task Force 4-06A.
The first portion of the PDF below is the actual article in the journal Lutheran Mission Matters, and the second portion is the “author’s analysis of the specific issues raised by TF 4-06A’s report ….”
You can access both portions of Von Behren’s review in one document by clicking here:
Click Here to Read Celebrating the Ministry of Licensed Lay Deacons: A Theological Review of the Task Force Report on 2013 LCMS Convention Resolution 4-06a
The documents posted below were created at the request of the membership of NAME (North American Mission Endeavors), a group comprised of the mission executives from each district and various mission partners who work with them.
[NAME meets, typically, once in the Spring and once in the Fall, and is the only gathered group of LCMS district mission execs and partners to meet regularly over the last few decades. As such, they represent a vital perspective on the theology and practice of the LCMS engaged in mission.]
The documents below are posted here by the permission of the NAME Executive Team who provided the following note of qualification:
“The response was written and shared with the membership of NAME, who were asked whether they wished to sign the statement. The intent was that should a significant percentage of NAME members (set at two-thirds by the executive committee) sign the statement, it would then be sent to the convention floor committee and District presidents. Although a majority of NAME members supported the statement, due to a large number of abstentions and ministries also preparing their own statements and not wanting to pen their names to two or more statements, the two-thirds majority was not achieved. Therefore the executive committee did not feel that we could in good conscience submit it as a statement representing the views of NAME.”–NAME Executive Team
With the permission of the NAME executive team, this document is posted here as a resource and represents the view of a majority of the members of NAME, but does NOT represent the opinion of the NAME group as a whole.
Following the request by Rev. Eric Lange to share his “fraternal response” more widely across the district, The Exec. Asst. to the President, NOW District replied with a number of items of agreement, some differences, and some questions. Kunkel’s response is an informal exposition of his essay posted on this site, “Category Error, Common Sense, and the Office of the Ministry in the LCMS.” Note: if you have not already done so, please read Rev. Lange’s posted response to Kunkel’s essay which is also found on this site.
Here is an excerpt from Kunkel’s response (you can access the entire response in PDF at the bottom of this post):
“As in my essay, I must again suggest calling LLD’s “pastors” is a titular solution to the issue rather than a systemic solution. I’m not against the LCMS carrying out an extensive conversation about ordination, and the possibility of extending it to new groups of leaders. However, in my opinion, the subject is of enough consequence that TF 4-0A should not be jumping the gun with a quick solution all the while claiming it has done more than its due diligence. To summarize my perspective: we need to re-think and re-build a robust selection process for our leaders (usually the congregation and local circuit knows best who has faithful character); we need a training process that is flexible, not financially onerous, and modeled after the training methods of Christ; and we need pastoral supervisor-trainers who can walk with these leaders as they practice proclamation within real faith communities. These are not static structures but ongoing processes. The SMP program is a helpful step in this direction, but remains 1. Too expensive, 2. Too centralized in the Midwest (when it could be pushed out regionally, which would also take care of lowering expenses), and 3. Too limiting upon completion. The EIIT program is also a helpful step in this direction.
Foundational to this discussion is the Lutheran notion that authority for Word and Sacrament ministry rests in the local congregation. Our synodical arrangements are, at minimum, one step removed from this at a secondary level and we should communicate this difference regularly. If we do not, we begin to confuse primary authority with secondary organizational structure created to enact the authority. The growth of the church across the world and more specifically the LCMS through its partners in mission has always moved forward with multiple functions extending the Office responsibly under supervision. That is a fact. I have heard leaders in our church body denying that fact, but it is a fact. I was there in West Africa in the ‘70’s, ‘80’s, and ‘90’s. Local congregations and “preaching stations” raised up leaders, most with little education, to preach and baptize and commune under supervision. I was present when the Word of the Lord spread (Acts 6:7) in West Africa. The challenges of that mission world have arrived here in our insular western world, pressing us to reconsider our assumptions about the Office. This discussion is proof of that.”
And another excerpt:
“…The “ramifications of the use of LLDs” are in evidence today, not 30 years from now: It is a fact that we have congregations in the NOW district that would not exist without the ministry of LLDs. It is a fact that we have congregations that have called a full time pastor as a result of the service of LLDs. It is a fact that the seminaries have noted, over and over through the years, that entrants who were previously LLDs and sensed the call of God to voluntarily go and chose the M.Div. route are excellent pastoral candidates. It is a fact that we have been able to launch new congregations with the service of LLDs. The ramifications of the use of LLDs are clear, today: with careful supervision, God’s people receive the word and sacraments regularly in every corner of the district. 30 years from now, if we still have LLDs, my guess is we’ll also have excellent graduate-trained theologians supervising them responsibly.”
And another excerpt:
“Is it better to have a highly trained and highly educated theological educator/pastor leading a congregation without any required supervision and/or accountable relationships, or have a less educated and less trained pastor or deacon who is supervised regularly and held accountable locally? The reason I bring up this question is that I’ve heard more than once the argument that we need to turn deacons into pastors because of “abuses” or “deacons off the rails.” I find this logic suspect, considering that we have just as many, if not more, pastors who abuse the office or “go off the rails.” Why would we turn deacons– functioning within accountable systems–into pastors when we don’t have reliable accountable systems in place for our pastors? Deacons can have a license removed at any time by a DP, or not renewed at annual licensure, while pastors, typically, must commit an egregious error for there to be action from a DP.
…As I have already indicated, I support extensive pastoral training culminating in a graduate degree. We are in ongoing need of more and more graduate-level pastors. The question is not about men being trained extensively but rather the need of our congregations to receive the word and the sacraments regularly, and for new and old faith communities to have flexible provision. It is a fair question to ask: at what point does a current congregation no longer receive the Word and Sacraments regularly because it cannot afford the type of leader Synod requires? A secondary question is this: by whose authority shall this congregation be told it cannot receive regular Word and Sacrament ministry?”
Circuit Visitor, Oregon Circuit #6, Rev. Eric Lange wrote a response to Kunkel’s Category Error, Common Sense, and the Office of the Public Ministry in the LCMS, read it below.
Here is an excerpt from Lange’s response (you can find the full response in PDF form at the bottom of this post):
“In this regard, I believe we must also sufficiently consider another important truth of Holy Scripture and of history, namely, Ubique peccatum originis domi est, “original sin is at home everywhere.” It is at home among the laity and among church officials, yes, even among the clergy. But it is especially the clergy’s job to point out sin or the danger of sin. Thus, it should be noted that Saul’s men raised no discord over Saul’s actions. It was Samuel, the clergyman, who raised the discord by noting the inappropriateness of Saul’s sacrifice. And why would Saul’s men raise any objections, since Saul, their king, a church official, said it was alright. Why would anyone question it? Years later, Elijah, the clergyman, was tagged the “troubler of Israel,” while the people raised no discord over the rise of the worship of Baal, again probably partially because King Ahab, the church official, promoted it. During the Reformation, it was not chiefly the laity who had issues with Rome’s teachings or with the concept of indulgences. And those who had issues with Rome often had issues with things that were not the main point. Luther, the clergyman, created some of the greatest discord in history by insisting on the Gospel. A discord, I might add, that we will be joyfully celebrating next year!”
And another excerpt:
“The issue here is not what these dedicated and faithful men are … according to our traditional understanding, they are pastors, not lay deacons, or whatever else we may devise to call them. And our congregations have the right to know that these faithful men, whom we have unfortunately labeled “licensed lay deacons,” are their pastors. And these faithful men have the right to know that they are pastors. The title “Pastor” might not be a positive to those outside the church, as Dust suggests, but it certainly is to those within the church. Titles do mean something. Thus, it says something when a child refuses to call their step father or step mother, or adopted parents, “father” or “mother,” “mom” or “dad.” Let’s call these pastors what they are. They need it and their congregations need it.”
And another excerpt:
“According to Melanchthon, the “affliction” of his time resulted from not cherishing studies and admitting unlearned men into the ministry. I believe the Task Force’s suggestions are trying to prevent this from happening again. The Task Force’s recommendations flow from a genuine concern for the future of the church. And because “original sin is at home everywhere,” such concerns also argue for the broadest possible participation of the whole church in the placement of men into Word and Sacrament ministry. Thus, one concern is that districts are vetting the licensed lay deacons alone without the input of the church at large. The transparochial nature of the office is what is at stake here. This is exactly the point of the Task Force. A point, I might add, that Dust does not address in any meaningful way.”
And another excerpt:
“Let us not tempt God. Let us fully train those who are to labor in the Holy Ministry. Let us give our shepherds the weapons they need against the wiles and snares of the devil. But let us also trust that the Lord will provide laborers for the harvest. Jesus said, “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into His harvest.” Pray as if it is all up to God. But let us work, let us give, let us study as if it is all up to us!!!
I want to end by saying I am blessed to be part of a district that believes that “Lutheran Mission Matters.” I also, however, strongly support the suggestions of the Task Force on licensed lay deacons. My prayer is that those who support the idea of licensed lay deacons would at least realize that those of us who question the notion of licensed lay deacons are not just being jerks or that we lack concern for the lost, or that we worship the Confessions, but that perhaps on judgment day, we simply don’t want to hear, Samuel’s words to Saul, “You acted foolishly. You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you.” God grant us His grace that we might discuss these things as brothers and come to God pleasing agreement. Amen.”
Considered by many in the NOW District to be the “must read if you could only read one thing” in the LLD conversation occurring in the LCMS, this essay on auxiliary functions/offices in the church was written by NOW district pastor and Regional Vice President, Rev. Michael Von Behren, and is published in the peer-reviewed journal at (www.lsfm.global)
Mission Training Center (MTC) (an equipping arm of the Center for Applied Lutheran Leadership — CALL) is the premier partner with the NOW District for equipping workers of all kinds across the Northwest and beyond. Rev. Dr. Paul Mueller provided his perspective on the Licensed Lay Deacon issue in a response to TF 4-06A in February, 2016, and it is provided here by his permission.
This “parable” was submitted to the NOW District Office of the President by an anonymous licensed lay deacon in objection to the LCMS task force recommendations to remove the service of Licensed Lay Deacons in 2016. This “parable” is posted here as an example of the questions that LLDs are raising as they serve their congregations in unique and challenging situations in the field.
A woman drove past a farm on her way to her “weekend” house and took a particular dislike to the appearance of a farm owned by the Miller family. She called and wrote to every government agency demanding that something be done about “The Miller Problem”, but since no laws were being violated she was told there was nothing that could be done. Her chief complaint? It didn’t look “pastoral” to her because there was a race car sitting in the door of a garage with the engine lifted by a chain hoist, a tractor with a flat tire, there was “junk” machinery everywhere, and the “lawn” wasn’t mowed.
After several months, she finally managed to get through to the head of the state department of agriculture. He assured her he would look into this and immediately contacted the local state agriculture inspector, John, and wanted to know what he was doing about “The Miller Problem.” (He had already checked and found no problems). John in turn was compelled to contact the cooperative milk inspector, Bob, where the Miller farm sold its milk. (Bob had also already checked and found no problem). Eventually, as these things go, the Millers were told to push the race car into the garage, fix the tractor tire, pick up the “junk”, and mow the “lawn,” even though no law required it. The Millers pushed the car inside and closed the door, turned the tractor around so the flat tire was not visible, moved the other implements to the backside of the barn out of view, and cut the grass.
Now, when the woman drove by, she thought she had accomplished something very important because what she saw was more aesthetically pleasing. “This is the way a farm should look!” she smiled to herself. “Although, honestly, can’t someone paint that house?” And she made a mental note to follow up with John.
Let’s tally up what the Miller’s compliance accomplished:
The car sitting in the garage door was there so the door frame could be used to safely lift the engine so it could be worked on. It may not have looked pretty, but it was solid and safe. Now it was just less safe. The tractor with the flat also had no working transmission and didn’t need one because it was only used as a power plant for running a piece of equipment that never moved. They were making use of something that was otherwise irreparable to save a lot of wasted effort connecting and disconnecting other tractors to that piece of equipment–a time-consuming and dangerous prospect. Again, it made things a lot less safe to comply. The other implements were arranged for quick connection and use during the busy harvesting season and resting on rock-hard ground where connecting and repair work was easier and safer. The lawn was allowed to grow as a snack for animals waiting to get in and out of the barn, but now it was gone and the animals had nothing to eat as they milled around waiting. Several got out and wandered into the road as a result.
The woman went driving by the next week, saw the sheep in the road and had just enough time to think, “How could those Miller’s let a sheep run loose?” before she crashed her car into the animal, and both she and the sheep “stood before the pearly gates.” We will all have to wait to hear the punchline, because in this particular story, it is most likely no laughing matter.
This much I can say: “The Miller Problem” did not fix anything for anyone, in the end.
This essay is the first counter-point response published in a peer-reviewed journal (www.lsfm.global) Lutheran Mission Matters, January Special Edition, to the assertions and recommendations of TF 4-06A. The second response by Rev. Michael Von Behren can be found in the May issue of Lutheran Mission Matters (or above in another post on this site).
LCMS Synod Convention in 2013 asked the President to form a task force to study the issue of Licensed Lay Deacons. Here is the actual wording from the resolution:
Resolved, That in faithfulness to God’s Word and Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession regarding the Office of the Holy Ministry, the President of Synod would direct the CTCR to develop resources for use on the congregational, district, and Synod levels concerning this issue;
And be it further Resolved, That the President of the Synod, who has the responsibility “to promote and maintain unity of doctrine and practice in all the districts of the Synod” (Constitution, Art. XI B 3), be encouraged to use all means at his disposal to promote study and discussion of this vital issue;
And be it further Resolved, That the President of the Synod establish a task force consisting of members from the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, the Council of Presidents, the Praesidium, and seminary faculties to develop a plan anchored in the Word, in consultation with licensed lay deacons and those who supervise and are served by them, to resolve questions about the service of licensed lay deacons serving congregations of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod with the Word and Sacraments of Christ;
And be it finally Resolved, That the plan and its proposed implementation be reported to the Synod one year before the 2016 convention.
If you’re into this, might as well read the full report (The executive summary of the report, by nature, does not give the full understanding of the arguments and recommendations made by the Task Force).
The following is a study guide on the report by TF 4-06A for use in circuit discussions, provided by Rev. Michael Warmbier, Circuit Visitor for Circuit #9 in Oregon.
The Northwest District has a requirement for licensure of lay deacons that involves a number of important markers (the following list is a summary and does not cover all required documents and paperwork, please see the “Guidelines” document below):
1. Congregation-determined need,
2. Training (for a full description go to www.missiontrainingcenter.com),
3. An interview by, or on behalf of, the District President,
4. Supervision by an ordained M.Div. pastor that includes regular, agenda-driven meetings,
5. An annual continuing education (CE) requirement, and,
6. Annual re-licensure based on an updated ministry description provided by the congregation in consultation with the LLD and Supervising Pastor.
The guidelines for this process have been available publicly on the NOW District Website Deacon Ministry Resources for a number of years; we provide them here as part of the collection of LLD resources.
Find the “resolved” phrases from the original resolution below. Below them you can access the full PDF version of the 4-06A Resolution
Resolved, That in faithfulness to God’s Word and Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession regarding the Office of the Holy Ministry, the President of Synod would direct the CTCR to develop resources for use on the congregational, district, and Synod levels concerning this issue;
and be it further Resolved, That the President of the Synod, who has the responsibility “to promote and maintain unity of doctrine and practice in all the districts of the Synod” (Constitution, Art. XI B 3), be encouraged to use all means at his disposal to promote study and discussion of this vital issue;
and be it further Resolved, That the President of the Synod establish a task force consisting of members from the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, the Council of Presidents, the Praesidium, and seminary faculties to develop a plan anchored in the Word, in consultation with licensed lay deacons and those who supervise and are served by them, to resolve questions about the service of licensed lay deacons serving congregations of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod with the Word and Sacraments of Christ;
and be it finally Resolved, That the plan and its proposed implementation be reported to the Synod one year before the 2016 convention.