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.”
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.
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?”
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.
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.