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.”
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?”
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.