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.
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?”
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 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.