Read Response to Eric Lange Here

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?”

Click Here to Read Response To Eric Lange LLD Ministry Concerns June 6 2016

“The Miller Problem,” Or “The Pastoral Farming Issue” Submitted by An Anonymous Licensed Lay Deacon

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.

NOW District, “Guidelines for Licensed Lay Deacons” Manual for LLD Licensure Process in the NOW District

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,

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.

Click Here for Northwest District Guidelines for LLD Ministry (includes description of process, paperwork, documentation, and CE requirements)