Following the request by Rev. Eric Lange to share his “fraternal response to Dust Kunkel” more widely across the district, Dust Kunkel (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?”