Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lay Pastors

On another forum I read where the number of "laymen" serving as de facto "pastors" because they are charged with Word and Sacrament ministry in our Synod is about 200.  At least that is a number some have arrived at through looking at the Synodical figures.  As far as I know, these do not include any District programs and deacons certified by Districts (not as a Synodical program) who may also be serving in Word and Sacrament situations.  So the number may be higher or even much higher.

1) Functioning nearly or completely autonomously in providing preaching and Sacrament ministry, with only occasional communication with a supervising pastor: 60
2) Functioning under direct supervision, and serving as the regular provider of preaching and Sacrament ministry: 81
3) Functioning under direct supervision, and serving as the regular provider of preaching (not Sacraments) ministry: 13
4) Functioning under direct supervision, and serving as a part-time provider of preaching and Sacrament ministry: 90
5) Functioning under direct supervision, and serving as a part-time provider of preaching (not Sacraments): 71
6) Functioning under direct supervision, and serving as the primary provider of non-preaching, non-sacramental care (e.g., Bible studies, devotions, visitation, youth ministry, etc.): 24
7) Functioning under direct supervision, and serving as a part-time provider of non-preaching, non-sacramental care (e.g., Bible studies, devotions, visitation, youth ministry, etc.): 196
TOTAL 540 non ordained "lay minister" or deacons, 255 providing preaching and/or sacraments.

This is a serious issue for a Church that confesses quia:  Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called (rite vocatus implies examination, call, and ordination)

I am not going to rehearse the history of this here but simply to say that when we have such a big issue before us, we do not have time to twiddle our thumbs.  We need to act.

Seminary education, like catechism instruction, has become the holy grail that prevents the LCMS from regularizing these "laymen" in the office of the Pastoral Ministry.  We don't want to rush into ordination because we are afraid somebody might not follow through on the instruction so we piddle our time away while this gaping wound leads its infectious poison more and more into the system.  It is like a consultation about reconstruction surgery before the surgery to correct the cancer has been done.

We in Missouri do this in other ways as well.  It is sort of like those who insist that confirmands demonstrate a certain head knowledge of the faith (or the pietists who want the person to have a relationship with Jesus) but fail to teach them the pattern of worship in which their life in the Church is shaped and fed.  We get them right with Jesus and forget to assimilate them into the Church and so they fall or run away when they get the chance.  We give them a relationship with Jesus only to omit what they need to be related to the Church where the Word and Sacraments feed, nourish, nurture, and equip the baptized for their priestly vocation.

With respect to the "lay ministry" situation, it seems to me the answer is pretty clear.  We need a couple of hundred ordinations pronto and then we need to establish an instructional process that will allow these men to retain their roster status as recognized ministers of Christ and enable them to be eligible for a call to another place should that call ever come...

I am not against instruction and education at the Seminary but it seems to me that this is not the big issue right now -- the breach of Augustana XIV; the longer this stands the worse off we are.  It seems from St. Paul's words to Timothy provide a Biblical context for ordination.  There is an implication of instruction and examination but the form of a seminary is not spelled out as obviously as the case for ordination as the conferral of the office IS spelled out.

Dr. John Kleinig put it this way:  People argue that the New Testament does not speak of ordination. That is true if we turn to the modern translations of the New Testament, because none of them uses the verb ordain or the noun ordination as a technical ritual term. Instead, they speak about the laying on of hands (1 Tim 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim 1:6). But it is not true if we turn to the King James version where it is used quite deliberately and technically in Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5. The English verb ordain comes from a rather nondescript Latin word which means to appoint a person to do a task. This Latin word was used in the early church to translate the Greek verb cheirotonein (to raise hands). It was used for the election of a person communally in a public assembly by the raising of hands. That is how it is used in 2 Corinthians 8:19. But in Acts 14:23 it is used for the choice of presbyters by Paul and Barnabas. From its use in Acts 14:23 this rather general word became a technical ritual term in the early church, as is shown by the textual addition to Titus 1:9, the subscriptions to 2 Timothy and Titus, and its use in Didache 15:1 for the election of bishops and deacons. It seems that the early church deliberately chose this term because it had no pagan religious connotations.
Even though the word had by the time of Reformation acquired hierarchical connotations of order, rank, and status, it was not rejected by the Reformers but was used in two ways. On the one hand, it was used rather generally for the whole process of making a person a pastor, from the initial self presentation for service to the installation in a congregation. On the other hand, it was also used more narrowly for the liturgical act by which candidates were received, appointed, and commissioned as pastors.  [Full paper is HERE.]

It is my personal hope and prayer that the LCMS will worry more about those who have been authorized without ordination the authority to do what ordination confers than about the shape of the education and training which will follow it.  I would also hope and expect that the new President of Synod is also concerned about the quickest way to end this abnormality in the church's order since these are not emergency situations but economic band aids applied to deal with the growing number of permanently vacant congregations no longer able to afford the cost of a full-time salary, housing, and benefits.  It has become a situation in which saving a few bucks has caused us to act in such way that our whole house is threatened.  In the end, this situation is far more costly than it first appears.


Carl Vehse said...

In what way(s) could President Harrison end the synod's practice of having laymen exercise the office of public ministry without a regular call?

Could the president issue a unilateral decision for congregations and districts using "lay pastors" to call and ordain them?

Could the president direct the DPs to enforce such a decision, based on AC.XIV, back with the threat of ecclesiastical supervision and suspension on congregations or the DPs?

Could the president request an opinion on the use of "lay pastors" without calls be issued by the CCM supported by the CTCR?

Could the president organize a blue ribbon task force to prepare a resolution forbidding the practice of "lay pastors" to be submitted at the 2013 synodical convention?

In what other ways could President Harrison act on what you refer to as "infectious poison" threatening our whole house?

Is there a time frame by which any such presidential actions needs to be started?

Anonymous said...

In the Lutheran Annual you will find
those 60 unsupervised lay ministers
with a preaching and sacrament
ministry on the LCMS roster as
ministers of religion-commissioned.
Some of them have been doing this for
20 years. The idea of an economic
band aid probably is being too nice.
In many instances this is simply a
easy way for a District President to
mollify the dying congregation with
a warm body who is content with
a minimum of education and effort.

Carl Vehse said...

Should the synod or district provide partial or complete financial support to dying congregations that can no longer support a called and ordained pastor on their own or with another nearby congregation?

Perhaps the district or synod could set up a reverse mortgage arrangement on the congregation's church propoerty.

Or should the synod practice congregational euthanasia - congregations that can no longer support a called and ordained pastor are simply removed from synodical membership so that they can have their "lay pastor"?

ErnestO said...

I love the Church’s understanding of our dignity as fully Lutheran laypeople. We have always known what a pastor in his ordained office - does and does not confer. We must as baptized laypeople know our own absolutely vital place in the Church and, most especially, in the world. At the altar, the pastor rightly presides. His proper sphere is the sanctuary and the rightly ordered worship of the Church. But in the world (that is, the 99.99999% of human life that happens outside the sanctuary), we laypeople preside. It is time we stopped fighting over the tiny amount of real estate that is not given to us by God and focused our energies on our monumental task of bringing the gospel to people no pastor, bishop or synod president will ever meet—the people we see every day. (Tozer and a small part ErnestO)

Pastor Peters said...

The SP could raise the issue, speak forthrightly about it, call upon the DPs to end this practice, use the bully pulpit to speak to the larger church about it, as well as place this upon the agenda of the Convention. I am not asking for him to act arbitrarily or unilaterally since he does not have this authority, but he is not powerless to address this issue, press its urgency, and make it a high priority for us. That is all and that is enough.

Dr. Terry Dorsett said...

I enjoyed reading your post about Lay Pastors. Let me give you another perspective. Read this blog, look forward to your comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear commentors,

Do those folk in the "dying" churches (wich could very well be His will)deserve Word and Sacrament? From a man ordained?

Who cares who or how this is fixed? We do what is right. We follow Concord, as it is a true representation of Holy Scripture.