Friday, August 30, 2013

No, but I played one on TV...

The oft repeated joke is no joke when it comes to the Pastoral Office. We have many who are not Pastors – they have minimal training, no formal call, and no ordination – yet act as Pastors on Sunday morning. In the district in which I serve, we have a dozen or so of our three dozen or so licensed lay deacons who play the part of a Pastor, regularly preaching and presiding at the Lord’s Table. Now this is a small district. I  am told that about half the districts of the Synod use such licensed lay deacons.  If they averages say 5 lay serving in place of a Pastor the full ministry of Word and Sacraments, by no means an outlandish number, that would mean in the neighborhood of 100 lay deacons or other laymen who regularly act as the Pastor on Sunday morning. To put that number into perspective, that would mean numbers significantly larger than many of the districts in the LCMS.

I do not say this to impugn the motives of either those who have "authorized" these laymen functioning as Pastors nor those who serve as lay Pastors. My point here is neither to make this about the people or about the individual congregations that feel compelled to choose this path in order to have regula Word and Sacrament ministry. My concern is rather to illustrate how something may appear to be small irregularity when looking at it through a local lens can become a very large abnormal norm when viewed over the scope of the whole Synod.

This is no strange oddity or theoretical issue. As so often happens, what happens on the fringes or in the shadows has serious and significant impact upon the center and what is seen in the light as normative for the Church. We have a history and a regular practice with respect the training, examination, call, and ordination. This accords with the Augustana XIV article of our confession though, as is consistently Lutheran, individual jurisdictions have taken slightly different tacks in their appropriation and description of how these actually work. Some Lutherans have bishops, some have a synodical system, some function with a more presbyteral structure. All, however, have agreed that no one may publicly exercise the Office of Pastor without rite vocatus (regular call). Now, before some commenter takes these words in some minimalistic sense, rite vocatus has always been understood in light of the practice of the day – including not simply a call but a regular call, according to the historic pattern and rite of the Church, preparation, examination,, call, and ordination. The lack of serious conflict on this article noted in the Roman Confutation supports the fuller understanding of what was meant by rite vocatus.

Missouri has never as a Synod defined, established, or regularized the use of non rite vocatus men in the forms now regularly known in districts as licensed lay deacons. What happened in Wichita in 1989 was an aberration whose consequences continue to be felt throughout the Synod and create a circumstance in which was was conceived as an emergency measure has, indeed, become normal in many, I would say, too many places. The many districts who have established and set up regular parameters for such lay service of Word and Sacrament have, in effect, given rite vocatus status, authority, and responsibility to those our Confessions say cannot have it.

If there are as many as 100 or as little as 50 of these lay people serving as unordained Pastors, this is no longer an emergency situation in which extraordinary measures are used for extraordinary situations with extenuating circumstances. It has become a new norm but one that violates what we say in our Confessions cannot be violated.

Again, I do not doubt that these are good men seeking to do good work among good people who truly believe that there are no other alternatives. But as a church body, we have left them in a terrible predicament. We have given them cover, even legitimacy, to that which by our Confession is always irregular and illegitimate. It is always what happens when we let emergencies define regular practice. As a church body, we have done these people and these parishes a grave disservice. Both these men and these congregations deserve something better, a solution which does not give offense to what we say we believe, confess, and teach. These irregular situations have to be answered with a solution that does not require the surrender of our confessional integrity. If we expect God to bless the work of these men and these congregations, we must do better.

Although I am not confident to say that either these sacraments are invalid (not even Lutheran terminology) or valid, what I can say is that they leave room for doubt in the minds of those who are to receive the Word and Sacrament ministry of the Lord from them.  There are certainly those who receive this ministry from them who would insist that they are sure it is valid because they need it, because they believe it to be valid, or because it has been meaningful to them.  I do not doubt their feelings on this but our confidence is not based on feelings -- not even on the competence of those functioning in the place of a Pastor.  Our confidence lies in the Lord, in His Word, and in the order or practice which derives from that Word.  Here is the problem. We say no one can regularly preach or administer the sacraments without a regular call -- this is no invented order of Lutherans but the order reflected throughout Christian history since St. Paul spoke of the laying on of hands to Timothy as a young man upon whom the Church conferred the authority of the Pastoral Office.


Dr.D said...

This sounds pretty serious to me. I wonder why people are not leaving those parishes served by laymen? Do they really believe that the receive the true Sacrament in that situation? I do not, and I fail to see how they can believe it either.

This reflects a total turn-around from my days (long ago) in the LCMS. What has happened to the LCMS mind to permit such things? To be so rigorous about closed communion, but so indifferent to who is the celebrant is just a bit strange!

Fr. D+

William Tighe said...

I'm puzzled. Despite the fact that "lay celebration" was formally authorized by the Missouri Synod only in 1989, didn't it happen before then, on occasion at least, for decades; and didn't authorities such as Walther and Krauth think it theoretically unobjectionable?

Pastor Peters said...

What happened before was an anomaly and something that happened apart from the canon law of the LCMS. What happened in 1989 was that exception, complained about but tolerated, because institutionalized as legitimate.

Bob Allen said...

It seems to me that we certainly can say something for these men who have stepped into the breach
To serve these congregations that may not exist without them

That word is thanks.
Something they hear regularly from members of their congregation and rarely from some pastors.
The question does someone really receive the real sacrament

I do believe I receive the true sacrament. I believe that the real sacrament depends on Christ’s word.

Lutheran Lurker said...

But, Mr. Allen, are these true emergency situations? Have we tried every alternative before sacrificing our principle and our confession to regularize "lay" deacons acting as pastors? Pastor Peters was not speaking to whether or not these are "true" sacraments but saying that our confidence in the ministrations lies in the Word used according to the order established by Scripture no less. What is wrong here is that when we bypass Scriptural order, we weaken our confidence in that which makes these "true" ministrations. After all Lutherans say in their Confessions that the office of Pastor is not a lay office and is divinely ordered and not simply a matter or orderilness. It seems here that everything here rests upon what is an emergency and what constitutes the order from which the ministry of the Church is executed. God did not establish the office of pastor because He is obsessive compulsive. He established the office of pastor in order that the means of grace may be ministered to His people and they can receive it with confidence.

Joanne said...

We have woven a terrible confabulation of the lay deaconate and the clerical deaconate. We state very clearly and expressively that we are talking about lay deacons, but in the same breath we confuse the work of a clerical deacon with the work of a lay Lay LAY deacon/deaconess.

The basic distinction is that the clerical deacon is regular clergy with a call that does not include preaching, although he has a seminary degree testifying that he is prepared to preach.

The basic distinction of lay deacons/deaconesses is that they do not serve in the pulpit, at the altar, or in the confessional; he or she is a lay person specifically tasked to wait on the table of those who need food, shelter, and clothing.

The lay deacon/deaconess is the Good Shepherd among us. They are not cheap pastors, they are not emergency pastors. They are lay members with a special task.

Dr.D said...

Dear Joanne,

The Church catholic has never had "lay deacons" to the best of my knowledge. This seems to be an LCMS invention, as far as I can tell.

You said, "... the clerical deacon is regular clergy with a call that does not include preaching, although he has a seminary degree testifying that he is prepared to preach." Why bother to send someone to seminary, prepare them to preach, but not allow it? That seems like a waste of resources and effort.

Again, in the Church catholic (which has only Deacons), the Deacon is, in most cases, authorized to read the Gospel lesson, to preach, and to assist at Mass. The LCMS concepts of "Deacons," lay, clerical, or otherwise, seem really confused. Of course, that was partly your point.

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest

Joanne said...

Should have written, "The lay deacons are the Good Samaritans among us."

The book of acts is speaking of lay deacons. The bible gives us an account of how the church got lay deacons, but not how the church got clerical deacons, a later and logical development.

The Anglican church uses the clerical deacon as something of a 1 year probation/training for the new clergyman. Most Anglican deacons can expect to be promoted soon. Miss Marple (Agatha Christie) has an example of a deacon being promoted on the death of the vicar.

I'm basing the Lutheran usage of clerical deacons (including arch and sub) on the practice at Leipzig at the time of Bach (1723-1750). As we learn from the life of CFW Walther, himself a graduate of the theological faculty at the University of Leipzig, there were frequently many more clergy candidates than positions for them.

Walther waited for his 1st parish for several years while teaching for a wealthy family at Kahla in Thuringia. He might even have had a long wait just to get the sub-deacon position in Chemnitz. Prediger positions were very scarce and only older clergy could hope to get such a call. However, one could take a call to a little country church (as Walther did in the next dorf over from his father's little country parish) where the call would include all the functions of a clergyman.

The Lutheran usage of women for lay deaconesses was developed in Germany in the 19th century, most famously by Wilhelm Loehe. This would have been a reinvention of the Lutheran use of Secular Canonesses such as those at Quedlinburg Abbey and Gandersheim Abbey, the Napoleonic mediatization of the 1st decade of the 19th century leaving quite a gap in the place of women servants in the church.

So, the idea of lay and clerical server/servants in the church is of very long duration, though not always called deacon/deaconess.

Dr.D said...

Dear Joanne,

You speak of the action that took place in Acts 6. Did you read this far: "Acts 6:6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them." When they laid hands upon them, they ordained them. Those ordained are, by definition, clergy. There are no "Lay Deacons" in the book of Acts.

I am glad to see that you have such an authoritative source as Miss Marple to inform you on Anglican practice. Somehow, you got it not quite correct.

In the Church catholic (which includes RCs, Anglicans, Orthodox), the entry into Holy Orders always begins with the Diaconate. (I seem to recall that the Orthodox consider the Sub-Diaconate clergy also, but I am not certain about that part.) Thus all catholic priests are also deacons, but not all deacons are, or will become, priests. I am both a deacon and a priest, but it is most unlikely that I will ever become a bishop.

Your comments about Lutheran use, both "lay deacons" and "clergy deacons" were very interesting. I should point out, however, that they come from a time after the Lutheran Reformation, and thus when Lutherans had departed from catholic order and the Apostolic Succession had been broken in Germany (it was preserved much longer elsewhere).

I stand by my previous comments that the Church catholic does not recognize the distinction that you are trying to make.

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest

Dr.D said...

Dear Joanne,

I forgot to mention that you did not address my question: "You said, "... the clerical deacon is regular clergy with a call that does not include preaching, although he has a seminary degree testifying that he is prepared to preach." Why bother to send someone to seminary, prepare them to preach, but not allow it? That seems like a waste of resources and effort."

Fr. D+

David Gray said...

In the Church catholic (which includes RCs, Anglicans, Orthodox)

When Anglicans were like Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer they commanded a lot more respect (or even Bishop Ryle or Richard Hooker for that matter). The church catholic is both broader and narrower than that. When Anglicanism began to tolerate people who wished to ape Rome without leaving for Rome they did themselves no favours.

Dr.D said...

" The church catholic is both broader and narrower than that."

And that means what, exactly?

David, what is your experience with Anglicanism? From what perspective do you criticize?

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest

David Gray said...

And that means what, exactly?

What it said. The church catholic is broader than mere RC, EO, and Anglican structures. And it is narrower in that not all that is RC, EO and Anglican is part of the church catholic.

David, what is your experience with Anglicanism? From what perspective do you criticize?

I do at least use my full name. The only person I know who uses a title similar to you was a professional wrestler who went by "Dr. D." I lived in the UK for six years and often attended Anglican services as well as modest experience with various American forms in years past. I don't have any personal experience of Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Ryle or Hooker but then who does these days? But their witness is still potent.

Dr.D said...

Dear David,

You said,

"And that means what, exactly?

What it said."

Thank you for your more complete elaboration on your meaning. If I were to say to you, "The sidewalk is both broad and narrow," are you sure you would understand exactly what I meant? I doubt is. And thus it is with your original statement.

You are fortunate to have lived in the UK for six years. I wish I could say the same, but I cannot. However, what you saw of Anglicanism in the CoE in recent years is not fully representative of Anglicanism as it is practiced worldwide. As you may be aware, the CoE is following the ECUSA into to heresy with the coming "consecration" of women as "bishops," an act simply ultra vires. This sort of foolishness, and much more, is rejected by most Anglicans in world (a great many of whom are in Africa and the Far East). In the same vein, the ECUSA is not representative of the true Anglican faith either; its heresies are many and well known.

As to the matter of who is catholic, first note what Vernon Staley says (in his book, The Catholic Religion, 1893) that the notes of the Church are (1) the Church is one (it is one under Jesus Christ, our Lord), (2) it is holy (the indwelling of the Holy Ghost sanctifies the members of the Church, uniting them to Jesus Christ), (3) the Church is catholic (it is universal and exists throughout this world and the next), (4) it is Apostolic (because it traces its origins directly to the Apostles and it believes and teaches the doctrine received from them).

Let me also quote Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225 AD) De praescriptione haeretiscorum, Sect. XXXII “... we can say: Let them then produce the origins of their churches; let them unroll the list of their bishops, an unbroken succession from the beginning so that that first bishop had as his precursor and the source of his authority one of the Apostles or one of the apostolic men who, though not an Apostle, continued with the Apostles. This is how the apostolic churches report their origins; ...” This gets very difficult to do in those parts of Christendom that have abandoned the episcopate.

None of this means that the Church is without flaws; it is comprised of human beings. But it does mean that the true Church is derived directly from Jesus Christ through the Apostles.

In the case of Anglicanism, there have been some terrible choices for bishops: Rowan Williams, Kate Schori, John Spong, etc. But the Holy Ghost has not left Anglicanism; some Anglicans have left the Holy Ghost, and ceased to be Christians at all, although they cling to the name.

Immediately following the English Reformation, Anglicanism was identical to the Roman Catholic Church, except for denying the supremacy of the Pope. As time passed, Anglicans began to look more and more to the Early Fathers, and thus today resemble the Eastern Orthodox in some respects. It is not surprising, therefore, that there should be many Anglicans, usually known as Anglo-Catholics, who today look somewhat like the Roman Church, but have no desire to join it. We are all part of one body, Jesus Christ’s holy, catholic Church, but we do not see a need to all be hands, all be feet, etc.

(to be continued)

Dr.D said...

Dear David (cont.)

You comment on my Google name, Dr.D, and fault me for not using my full name. Let me seek to explain that to you. I am an outspoken critic of the US government, and I do not want to wind up like the maker of the short video, The Innocence of Muslims. You may do as you like, but I think it is foolish.

You also compare my Google name, Dr.D, to a professional wrestler of your acquaintance. Let me assure you that I am not a wrestler in the sense of the WWF. As St. Paul says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph 6:12), and in that sense, I am a wrestler. I am an ordained Anglican Priest, a part of the Continuing Anglican Church that seeks to preserve all that is good about Anglicanism. If you notice, I always sign my comments as Fr. D+, Anglican Priest. The name, Dr.D, is not something I originated. It was first used by my students; I am a retired Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and have an earned doctorate in ME. It was later used, entirely voluntarily, by my co-workers when I was a civilian employee of the US Navy. I have several titles that I can correctly use – Dr., Prof., Rev., or Fr., but the only one I use regularly today is the last; that is who I am today.

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest

Joanne said...

Here, on this Lutheran blog, we are rehashing the classical and basic disagreements that have always pushed Lutherans and Anglicans apart. We've got a 500 year history of disagreeing on these very issues (authority in the church).

You are lying down here with Lutherans, and as the wags would say, "He who lies down with Lutherans gets up with hermeneutics." When reading scripture we follow rules of interpretation, and on this point here, we would look to see, is the writer of Acts, under inspiration, describing the institution of deacons, or prescribing, or proscribing?

Ab ob, in this text (Acts 6.6 ff) the Lutherans have said this scripture is description with no command to do the same. Lutherans have always found that the New Testament does not prescribe/command a particular church organizational structure with prescribed labels for the functionaries.

Similarly, segueing over to "the laying on of hands" Lutherans have always found that scripture describes many functions associated with t.l.o.o.hs. Lutherans as a rule have been layed on at their confirmation and at the absolution in confession. So, we've all been recipents of this, most commonly when the pastor turns the key upon our confession and laying on both his hands, opens the kingdom of heaven to us as Christ commanded him to do, and as his assembly has authorized him to do.

As a good Anglican, you'll say, "who authorized him to do that?" And here we are again to that basic disagreement. Lutherans say the authority of the Church is the Word of God as worked out in the assembly of the Church. All has been given to the church and is delegated by the church.

The very Lutheran doctrine of "the priesthood of all believers" leads very naturally to this understanding. Every Christian has the privilege and responsibility to preach the Gospel when called upon, just as every Christian at the Jerusalem commune was tasked with the distribution of goods to the poor. The distinction is between the private members of the church and the public servants of the church, who have been specially authorized by the assembly to perform publicly what all Christians (spiritual priests every one of them) have as a participation in Christ's priesthood.

And, again, this is a basic and long standing disagreement between Lutherans and Anglicans. Lutherans are perfectly happy to have public church servants with titles similar to those described in the New Testament, unless someone wants to make a command of God out of it. The Porvoo Agreement not withstanding.

Joanne said...

Historically, the Lutherans in Germany declined to reestablish the bishoprics within their territories. The archbishopric of Magdeburg, the bishoprics of Meissen, Merseburg, Naumburg, etc. were perfect candidates for this. Historically, it was considered even to the point of having men chosen and placed into position, but shortly abandoned for a similar and different way.

It seemed the Lutherans felt they had to examplarize the church's freedom to organize differently than the several descriptions in scripture, but always with good order. Many said it was a command of God, and the Lutherans said it was not. The Anglicans said that overseers, elders, and table waiters were a command of God.

The Porvoo agreement, that resulted in the establishment of overseers in the ELCA has been done so that there can be exchange of clergy between Lutherans and Anglicans. Lutheran doctrine is neutral on the issues of the agreement, so the Anglican demand for a "command from God" has carried the field so that now most Lutherans have a particular arrangement of clergy that Anglicans declare God demands.

I'll say only one last thing, the Atlantic District of the LC-MS is behaving in a manner on church organization that looks for all the world the same way that other Lutheran signatories of the Porvoo Agreement behaved when they implemented the structural requirements of the Agreement. I ask, has the Atlantic District unilaterally signed the Porvoo Agreement? Is the Atlantic District a member of the Porvoo Communion? Is the Atlantic District ready to exchange clergy with other member churches of the Communion?

I'll also claim that it is unseemly for Lutherans to talk about "Apostolic Succession" as if it were anything more than a lovely rite and a pious historical notion. Again, that's another 500 year disagreement pushing apart Anglicans and Lutherans. As Lutherans have always maintained, it is teaching what the apostles taught that makes one a successor to the Apostles.

I do apologize for this overly long entry. Lengthiness goes against the usefulness of blogs.

Dr.D said...

Dear Joanne,

You have done a nice job of summarizing the ways we differ on all of this.

I was particularly struck by your sentence, "It seemed the Lutherans felt they had to examplarize the church's freedom to organize differently than the several descriptions in scripture, but always with good order."

I'm sure that you know that for the first 1000 years, there was only The Church. It was not the Roman Catholic Church, it was not the Eastern Orthodox, or any of those things; it was simply The Church. And for that reason, things were done in a fairly similar manner throughout The Church. Certainly things were not identical from place to place, but there was general uniformity because all were continuing in the Apostle's teaching. This makes your statement all the more remarkable, because it points to an attitude that says, "we can make up our own rules." It is certainly true that Scripture does not layout church polity, but tradition most certainly does. But, that is what much of Protestantism is about, isn't it?

With regard to the laying on of hands, I presume that hands can be laid on for different purposes. I laid hands upon a man this morning while I prayed for spiritual help for him. I was most certainly not in any sense ordaining him, I was not trying to pass to him the full gifts of the Holy Ghost. The fact of having hands laid on at Confirmation or another time, does not ordain anyone, unless the intent to do so is present.

Your comment about Apostolic Succession was interesting also. You said, "... it is unseemly for Lutherans to talk about "Apostolic Succession" as if it were anything more than a lovely rite and a pious historical notion." I find this interesting because until very recent times, the Apostolic Succession has been maintained in some branches of Lutheranism, even if not in the US. Your dismissive comments about the Apostolic Succession suggest to me that you do not really understand it, you have none, or little, experience with it, and simply dismiss it out of hand because it is not US Lutheran practice. (I view the passing of the Apostolic Succession to the ELCA as a fraud and invalid. Many of the ECUSA bishops who did this were women (an ultra vires act) who could not themselves be bishops and thus the Succession had been broken previously.)

With regard to hermeneutics, please do not think that Lutherans have any corner on this idea. They have their own hermeneutic principals, which differ from those used by many other Christians, but they are not the only ones to consider such matters.

As you said, we have a long time of disagreement on many of these matters, and it will probably continue. Peace be with you.

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest