Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Augustana IVX, 1989, and Licensed Lay Deacons. . .

The Synod has been struggling with the issue of lay presidency at the Eucharist for some time.  That said, the issue became more urgent after the 1989 action of the Synod to formalize what had been an oddity, that is, to recognize and give approval to what had been done as an aberration.  Since that convention, the Synod has found itself divided between those who see licensed lay deacons fulfilling all the functions of the ordained as a wonderful opportunity, those who see it as necessary evil, and those who view it as heresy.

What began as a way of regularizing what had been done irregularly ended up opening the door to an unforeseen (at least by most) and an unexpected outcome.  Instead of giving some formal status to the few instances in which lay men were functioning as pastors, the end result was opening the door to many more lay men, generally called licensed lay deacons, to serve in more and more circumstances in which it was either unlikely, inconvenient, or financially not viable for an ordained pastor to serve.  So the emergency situations that were part of the package sold to the Synod in 1989 were vastly expanded over the last more than 20 years.  No longer were the LLDs limited to specific ethnic outreach situations, inaccessible rural circumstances, and the like.  The LLDs became the choice of many congregations who found it easier to replace the ordained with a mostly non-paid deacon who acted as pastor but without the formal education of ordained pastors and without ordination.

Many suggested that these individuals be ordained post haste and then to deal with the educational component of ministerial preparation.  Some suggested that these LLDs be dispatched and the whole thing be considered an aberration best forgotten.  Some believed that the ordinary way we train, certify, and ordain clergy be re-examined and the way we deal with LLDs serve as a model of downsizing and more localizing the overall training of pastors.  Synod is set to take this up in a matter of weeks at the 2016 Convention.  Here is a video that describes some of the proposed means of resolving what has been an unsatisfactory oddity every since 1989 -- treating the ministry as function and not as office, questioning the work of well-intentioned deacons either as invalid or illicit, and addressing those circumstances which occasioned that action of Synod in 1989.


Kirk Skeptic said...

If the catholicizing party in the LCMS were consistent they would call for an ordained diaconate consistent with historic catholic polity. Laity who believe themselves fit for eucharistic service would do well to review how God thinks of such by rereading the story of King Uzziah.

Jason Kiefer said...


That would be my thought. I think there can be a role for a deacon. Right now, the LCMS policy (should be) is somewhat of Smalcald one office, with maybe a threefold inner workings. That is fine, and to a point we have bishop DP's, pastor priest presbyters etc., and deacon SMP type. If we have deacons, I believe they should be more in tune with the OHM, and NOT the laity. I think the LCMS needs to work on this more and better. And maybe start reducing the amount of commissioned minister offerings we have, and most definitely certain people need to STOP considering all the CM's deacons. And if we wish to be a reformation movement in the church catholic, I would much rather debate what Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox are doing. I personally have little use for many of the other protestant denominations, feeling many of them are of the radical reformers, "I'll do it my way by my own human logic".

Jason Kiefer

Anonymous said...

Having wandered in the wilderness of evangelicalism for many years while searching for solid theology, I am well aware of the dangers and destruction caused by people who are ill-trained and ill-equipped to be a pastor. Joel Osteen is the perfect example of a "successful" glorified layman who is causing great harm. I cannot support a glorified laymen leading the church instead of a called, trained, vetted, and ordained pastor. There are LCMS pastors who serve more than one church in western Texas. I doubt it is easy for them and I admire them for traveling great distances between their parishes. It would be good to find more men like them who are languishing for a call. It's my understanding there are quite a few of them.