More Good Stuff Found by Norm: Troubled Musings Raises the Issue of Deacon vs. SMP

Editor’s Note: Since posting Glen’s previous article on Volunteerism, we’ve found this post that he wrote a month ago about a related topic. Glen’s troubled musings raise the question about ordering (putting into some sort of order) the work of the Lord’s ministry. Having ordered Deacons is probably a better way to go to increase service in the church rather than the new fangled system of SMP’s (Specific Ministry Pastors)  we recently cooked up in the LCMS which results in ordained pastors with only half the training of our current pastorate. (Pastor Rossow)

Troubled (In a Good Way) Musings, by Glen Piper

I’ve been troubled lately. Not troubled in a bad way, like we are wont to assume when someone says they are “troubled”; rather, I’ve been more deeply contemplative and cogitative, resulting from something nagging at me. A pebble in my figurative shoe. A tiny itch in the back of my brain that just. Won’t. Go. Away.

I hate it when that happens…

I’ve been on the Board of Elders at my church for 7 years now. This year, I’ve been serving as the head elder. I like me my Synodical politics, having twice served as a voting delegate to a district convention & twice (if I make it through to next July in one piece) to the synodical convention. I’ve stood for election to boards at both levels (and hopefully will again next July). I strongly considered going to the Seminary six years ago (if it had been my decision alone, and/or I was single, I’d have done it. Frankly, even now I’m still envious, on several levels, of the men who have received the pastoral vocation.

I love theology. Discussing it. Studying it. Arguing about it. I’ve even grown more comfortable speaking about it. Surprisingly, as I’ve gotten more comfortable with doing that, I’ve also gotten more comfortable with dealing with people one-on-one in the theological context. I don’t know how good I am at it, mind you, but I feel more comfortable with it. Which is no small potatoes, given my well-known anti-social proclivities.

Being involved in the more senior leadership level this year, along with some of the issues that we’ve had to deal with, at church, I’ve started to realize that I want to do more than I’m currently doing.

This is the tug that I’m feeling.

This is the disquieting nag that has been troubling me.

Why disquieting?

Why troubling?

Because I want to do it in the right way. I want to do it in a way that fully respects and honors Confessional Lutheranism. I fear that too much of current congregational practice (writ large) is flawed, having been tainted by the bad theology of Theological Liberalism and Pop American Evangelicalism. “Every Member A Minister” is not the answer. A proper understanding of the Doctrine of Vocation is much closer to the mark. The past 50-100 years of church history is a far less reliable guide than the traditions passed down from the first 1900 years of church history. And I care much more about what the Lutheran Confessions say than I do the Bylaws and “Approved Programs List” of LCMS, Inc.

First and foremost, it seems to me, the pastoral office is not to be usurped. AC XIV must be respected (no matter what the LCMS pronounced at Wichita in 1989). Thus, plain old, oxymoronic, “lay ministry” is no real option.

What then?

How about looking to church history? Perhaps there’s something to be learned there… A term bandied about every so often is the “three-fold office”. Going back to the Apostolic church, up through to about the Medieval church, there were quite a few more orders, based on the three-fold, “Bishop – Overseer(Pastor) – Deacon”, model. Post-Medieval Church, down through the Reformation & beyond, things seemed to consolidate around the Overseer/Pastor, and the three-fold character of the office was lost (and even the Roman church lost touch with the Deacon/”Third”-fold, when keeping the first two…).

Seeing this, then, led me to dig in a little more into this idea of that “third-fold” — the Historic Diaconate. While most folks only think of it in terms of Deaconesses, there is also a place, it would seem, for men to be Deacons (and not just in the volunteer sense that we think of these days with boards of elders/deacons).

I’m currently doing more research (and a whole lot of praying!), but I’ve also consulted a couple of pastors (including my own), and it seems that a viable option may very well be one like this: Congregation willing, I could pursue being consecrated on the local level as a Deacon. This would satisfy my conscience-driven understanding of the proper vocational roles & limits, that the position should be something beyond the normal volunteer positions (e.g., for doing things like leading a Bible Study) as well as my desire to contribute more.

I’d really be interested to hear what anyone has to say/think about this. Really. I want to know, so that we can discuss it and hopefully help lead me to a clearly understanding of what’s going on & where I need to be.

Since I first wrote this, I’ve come across a pretty good book on the subject (Deacons and Deaconesses Through the Centuries by Jeannine E. Olson, CPH – 2nd Ed. 2005) that has helped quite a bit in clarifying the historical underpinnings of the Diaconate. I think this is a subject & question worthy of consideration by the BJS audience, and I anticipate that it will resonate with many who sense our current gap between doctrine and practice, particularly as it relates to service and education.


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