Women preachers/deacons in the LCMS

[Note: Cross-posted from Gottesdienst Online.]

[UPDATE: See my comment #19]

In a way, my heart is strangely warmed by the fact that the Atlantic District now officially has women preachers (deacons). For a long time those of us who have complained about the MO Synod tossing out AC XIV have pointed out that if you are going to let lay men act like pastors, what is to stop you from letting lay women act like pastors? Either no one who is uncalled to the Office may preach and administer the Sacraments, or everybody can. Well, now it’s QED, as you can see below.


HT: Rev. Josh Osbun and the Stand Firm blog.

A few highlights of the program from the Atlantic District’s Diaconate Guidelines document:

4.1 At the heart of the ministry of deacons are works of mercy, witness, and worship, in solidarity with the poor and needy. The actual tasks undertaken by members of the diaconate will vary according to the gifts and skills of the deacon and the needs of the church and its surrounding community. Deacons so gifted will engage in various ministries of teaching within the congregation/agency, including baptismal and communion preparation, catechesis of youth and adults, and small group Bible study leadership or supervision. All aspects of diaconal ministry are under the supervision of the supervising pastor.

4.2 Members of the diaconate assume a leadership role in worship, but this is never to be their primary task. Rather, the serving function of deacons in the Church’s liturgy is to be a reflection of their tangible, actual servant hood in the world.

4.3 Members of the district diaconate shall neither preside at the Holy Eucharist nor exercise the Office of the Keys. In the absence of an ordained pastor and with approval of the pastor and congregation, the deacon may serve at the divine service including the communion liturgy using reserved sacrament. This practice should be used sparingly so as to not confuse the “Office of Deacon” and the “Office of Pastor.” The deacon may officiate at funerals under the direction of a supervising pastor. The deacon may proclaim the Gospel in formal and informal settings after he/she has received training in homiletics and while remaining under the supervision of an ordained pastor.

5.5 It is expected that most members of the district diaconate will continue to hold regular employment and therefore would be involved in diaconal service on a part-time, non-stipendiary basis. There may be instances however, when a deacon serves a ministry for a stipend….


Women preachers/deacons in the LCMS — 51 Comments

  1. I was one of the women who took homiletics while at seminary. (1998-99) I am not a teacher, deaconess, or any other thing that would qualify me to be rostered. (Which means I cannot get a job sweeping floors at CPH, but that’s for another topic…)

    I double majored in theology and theological languages at CURF (liberal arts–which means I lost my church worker scholarship because I did not want to take a gazillion hours of useless methods courses in order to get my teacher certification…but that’s for another topic…)

    Then I went to seminary (St. Louis) for my M.A. in exegesis. You will not find homiletics on my transcripts. It was called “Masters Research Project” or something like that. But the question people were and still are asking is “why would a woman want to take homiletics?” (And sometimes added–“unless she wants to be a pastor?”) I can assure you, I do not want to preach or be a pastor. I do not even agree with girls being acolytes or women doing the public reading of scripture or teaching men in Bible class. (You can thank the seminary for this conservative education. Our Concordia Universities are much more liberal, which is why I did not go to one for my M.A. studies…But that’s for another topic…)

    So why? The problem is not that I was trying to learn something meant for men, the problem was with the seminary curriculum at the time. I do not know if they have fixed this yet so I’m not commenting on current practice. Did you know that had I not taken Homiletics I would not have been required to read Walther’s “The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel?”

    For laymen who have not read this–this book was the the key to interpreting and applying scripture properly. It was like a veil was lifted from my eyes after I read this. At that time I could translate any verse you could throw at me, but I couldn’t tell you what it meant or how to apply it–whether it was how to apply that verse in my own life or if I was to teach it or write about it. There was just no other class offered at that time to learn this. I can say that what I learned in Homiletics was the most useful for raising children and studying Christian ethics and education. ALL laymen should read this book or take a lay level class based on this book. It would resolve a lot of confusion among lay people both in their theology and their understanding of ethics in their vocations. I am a stay at home/homeschooling mom–the things I learned in homiletics class and from the Walther book have been priceless in this endeavor.

    I cannot imagine being a graduate of a Concordia University with double majors in theology and theological languages AND a graduate of Seminary and NEVER having read “The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel.” This is a problem with the overall curriculum, not with women or homiletics classes.

    And it was so helpful to learn how to organize the verses I was studying into the context of the church year, the liturgy, and our lives. As a mom and homeschooler these skills have been valuable in helping me organize my children’s education. I would hope that the seminary would include these things in another class that is more appropriate for women. These things are much too important to be left out. Homiletics is not just a class on public speaking, it is a theology class. The seminary needs to consider that all the theology that male students get in that class needs to be replicated elsewhere for women.

    P.S. The “sermon” that I “preached” was a pretend speech for an LWML meeting. I did not relish having to do that, as I hate public speaking and I especially hated preaching a thinly disguised sermon. It weighed heavily on my conscience. But it was required to get credit for the course. Again, I hope women can get a similar theology course without having to “preach.” Then we can put the matter behind us.

    I hope I have answered some questions and concerns. To be clear, I do not think women should be taking homiletics, but that’s a problem the seminary needs to fix. It’s not necessarily an attitude problem among the women who take the course.

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