Great Stuff — The Office and the Sacrament

Another excellent article by Prof. John T. Pless over on Blogia:

 

The practice of licensing laymen to preach and administer the sacraments by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod at its convention in Wichita in 1989 is widely recognized as theologically problematic. Attempts to address the so-called “Wichita Amendment” to the Augsburg Confession, as the late Richard John Neuhaus called it, have been diverse and have, in some incidences, created additional and ongoing difficulties of both a doctrinal and practical nature. Sometimes the debates surrounding the office and the attempt to correct Wichita overlook the fundamental unity of the office.

The office is inseparable from the means of grace that it is instituted to serve (cf. Matthew 28:16–20; Mark 16:14–16; Luke 24:44–49; John 20:19–23; AC V).

In the view of the New Testament there is but one office which derives its right to existence from the founding will of Christ Himself, namely the *ministerium verbi*, the ’ministry of reconciliation,’ administered by persons bearing varying titles. For practical reasons, it may also, according to the discretion of its incumbents, create special sub-agents for itself. However, titles and sub-divisions are human regulations. The *jus divinum* is confined to the *ministerium verbi*, because it was bestowed on this office, and on this office alone, by the one materially indivisible commission of Christ. [endnote 1]

The “ministry of reconciliation” of which the apostle writes in 2 Corinthians 5:18 is singular even as there is one Gospel announcing that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Those placed in this one office are “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20) making Christ’s own appeal to be reconciled to God. As Elert points out, the nomenclature of the New Testament may vary as the officeholder is identified as evangelist, teacher, elder, overseer, and so forth, but these are not divinely established grades or ranks but ways of speaking of the singular office instituted by Christ for the sake of the Gospel. “For there is only one office of preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments.” [endnote 2]

AC XIV tells how men are put into this office in the way of the *rite vocatus* without which no one is to preach or administer the sacraments. Preaching and administering the sacraments go hand in hand. There is not one office for preaching and another for the administration of the sacraments. The linkage of proclamation and administering the sacraments demonstrates what Elert has identified as the coordination of word and sacrament. Problems come when word and sacraments are split off from each other so that preaching becomes a verbal abstraction or the sacraments become wordless rituals.

The coordination of word and sacraments is expressed in the fact that the one office of preaching has responsibility for the administration of both. The office bearer is entrusted with the stewardship of the mysteries of God according to the apostle: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 4:1–2). The preaching of God’s word both calls to the sacrament of the altar and governs its use.

One person must bear the responsibility for the conduct of this concrete worship. If this is to be orderly and really edify the congregation. Its course dare not be determined by opposing or clashing wills. All other wills must cooperate with and merge in the will of one man. The administration of the sacrament of the altar in particular demands one man, who is responsible for the admission to it. Thus every administration of the Holy Communion also includes an act of church government. Therefore the chief form of worship cannot be executed properly without a man, who as shepherd of the congregation, administers the main worship service. [endnote 3]

Writing during World War II, Hermann Sasse makes the case for the unity of word and sacrament:

The office of preaching the Gospel is also the office which baptizes and celebrates the Supper. It is also the office of the keys, whether or not this is reckoned among the sacraments, as in the Augustana, or viewed as a special case of proclamation of the Gospel, as happed later in the Lutheran Church. At all costs it is the office of the administration of *the* means of grace, not only of *one* means of grace. And the Lord who left behind these means of grace for his church is also the Lord who instituted the office of the ministry. [endnote 4]

More recently Dorothea Wendebourg:

The ministry is one. It is one because its task, the public proclamation of the gospel in twofold manifestation, preaching and the administration of the sacraments is one. [endnote 5]

The role of the pastor cannot be viewed in a reductionist way that only applies to the speaking of the words of consecration; the pastor is also responsible for admission/distribution. The practice of having the pastor speak the words of consecration and then have vicars, deacons, or lay persons distribute the sacrament at another time or place cannot be defended on the basis of the Lutheran Confessions. [endnote 6] If a layman assists in the distribution in the Divine Service, he should do so by serving the Lord’s blood as the pastor admits to the altar with the administration of the Lord’s body. But it should be recognized that the practice of laymen assisting with the distribution is relatively recent in American Lutheranism and is not known in some areas of the Lutheran world, Madagascar, for example. [endnote 7]

The apostolic exhortation for self-examination (1 Corinthians 11:27) does not relieve the pastor of his responsibility as a steward of the mysteries of God (see 1 Corinthians 4:1–2). Also see AC XXIV: “Chrysostom says that the priest stands daily at the altar, inviting some to Communion and keeping others away” (AC XXIV:36, Kolb-Wengert, 71). Nor can the pastor hand this responsibility off to others; it belongs to the nature of his office as overseer. Again Sasse:

The *ministerium ecclesasticum* may also be unburdened of peripheral tasks through the establishment of new offices. That happened already in the ancient church through the creation of the diaconate, or in more recent times by the creation of the office of church counselor, church elder [*Kirchenvorsteher*, *Kirchenältesten*], or whatever else those who lead the congregation may be called. The essence of the *ministerium ecclesiasticum* is in no way impinged upon by these offices. Preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments belong neither to the deacons nor to him whom we today call the presbyter. The former have the work of love and caring for the poor. The latter has the duty of helping in the administration of the parish. According to Lutheran doctrine, they do not have a part in church government [*Kirchenregiment*]. For Luther and with him the confessions of our church (AC XIV and XXVIII) mean by church government the exercise of the functions peculiar to the office of the ministry: ‘an authority and command of God to preach the Gospel, to forgive and retain sins, and to dispense and administer the Sacraments’[AC XXVIII:5]. [endnote 8]

The suggestion of the “Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) Task Force” that perhaps the Synod establish an “ordained diaconate” where “perhaps they (the ordained deacons) could preach and baptize but not consecrate the elements” (Convention Workbook: Reports and Overtures 2013, 417) splits apart what the Lord has joined together in the one, divinely instituted office. It amounts to attempting to fix one problem (laymen functioning as pastors) by creating another. A more careful solution is needed for which Lutheran theology has the resources.

Prof. John T. Pless teaches Pastoral Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN.

As an extension of LOGIA, BLOGIA understands itself to be a free conference in the blogosphere. As such, the views expressed on Blogia are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of LOGIA’s editorial board or the Luther Academy.


  1. Werner Elert, The Christian Faith, 264.
  2. Edmund Schlink, The Theology of the Lutheran Confessions, 230.
  3. Peter Brunner, Worship in the Name of Jesus, 237.
  4. Hermann Sasse, The Lonely Way Volume II: 1941–1976, 128. 
  5. D. Wendebourg, “The Ministry and Ministries” Lutheran Quarterly XV (Autumn 2001), 139.
  6. Here see, Roland F. Ziegler, “Should Lutherans Reserve the Consecrated Elements for the Communion of the Sick?” Concordia Theological Quarterly (April 2003), 131–147.
  7. See “Administration, Not Presidency” in Reclaiming the Lutheran Liturgical Heritageby Oliver K. Olson, 36–39. 
  8. Sasse, The Lonely Way Volume II:1941–1976, 128–129.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Great Stuff — The Office and the Sacrament — 36 Comments

  1. Concordia Theological Seminary Professor Pless’ conclusion:

    The suggestion of the “Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) Task Force” that perhaps the Synod establish an “ordained diaconate” where “perhaps they (the ordained deacons) could preach and baptize but not consecrate the elements” (Convention Workbook: Reports and Overtures 2013, 417) splits apart what the Lord has joined together in the one, divinely instituted office. It amounts to attempting to fix one problem (laymen functioning as pastors) by creating another.

    can be compared to the conclusion of Concordia Seminary President Dale Meyer and faculty:

    “The faculty of Concordia Seminary recommends that the SMP program be continued, within the parameters passed by the 2007 convention of the LCMS. We see no theological or practical rea­son to ‘limit’ or ‘curtail’ the program, and we are concerned that biblical and Lutheran under­standings of the ministry are not always clearly driving the expressed concerns in the report.”

    Can’t you just feel the theological koinonia between the two seminaries?

  2. I’m not sure I understand Carl. Was that tongue in cheek? It honestly did sound like the seminaries agreed in their statements to me.

  3. Also from CSL:

    “7. Conduct a Feasibility Study for an Ordained Diaconate

    The relationship between this recommendation and the rest of the document is unclear; nothing in the preceding pages suggests this novel and un-Lutheran approach. It is here that the biblical and theological weakness of the recommendations is most evident. As was laid out above, the of­fice of pastor is Word-based, not ritual-based. To distinguish one pastor from another on the basis of education, so that the non-M.Div. pastor cannot “consecrate the elements” makes an unaccept­able distinction between the means of grace, as if consecrating the elements is the chief task of the pastoral office. This has never been the Lutheran position. Furthermore, the Lutheran Con­fessions do not regard “ordination” as that which qualifies one for the office; rather, it is that the candidate be “rightly called,” of which ordination may be viewed as a recognition by the wider church of this man’s training and call. However, by no means is ordination a necessary element.

    We are also concerned in the apparent dichotomy in this proposal between the act of the conse­cration of the Lord’s Supper and the preaching of the Word. To regard the act of the consecra­tion of the elements of the Lord’s Supper to be the chief function of the pastoral office seems to indicate a shift toward clericalism. This same tendency is to be seen in the nomenclature and function of an “Ordained Deacon,” which is drawn from the Roman Catholic tradition but has never been viewed as helpful in the Lutheran tradition.”

  4. @Carl Vehse #1
    I notice you carefully left out the CSL statement opposing the idea of ordained diaconate, which is a point of agreement with CTS.

    Regarding the original post, I was unaware that SMP amounted to the simple ordination of laymen. That’s a virtual admission that the CTS and CSL profs are incapable of teaching anything of value in less than four years.

  5. @Reaper #2: “It honestly did sound like the seminaries agreed in their statements to me.”

    You are correct.

    The SMP Task Force presented seven recommendations, to which the CSL Response agrees with #1 (continuing the SMP program) and #6, and disagrees with the other five recommendations, including #7 (ordained diaconates). Furthermore, in my rereading the CLS Response, they described #7 as “novel and un-Lutheran” and questioned its relationship to the rest of the SMP report.

    Prof. Pless’ article does not address all of the recommendations. He speaks only to one part of #7, to which he disagrees with the suggestion that an ordained diaconate be restricted to preaching and baptizing, but not consecrating. On this point he agrees with the CSL, noting, “It amounts to attempting to fix one problem (laymen functioning as pastors) by creating another.”

  6. @Carl Vehse #7
    Now I understand what you were saying. Is there a negative opinion of SMP among the steadfast brethren? SMP has its roots at CTSFW right? I am a bit unaware of any reason for issues with SMP.

  7. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    < < modified per request of comment author >>

    The entire report of the SMP Task Force is found on pp. 403 to 452 in the 2013 Convention Workbook, which report includes the March 15, 2012 report of the SMP Committee–a separate group convened in 2007. These guys have done A LOT of work, and they should be commended for that. This is not an easy subject to handle.

    I agree with Professor Pless’ concern, as I also mentioned in the BLOGIA comment section.

    I encourage folks interested about this topic to read Johann Gerhard on two topics, ordination and deacons. This is because the synod is talking about an “ordained diaconate,” so I think we should see what a perfectly orthodox Lutheran, Johann Gerhard–who understood the early church fathers better than anyone before Dr. William Weinrich–has to say on the subject.

    On this topic, see Johann Gerhard, On the Ministry: Part Two, Theological Commonplaces XXVI/2 (Saint Louis: CPH, 2012), pp. 18-73 re. the Ranks of Ministers and Deacons; and also see Johann Gerhard, On the Ministry: Part One, Theological Commonplaces XXVI/1 (Saint Louis: CPH, 2012), pp. 71-246 re. the Call and Ordination. You can order these books here: http://www.cph.org/searchnew.aspx?SearchTerm=johann+gerhard

    It is really helpful to read through both books of Gerhard. I have now done so, quickly, so I think I have a sense for his position on the Ministry–but I will have to read through more thoroughly in the near future.

    The thing that is clear for me in reading Gerhard is that the primary issues are orthodoxy and competency; competency means ability, attitude, and character. On the last point, see Gerhard’s unparalleled discussion about the Fourth Duty of Ministers, i.e., the “honorable management of their life and behavior” (see On the Ministry: Part Two, pp. 116-131).

    I think that any orthodox Lutheran can agree, without much difficulty, that the men serving as pastors need to be completely orthodox and completely competent. The question is how to accomplish that.

    The questions that we are faced with, by the district-licensed-lay-deacons-serving-as-real-pastors-program, the defunct-DELTO program, and the SMP program is:

    1) Can we produce orthodox and competent pastors without four years of residential graduate eduation? If so, how?

    2) What are the short-term and long-term effects on a congregation, or the synod, if we dispense with four-years-of-residential-graduate-education-as-a-requirement-prior-to-serving-as-its-pastor?

    The LCMS had, for most of its history, two-tracks into the ministry. On that history, see my article “A Tale of Two Seminaries” Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly 81 #2 (Summer 2008), available for $3.00 plus s/h here: http://www.lutheranhistory.org/publications/chiqback.htm

    I hope this helps move the discussion forward on the basis of fact and useful resources.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  8. But it should be recognized that the practice of laymen assisting with the distribution is relatively recent in American Lutheranism and is not known in some areas of the Lutheran world

    …but is also practiced by a wide variety of other very sacramental Christian traditions. I’m not saying if Rome does it, it must be right. But it is hardly our own innovation. There is historic precedent for this in older church bodies. My grandmother is a lay eucharistic minister in the Roman Catholic church, and while the priest does serve the bread, as prescribed here, she and a host of other volunteers hold the cup. It must be maintained that the Divine Service is not merely a two way dance. It is, at the very least, three: The Pastor or presiding minister, the assistants (minister, deacon, cantors, choir, elders, etc…) and the congregation. I propose that limiting it to simply twofold makes it more difficult to defend the office of the Holy Ministry because laity are being denied leadership participation that is historically and biblically theirs.

    Is there anything other than presiding and preaching which the Lutheran confessions limit exclusively to the Pastor?

  9. @Martin R. Noland #10

    Thank you, Pr. Nolan, for the observations and the references. I’m curious, in your reading of Gerhard, how he treats Apology XIV, if at all?

    As a Synod, has our disregard for this “greatest wish to maintain church-polity and the grades in the Church …” together with our ammendment of Augustana XIV, contributed to a now endless debate on novel approaches to the pastoral office? Are AC and Apology XIV part of this study or task force at all?

    Peace to you.

  10. Dr. Noland,

    I think you may be confusing the SMP Task Force which was indeed appointed by Pres. Harrison (p. 403, Convention Workbook) and had only three members : Ray Hartwig, Timothy Mech and Randall Golter ( CW, 418) with the Specific Ministry Pastor Committee which is made up of reps from the seminaries and districts and SMP supervising pastors ( CW, 423). The Harrison appointed Task Force of three issued a report (CW, 403, 9/1/2012) and the SMP Committee issued a white paper ( CW, 423, 3/15/2012). Just a clarification.

  11. Dear Popeye,

    Thanks for the clarification. I based my description on the Table of Contents of the 2013 Convention Workbook, which says that the Task Force Report was pp. 403 to 452.

    Now I see why some have distinguished the two committees by referring to Harrison’s committee–I think. I am still waiting for my hard copy of the Workbook (I am not a delegate), and frankly, its hard to tell where one section starts and another ends when you are scrolling through a PDF document, especially when your browser can easily skip pages. Electronic documents frustrate certain patterns of reading, if you didn’t notice.

    I hope that people who talk about this in the future will make it clear that there are two committees with the almost same name talking about the same thing, but with different recommendations–and they need to explain which recommendation they are responding to. This is necessary for those of us not privy to what is going on “inside” the LCMS. The Workbook is all we have to go on.

    Thanks again, Popeye!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  12. The dual column layout of Appendix IV does make the Task Force Report difficult to follow.

    The Workbook Table of Contents indicates the complete Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) Task Force Report (Appendix IV) begins on page 403.

    The SMP Task Force Report contains two addenda:

    Addendum A has Resolutions 5-01B (pp. 418-422) and 5-02 (p. 423), both from the 2007 Convention Proceedings.

    Addendum B contains the March 15, 2012, White Paper (pp. 423-452) from the Specific Ministry Pastor Committee, which also reprints Resolution 5-01B (from the 2007 Proceedings) in its own Appendix 1 (pp. 448-452).

  13. Am I the only one finding great amusement in the distinguished and slightly anal (I mean that in the best way possible Marty) Dr. Noland starting a blogpost with “Dear Popeye”?

  14. Dear Carl (#16),

    Thanks for providing clarification for our readers on the page numbers and how that material is laid out.

    Dear Popeye (#14),

    I have asked Norm to delete my paragraphs in #10 that are contrary to fact. If I look Wimpy, Popeye, it is because I will repay you on Tuesday if you buy me a hamburger today. 🙂

    Dear Brad (#12),

    I don’t remember that Gerhard cites AC XIV to answer your question. He tends not to quote the Lutheran Confessions, because his conversation partners–Cardinal Bellarmine and other Roman Catholic apologists–don’t accept the Book of Concord as an authority. Gerhard goes to the fundamental level of authority by citing Scripture, and where the early Fathers agree, by citing patristic sources–which was no end of frustration to Bellarmine and his peers.

    One of the issues for us today is that AC XIV doesn’t say much–and doesn’t always answer our questions like “What does rite vocatus mean?” When that question is not easily answered, we have to go back to the theologians closer in time and spirit to the Concordia than us, like Luther, Chemnitz, and Gerhard. Gerhard is useful here because he is exhaustive in detail, but not verbose, and he cites authorities all over the place.

    To BJS Bloggers,

    One more thought. My second question in comment #10 states: 2) What are the short-term and long-term effects on a congregation, or the synod, if we dispense with four-years-of-residential-graduate-education-as-a-requirement-prior-to-serving-as-its-pastor?

    You should realize that the problem is not in the future, it is in the past with effects now already showing up. “Four-years-of-residential-graduate-education-prior-to-serving-as-a-pastor” was eliminated by the synod as a requirement in 1989 at Wichita, as Professor Pless observes in his article. Since 1989 “four-years-of-residential-graduate-education” has become an option to becoming an LCMS pastor or deacon-functioning-as-pastor, etc.

    Under SMP you don’t even need to be a high school graduate, if I read the requirements correctly. I am still waiting to meet the contemporary high school dropout, non-GED- certified, who can read Greek fluently and explain to me how the doctrine of Christology affects the Lutheran view of the Sacrament. To me that is basic competency, which some guys today with some college education might be able to attain by self-study. But I don’t know how someone who flunked high school today could get anywhere with self-study, which is really what online education is.

    Enough for now. Thanks for the comments, guys!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  15. Dear Pastor Rossow,

    I believe that I am more than “slightly anal.” But you know that God used an “ass” to talk to Balaam, when he was considering bowing to pressure, so God can use similar means today. 🙂 🙂 🙂 [for those with soft-stomachs, pardon my French]

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  16. @Martin R. Noland #18

    Thank you again, Pr. Noland. I always find your insight and observations enlightening.

    While I would agree that AC XIV doesn’t say much (which may mean, that it assumes much,) the corresponding section of the Roman Confutation, and response of Apology XIV, do seem to give more direct confessional context to the question. The Apology, responding to a general acquiescence of the Roman Confutors, makes clear the intent of the Reformers to maintain historic norms and grades of clergy… not by divine command, but by human tradition which was both good for order and ancient from the Fathers. Seems that it almost puts the traditional norms of church governance and orders of the clergy, on par with the historic liturgy, which we refine and maintain (at least in some places…) rather than discarding and rebuilding.

    It would seem to me, that any discussion of contemporary or future plans with the pastoral office in our Synod, should reference key elements of our Confessions which speak to the intent of the Office. It would sadden me, if those convoked to discuss this for the rest of us, are not leveraging the Confessions to do so, since as great as the writings of the theologians and Fathers we have inherited are, our vows or subscriptions direct us to be normed by Scripture and the Confessions.

    Blessings to you.

  17. @Carl Vehse #1
    Carl, I was thinking about the SMP program, in order to receive an MDiv, in case I would be called by the LCMS-sister free church here in DK to be a servant of the Word & Sacrament. This program is quite expensive (16K a year … ). If I am not mistaken SMP was designed to accomodate others who want to study via distance-learning and who are already called/placed in a /working within a local LCMS church/congregation ? Am I right ?

    Do other universities and seminaries recognize the LCMS SMP program and degree ?

    It is sad that there is no lang. requirement/course (esp. Koine Greek) in the SMP program.

  18. On a related topic, why are 3rd year seminarians doing their training year/vicars allowed to Preach on Sundays and to distribute the elements along side the local pastor ?? (The Vicar is not even ordained at that point and also not even called by any congregation) …

  19. I am truly amused at these Pontifical distinctions of Minister. There are so many churches without Ordained Men, that they must use laymen/elders. It is imperative that Church be served with Word and Sacrament Ministry. I said IMPERATIVE. So now lets talk about the who. The Holy Spirit does the Calling not some “Analistic” in the St Louis Vatican. If we should allow the Lutheran Pharisees to lead the CHurch, then we would never have a Galilean as Herr Pastor.
    The issue is one of making DISCIPLES who will go out and build the CHurch. WHo makes Disciples, the Seminaries? For sure, but the pastors/bishops in the local parish. Without the local parish making Disciples, the church is lost.
    I have seen our Colleges passing out honorary doctorates to grossly incompetent and non servers of Word and Sacrament, and thieves, so parish pastor get on with making Disciples!

  20. @Brad #20

    Dear Brad,

    I do think that the various persons and groups addressing this issue are trying to be faithful to our Confessions, here I mean specifically both seminaries, district presidents, and the two cited committees: SMP Task Force and SMP Committee. I would not be one to accuse them of unfaithfulness in this respect.

    The Confessions mention the “deacons” in passing, but don’t define that office. There are only six reference to deacons in the entire Book of Concord, so that does not help the discussion about the “ordained diaconate.”

    The only thing that is very clear in the Confessions is this passage: The Gospel requires of those who preside over the churches that they preach the Gospel, remit sins, administer the sacraments, and in addition exercise jurisdiction . . . this power belongs by divine right to all who preside over the churches, whether they are called pastors, presbyters, or bishops. (Treatise, 60-61; Tappert, p. 330). Deacons are not on this list, so it is clear that these duties or powers do not belong to deacons. Deacons are not “presiding ministers,” but assisting ministers.

    Dear BJS Bloggers,

    After reading the Saint Louis seminary response to the SMP Task Force (go here: http://concordiatheology.org/2013/05/8423/ ), I studied the SMP Task Force in detail. All SMP documents can be found here: http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=2337

    The SMP Task Force reports: Of 154 participants [in the SMP program], therefore, 111 (72%) consider their work to be that of a staff pastor of a multipastor congregation (2013 Convention Workbook, p. 408).

    The concerns from the “field” about the SMP program are found on pp. 414-415. These were concerns expressed by LCMS District Presidents, SMP Students, and seminary faculty who have to administer the SMP program. The suggested improvements from the “field,” from this same set of persons, is found on p. 416. The SMP Task Force’s own list of suggested improvements are pp. 416-417, listed as #1-7.

    I thought this was an important observation by some of the LCMS District Presidents who were interviewed: The way that SMP is currently structured, pastors of larger congregations are using SMP as a way to provide pastoral service to God’s people instead of calling pastors from the field or traditional route candidates. Many of these pastors are using the SMP program as a way of bypassing seminary education and taking on the work of the formation of pastors for the church at large. This is not what the SMP resolution was or is about. (2013 Convention Workbook, p. 415, left column, bullet #2).

    I also noticed on page 409 some statistics for “licensed lay deacons.” As of 2012, there are 602 licensed lay deacons serving as pastors in the LCMS. That compares to 5,564 active pastors on our roster (2011 stats in the 2013 Lutheran Annual, p. 775). That is about 10%, or one out of every 10 “pastors” in the LCMS is not an ordained pastor with synodical certification. These district-licensed-lay-deacons have district licensing, whatever that means.

    I still agree with both Professor Pless and the CSL faculty that I have concerns about the SMP Task Force suggestion for an “ordained diaconate.” I don’t think the term “ordination” should be used with deacons, and I agree that Word and Sacrament should not be separated.

    But I agree with all the other suggestions for improvement (#1-6) offered by the SMP Task Force, and in this respect I disagree with the CSL faculty, though respect their position.

    What I can’t understand is why the push for the SMP to serve in multipastor large congregations? The LCMS offers all sorts of assisting minister type of functions, with bachelor level degrees and colloquies for the same. Here I am thinking of the Mequon Lay Minister, the Saint Paul Director of Christian Outreach, the DCE, the Parish Assistant, the River Forest and seminary deaconesses. What could these large churches need that cannot be filled by someone certified in one of these synodical programs?

    The only thing I can think of is that the really huge churches have a large pastoral care vacuum, because their pastors are either too busy or really don’t care to visit the sick, the infirm, and the elderly; and because they are huge churches, the number of visits needed is overwhelming. So for that type of work, you really do need a pastor–or . . .

    A trained deacon who is authorized to consecrate the Sacrament for persons on a list approved by the presiding pastor of a congregation, both of whom serve the same congregation. That seems to be a reasonable compromise, in light of Scriptures, Confessions, Gerhard, Walther, etc., and which serves the need of these multi-staff large congregations.

    I cannot say that this is my final position–I will respect other ideas and listen to them. I hope the delegates will pay some attention to this issue and work on it so that we can at least make some progress in 2013.

    All for now!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  21. @J. Dean #3

    Priesthood and the OHM have much less to do with each other than the cowo would have you believe. Priests are not necessarily called to preach before the assembly. Nor are they ordinarily called to administer the sacraments, nor to hear confession.

    These things belong to the OHM. It’s never been Lutheran to confound the two, although our “auxiliary” offices would have you believe it is, but the supposed authority of the auxiliary offices comes through the OHM, not the priesthood of the baptized.

  22. RomGabe :
    @Carl Vehse #1
    Carl, I was thinking about the SMP program, in order to receive an MDiv, in case I would be called by the LCMS-sister free church here in DK to be a servant of the Word & Sacrament. This program is quite expensive (16K a year … ). If I am not mistaken SMP was designed to accomodate others who want to study via distance-learning and who are already called/placed in a /working within a local LCMS church/congregation ? Am I right ?
    Do other universities and seminaries recognize the LCMS SMP program and degree ?
    It is sad that there is no lang. requirement/course (esp. Koine Greek) in the SMP program.

    There isn’t a degree to my knowledge. Just a certification. 16k a year is quite cheap compared to what the M.Div students are paying, especially since some of the SMP students continue to draw a full salary from their jobs.

  23. Martin R. Noland :
    @Brad #20

    A trained deacon who is authorized to consecrate the Sacrament for persons on a list approved by the presiding pastor of a congregation, both of whom serve the same congregation. That seems to be a reasonable compromise, in light of Scriptures, Confessions, Gerhard, Walther, etc., and which serves the need of these multi-staff large congregations.
    I cannot say that this is my final position–I will respect other ideas and listen to them. I hope the delegates will pay some attention to this issue and work on it so that we can at least make some progress in 2013.
    All for now!
    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

    Pr. Noland,

    It seems to me that a “trained deacon who is authorized to consecrate the Sacrament” does not move us forward from Wichita. AC XIV forbids such an arrangement in my opinion. While I lack the political skills others possess, I have to say that, again in my opinion, when it comes to doctrine (including the Office of the Holy Ministry) there is no place for “reasonable compromise”.

    But that is just me, I guess. Blessings!

  24. @Martin R. Noland #25
    What I can’t understand is why the push for the SMP to serve in multipastor large congregations?

    Three guesses:
    The SMP is cheaper.

    The SMP is supposed to be “needed where he is” so shouldn’t be open to a call. [True?]

    The SMP is dependent then on the good will of the Sr. Pastor… [and the DP]. So he will be more “pliable” than the independent, taught to be confessional, man who can read the Greek himself.

  25. @Daniel L. Gard #30

    Dear Dr. Gard,

    Hmmm . . . yes, I think you are right here. My “solution” is not a good one.

    What I had in mind with the term “trained deacon” was not someone trained by synod or district or on the synodical roster, but a congregational officer (which many congregations call an “elder”) trained by the pastor specifically to serve shut-in members communion, and only those members on the list approved by the pastor. I know of several large multi-staff congregations that do this.

    “Trained” means that the deacon not only distributes communion, but also recites the Words of Institution, which is essential for the proper reception of the Sacrament. We do not accept the Roman Catholic practice of the “reservation” of the elements for the sick, who then receive it without further consecration.

    But after thinking about the issue of “pastoral care,” which is being discussed on another BJS blog post, I think that this is the REAL problem with trained deacons offering private communion to shut-ins, hospitalized, etc. The shut-ins would get a valid Sacrament but they would not get pastoral care.

    In my private communion practice, I always spend a good bit of time talking with my member about their health, their concerns and needs, and about their faith. I teach and encourage, using Law or Gospel as appropriate, and bring their concerns to God through prayer. And then, only after this pastoral care has taken place, do I commune them.

    The idea of “trained deacons” giving the Sacrament to shut-ins short-changes those receiving the Sacrament in the area of pastoral care–because they don’t have a pastor, who understands how to apply the Word to all situations.

    I still think that this problem, i.e., the burden of communing the large number of shut-ins in huge congregations, is what is pushing the issue of SMPs for large multi-staff congregations. It would be helpful if synodical leaders supporting SMP would say that this is the problem that is driving SMP, and then we could work on the problem, instead of skirting the issue.

    Thank you, Dr. Gard, for not skirting the issue and for taking it head on. Thanks also to your colleague Professor Pless for doing the same!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  26. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    In reviewing the recently published “2013 Today’s Business” (see recent post by Pastor Henrickson here at BJS), I see that the Floor Committee has decided to combine the various overtures pertaining to the subject and ask the President to convene a Task Force, see Resolution 4-06, pp. 90-92. I agree with this approach. So we will continue to discuss the topic, hopefully toward resolution in 2016.

    I have had some additional thoughts since my last comment (#32).

    LCMS polity assumes semi-autonomous congregations. When we read about historic church polity, e.g., the early Church or 17th century Lutherans, they assume congregations united under the authority of a bishop or superintendent, plus other major authorities like a prince or consistory (prince and consistory in 17th c.).

    LCMS polity with semi-autonomous congregations needs an properly-educated pastor as a “presiding minister” for each congregation. Otherwise things can and will get out of hand. That is why it is both wrong and foolish to put district-licensed-lay-deacons in charge of congregations. SMPs, who have some sort of presiding minister supervising their work, is a big improvement.

    Whether SMPs should be serving in multi-staff large congregations is a more difficult question to answer. Gerhard’s dogmatics, which I have referenced above (comment #10), accepts and argues for ranks of ministers. In our present context, that suggests that the presiding minister must be a fully-educated pastor (M.Div. minimum), but other pastors under his supervision may not need to be. This would be a great change from the way we are used to doing things.

    That is why the Task Force called for by Resolution 4-06 (pp. 90-92, 2013 Today’s Business) needs to think about all possible consequences of this BIG change and hammer out the details, before we accept the SMP program in its present form.

    I still agree with Professor Pless and Dr. Gard on the inadvisability of an “ordained diaconate.” But see Gerhard on how the term “deacon” is used in two ways (Gerhard, “On the Ecclesiastical Ministry: Part Two,” page 47). We need to fix that terminology, so we are talking about the same thing.

    All for now.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  27. @Martin R. Noland #18

    Under SMP you don’t even need to be a high school graduate, if I read the requirements correctly. I am still waiting to meet the contemporary high school dropout, non-GED- certified, who can read Greek fluently and explain to me how the doctrine of Christology affects the Lutheran view of the Sacrament. To me that is basic competency, which some guys today with some college education might be able to attain by self-study. But I don’t know how someone who flunked high school today could get anywhere with self-study, which is really what online education is.

    Dr. Noland, using your own paper “A Tale of Two Seminaries” as a guide, CTS had zero educational requirements for a significant part of its history. We were well into the 20th century before CTS began to require incoming students to have at least an eighth grade education. Yet it seems that CTS turned out(also by your own words) some pretty decent pastors in its early years.

    In addition, I find your lack of faith in the integrity of those in the district who select men to enter the SMP program to be disturbing. The people charged with that task do not take it lightly, nor do the men tasked with serving as mentors take their job lightly. I am more than certain that not all who seek to enter the SMP program, make it through the District part of the process. Also I know men who were removed from the program prior to ordination by their mentors.

    To all BJS people, have faith in those in leadership positions, they have earned that much.

  28. Dear Mr. Hartung,

    The Springfield-Fort Wayne seminary (CTS) was designed by the LCMS to educate those who were not products of the prep school system. That is stated clearly in my article, pp. 121-122. Those who were not products of the prep school system were almost all products of the American public schools, which varied by state.

    CTS matriculation standards were based on whatever was the standard at the time in the American public schools. In 1900, 34 states in America required elementary school education through the 8th grade. The other 16 states did not make that requirement, and so at that time, the synod did not want to exclude youth who had no opportunity for an education.

    In 1918, all states required education through the 8th grade (often called compulsory education). In response, at its next convention in 1920, the synod mandated that all matriculants have an 8th grade diploma. By 1940, 50% of the population had a high school diploma; at the same period of time, in 1936, the synod required all matriculants to have at least two years of high school. In 1967, both LCMS seminaries required a bachelor’s degree for matriculation.

    Today, according to Wikipedi stats for 2007, 85% of the US population has a high school diploma and 30% hold a bachelor’s degree in the US. Almost any willing to do homework can get a high school degree, or GED, today. With 30% of the American population having the bachelors degree, and so many public colleges making it affordable, I can’t see why any LCMS pastor should not have a bachelor’s degree–or at the very least two years of college education (A.A. equivalent)– before his pastoral training, no matter what program he enters.

    Regarding the other issue, you are confusing the “district-licensed-lay-deacon” (hereafter DLLD) program with the SMP program. Don’t worry about that. A lot of people get confused too.

    I have said here and on many other occasions, that the SMP program needs to be improved, not eliminated. I have also said that the DLLD program needs to be curtailed, preferably by enrolling all present persons in the DLLD training program in the SMP, by finding ways to enroll DLLDs in the field in SMP so they can improve their competence, and by stopping the licensing of DLLDs in the future.

    I support the LCMS Constitution, which states that the LCMS is a single governmental unit, known as a federation. Many people think, or promote the idea, that the LCMS is a “confederation” of semi-autonomous districts. It is not, and those who promote that idea are ignorant or trying to deceive. Districts are administrative units, which are designed to carry out certain functions that are best done at a regional level.

    The certification of LCMS pastors should be based on a single-standard governed by the same national-level board or group. Certification of pastors is the single most important factor in keeping the LCMS united (see Constitution Article III.1). The DLLD system has 35 different standards governed by 35 different boards–a recipe for chaos and rebellion.

    SMP is based on a single-standard governed by the same board or group. Therefore it is a synodical program and has my approval at the structural level. But it could still use tweaking, which I think the resolution (4-06) encourages the synod to do.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

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