Vicar Overture for 2016 Convention

2016_SynodConvention-side2This came to my attention the other day.  It is a good overture to try to restore faithfulness to our Lutheran Confessions in our use of vicars.  Any member congregation can submit an overture to the LCMS Convention.  For more information on overtures and the LCMS Convention click here.



For vicars without a Regular Call no longer to appear to rightly administer the Sacrament of the Altar

Whereas, Christ has publicly instituted within His fellowship (koinonia) of believers the Office of the (Holy) Ministry, whereby He delivers with absolute certainty His gifts of the forgiveness of sins and so also life and salvation through His Spirit-empowered Word and Sacraments, whereby He works to create in sinners both repentance from sin and faith in Christ crucified for sinners; and

Whereas, our Lutheran Confessions state: “nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call (rite vocatus).” (Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), Augsburg Confession, Article XIV, page 36); and

Whereas, the historical understanding that rite vocatus includes the whole process of examination, call, and ordination and that none of these three aspects is negotiable or unnecessary, even though they may be implemented in various ways, was affirmed by the report of the Synod’s task force studying the use of SMP pastors and licensed lay deacons in response to 2013 Resolution 4-06A (page 10); and

Whereas, the original intent of using vicars in the LCMS was to help train up and examine laymen before they were extended a Regular Call into the Office of the Holy Ministry but not to use them as though they already were rightly-called ministers serving in the Office of the Holy Ministry; and

Whereas, during the past 60-years or so the practice began of misusing some vicars by sending them to congregations in order to satisfy the desire of congregations to rightly receive the Sacrament of the Altar, but has introduced confusion of the nature of the Office of the Holy Ministry, and has introduced uncertainty in the reception of Christ’s gifts through the institution of the Office of the Holy Ministry; and, in some cases, vicars have even been coerced into apparently consecrating the Sacrament of the Altar against their consciences under threat of failing their vicarages; and

Whereas, the Synod in convention has never recognized vicars as men who have received a Regular Call (rite vocatus) to consecrate the Sacrament and conduct all the duties (including hearing confession and pronouncing holy absolution under the Confessional Seal) that are associated with helping prepare communicants to rightly receive the Lord’s Body and Blood to their benefit and not to their harm and judgment; and

Whereas, the 2011 convention of our sister synod, Lutheran Church–Canada (founded 1988), with whom we share full altar and pulpit fellowship and mutually share and study documents produced by each others’ Commissions on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), has set a good and faithful example by adopting as amended resolution 11.1.10 as a statement for “Reference and Guidance”, which concludes: “Since historically the celebration of Holy Communion publicly has been a unique function of the Office of the Holy Ministry, and since a Vicar is a [layman] in training for the Office of the Holy Ministry and not a Pastor, and since no incidence of an ‘emergency’ can be suggested in which the historical practice of the Church should be abrogated, therefore, Vicars should not be allowed to celebrate Holy Communion other than as an assistant to the presiding Pastor who alone has the right by means of his Call and Ordination to speak the Words of Institution …”; therefore be it

Resolved, that LCMS vicars who do not have a Regular Call no longer be allowed nor compelled to appear as though they are rightly administering the Sacrament of the Altar.

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


Vicar Overture for 2016 Convention — 78 Comments

  1. In light of the discussion, I am questioning whether my son and DAUGHTER should have been asked to recite The Words of Institution at their public witness prior to confirmation? I knew at the time (Pastor had told me) He felt both of them were amongst tin their respective classes that could do it in the public witness pressure packed environment. To be fair the elements were not present, so I suppose their was no consecration being done?

  2. Yes, Rev. Ringer, those are the blank forms. And I note that one of the questions asked of the vicar is whether or not he has shared the report with his supervising pastor. Or the possibility seems to exist that a vicar can be submitting these forms without informing his supervisor as to what he is reporting. I am saying that it troubles me if vicars are submitting these — and the seminary receiving them — without the content of what is written by the vicar being shared with the supervising pastor. He is supposed to go over his report to the seminary with the student (before submitting it, if I remember correctly) so that the vicar knows what is being said about him to the seminary. It seems only fair and Christian to accord the same treatment to the supervising pastor, as his work is also being critiqued (by the vicar).

    For instance, if the vicar is ripping his supervising pastor in his report fairly for some deficiency in his supervision or other practice, how does the pastor improve if he is not made aware of this? And if the report is unfair, how is the supervising pastor to defend himself against what may well poison his future of receiving/training other vicars?

  3. @Rev. Steven W Bohler #53

    I would hope that the vicar and pastor have a habit of communicating over the course of an entire year. I would also hope that vicars are not in the habit of lying about their supervisors. If the vicar is ripping his supervising pastor, odds are it is because of some glaring error(s) that the pastor is more than likely aware of and permissive about, if not attempting to have the vicar follow and adopt. I’m sure the seminary staff are competent enough to know what information is of importance and what is not, and I’m sure they sit down and talk with the returning students about these things if the reports are serious enough to warrant further investigation.

    I guess what I am interested to know is what these “things or critiques” are that you have concern about, specifically. A pastor doesn’t need to defend the use of red wine or white wine, or the decision to use certain orders of service, and so forth. What deficiency or practice, specifically? I can’t see the seminary reacting to anything other than a serious accusation of error. If there is serious error, I would hope that it is being communicated to both the supervisor and seminary and hopefully addressed well before the time comes to fill out a third report.

  4. @Brad #50

    The rite is in the Word (Tit 1:5 and 7, and 1Cor 4:1 again for the low-hanging fruit) we didn’t make it up (I’m assuming you’re LCMS, if you’re WELS we’re probably not going to solve this between us on this thread.) Ignore ordination and the office of the holy ministry and you are ignoring “the Word.” If you break the Scriptural context of the Lord’s Supper, you void the warranty, and a lay-consecrated Supper breaks the context as much as the Roman Corpus Christi festivals (see the FC on those.) What you’re missing is that you can’t “trust” the Word of God at the same time as you’re ignoring it.
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  5. @Matt Mills #55


    I don’t think I’m missing what you think I’m missing. I’ve already noted that trusting the Word relative to the Sacraments while distrusting the Word relative to the Office is dangerous. I will say, however, that I struggle to see in the references you note, how the efficacy of the Word and Sacraments is tied specifically to the Office.

    To be sure, the normative use of the Word and Sacraments is through the Office. However, I’m not aware of anything in Scripture (or the Confessions) that declares the Word and Sacraments invalid apart from the Office. Public preaching, teaching, and administration of the Sacraments apart from the Office is almost always disordered, but that disorder does not necessarily invalidate the Word or the Sacraments in question.

  6. @Matt Mills #58

    I think most Lutheran theologians would argue that the mysteries– all the gifts Christ gives His Church– are given to the Church as a whole as part of their baptismal priesthood. Those whom the baptismal priesthood call and ordain into Christ’s Office, administer Christ’s gifts on behalf of and for the good of the Church at large.

    The layman who takes the perogatives of the Office to himself without being given the Office by Christ through the Church takes something radically out of order… but not something alien to his baptismal priesthood. Such a one has sinned against Christ and the Church, but I see no evidence that by their sin they have invalidated the efficacy of the Word.

  7. Ok, help me out here…

    “nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call”

    Vicars cannot publicly administer the sacraments. Go it. Never ever.
    Vicars cannot publicly teach. Yet please, teach away in our churches?
    Vicars cannot publicly preach. But please, practice in our churches?

    Furthermore, if no one without a call should be allowed…. Emeritus reverends without a call, this is you. CRM list reverends without a call, this is you. If we are going to observe things by the letter of the “law”, should we not truly endeavor to do so?

    Now, I do not profess to know that much. Maybe my logic is faulty. Perhaps I don’t see the theological out everyone else does? I just hope someone can help me out here…

  8. @Michael #60
    I tried to help you out above. “rightly called” and “regular call” are poor translations of “rite vocatus” and “ordentlich beruf”. For the purpose of AC (and Ap) XIV, if you’re ordained you have been “rite vocatus” and you have an “ordentlich beruf”.

  9. @Michael #60: Furthermore, if no one without a call should be allowed….

    Read Thesis VI on the Ministry and the Scriptural proof and witnesses of the Church in C.F.W. Walther’s Die Stimme unserer Kirche in der Frage von Kirche und Amt, the definitive statement under Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions of the Synod’s understanding on the subject of church and ministry and the official position of the LCMS. CPH sells translations of Walther’s book.

    Also some “emeritus pastors” (and a Synodical President) actually do have Divine Calls as assistant pastors with very limited duties.

  10. @Matt Mills #61

    @Michael #60

    Thank you, Matt.
    Several Pastors have expressed the opinion that a CRM (unjustly removed) is still a Pastor; he isn’t being paid by the congregation which removed him unjustly. (Luther’s condemnation was not for that Pastor, but for the man who usurped his place.)

    I don’t think Luther (or any Lutheran up to recent times) envisioned “retirement” for a Pastor. Poor health would be a reason to retire.
    Men retire, not because they can’t prepare a sermon and distribute the Sacraments, which is what the Call requires, but because so much extraneous stuff is demanded of them. We’d be wasting valuable people if we said that an Emeritus couldn’t preach or teach to relieve other Pastors.

    Luther probably never envisioned vacations, or church conventions meeting on Sunday to keep Pastors from their parishes, either!

  11. Your points are valid. The arrogance and hypocracy of our church “leaders” is apparent.
    2015/10/vicar-overture-for-2016-convention/comment-page-2/#comment-1091405′>@Michael #60

  12. No doubt, this overture will be discussed thoroughly at the Convention, but I would like to know what others think of the second to last whereas of this overture:

    Whereas, the Synod in convention has never recognized vicars as men who have received a Regular Call (rite vocatus) to consecrate the Sacrament and conduct all the duties (including hearing confession and pronouncing holy absolution under the Confessional Seal) that are associated with helping prepare communicants to rightly receive the Lord’s Body and Blood to their benefit and not to their harm and judgment.

    The last line of this Whereas sounds to me like Rome, in that the efficacy of the Sacrament is contingent upon the man giving out the gift. Please help me to understand.

  13. @wineonthevines #66
    Dear Wine…,
    This last WHEREAS is actually not bad, and as I delegate, I would concur. A Vicar is a man in training and cannot do the above actions listed, as we Lutherans agree. As a Lay Minister should not as well!

    As for the efficacy, I know someone will jump in, or provide a link. This is about the Administration of the Sacraments, Office of the Keys.

  14. Here’s a suggestion from Lutheran history. While this is about seminary students at the seminary per se, and not vicars in a parish, maybe it could be modified?

    In the late 1500’s and early 1600’s, in Wuerttemberg, Germany, a way to address seminary students getting needed preaching experience while at the same time holding to AC XIV was routinely held. The seminary students would preach sermons at lunch time at the seminary to their classmates. This gave them experience, but it also did not raise questions about AC XIV.

    Could something like this be done today? Preaching experience could come not in front of a congregation. Perhaps the vicar could preach to his supervisor and a neighboring pastor? at lunch, not in a service, just on its own. They could do this practice in the sanctuary, too. It just wouldn’t be for a public service. Food for thought.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  15. @Rev. Robert Mayes #68
    Dear Rev. Mayes,
    Yes, all good ideas. In reality, an organist “I hope” practices before the service, or concert. A Vicar can certainly practice in many places before his first sermon to a flock upon ordination.

    One problem today, many vicars are preaching as “fill ins”, not the intention I do believe.

  16. Ok you have covered preaching and communion but the confessions (not the Scriptures) also includes the word “teaching”
    So then would vicars not be able to teach a Bible class?

  17. @Russell Thurman #70
    Dear Russell,
    I say, yes, a vicar can teach, no different than you, but under the authority of the pastor and strict oversight.
    Now this is where it can get interesting…the congregation by polity and our confessional views issues and truly is the calling agent (thru the Holy Spirit, yes), can that congregation call the vicar for a period to teach then?? Yes, for the year of service???
    It gets complicated…thus, some would advocate for “hard and fast” rules.

  18. @Russell Thurman #70
    Dear Russell,
    Now I toss this out, perhaps the “sitz im leben” (situation in place) for the Confessions. Back then (and history majors, chime in), perhaps the only teacher was the pastor(s) in reality. You don’t need a Bible Study, come to the Service and spend a few hours, an hour sermon, now that is teaching.
    Sunday School? The parents taught, assisted by pastors.

    Perhaps the forms we take are more Americanized?

    I truly am not sure???

  19. @Pastor Prentice #71

    Don’t you think, however, that the more we have complicated, hard and fast rules the more the rules will be ignored?

    IMO we just have to rely on our dedicated pastors for good supervision and good judgement. I’m sure there are already at least some simple printed guidelines for vicarage supervisors.

  20. This overture is in the 2016 Convention Workbook (p. 357) as 6-02 To No Longer Allow or Compel Vicars to Appear to Rightly Administer the Sacrament, submitted by Pilgrim, Kilgore, TX; Grace, Paris, TX; Immanuel, Terre Haute, IN.

    Handling this overture will be Floor Committee 6: Seminaries:
    C: James Baneck (ND);
    DP: Vice chair: John Hill (WY);
    VOM: Benjamin Ball (SI); Daniel Grams (EN); Herbert Mueller, III (IE); Jacob Sutton (IN);
    VL: Charles Randow (SE); Leslie Sramek (SI);
    ACM: Dale Fish (MI).

  21. “Activities
    Vicars are to participate in or observe all facets of the parish ministry. They normally preach for regular services at least once a month, with evening services and chapel services for the day school or midweek school offering supplemental preaching experiences. They participate in evangelism programs and youth ministries, teach confirmation and Bible classes, visit the sick and shut-ins, assist in administration, conduct liturgies, attend meetings, and acquaint themselves with grief and crisis counseling procedures and principles. Rather than the vicar focusing on only one area (e.g., youth ministry), he needs a broad range of experiences in preparation for the pastoral office.

    Official Acts
    According to guidelines mutually adopted by the seminaries and the Council of Presidents, vicars do not usually conduct the official acts of administering the Sacraments, performing marriages or conducting funerals, since these are normally reserved for ordained clergymen. Vicars, however, may assist pastors with such things as the distribution of the Lord’s Supper and various portions of weddings, funerals, and other occasional services. If an exception needs to be made in this area, authorization from both the District President and seminary official should be obtained.”  –

    The proposed overture is good and reinforces what has already been agreed by the COP and seminaries.


  22. @Russell Thurman #70

    Hi Russell:

    Good observation. I would humbly posit that in the context of the 16th century which did not have “Bible studies” like we do, that teaching most commonly was another reference to preaching. But perhaps it was more like the preaching that happened in catechetical services, where sermons on the Small Catechism and its chief parts were done. Usually on Sunday afternoons, with in some places another Catechism sermon in the middle of the week…

    That was generally what was thought of as “teaching” in the 16th century. One possible exception would be the schoolmaster of a parochial school, in which also pastoral candidates often did and taught at.

    How does this relate to us today, with catechesis, Bible studies, our parochial schools, etc.? First, it demonstrates a need for pastoral involvement in catechesis. It should be discouraged for a pastor to hand off catechesis to a lay Director of Christian Education. First, a pastor is called by God to teach the faith. Second, a DCE is a human office and not a divinely mandated one, like the pastor’s.

    As for Bible studies – I do think it is helpful for pastoral leadership and involvement. A pastor may not be able to lead every Bible study at his congregation. But he should always be in contact with the leaders, select the material to be sure that it is faithful to the Scriptures and Confessions, and teach when he can.

    As for the parochial school, we have such a different social set-up with legal requirements from the state that not every pastor is able to meet (needs a B.S. Ed, teaching certificate, etc.). I would also suggest that our parochial schools are a LOT different today than they were in the 16th cent.


    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  23. @Carl Vehse #74

    @John Rixe #73
    Yes, the problem is the people that break the rules and are not held accountable. Yes, the Overture is to right error in practice. But as you say, unless we stiffen up, rules and even good order practice are broken.
    Yes, in some cases, vicars are used as cheap pastors, not the intention of vicarage. I do believe.

  24. @Rev. Robert Mayes #76
    As for the parochial school, we have such a different social set-up with legal requirements from the state that not every pastor is able to meet (needs a B.S. Ed, teaching certificate, etc.). I would also suggest that our parochial schools are a LOT different today than they were in the 16th cent.

    They are a lot different than the school year after 8th grade that existed in our country congregation up to WW II, when German was finally dropped as preparation for confirmation.

    But the Pastor can still lead chapel services for the parochial school. I’m not sure that they can require an education degree for him to teach catechism.

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