I believe that the Book of Concord is a right and true exposition of God’s Word. I hold a quia subscription to it, recognizing the importance of our Confessional statements in keeping us true to the Christian Faith. So then, how on earth was I a Licensed Lay Deacon? The answer can be boiled down to one sad word: “Compromise.”
I was raised Lutheran (ALC), and my family came over to the LC-MS during the merger which formed the ELCA. My dad was disgusted that the inerrancy of Scripture was something they were actually debating so we came to where we knew the Bible and the Book of Concord were still held. Sadly, that church imploded and we ended up “adrift” in a sea of Fundamentalism. I ended up going to a Baptist college, and returned to the LC-MS after graduation (my parents have returned as well).
Being married with two children and feeling like I had wasted precious time that could have been spent at Seminary my pastor told me of the Deacon program and Distance Education Leading to Ordination (DELTO). I took the classes for the Licensed Lay Deacon (LLD) program and enrolled in DELTO, being sent up to a remote Tlingit Indian village in SE Alaska to start a mission.
Therein lay the rub. As a DELTO vicar I couldn’t administer the sacraments (or
preach without supervision), but my supervising pastor was over a thousand miles away. What to do? Sadly, and to my shame, compromise of principles was the answer and easy way out. As a “Deacon” in the NW District I was allowed to preach and also administer the sacraments. I was allowed to illicitly play pastor.
When my marriage fell apart there was no protection for the mission, there was no way to ensure that they’d get an actual pastor, no way to keep them in the LC-MS. It was a house of straw built on sand. The mission was successful and looked mighty good, but it was nothing but gilded plaster without a foundation to hold it up. Being a deacon and taking advantage of the allowances made for the position in the NW District gave a false hope to those dear saints – false hope that they had a church that would last where so many had failed before. It also gave a false hope to the churches that supported the mission who thought that they were getting “more bang for the buck” in that they didn’t need to contribute as much for a deacon as they would have for a pastor. It was a compromise – which like so many compromises left everyone feeling used and burned.
I wish I could write this saying that I hadn’t compromised; that I hadn’t compromised my subscription to the Book of Concord and that I hadn’t given a false hope of a church continuing in the village. I wish I could say those dear saints had stayed in the LC-MS after I left, but they had no desire to do so. The compromise of the LLD program made them realize that while we confess orthodoxy we don’t have the accompanying orthopraxy.
AC XIV is protection. It is a protection for us laymen and women that our pastors are taking the Sacraments and the Office of Holy Ministry seriously. It is protection for churches to know that the ministry isn’t hanging by a thread and contingent on a layman serving at some district official’s good graces. It is a protection for pastors as well – the call protects them from interpersonal conflicts and grudges. AC XIV is good order without compromise.
There are many “exceptional circumstances” that are given as hypothetical situations to justify the LLD. Let me assure you that my circumstance was no hypothetical. It was the textbook case for justifying LLDs: remote village (4 hours by boat to nearest town), no church, with neither support structure nor clergy. Please listen to me – having been the textbook “exceptional case,” I do not support the program. The exceptional circumstances need the protection that AC XIV gives to people, church, and pastor even more than the standard case does. A difficult situation does not call for giving up our doctrine but for holding fast to the Faith once delivered to the saints.
Editor’s Note – With this post we welcome Mike Borg to our regular author pool here at Steadfast Lutherans. Stand by for your assimilation. Resistance is futile.