Delegates request study of lay deacon program

HOUSTON – Study “of the situations currently served by licensed lay deacons to determine whether there continues to be a genuine need” was requested July 18 by delegates to the 63rd Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
The study would be conducted by the Synod’s Board for Pastoral Education and Council of Presidents. Those entities are expected to present a report on their findings to the 2010 LCMS convention.

The adopted resolution (Res. 5-02) notes that the licensed lay deacon program, established by the 1989 convention, authorized lay men to serve Word and sacrament ministries “in certain circumstances … and was never intended to serve as an alternate route into the pastoral office.”

It acknowledges that a need “may still be present in those relatively rare and unusual situations where no ordained pastor is available.”

Since the same resolution (Res. 3-12) was offered by the Floor Committee on Theology and Church Relations, its chairman, Dr. Gerhard Michael Jr., joined the Floor Committee on Seminary and University Education to present the resolution to delegates.

Two substitute motions were proposed, but declined by delegates. One would have required licensed lay deacons to enter the Specific Ministry Pastor Program – an alternate-route seminary track also approved by delegates July 18 – within two years or forfeit their certification. The other, proposed by a long-time missionary to Africa, called the need for licensed lay deacons “crucial and necessary,” rather than “rare and unusual,” because of their value on the mission field.

Delegates narrowly declined (577 to 550) an amendment that would require additional study of the program “as it relates to Augustana 14” of the Augsburg Confession, concerning duties of the pastoral office, and another asking the Synod’s Board for Pastoral Education (BPE) to offer “financial incentives” to encourage licensed lay deacons to enter the Specific Ministry Pastor Program. BPE Executive Director L. Dean Hempelmann told the convention the board currently has no funds for such incentives.

The theme of the six-day convention, meeting here through July 19, is “One Message – Christ!  His Love is Here for You!”

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