Convention addresses licensed lay deacons in public ministry

Photographs on Tuesday, July 12, 2016, at the 66th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Michael Schuermann

David Hook, left, a voting delegate from LCMS Pacific Southwest District, makes a point about Resolution 13-02A on Tuesday, July 12, at the LCMS convention in Milwaukee. (LCMS/Michael Schuermann)

By Kevin Armbrust

MILWAUKEE (July 12, 2016) — “Through the Word and the sacraments as through instruments the Holy Spirit is given, who effects faith where and when it pleases God in those who hear the gospel.” (AC V). In concert with the theme of the 66th Regular LCMS Convention — “Upon This Rock: Repent, Confess Rejoice” — the constant refrain in Milwaukee has been the proclamation of the Gospel.

Resolution 13-02A — “To Regularize Status of Licensed Lay Deacons Involved in Word and Sacrament Ministry” — takes seriously the public ministry of these gifts entrusted to the Church.

This resolution was written to address the role of the Office of the Holy Ministry and the role of licensed lay deacons in the LCMS. According to the resolves, Resolution 13-02A does not address lay deacons who do not engage in public Word and Sacrament ministry, aside from encouraging district presidents to “continue to recruit, train, and credential new deacons for general varieties of service in the church that do not include public preaching and administration of the sacraments.”

Addressing the concern of those who feared this resolution threatened the future existence of licensed lay deacons in the synod, the Rev. Dr. Roger C. Paavola, chairman of Committee 13: Routes to Ministry stated, “This does not discontinue the availability of licensed lay deacons in any district.” The goal of the resolution, he continued, is “to enlist, encourage, and enable these men to be able to receive what it is that is necessary so they can proclaim the Gospel.”

Resolution 13-02A provides three options that deacons currently publicly preaching and administering the sacraments can choose to pursue by July 1, 2018:

1) apply to one of the Synod’s seminaries for admission into an alternate-route program;

2) apply for entrance into a Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) program; and

3) apply to the regional colloquy committee for admission to the SMP roster, unless granted a waiver by the applicant’s district president, the plenary of the Council of Presidents, and the appropriate regional colloquy committee.

The resolution states that care must be taken to ensure that no congregation is left without a man to serve it in Word and sacrament ministry during this process.

The Rev. Dr. Roger C. Paavola, front, discusses with the Rev. Larry Vogel one of the resolutions proposed by Committee 13. ( LCMS/Michael Schuermann)

The Rev. Dr. Roger C. Paavola, front, discusses with the Rev. Larry Vogel one of the resolutions proposed by Committee 13. ( LCMS/Michael Schuermann)

Following the presentation of the resolution to delegates, civil and collegial discussion ensued for several minutes before the vote on the resolution — a 74.49 percent majority to adopt it.

The clear communication of this resolution was aided by the Rev. Dr. Russell L. Sommerfeld’s presentation on Sunday, in which he read the “Report to the Synod, 2013 Resolution 4-06A Task Force To Address Questions Re: Service of Licensed Lay Deacons.”

The Rev. Larry Vogel, chairman of the 2013 Resolution 4-06A Task Force, and Committee Chairman Paavola both noted the importance of communication throughout the Synod over the past year and during the convention in order to bring concord on this issue.

To further address the need for Word and Sacrament ministry in all LCMS congregations, Resolution 13-03 established a task force to “To Address Future Church Leadership Needs in Light of Current and Future Challenges.”

After two friendly amendments were made to the first resolved — one to add the exploration of free seminary education and the other to change the wording to include Canada — the motion passed 874-147.

Dr. Kevin Armbrust is manager of Editorial Services with LCMS Communications.

(Posted July 12, 2016)

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14 Responses to Convention addresses licensed lay deacons in public ministry

  1. Ethel Garrett July 12, 2016 at 5:57 pm #

    So will we have more or fewer men proclaiming the Gospel?

    • Dr. Douglas R. Morrison July 13, 2016 at 2:44 pm #

      Fewer.

    • Kathy July 16, 2016 at 9:23 am #

      Definitely fewer. My husband, who WAS a lay deacon, feels that this resolution is a slap in the face to all of the pastors and district staff that instructed and guided him and many others through the lay ministry program. It’s as if all those years and hours of instruction weren’t good enough in the eyes of the LCMS. This resolution does, in fact, affect the availability of lay deacons in districts, because a vast number of lay deacons will be unable to, logistically or financially, attend seminary in order to complete an SMP program. As of July 12, 2016, my husband’s prayer is for God to guide him into other areas to serve God’s people, and to be brutally honest, it may not be in an LCMS setting.

  2. July 12, 2016 at 10:21 pm #

    As a Deacon student starting his 6th and 7th classes in the fall, I find this program invaluable and to limit us is going to have a very bad effect on the Church as a whole. We are working hard and serve a worthwhile purpose in God’s holy kingdom, including the Sacraments and the preaching from the pulpit. Otherwise it feels like we’re just being stuffed in a closet somewhere. Unless I’m misinterpreting what was said today…

    God’s richest blessings,
    Franklin Dohanyos
    Deacon in Training
    Our Shepherd Lutheran Church
    Birmingham, MI

    • Rev.Charles Collier July 16, 2016 at 1:49 am #

      Your ministry is invaluable but you are not prepared, Called or ordained.

  3. Timothy Quindt July 13, 2016 at 3:17 pm #

    It is a sad day for our Synod. Yesterday, our Synod voted to deprive Word and Sacrament Ministry to many of our brothers and sisters in congregations unable to afford or call a full time pastor. This act weakens the Office of the Holy Ministry, not strengthens it. More importantly, it makes it more difficult to share God’s forgiving Word with the people who most need to hear it. I would not want to be those leaders who have to give an account to Christ and explain to Him on why they chose to restrict the Gospel and Word and Sacrament Ministry.

  4. John Frerking July 14, 2016 at 9:54 pm #

    “I would not want to be those leaders who have to give an account to Christ and explain to Him on why they chose to restrict the Gospel and Word and Sacrament Ministry.”

    AC IV
    Is this a shared belief of what the word of God has revealed to us, or is this just a “Lutheran thing?” I pray that our leaders will be comfortable giving an account for their decision at this convention.

  5. July 15, 2016 at 7:03 am #

    Don’t forget AC V and XIV. And, BTW, the Scripture which says that we should do all things decently and in good order. This resolution was a win for the people in the pews.

    • Rev.Charles Collier July 16, 2016 at 1:52 am #

      Absolutely agree. Granting Word and Sacrament credentials to Lay Deacons has weakened our pastoral and has reduced pastoral preparation to a few Continuing Education courses. I applaud the Convention”s decision.

  6. John Frerking July 15, 2016 at 5:16 pm #

    Thank you Mr. Beisel for the gentle reminder of my inept use of Roman numerals. I’ll surrender and just type “14”! 😉

  7. John j July 19, 2016 at 5:51 pm #

    This resolution only requires deacons who have been serving as the regular preacher in a given church for over two years to enter colloquy, not to go through most or any of the SMP seminary classes. They get SMP status without going through the whole SMP program. The resolution also allows other deacons to continue to preach “when a pastor is not available.”. The number of deacons who have been serving regular word and sacrament ministry amounts to only about one third of one percent of LCMs churches, so the “problem” was blown way out of proportion.

  8. Herbert Mueller August 4, 2016 at 11:53 am #

    Response from Herb Mueller

    First of all, we encourage all to read the ACTUAL resolution adopted by 74% of the delegates. You may find it now on pages 373ff of the Sunday Edition of Today’s Business available here – http://www.lcms.org/convention/downloads (get July 10 Issue, part 2)

    There are several points I’d like to make briefly:

    1) Those licensed lay deacons who are serving, in effect, as pastors, will be directed to a colloquy process to interview them, certify them, and to place them on the roster of SMP Pastors. As pointed out earlier in these responses, this does NOT mean that they have to enter a seminary SMP program, but they will be placed on the SMP roster by an interview process. We plan to do this regionally at no cost to the deacons other than to travel to the interview. This will enable the whole Synod to recognize them for what they actually are – functioning as pastors of the congregations they serve.
    2) The resolution establishes a process for exceptions, should they be needed.
    3) Districts are encouraged to continue training and credentialing (licensing) lay people for a variety of areas of service, especially evangelism.
    4) In the next 9 months I will be working with three district presidents who will be chosen by the Council of Presidents in September to develop clear and fair policies and procedures to implement the resolution and to make it work well for all.
    5) We recognize that the Synod adopted this plan (after much consultation across the Synod) as a means of addressing the dissensus in our midst over the issue of lay deacons functioning as pastors, but more importantly as a means of recognizing those licensed lay deacons who have been faithfully functioning as pastors on a regular basis, to recognize them for what they actually are to their people – pastors – and to do so in a fair way with integrity.

    Having adopted this plan, we fully realize, NOW we have to make it WORK. Personally, I am 100% committed to seeing that it works fairly and with great integrity under the Word of God. Again, please check out the actual wording of the resolution, page 373 of Sunday’s Today’s Business, part 2.

    Blessings in Jesus,
    + Herbert Mueller
    First Vice President
    Chairman, Colloquy Committee for the Pastoral Ministry

  9. August 12, 2016 at 4:43 pm #

    Dr. Mueller,

    With due respect, the phrase “much consultation across the Synod” does not adequately address the need for sufficient time to walk together on this topic, both practically and theologically in the years and months prior to this convention. One option the task force and floor committee could have offered, but did not, was to recommend a detente on the vote and provide a legitimate forum in the coming years for discussing both the theology and practical needs of our congregations. In this case, I am concerned that voting is the least effective way to handle an important issue for our time.

    At convention, the floor committee had over 30 minutes to present its case, which included powerpoint slides (!!), while the group discussion took a little over 25 minutes. The chair did not allow for extended discussion though he was asked to do so and could have allowed it per the standing rules. Not a single licensed lay deacon made it to the microphone, nor did any district presidents whose districts utilize LLDs. The vote was hasty, and uninformed. It is a fact that we have 1. real theological differences on this issue that we need time to discuss (voting on this did not help), and 2. real challenges in places anywhere that the LCMS has a small footprint (these will continue to increase). Further, the options provided by this resolution in no way foresee a strategy for the future after these present LLDs are “pastorized.”

    I value your integrity Dr. Mueller, and trust you as a wise churchman and I hope that my disagreement on this point in no way affects our relationship. I do not agree that adequate or “much consultation” was carried out, nor were the perspectives that were shared with the floor committee (prior to the convention and during the open floor committee hearings) adequately represented by the floor committee to the convention.

    Respectfully,

    Dust Kunkel
    Exec. Asst. to the President
    NOW District

  10. September 17, 2016 at 9:19 pm #

    I think the deacon program is no longer a good thing. A Lutheran church needs a seminary pastor.. Otherwise it’s not much different then a Baptist church being lead by man with very minimal education and knowledge of the Bible and history.
    I tried being a member of a LCMS church and its organist for the past 8 yrs. But with a deacon there barely getting their church by why would they ever call a pastor. I’m leaving the LCMS to go to a WELS church because I believe there is a huge difference between a deacon and a pastor.
    The LCMS church will never grow with a deacon. Its members will never grow spiritually with a deacon. The community will never benefit from a deacon.

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