09 May 2009

To More Fully Reflect Augsburg Confession XIV in Our Practice

The following passed at our District Convention yesterday. I forgot to write down the vote numbers.

Resolution 1-01 - To More Fully Reflect Augsburg Confession XIV in Our Practice

Whereas, in certain situations today, the Synod approves of preaching and administration of the sacraments by men who have not been publicly called to and placed in the office of the ministry (this position is expressed in 1989 Resolution 3-05B, “. . . when no pastor is available, and in the absence of any specific Scriptural directives to the contrary, congregations may arrange for the performance of these distinctive functions [preaching and administering the sacraments] by qualified individuals”); and

Whereas, the Augsburg Confession's fourteenth article reads, “Concerning church government it is taught that no one should publicly teach, preach, or administer the sacraments without a proper [public] call” (KW p. 46), which includes both call and ordination; and

Whereas, the systematic theology faculties of both seminaries, acting jointly, have published a detailed statement on “The Office of the Holy Ministry” (Concordia Journal 33.3[July 2007]: 242-255) which states in part,

“The Confessions never use the truth that the whole church possesses the power of the keys to make the office of the holy ministry unnecessary or merely useful. On the contrary, this truth serves as the basis for the church's right to call, choose, and ordain ministers. . . . [T]he Treatise [on the Power and Primacy of the Pope] does not imagine churches without ordained ministers of some kind, even in emergency situations or when no one else will call and ordain men for the office. As confessors of the same doctrine, neither should we. . . “'[C]all and ordination' are essential for conduct of the ministry. . . .What is the sign of authority for ministers today? It is their call and ordination, which assure that they act by divine right and on the authority of Christ. This truth makes such ideas as “lay ministers” invitations for difficulties and troubles to ministers whose authority is doubtful and to laypersons whose assurance of God's grace may be questioned.” (pp. 253-254, 255); and,

Whereas, the Board for Pastoral Education and the two seminaries are now implementing the Specific Ministry Pastor Program mandated by the 2007 Synodical Convention; and

Whereas, the Board for Pastoral Education and the Council of Presidents are due to report to the 2010 Synodical Convention concerning “situations currently served by licensed lay deacons” (2007 Res. 5-02); therefore be it

Resolved, that the Northern Illinois District in convention express its concern about the current situation in the Synod at large concerning men who are conducting Word and Sacrament ministry without being publicly called to and placed in the office of the ministry; and be it further

Resolved, that the Northern Illinois District in convention memorialize the 2010 Synodical convention to direct the Board for Pastoral Education and the Council of Presidents to develop a plan and lay out procedures A) for how all men who are currently engaged in the public ministry of Word and Sacrament without being publicly called to and placed in the office of the ministry may either be enrolled in a regular seminary program or the Specific Ministry Pastor Program, or cease from all forms of public Word and Sacrament ministry by the end of 2016, and B) for how all current Synod and District tracks, programs, and licensing procedures which train men for pubic Word and Sacrament ministry without benefit of being publicly called to and placed in the office of the ministry can be phased out in favor of the Specific Ministry Pastor Program or a regular seminary program by the end of 2016; and be it further

Resolved, that the Board for Pastoral Education report on this plan to the 2013 Synod in Convention for approval, emendation, and adoption, and be it finally

Resolved, that the Northern Illinois District memorialize the 2010 Synodical convention to reconsider 1989 Resolution 3-05B in light of the Scriptures, the Confessions, the report mandated by 2007 Resolution 5-02, and the Specific Ministry Pastor Program.


Father Hollywood said...

Great news!

I applaud your district for its fidelity to AC14 and to the Holy Scriptures upon which AC14 is based.

There is one problem, however, that ought to be addressed as well. The current SMP program allows SMP students (who are considered vicars during their first two years of study prior to ordination) to function as if they were already pastors - thus reiterating the errors of the "lay ministry" and "licensed deacon" programs.

I recall an issue of Reporter that had the picture of a SMP vicar in his shirt and tie officiating over a baptism prior to ordination. When SMP was "sold" to the synod, it was argued that SMP was going to put this kind of thing to an end. But it obviously didn't.

The SMP program needs to be clarified so that baptism, absolution, and consecration are off limits until after ordination.

That is currently not the case.

Ironically, there are situations where vicars are permitted to officiate at sacramental acts while the idea of a vicar officiating at a wedding would be considered out of order!

Every loophole has to be closed, and the language must be utterly unequivocal, not allowing for "exceptions" lest the "exceptions" once again become the "rule."

Thanks again to the Northern Illinois District for once again taking a bold confessional stance!

Chris Jones said...

Fr Hollywood,

Why is it that baptism, absolution, and consecration are to be off limits -- but not preaching? If AC 14 is the basis for the policy, would it not equally proscribe preaching by men not yet ordained? And yet most of us, even of the most strictly "confessional", would say that having vicars preach under the supervision of their pastors is an important and effective part of their priestly training.

I'm not advocating lay sacramental ministry (far from it). But I honestly wonder what is the historical and theological basis for making a distinction between sacramental ministry and preaching ministry. AC 14 itself certainly makes no such distinction.

Christopher Gillespie said...

Herr Jones,

We seminarians wondered the same thing. Vicars preaching was the subject of one of our student Disputations this year. I don't have much to contribute to the topic, apart from a historical anecdote. Dr. Oswald Hoffman was part of the first vicarage class from CSL. He earned a PhD in Classics from Minnesota University. He recalls in his autobiography that vicarage was created to deal with placement shortages during the great depression, a holding pattern if you like.

Ironically it has been systematized. I am of the opinion that there are plenty of ways to make students proper public speakers outside of the pulpit (or even Bible class.) I continue to be appalled that I taught Adult Bible study solo for 13 months as a seminarian with no pastoral oversight or supervision.

I've heard the same "practice" argument to encourage vicars to "have a shot" at consecrating. Ugh. Pr. Petersen's single night Thursday night class and practice should be sufficient.

empesoumetha said...

I see no reason why seminarians must preach prior to ordination. Many people think that it is important for us to 'practice' in a congregation. I don't believe that there is such thing as a practice sermon. In my ideal seminary education, there would be much more preaching in classes where learning actually occurs. Criticism from a room full of seminarians and professors would surely be much more constructive than polite comments from people headed out the door after church. The parish is no context for practice and should never be viewed that way.

Why must we always bend the knee to practicality and convenience? No one subscribes to the Confessions... only when it is practical to do so.

The Rev. BT Ball said...

Fr. Beane-
yes, I am thankful it passed. Yes, SMP needs to be fixed. I think that this is a step in a very good directly as Southern Illinois passed a similar resolution.

If you want to see discussion on another NID resolution 1-02 check it out below.


rcbaker123 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rcbaker123 said...

The whole "in the absence of any specific Scriptural directives to the contrary" thingy, which shows up in many LCMS documents and resolutions since the 1930's, is an appropriation of the strong divine command theory of Swiss Reformed theologian, Karl Barth. In LCMS circles it is used as a sort of theological trump card in order to arrive at a predetermined conclusion. In the wild, divine command theory is a direct opponent of lex natura, formerly ascribed to by Lutherans.
Robert at bioethike.com

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

The thing with a Seminarian preaching is that he ought do so only with the direct supervision of a pastor and on the basis of the Pastor's instruction and command. This is part of training - not a matter of one abrogating authority to one's self.

I still contend that AC XIV is primarily over and against the anabaptist style where a person simply stands up and says, "I have the Spirit, I'm going to preach." A Seminarian has been publicly recognized as a Seminarian, and when he preaches or teaches, it is because he is specifically instructed (ideally with supervision) so to do.

As to teaching bible study - while I don't like it, there is a standing practice of lay led bible study -- even Melanchthon was never ordained - and he didn't preach, but he taught plenty of classes.

Let there be good order that ensures that the Gospel is rightly preached - and that is good enough.

Chris Jones said...

Let there be good order that ensures that the Gospel is rightly preached - and that is good enough.

But why then can we not say Let there be good order that ensures that the sacraments are rightly administered - and that is good enough.? Why the distinction between preaching and sacraments, when AC 14 makes no such distinction?

In any case, it's fine to say let there be good order; but in fact there already is such a good order: it's called canonical ordination. If it ain't broke ...

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


The distinction is the same one classically speaking between a priest (who is allow to perform the sacraments) and a deacon (who is not). Seminarians and Vicars are defacto deacons - clergy who are assistants and who happen to be (in LCMS Lutheranism) preparing for the full office of bishop.

In Seminarians/Vicars and Assistant Pastors and Pastors, we have the classical three-fold distinction of deacon-priest-bishop. . . we just don't call them that. We ought to - it would be clearer.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

There is precedence in the history of the Christian Church for laypeople to preach. It was (and still is known in parts of Christendom) known as the "office" Reader. Here is some information and history (hopefully this is helpful):

It was claimed by Canon King, who for many years ran the central Readers’ organisation within the Church of England, that Readers of the Christian Church developed as lay ministers from the readers of the Jewish synagogues within New Testament times. The earliest detailed description of Christian service, outside the Bible, is given in The Apology of Justin Martyr (c100-165), written in Rome about 155. It makes reference to the Reader as distinct from the President and the deacons.

In The Apostolic Church Order published before 200, Readers are placed after bishops and presbyters but before deacons. “For Reader one should be appointed after he has been carefully proved; no babbler, nor drunkard, nor jester; of good morals, submissive, of benevolent intentions, first in the assembly at the meetings on the Lord’s Day, of a plain utterance, and capable of clearly expounding, mindful that he assumes the position of an Evangelist; for whoever fills the ear of the ignorant will be accounted as having his name written with God.” Between 200 and 500 this form of lay ministry seems gradually to have declined so that by the end of the fifth century Readers were of little importance. No longer is the Reader an expounder of the Word of God, no longer an Evangelist, no longer must he be an educated and able man. Canon King reckoned that there was real hostility to the very name of Reader, for he said there was a ‘sustained attack’ but quite why was never recorded.
Read more here.