14 May 2009

What to do with the Vicar

Hard cases make bad law. The vicarage program was created because of the hard case of the Hoover-Roosevelt Depression and a shortage of calls. It was later codified and made part of "the system."

It is, ironically, on the verge of being historical and ecumenical - because what it seems to mean to be is the resurrection of the diaconate. But vicars aren't deacons. Deacons (in the Lutheran understanding of the Office of the Ministry) are ordained into the One Office of the Holy Ministry - but agree, by human right and for the sake of good order, only to preach (and in the Latin Church, baptize).

So a vicar isn't put into the Office of the Ministry - but he is training for it. He is not rite vocatus - but he is rite vocatur: he is being publicly called; he's in the midst of the process.

It would be best to follow the procedure that other Lutherans around the world do and send a man through the seminary for three year and ordain him. He would then be on probation for a year under the oversight of a pastor in the field (as a curate, deacon, or whatever you want to call him). If he fails this year of probation, he would be removed from office. If he passes, he would receive a call to his own pulpit.

That would be better - but it ain't gonna happen anytime soon.

So what to do with the vicar - this tertium quid? After surviving vicarage myself, seeing family and friends suffer through good and bad vicarages, and have summer vicars for a couple of years: here are my thoughts.

First, the no-brainer: vicars don't preside at the altar, they don't baptize, they don't conduct official acts of the congregation (installing officers, receiving members, confirmations, weddings, funerals, etc.).

Second, the more difficult point. What about preaching? Aren't we a bunch of hypocrites for shouting about AC XIV when it comes to the Supper and all the while letting our vicars preach?

There are at least two good answers to the charge of hypocrisy here. First, we might note the opinion of the Wittenberg faculty that I posted a couple of days ago. If a layman takes the authority to preside at the Supper upon himself, he has no real authority and there is no sacrament. Even if you think these Lutherans got it wrong: how much are you willing to bet on that? In other words, the consequences of the abuse of a vicar preaching under pastoral supervision are nowhere near as severe as the consequences of a vicar consecrating when he has no God-given authority to do so. So it is in no way hypocritical to say "I want to avoid the greater abuse even if I feel that I must tolerate the lesser."

(An aside: for those who would argue that a vicar is not really a layman, I don't think you even believe yourselves. Why don't you call him pastor then? Why does his service at a place end after a year? Why isn't he on the clergy roster? Etc.)

And there is another (and I think better) response to the charge of AC XIV hypocrisy regarding the preaching of vicars that leads to a better practice as well. This hinges on what the definition of preaching is.

I would define "to preach and teach" from AC XIV like this: To preach is to speak words which the preacher has composed himself in public worship directed at the faithful claiming that they are spoken in the stead and by the command of Jesus Christ; that these words which I have written are God's Word in the sense of Luke 10:16.

Vicars shouldn't do that. No layman should. Indeed, I would say that even if they pretend to do so, there is no promise attached to their words. It would be false preaching just as a vicar consecrating would be a false consecration.

But the Western Church has a long tradition of lay brothers in a monastery, for example, reading a patristic sermon from the breviary at daily prayers. No one, to my knowledge, has ever claimed that was "preaching." It isn't. It's reading someone else's words for the edification of the reader and the hearers.

Vicars can do this. They should do this in order to gain requisite practice in speaking before a crowd.

In addition, a vicar needs practice writing sermons. And here is where the pastoral supervisor of a vicar needs to take great care. The vicar should write a draft of a homily on a text. But that draft of a homily really does need to be read through, changed, and approved word for word by the pastor. It must really and truly be his sermon, not the vicar's. The vicar simply ghost writes something which the pastor then edits and makes his own. (It would, perhaps, be even more appropriate if the vicar wrote these sermons solely for practice and read sermons written by the Fathers or an old sermon from the supervising pastor.)

It would then be appropriate for the vicar to read this to the congregation: FROM THE LECTERN. This is a visual and important sign that A) the words are not the vicar's own, B) they are not spoken with Luke 10:16 authority, but C) are rather on a par with reading a Scripture lesson.

So that's my advice and practice for vicars: they don't consecrate, they don't baptize, they don't perform official acts, and they read the words of others from the lectern for the benefit of themselves and there hearers.



WM Cwirla said...

I would be much more comfortable, theologically speaking, with an extended transitional deaconate with increasing authority. This could occur after seminary/university training.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

First, looking at the comments - yes, I think it is time that we re-institute a lower order for those who are training. I would even argue that de facto a Seminarian is a type of clergy (but let's make it clear) -- he is in a category of training that the typical layman isn't.

Also, the idea of having a student operate under the supervision of another is a well established thing. My wife is a nursing student. She was allowed, under supervision and direction, to do procedures which she herself has no legal license for - on the basis of the license of her supervisor. That's what a Vicar is.

Sometimes we split hairs too much here -- of course the person who is training to do ______ isn't going to do everything, but there are a lot of things that they will do that a normal person wouldn't. People really do understand the difference between a seminarian or a vicar doing something under supervision for the purpose of education and training, and someone simply walking up and deciding to do something on their own.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Uh, isn't this what ELDoNA is doing?

Father Hollywood said...

I think it's okay for an ordained presbyter to function as a deacon, but I don't agree that a deacon *must* be a presbyter.

The New Testament divides the offices of deacons and presbyters in a way that it does not divide the office of bishops and presbyters. See 1 Tim 3 and various greetings, such as Phil 1:1.

In other words, all priests are bishops, but not all deacons are priests.

I do think we are the poorer for not having some kind of synodically recognized diaconal ministry - at least for men. For some reason, we see the diaconate as effeminate, and reserve that vocation for "women ministers" - whose authority seems to grow year by year, BTW. And while we commemorate deacons in our hymnals, I've been told angrily "we don't have deacons" in the LCMS (I've also been told "we don't have presbyters" - even though the word is specifically used in the Book of Concord). Like one of my classmates quipped: "The LCMS needs male deaconesses."

Acts 6 demonstrated the need for assistants to the presbyters who need not be presbyters themselves - so that the presbyters could focus on word and sacrament. In the LCMS, we do have a sort-of "functional diaconate" that further muddies the waters by calling them "elders" (presbyters!). Leave it to Missouri!

FWIW, while I was on vicarage, I was consecrated as a deacon. I wore a deacon's stole. I preached only under presbyterial oversight, and officiating at sacraments in any way (other than emergency baptism, which I never had occasion to do) was strictly off-limits, as I was not *rite vocatus* (ordained as a presbyter).

I think Lutherans make too much of the way early Lutherans used the term "deacon" as a designation for "associate pastor" - and I think we're wrong to canonize and dogmatize the practice. And as far as the question of whether or not such deacons are "in the ministry," I would ask the same question of deaconesses. The word "ministry" is being used with increasing frequency to describe the work of lady church workers that is also described as "diaconal."

I think it would be a good idea for all pastors to be transitionally consecrated/ordained as deacons (and to retire the confusing and sectarian term "vicar" - which is used worldwide in many communions to mean a parish priest). And I also believe a permanent diaconate in service to the pastor would be a very good thing. I know I could sure use a deacon to help me with my work.

Personally, I like the idea of "male deaconesses," and I'm humbled to also be in that same order as the protomartyr St. Stephen.

Once a deacon, always a deacon. And every presbyter (elder) and every bishop (overseer) would do well to remember that he was first and foremost a deacon (a servant).

+ Robert Wurst said...

This is the way that the W=Siberian Lutherans have "organized" themselves. After sem, the are ordained as Deacons. They are placed by the Bishop to work with a Pastor. After five years or so, they *may* be ordained as a Pastor. It is not automatic. The Deacon must prove himself capable of fulfilling the Pastoral office.

It seems to be working quite well.

Pr. H. R. said...

Re: Deacons and Presbyters.

Part of the problem here is that, as I understand it, at the time of the Reformation those who had been ordained deacons were not further ordained as presbyters in (at least some) Lutheran territories, but were considered to be in The Office.

In other words, I think the reason the Lutherans have stayed away from deacons is that they have not had a uniform historical understanding of that office.

The chief thing in the Ministry that we want to uphold is that the office is One as Christ gave it to the Apostles. A presbyter/bishop stands in that office. Does a deacon? If so, then the duties he is barred from doing he is only so barred by human rite.

If he's not really in the Office - then what is he doing preaching and baptizing?

We cannot let our exegesis of the biblical texts on deacons be colored by later developments in that office. Doesn't Acts 6 say that deacons were there to take peripheral duties so that the Apostles (holders of the Office) could devote themselves to the preaching of the Word and prayer?

Doesn't sound like the late antique clerical office of deacon to me. This is further supported by the fact that women are also female-deacons (he diakonos - no feminine ending to the word, only a feminine article).

At any rate....you get the idea: there is more than a little controversy about what a deacon is from a Lutheran perspective. . .

More to the point: I don't see that coming to pass for us in American Lutheranism any time soon. We've got these Vicars, so we'll have to use them appropriately - hence the original post.


Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Are we so sure that the 7 deacons in Acts 6 were not ordained into the one Office of the Ministry? They received the laying on of hands, typically an apostolic custom for placing men into the apostolic ministry. I have often wondered if "full of the Spirit" was not early Church language for "ordained."

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Heath:

I just don't see where any of that matters. A lot of the "problem" is semantics.

If a man was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry (the pastoral office) using the term "deacon" - then he is ordained into the presbyterial office. In that case, the word "deacon" was simply used to mean "presbyter." It's a little confusing, but not a theological problem. ELDoNA may even be doing just that today.

In most Lutheran jurisdictions around the world, a man is explicitly ordained as a "priest." In my case, and probably yours, neither the word "priest" nor "presbyter" was used (nor was "bishop" for that matter) but rather "Office of the Holy Ministry." That's what the words in our English-language LCMS rite mean (presbyter).

I think it would be more clear to use something more specific than "Office of the Holy Ministry" - but we know what the words mean.

Likewise, when a woman is ordained a deaconess (and I'm not sure anyone really was in the New Testament, as the word can also simply mean "servant"), we don't make the argument that she is in the OHM (at least not yet) - but of course, some do. We used to tease a seminarian that his wife was ordained before he was (the DP laid hands on her).

In that sense, the idea that a deacon is interchangeable with a presbyter/bishop only serves the fantasy that a woman can be a pastor. And feminists make that argument all the time.

And, in one case in particular, I filled in at a church where the lay elders are called "deacons" and actually vest in albs and deacon stoles for the Divine Service. No-one is making the argument that these men are in the pastoral office. They just serve in their diaconal office with no synodical recognition, ironically unlike the deaconesses, who are rostered.

Once again, Scripture makes a distinction between deacons and presbyter/bishops. 1 Tim 3 doesn't lump them all together. I think we *can* use the term "deacon" to describe an assistant pastor, but once more, I see no evidence that a man serving as a deacon *must* also be ordered as a presbyter.

Again, in my own case, I was consecrated a deacon a year before I was ordained a pastor. I don't think you're suggesting that my ordination as a pastor was a sham (like a second "baptism") since I was already "in the office" by virtue of a diaconal ordination.

As far as what deacons can or can't do in the Roman Church is their problem. These matters are largely at the discretion of their bishops. Even female deacons apparently poured the water during baptisms back in the days when candidates were "in the buff." But I still don't accept that these "deacons" were acting in the Holy Office. A bishop was doing the baptizing using their hands to protect modesty.

Besides, in the RCC, diaconal ordination is considered sacramental holy orders, and he cannot carry out his ministry without pastoral oversight - which is different than our version of an associate pastor.

To be honest, I'd rather have vicars ordained into the presbyterial office itself than have them doing what many of them are doing now. Many churches around the world still use "curates" - ordained men who are serving a sort-of internship with a senior pastor. That would be far better than the train-wreck we have today.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Paul:

It would seem strange to ordain men into the ministry of word and sacrament *in order to* serve tables (Acts 6:2). The whole point was to *free the pastors* up to devote themselves to word and sacrament ministry (Acts 6:4).

It would be like needing Lutheran school teachers and other auxiliary offices and just ordaining them all into the pastoral office so they can do things that are not word and sacrament ministry.

If deacons and presbyters are in the same office, I just don't see why the NT writers would be so scrupulous to distinguish those offices, while uat the same time using the terms "bishop" and "elder" with almost careless interchangeability.

Just a few thoughts off the top of my head.

Pr. H. R. said...


My only points are these.

1) There are good exegetical cases to be made for deacons in the NT, both that this office is a lesser form of the Ministry and that it has nothing to do with Word and Sacrament ministry at all.

2) There has been historical confusion in Lutheranism over the topic.

While I agree with you that a revived diaconal order would be better than what we've got now I think that given those conditions, we'd be wiser still to follow the curate route.

Further, that ain't gonna happen either. The main point of my post was driving at a realistic way to use the system we have faithfully.


I agree with you that

WM Cwirla said...

"Vicars shouldn't do that. No layman should. Indeed, I would say that even if they pretend to do so, there is no promise attached to their words. It would be false preaching just as a vicar consecrating would be a false consecration. "

Care to elaborate on this point? It seems to be running by analogy. As with consecration so with preaching. It sounds to me as though you're saying that the Office validates the Word and makes it effective. Is that correct?

Pr. H. R. said...

Pr. Cwirla,

Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

No, I wouldn't say that at all. What I mean say is that Luke 10:16 would not apply to such a speech by a layman, since he is "running when he is not sent." That's a specific promise given to a specific office.

We've gone round and round on this before. To summarize my point of view, all of the following are separate gifts and while they interact with each and overlap, they are all also unique and with their own promise:

*The Word
*A Sermon preached by a holder of the Office
*A brother speaking to another a word of comfort
*A Bible reading

To conflate all of those under "the Word" and put a period on the sentence only tells part of the story. I think there is more nuance to it than that.

And I think the best way to get that nuance across is to point out Luke 10:16. The Confessions take that passage as referring to the preaching of the Minister.

Do you think Luke 10:16 applies to all Christian speaking?


Anonymous said...

I considered the very same plan for vicars, if I ever had one : not preaching. Reading from the father's and writing sermons, but not actually preaching, because they are not called to do so.

I think that men would be better preachers if they spent a year reading and analyzing Luther, Augustine and Chrysostom, than simply trying to write their "goal/malady/means" sermons.

Petersen said...

Dear Pastor Curtis,

Kurt Marquart's explanation of vicar preaching was just what you said. He wasn't preaching. He was reading the pastor's sermon. That is why the supervisor should not only read it very carefully, require changes, etc, but should also approve the final copy - word for word. I think this is doable. I tried to do it, and think I succeeded, in my one attempt at supervising a vicar. But I didn't have him read the sermon from the lectern. I think that is a good idea and wish I had.

I also like your distinction regarding the Word in the comment above.

- Petersen

WM Cwirla said...

"And I think the best way to get that nuance across is to point out Luke 10:16. The Confessions take that passage as referring to the preaching of the Minister."

The Confessions use this passage in a variety of ways:

* that parish pastors and congregations are to be obedient to their bishops (AC XXVIII.22)

* that the Sacraments are efficacious even when administered by unworthy men (Ap VII/VIII.28,47)

* that a penitent should believe the voice of the one absolving (Ap XII.40)

* that bishops and pastors should preach the Word and not human traditions (AP XXVIII.19)

I don't see anything in the passage or its use as a proof text in the Confessions that would indicate that the proclamation of a layman or a vicar would be ineffective or deficient in any way.

Pr. H. R. said...

Pr. Cwirla,

In each of those passages you quoted, the passage is always and only applied to the clergy, no?


WM Cwirla said...

They are all dealing with the "clergy," whether pastors or bishops. Only in the case of Ap VII/VIII is efficacy of the Word under consideration, and then it is resolved positively, namely the Word is efficacious in spite of the wickedness of those who administer it.

But I don't see anything that would indicate that a sermon preached by a layman would not be effective.

Father Hollywood said...

The issue of the *wickedness* of the one administering the sacrament has nothing to do with the issue of the *authority* of the person purporting to officiate at a sacrament. These are simply different matters.

Equating these two completely separate issues is a trick used by the advocates of women's ordination. They claim that those who deny the validity of "sacraments" performed by women purported to be in the pastoral office are guilty of Donatism.

This charge was levied against David Scaer by some of the St. Louis faculty in response to his CTQ article "The Validity of Sacramental Acts [sic] of Women Pastors [sic]" - and those making the charge were soundly refuted by Wenthe and Weinrich in respose (the debate raged in CTQ a few years back).

Preaching and administering sacraments is given to certain individuals as a vocation (as AC14 puts it: rite vocatus - "called by rite"). Those outside of that call (vocatio) to that office (Predigamt) simply have no authority to speak on behalf of our Lord by way of preaching, nor to administer the Lord's Supper. The Lord established the holy office. It isn't something for us to toy with. Our Christian freedom doesn't allow us to ignore that matter of divinely-established authority by flippantly suggesting it is simply a meaningless gesture, that anybody can act as though they bear that office apart from the Lord's call and authority.

Confessing the truth of the Gospel with one's mouth is obviously something all Christians are called to do - but preaching and the administration of sacraments is simply a different story - which is why we have AC14.

The argument that the Word is efficacious apart from one "ritely" called is a slippery slope to gnosticism. I used to work with a guy whose dad worked in a slaughterhouse. They used to have a rabbi to bless the animals killed according to kosher rituals. They laid off the rabbi and simply replaced him with a tape recorder. And it seems this was okay by the Jews.

After all, what's the problem if the Word is efficacious apart from a person under authority to speak the Word? Or so the argument goes.

Similarly, I'll bet some Lutherans would consider a sacrament to be valid if a parrot were trained to say the verba over bread and wine, or if children were playing church (as long as they use the right formula). This kind of thinking led to the scandal a while back of a pastor saying the words of institution on a DVD so the spectators at home could "have communion." What could be a better definition of "ex opera operato"? It borders on superstition and witchcraft.

And if anyone using the right words can consecrate, that means any Satan worshiper who wants to blaspheme Christ need night try to steal consecrated hosts, he could simply consecrate them himself all day long. Even the devil knows better than that.

I don't believe for an instant such things would be a sacrament in any way, shape, or form.

And I do think our high view of preaching, and the fact that the Office of the Holy Ministry is called the "Predigamt" in German specifically means that preaching is not in a different category than the Holy Eucharist when it comes to authority - and this is simply not the vocation of the layman. He has no more authority to preach or consecrate than my signature on a bill passed by congress can make it a law. It would simply be an autograph, because I lack authority.

I think we do a great disservice to the faithful when we allow men not under orders to play church.

WM Cwirla said...

"The issue of the *wickedness* of the one administering the sacrament has nothing to do with the issue of the *authority* of the person purporting to officiate at a sacrament. These are simply different matters."

This was my point precisely. Ap VII/VIII uses Lk 10:16 only to show that the sacraments are effective in spite of the wickedness of the administrants. Neither the Confessions, nor I, am making some derivative argument regarding whom should be authorized or whether the unauthorized (ie unordained) may do these things.

I would agree that we do the Church a great disservice by not fully authorizing those who are to preach and preside. Authority and function always go together. It is the essence of the concept of "office."

WM Cwirla said...

I was talking with a Roman Catholic woman recently who lives in a deep rural area. They have a priest visit once a month. A deacon conducts the liturgy once a month\. The other two Sundays are conducted by laity. The deacon and the laymen read and preach, but distribute pre-consecrated elements. The woman noted that this wasn't really a Mass but a "service" since the priest wasn't there to offer the sacrifice. She still believed they received the Body of Christ, though. I thought it was interesting. I'm not saying we should do this, of course.

The chief concern with the Roman Catholics seems to be the eucharistic sacrifice; preaching is not an issue. Just a comparison.

I wonder if anyone else ties the efficacy of preaching to the Office.

Father Hollywood said...

Well, maybe you're reading too much into the word "sacrifice." I wouldn't call the distribution of preconsecrated elements a "Mass" either - as the Mass includes the action of consecration.

But neither would I deny the Lord's Presence when a deacon distributes elements consecrated by a presbyter. At that point, it's only the latter half of the Mass - the distribution and reception part.

In the RC church, deacons are permitted to preach under the supervision of a bishop. In that sense, it isn't all that different than our use of vicarage bishops to assume responsibility of the vicar's "preaching." I doubt that they read over every word - but then again, my vicarage bishop didn't either. But he did assume dull responsibility - so I guess that's something.

At least a Roman Catholic deacon is under holy orders. Our vicars (some of whom are "preaching" without supervision and "consecrating" without ordination) revert back to being seminarians after a year of what amounts to functional deaconship (usually) without benefit of actually being consecrated/ordained a deacon.

I think that only adds to the confusion over the holy office and the boundaries of laymen.

Father Hollywood said...

That should be "full responsibility." I think my error is more of a fat-finger on the keyboard than a Freudian slip. ;-)

WM Cwirla said...

Another problem we face is an anachronistic reading of the Scriptures with regard to "office."

Hans von Campenhausen gives the full treatment in Ecclesiastical Authority and Spiritual Power in the Church of the First Three Centuries. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997. Hbk. ISBN: 1565632729. This is a worthy read. I'm glad to see it's available in English as I had to read it in German at the seminary.

He traces a slow institutionalization of clerical offices over the 2nd century. We Lutherans tend to read back a more unified understanding of "office" (officium, Amt) than is present in the 1st or 2nd centuries.

Pr. H. R. said...

Pr. Cwirla,

If I read your concern correctly it is that we don't make the efficacy of the Word dependent upon anything but the Word. Agreed. The Word is always effective to perform the purpose which God has in mind for it - whether it is scratched in a bathroom door or preached from a gilded pulpit.

But that does not meat that a Bible reading and a sermon are the same thing - even though they are both the Word. It is possible and necessary to list differences between them.

* The Bible is infallible. A sermon may err.

* The Holy Spirit directly inspired the writer's of the Scriptures. The pastor is guided by the Spirit's working through the Scriputres.

And we could list many more.

I think it is possible and necessary also to make a list of the differences between a sermon preached by a minister and the speaking of Gospel comfort from one Christian to another.

Do you agree? Can such a list be made? If so, what would you include in the list?


Father Hollywood said...

Speaking requires a speaker. Preaching requires a preacher. It is an artificial distinction to sever the message from the messenger. And yet, Lutherans (who are always speaking about "means") do it all the time.

They routinely speak of "the Word" as though it floats about like a phantom.

The proclaimed Word needs a person to proclaim it - and it is not just any person. It is a matter of vocation. Some people (the vast majority, in fact) are not called to preach, just as I am not called to do brain surgery or change my own oil (both of which would be unmitigated disaster).

There were several examples in the OT of how the Lord treats usurpation of the ministry that He has established.

"Everyone a Minister" and the Wicheta Amendment to the Augsburg Confession are more than just bad ideas, they are diabolical and antithetical to what our Lord Himself instituted - even though they are wrapped in the warm fuzzies of "democracy" and "love for the lost."

I think such practices boil down to a lack of faith in the Word and a lack of fear of offending the Lord.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

This is not a question ultimately about the efficacy of the Word and what it depends on. This is about who should and who should not preach. To whom is it given, and to whom is it not given? "How can they preach unless they are sent?" The Word is efficacious on the lips of a peasant as much as it is on the lips of a priest. And peasant and priest alike, *as Christians* are called to confess Christ to their neighbors. The difference is that a pastor has orders from the king Himself to preach this Word to the Church, to be His spokesman and herald. This is why the peasant should not presume to speak in Christ's name to the Church--He has no order, no command to do so. As David Scaer once quipped in an email: The Office of the Ministry exists for the sake of Justification, but justification can take place apart from the office, as even many people believed without ever having met Christ. "The rumor of him went throughout all Judea." Pastors have no choice but to preach; "Woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel."

WM Cwirla said...

"* The Bible is infallible. A sermon may err.

* The Holy Spirit directly inspired the writer's of the Scriptures. The pastor is guided by the Spirit's working through the Scriputres. "

I think these are good distinctions and may very well contain the essential reason why one should not preach without being authorized (rite vocatus included examination or testing (dokimazo). The preached Word always has an element of uncertainty to it which the Office alone cannot overcome. We must be sure that the one who preaches is competent to preach, just as we don't let interns do brain surgery. Interpretation and application of Scripture is serious and tricky business.

I'm not as sure that one can distinguish the speaking of the ordained from the unordained in quite the same terms.

Some Lutherans seem to treat the activity of preaching as a "sacramental" act, which gives rise to the question of the original post recast in this manner: Is the sacramental act of preaching a valid sacrament when administered by the unordained (a vicar or a layman)?Experience teaches us that discussion of a question of this depth is far beyond the limitations of the comment stream on a blog.

We should also be careful how we debate this point, mindful of the fact that the rest of the world, believing and unbelieving, is potentially listening in.

Father Hollywood said...

"We should also be careful how we debate this point, mindful of the fact that the rest of the world, believing and unbelieving, is potentially listening in."

I agree. And what's more, we should be careful what our practice is. The way our six thousand parishes confess and practice regarding the OHM is by far more important that a blog debate.

And at this point, the LCMS is really the LCMess. We have vicars "consecrating," we have men ordained after taking eight correspondence courses, we have a plethora of "licensing" programs for the unordained, and even the use of "elders" to go to people's homes for "communion night" apart from the altar of the parish.

All the while, we have the very plain word of AC14 - which is as often as not seen not as a confession, but rather as a bureaucratic stumblingblock that needs a "loophole."

WM Cwirla said...

"And what's more, we should be careful what our practice is. The way our six thousand parishes confess and practice regarding the OHM is by far more important that a blog debate."

This is also true. One might also consider whether a "blog debate" is the best forum for such a serious matter that involves our very unity. In my estimation, blogs are far too immediate and undigested and the comment stream even less so.

These are serious intramural issues within the fellowship of the LCMS that impact our unity and the faith of our people and should be dealt with internally, out of the hearing of the general public, with respect and humility. I fear that forum type discussions such as LutherQuest or blog debates wind up doing much more harm than good in the long run.

WM Cwirla said...

"I think it is possible and necessary also to make a list of the differences between a sermon preached by a minister and the speaking of Gospel comfort from one Christian to another. "

Here is one possibility:

The sermon is always spoken in the I-Thou mode of speaking, addressing the hearer personally as sinner/saint. I am of the opinion that it really isn't preaching if there isn't "you" language at some level. In this sense, one might say that the sermon is "sacramental." One dare not speak this way unless one is duly authorized; otherwise it is sheer presumption on the part of the speaker.

The Christian conversation is spoken as we/us, in which the speaker and hearer are in solidarity with one another. This requires no authorization, only faith in Christ.

The issue is not whether or not God is present in these two modes of speaking, or if that speaking is "effective" in terms of faith creation, but whether one is given to speak in I/Thou terms on behalf of God. This is reflected in our usages concerning the benediction and the absolution.

Pr. H. R. said...

I think that is a good - and significant - start to the list, Pr. Cwirla. Thanks.


Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

Nearly 40 years ago, debate was begun at the St. Louis Seminary to replace vicars with ordained deacons. Academic work would be completed in three successive years, after which calls would be extended and these men would be ordained.

I recall that it was debated if these men would serve as deacons or as curates; but a distinction between orders was never made. It was assumed that these men would be ordained into the fullness of the apostolic ministry.

Be assured that this debate involved both students and faculty; this idea did not get very far. Still, a number of men, myself included, were ordained deacons prior to going on vicarage.

It is good to see this idea being resurrected. It is not proper to have card carrying laymen as ministers of Word and Sacrament.