Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My Answer to District President David Benke: “No!”

In yesterday’s post, I commented on the Deacon program that’s going on in the Atlantic District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, based on the parameters set forth in their defining document called “Diaconate Guidelines.” President Benke, on the ALPB forum, responded as follows:
I don't know what the LCMS District Task Force will be doing, but the author of the blog is off base. There is no performance of the distinctive marks of the pastoral office by female deacons either preaching or consecrating Holy Communion in the AD; there is no performance of the distinctive marks of the pastoral office by male deacons by consecrating Holy Communion, and preaching only occasionally under supervision or reading the sermons of others by male deacons in several circumstances that are both tiny and far from another parish. There are no unsupervised free-range deacons. There is an established, ten course preparation for the diaconate plus 200 hours of pre-interview service required, plus a theological interview, plus ongoing continuing education necessity for every-three-year district re-certification.

There is nothing being done by Atlantic District deacons that is outside the covenants of love of the LC-MS or the boundaries of the Lutheran Confessions and Holy Scriptures. And the parishes and pastors and workers of the Atlantic District are happy and blessed with these trained non-ordained auxiliary servants. Our diaconate provides a helpful model for theologically trained volunteer parish servants that indeed I wish more districts would tackle. The teachers are LC--MS pastors, trusted catechists (my formational view is that the diaconate is confessionally subscribed at the level of the Large Catechism and the Augsburg Confession), so that they might train catechists for parishes - my own parish is catechized through the diaconate except for adult catechesis, which is my responsibility. That's it and that's all.

Dave Benke
My answer to President Benke is that no, my blog post was not off base. It pointed out the very broad latitude that is granted to the male and female deacons of the District according to the District document - latitude that is not permitted in Scripture. It does not reflect what we believe, teach, and confess as a synod. It is outside the covenant of love that exists within our synod and out of synch with the spirit of Koinonia. I take President Benke at his word when he later further clarifies the position of the District on the ALPB Forum, stating that they don't do what they say they can do (pasted below). We should not, however, as Lutherans, write documents of this importance with such sloppiness. The practice in the district may be entirely ship-shape in some people’s minds; the confession, as put down in the document, is not. Men and women are given the exact same leeway in the document – the reported practice and the guidelines do not agree with one another. This is the historical equivalent of drawing up a set church orders, and then not following them. People write things down for a reason.

Here is President Benke's further comment, answering several questions from another commenter:

That is, would a female deacon be permitted to stand before the congregation vested in an alb and deacon's stole, reading a sermon prepared either by herself or by her pastor, and presiding over the pre-consecrated elements for Holy Communion?


Most of the your remaining questions have been answered elsewhere on this board.  I'll do my best to clarify one last time in this arena; frankly, the discourtesy of those on the linked site have brought me to fervent prayer for them, and that's what I see as my vocation at this time.  Uncharitable, totally out of synch with the spirit of Koinonia, and in many cases from pastors.  I am chagrined at the tone.

Here, however, let's continue for one more post.  Sharing the Gospel could mean in devotional setting, in informal conversation, in catechesis (as I have mentioned many times in the context of my own parish with male and female deacons involved), and in visitation. 

Oddly, the point you make is to me the most obvious.  The purpose of any homiletics course is for a Lutheran is to thoroughly imbed in the student the Law/Gospel dynamic.  The diaconal students almost none of whom are called upon to preach comment invariably on the benefit of the homiletics course because their understanding of the pastor's message and of the Lutheran focus on Law and Gospel and the triumph of the Gospel is so clearly put. 

I recall teaching some folks from other countries from Walther's Law and Gospel and watching as those insights in the old-timey language kept popping into their heads.  That the preaching office is a teaching office is pretty much self-evident to us.  That people who are taught the way we work through a text in preaching would be positively "infected" for the purpose of their daily walk and their catechetical or other parish assignments is not only not surpising, it would seem to me to be a matter of course. 

The reason this course is included is that for those male deacons who choose to continue on in their studies toward ordination, the course was and I think still is a part of the 10 course ramp-up toward taking the seminary admission test.  As I said, viewed by students as invaluable whether for audit or for future vocation.

The answer to your fourth question is No.

In other words, there are no activities being carried on in the Atlantic District, to the best of my knowledge, that are outside the covenants of love in our denomination.  Therefore -what you call "confusion" appears to me to be the lack of common courtesy in asking the questions you now ask in a God-pleasing way by pastors of the church who have chosen not to behave in that way in other forums.  Why they chose and choose to behave in that way is something I and the Praesidium of the Atlantic District take to prayer, and take to the process in our denomination called "Koinonia,"  a concept currently not understood or practiced by those brother pastors.

Dave Benke
My final comment, once again, is to point you to Pastor Wilken's article: “From Exception to Rule: How Error Replaces Truth in the Church.”


Todd Wilken said...


The Diaconal Guidelines were written as they are (and have remained without correction for more than 2 years) for a reason --and it wasn't sloppiness.

Dr. Benke is answering charges no one has made, and ignoring the real issue: His district's guidelines contradict Scripture and our Confessions.


Anonymous said...

Scott--you say this document is "sloppy." I disagree--it says exactly what Dr. Benke intends. If he really means what he says on ALPB, then the document should be revised.

Pres. Benke is not consistent in his denials, either. Here is an earlier post on ALPB:
"There is no performance of the distinctive marks of the pastoral office by female deacons either preaching or consecrating Holy Communion in the AD."

Later, he says:
"In other words, there are no activities being carried on in the Atlantic District, to the best of my knowledge, that are outside the covenants of love in our denomination."

His initial unequivocal denial is now conditional "...to the best of my knowledge."

Which is it? Fix the guidelines, already!

Joe Strieter

Dennis Peskey said...

There was a time when Lutherans wrote what they believed, taught and confessed. How long, oh Lord, how long?

Todd Wilken said...

I don't get it. President Benke's prevarications work so well on his doting admirers at ALPB.

Scott Diekmann said...

Perhaps that's why President Benke hasn't continued his fervent prayer and "I don't see any false doctrine" defense in other venues Pastor Wilken.