Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Review of Wayne Talbot’s Book The Dawkins Deficiency

Wayne Talbot’s recently published book The Dawkins Deficiency: Why Evolution Is Not the Greatest Show on Earth (Deep River Books, 2011) is definitely worth reading if you’re a layman -- and who isn’t when you’re talking about evolution and related fields? Mr. Talbot’s modest goal is to critically examine new atheist Richard Dawkins’ book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution (Free Press, 2009) and “comment on the validity of his assertions as evidence and what, if anything, such evidence proves” (xvi).

Judging from the title, you might expect this book to be a Bible thumping zealot’s response to a misguided attempt to question the authority of the Bible, and you’d be completely off base. Talbot does an excellent job of presenting well reasoned, impersonal arguments that will appeal to a general audience. As he states on page 37,
My goal is not to disprove evolution theory, my goal is to evaluate the truth of the claim that the evidence for it is incontrovertible, that evolution theory has been scientifically proven, and that the book under review provides that evidence.
And again on page xix:
In this book, I do not advance an alternate explanation of origins. Dawkins opens the door to discussion on both Creationism and Intelligent Design, and I do seek to correct his assertions and arguments where I believe he has it wrong, but I am not herein advocating any particular theory of origins despite my personal views. The issue is the validity of the theory of evolution; the alternatives can be argued elsewhere.
He lets you know right up front where he’s headed:
While I am not attempting to disprove evolution theory, I am claiming that there are numerous problems with the general theory—that much of the science is predicated upon unproven assumptions which have led to numerous errors; that there is a substantial body of scientific evidence that throws doubt on the theory; and that there is more unexplained than explained. The major proof points for the theory, namely, abiogenesis (chemical evolution), and that genetic mutation and natural selection have the development power claimed for them, have not been scientifically demonstrated, and there is inadequate substantive evidence for their assumed capability (xix).
Talbot has a background in Information Technology, which allows him to look at things from a slightly different perspective than other authors in areas such as irreducible complexity. He demonstrates a thorough understanding of evolution’s complexities, yet does a good job of explaining things without losing the average reader in the process. By comparison, this book is an easier read than Michael Behe’s book Darwin’s Black Box, but no less helpful. The author systematically goes through Dawkins’ book, covering the majority of the chapters. While there are a few spots where having Dawkins’ book in hand would be helpful, there’s no need to have a previous familiarity.

If you’re familiar with logic, you will appreciate Talbot’s analysis of things, and if not, this is a good learning opportunity to hone your reasoning skills. He demonstrates over and over Dawkins’ logical fallacies, including category errors, appealing to the law of the excluded middle, unwarranted generalization, circular arguments, affirming the consequent, and appeal to consequence. Don’t worry, all of these errors in logic are laid out in an easily understandable fashion.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Piece of LCMS History Comes Alive: The "Blue Book" Is Now Available on the Internet

Back in the ‘70s the door was opened wide to liberal theology in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The Historical-Critical method of Biblical interpretation, in part imported from Europe, was taking its toll on many of the Concordia Seminary professors in St. Louis. That, combined with the spirit of the times, influenced the teaching at the seminary, which in turn influenced the beliefs of many of the students. Sola Scriptura was gradually being replaced by whatever we wanted. It was a serious threat. Had it not been overcome by the diligence of those watching on the walls, the LCMS would have gone the way of the ELCA. God’s Word would have been thrown out the door like a monarch in the French revolution. It serves to illustrate the importance of diligence in maintaining the purity of our doctrine.

One way to remain vigilant is to study the errors of the past, so that they will not be repeated. With that in mind, a very significant event just occurred in cyberspace – the digitizing and placing on the internet of the “Blue Book.” The Blue Book, so named for its blue cover, was the 1971 report of then Synod President J. A. O. Preus on the doctrinal situation that existed at Concordia Seminary at the time. It included portions of the transcripts from the interviews of the seminary faculty, as well as previously printed documents. The release of President Preus’s report, plus the preceding hard work by a handful of individuals, revealed to the world the serious nature of the doctrinal problems that then existed. A few quotations from the report:

President Preus stated in his summary:
…The majority hold a view of the Scriptures which in practice erodes the authority of Holy Writ. Verbal inspiration, as it is commonly understood in the Synod, is not taught by all. The inerrancy of the Scriptures is severely limited. The Gospel (the primary teaching of the Scripture) is regarded as virtually exclusively normative in such a way as to detract from the normative authority of the whole Scripture. This is sometimes called “Gospel Reductionism.” (22)
A statement from the Exegetical Department of Concordia Seminary in 1970:
We recognize, however, that the devout application of scientific historical methodology, even under the presuppositions of faith which we bring to it, have at times led us to exegetical conclusions which surprise and disturb some observers. To this we must say that the precise results of Biblical study cannot be guaranteed in advance. Any attempt to prescribe an official exegesis must be resisted as the imposition of an authority above that of the Scriptures themselves. As men work prayerfully and critically, they may indeed uncover data or reach conclusions that are surprising, even disturbing, to themselves and others. Yet the Biblical word must be permitted an audience, even when it is disturbing. (64)
From the transcript of Prof. “Q”:
It isn’t important whether I think it happened, but the thing is it’s important that I understood what the Lord was doing when He was walking on the water and what the text is saying that He was trying to tell me through that event. (75)
From the transcript of Prof. “B”:
PROF. B: …God intervenes in the process which He himself started and by a special manipulation puts His image into these two people.
COMMITTEE: So you are saying that out of the mass of ape-like creatures running around God picked two and called them Adam and Eve and then it takes off from there?
PROF. B: This is right; He chose a segment of that earlier creation and made it into the human race, right. (94)
These quotes sound like what is being preached today in mainline Protestant denominations, as well as by those elsewhere who claim to be searching for a more “authentic” Christianity. The “battle for the Bible,” as it was called then in the LCMS, has never really ended. It will continue on until Christ returns. If you haven’t had an opportunity to read the Blue Book in the past, now is a good time to brush up on your history. Otherwise, it just might repeat itself.

The Blue Book was digitized by Dr. Robert Smith, the Electronic Resources Librarian at Concordia Theological Seminary. You can download it here in pdf form, though it may not show up in the CTS Media Server home page catalogue for a few weeks.

For more information on the LCMS “battle for the Bible,” you can read these books as well:

A Seminary in Crisis: The Inside Story of the Preus Fact Finding Committee, by Dr. Paul Zimmerman; CPH, 2007.

Anatomy of an Explosion: A Theological Analysis of the Missouri Synod Conflict, by Dr. Kurt Marquart; Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 1988.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Archie Bunker's View of Confession

It seems as though Archie hasn't been properly catechized:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Which Confession has the Most Ecumenical Potential?

Quoting from Dr. David P. Scaer's paper "Lutheranism as Catholic and Evangelical":
...Among all the documents to appear since the Reformation, the Augsburg Confession is the most catholic and hence possesses the most ecumenical potential.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Eat Mor Chikin

Boston’s mayor, Thomas Menino, is blocking fast food chain Chick-fil-A from opening a store in Boston because they support traditional marriage. Here’s the response of one of Chick-fil-A's customers, which I agree with:

Click for an expanded view

Faith in Action in Williston, North Dakota

There's an oil boom going on up in North Dakota. An LCMS church there has been allowing job seekers with no place to stay to bunk in their church overnight. As Pastor Jay Reinke relates in this clip from the July 13 Issues, Etc., this has been both a burden and a blessing. This is a good show to bookmark and crack open when you hear people say that Lutherans "don't do sanctification well." The people of Concordia Lutheran Church are truly putting their faith into action. Listen to the whole show here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

“Coconut & Rice Have the Right to Marry,” or “Why Definitions Are Important”

Driving down the road a few years back I saw this sign:

What’s that supposed to mean? I don’t know anybody named Coconut or Rice. If I were in San Francisco I’d be thinking it was a gay-rights issue. (Oh. Beg your pardon. An LGBT issue.) They need to give me a little more information before I can say more. The sign could certainly be used as a metaphor for the importance of defining your terms. As Christians, we sometimes suffer from our own lack of ability to ask the very Lutheran question, “What does this mean?”

Holy Scripture tells us to watch our life and doctrine closely. When we fail to ask the question “What does this mean?” we may not notice that a particular statement’s meaning is false, and end up in a sticky syncretistic mess that we should have avoided. A good example of this was the 1999 Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, where the Lutheran World Federation, due to its imprecise definition of terms such as faith and sin made it appear as though Lutherans and Catholics agree on the doctrine of justification, which is patently false. Yet the damage was done, and many people have been led astray because of definitional infidelity.

Because of a lack of definitional clarity, many people consider Mormon beliefs to fall within the pale of Christianity. But Mormons believe that Jesus, as well as the rest of us, eternally existed as an “intelligence” and have been born as spirit children of God. They reject the Trinity. Their definition of Jesus, once it’s brought to light, doesn’t agree with Scripture, or the “definition” of Jesus found in the Creeds.

When we fail to ask for definitions, we miss opportunities to help others learn the correct definitions, and we run the risk of unknowingly adopting their beliefs. Eventually, definitional imprecision may lead to doctrinal error, and left unchecked, spiritual death. Watch your doctrine closely!

As it turns out, the billboard was an advertisement for a nightclub in Tacoma called 21COMMERCE. Apparently, not enough people asked of the billboard “What does this mean?” since they’re now out of business.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Is the Swing of This Pendulum Accurate?

During the LCMS Northwest District Convention Dr. Tony Cook of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis led four Bible studies (the Powerpoint slides of which are available here). The studies discussed harmony and how it is achieved. The graphic below is from one of his presentations. I thought the graphic was thought provoking, although I'm not sure I'd totally agree with it.  Lutheran Pragmatism and Lutheran Fundamentalism were represented to be at the undesirable far ends of the pendulum swing, with harmony somewhere in between.  I wonder if the definitions for the extremes are accurate, or a caricature.  Certainly they're subject to interpretation.  Any thoughts?

Friday, July 20, 2012


Sometimes the preaching of the Law is in order:

HT: Pastor David Juhl

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Answer Me that Riddle!

Quoting from the preface written by Dr. Martin Luther to Johann Spangenberg's book German Postil, from Advent to Easter, Arranged in Questions for Young Christians, Both Boys and Girls, written in 1543: 
St. Paul writes now and again that Christ our Lord is a “mystery,” mysterium, and indeed the holy Church, too, with Christ, her Bridegroom, can be called a “mystery” [Col. 1:26-27; 2:2; 1 Tim. 3:16; Eph. 5:32]. In times past—when I had to permit myself to be called a doctor of Holy Scripture—I considered this a straightforward expression that I understood very well. But now that I, praise God, have again become a poor student of Holy Scripture and understand less and less as time goes on, I am beginning to look on these words with wonder, and experience, I find, supplies this gloss” that it must be a mystery indeed. For no matter how brightly and clearly as the apostles preached about it—even with miracles—nevertheless it still remains hidden and secret to the very greatest and most clever people on earth, just as He says in Matthew, chapter 11 [:25]: “You have hidden these things from the wise and clever, but have revealed them to the children,” etc.
Is this not a sufficient wonder? Is that not enough of a secret? It is preached so manifestly, and it shines more brightly than the sun, and is also confirmed with so many great miraculous signs (which no man can deny that God must be doing). And nevertheless, here the very greatest and most clever, the holiest and best people remain blind, deaf, and senseless, so that they cannot see it, hear it, or feel it. Answer me that riddle! How is that? There is nothing more manifest, and yet nothing more secret; nothing is more comprehensible than Christ in the manger and on the cross; nothing is more incomprehensible than Christ at the right hand of God and Lord over all. So it is also with the Word that preaches about Him.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, American Edition, ed. Christopher Boyd Brown. vol. 60, Prefaces II, (Saint Louis: CPH, 2011) 283.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Christ-Centered Cross-Focused Talk Radio

LCMS Delegates: You Think You've Got It Tough

For all you LCMS convention delegates out there who grouse about the size of your district or national convention workbook, and all that reading you've got to do, be thankful you weren't a delegate to last week's General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Their workbook weighed in at 753 pages, with a mere 155 resolutions. No wonder their convention lasted eight days. A few resolution highlights:

Resolution A013 Study Genetically Modified Food Crops
Resolution A020 End the Embargo Against Cuba
Resolution A083 Advocate for Reforming Credit Reporting
Resolution A087 Resolution on Wealth
Resolution A127 Recommit to Being Anti-Racists for the Next Three Triennia (Until 2018)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Speaking of Collars, There's a New Church Plant in Town

There's a new church plant in town, at least if the town is North Liberty, Iowa. What's it's name? Agua's Trough? Washington Knolls? The Back Street? No, try Saint Silas Lutheran Church. This new church plant, located just northwest of Iowa City, is being supported by Iowa District East. Pastor Andrew Richard, the Assistant Pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Chapel in Iowa City is planting the seed. As you might have guessed from the name, this is not a plant based on a seeker sensitive model, it's a liturgical church with an emphasis on Law and Gospel. I'm sure they will appreciate your prayers as they endeavor to spread God's Word in an area that sorely needs to hear it. If you'd like to help water that seed with a contribution, contact Rev. Dr. Dean F. Rothchild, Iowa District East LCMS, 1100 Blairs Ferry Road, Marion, IA 52302. Here's the details:

A post-production note gleaned from Pastor Richard's comment below: "Check out our Facebook page www.facebook.com/stsilaslutheran or e-mail directly with any questions, comments, or encouragement stsilaslutheran@gmail.com. ...We're launching a website in the next few weeks, so stay tuned."

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Collar – Opening Doors

Looking around the convention floor, there’s a real smorgasbord of attire. The occasional tie, tee shirts, shorts, even a kilt, but rarely a clerical collar. That’s sort of interesting, since half the attendees are pastors. Even the designated convention chaplain isn’t wearing a collar. There’s a handful of older pastors wearing a collar, and a handful of young pastors wearing one as well, with practically no one in between. It is heartening to see some of the younger guys wearing a collar. I wonder if that goes along with their theology. Is it the baby boomers who have rejected the collar, in favor of a more allegedly relevant practice?

One of the recent seminary grads mentioned that he wears his collar around town because it opens doors. This isn’t a new epiphany, but it is worth considering. While I would think the comments one might receive while wearing a collar out on the street would be rather stereotypical, they’re still opportunities to have a conversation with someone that will benefit from hearing Law and Gospel. The door that opens is one through which God’s Word can be shared with a sinner in need of forgiveness. And which of us doesn’t need that?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cutting Down on the Cost of Seminary Education: Is This the Next Step?

Disclaimer: This is a Friday post. Don’t take it too seriously.

The cost of seminary education is becoming prohibitively expensive. With congregations out there who can’t afford a pastor, there have been some novel approaches to cutting corners. Perhaps this is the end of the line, the final solution -- the Universal Life Church:
The Universal Life Church is the only denomination worldwide that opens its doors to all, welcoming all who feel called to be a minister to complete a free online ordination to be a minister, rabbi, priest or pastor. We are a non-denominational community and offer a full spectrum of support services. Millions of ministers have become legally ordained through the ULC Monastery all over the world. We do not have tests of loyalty, religious rings to kiss, nor do we require payment. The Universal Life Church wholly believes in its mantra - "We are all children of the same universe."
The Universal Life Church Monastery represents religious freedom, both freedom from and freedom of religion. At the ULC Monastery there is no hierarchy, and no one is held above another. All faiths are considered equal and no deity is held above another.

Online ordination in the ULC Monastery allows anyone from anywhere in the world to perform nondenominational weddings, funerals, baptisms, and other services in most states and counties in the United States. For information about the marriage laws of all fifty U.S. states, as well as those of other countries (including Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand), visit our Wedding Laws database. As a ULC minister, you will be a legally recognized wedding officiant, funeral officiant, or baptism officiant, among other things.
Now lest you think I’m joking, I actually know someone who did this. (He’s not a Christian.) His nephew wanted his favorite uncle to marry him, so why not? He got his online diploma, and he’s good to go. You may now kiss the bride. Now here’s the kicker:
When couples want to find a wedding officiant to perform their wedding, you will be able to offer them your personalized services without going through the often unfair and unjustified hassle of traditional seminary training. [emphasis added]
Their goal is “is to educate new ministers in the basics of their profession, regardless of faith, beliefs or religion.” You heard it here first. Let’s hope none of our seminarians get a whiff of this – they’ll be bailing left and right to avoid the unfair and unjustified hassle of traditional seminary training, not to mention the $60,000 in tuition. And I can only imagine what will happen if some of our district presidents get a hold of this. No more problems for “non-calling” congregations.

Just to seal the deal, you can watch Conan O’Brien give ULC his endorsement here.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Central Illinois District: Out with a Bang

The last District Convention, that of the Central Illinois District, has concluded. One of the resolutions passed by the CID was related to Licensed Deacons. The text of the original resolution, R-12-01-01, is available here. I'm not sure if it was amended in any fashion, a summary of which is reported on their convention page here. This resolution was adopted 199 to 22.

Here's the summary of R-12-01-01:

Resolution: To Require Uniformity of Practice With Regard to Word and Sacramental Ministry

Resolved that the CID in convention memorialize the Synod to develop a plan so that all men who are currently engaged in Word and Sacrament ministry without being publicly called to or placed in the office of the ministry, be enrolled in the Special Ministry Program (SMP) or cease from all forms of Word and Sacrament ministry by the end of 2019. Likewise that the men enrolled in the SMP be called “deacons”, not pastors, until they fully complete the SMP program.

Christ Triumphs

Quoting from Dr. Martin Luther's preface to Urbanus Rhegius' book Prophecies of the Old Testament Concerning Christ, written in 1542:
And then there is nothing sweeter than a married husband and wife who share the same faith, which calls upon God with one voice. Each one is a mighty bulwark for the other when the faith of one is concerned for the other and labors on the other’s behalf in the presence of God. Finally, marriage is the sort of society of which Christ says, “Wherever two are gathered in My name, I am in the midst of them” [Matt. 18:20]. In true faith spouses should call upon God together, talk with each other about the Gospel, and teach the Gospel to their children. In the common life and perils of such spouses, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is no doubt present and destroys the works of the devil, who, even as he strives to destroy the whole Church, directs his fiercest attacks against pious spouses and pious households. Amid all these dangers, however, the faith of the saints shines forth and Christ triumphs.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, American Edition, ed. Christopher Boyd Brown. vol. 60, Prefaces II, (Saint Louis: CPH, 2011) 272-73.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

First Article Gifts - Cordova, Alaska

Here's a few photos of the area around Cordova, Alaska. Cordova is located just east of Prince William Sound and west of the Copper River delta. Copper River salmon are a lot of people's favorite salmon, because of their high oil content. If you've ever had one, it might have made the trip from the river to your plate via Alaska Airlines. We haul a lot of fish in the belly of the plane when the salmon are running.

Click on the photos for a larger view

On the ramp in Cordova

The Sheridan Glacier

The Copper River, where all that Copper River salmon comes from

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Convention Resolution for You Enthusiasts Out There

I heard this convention resolution read on Table Talk Radio. I’m not sure if it was adopted.

Resolution 1-01

To Fully Express the Presence of the Holy Spirit in Our Hearts, and to Affirm that He Speaks Clearly Through District and Synodical Conventions

WHEREAS, We love Jesus, He loves us, and He promised to send His Holy Spirit, and

WHEREAS, Lutherans insist the Spirit promises to work through means, especially the Word, including the spoken words at convention microphones, and

WHEREAS, majority vote at convention obviously gives clear confession and concrete expression of the Spirit’s voice which ultimately began in our hearts and spoke through our mouths, and

WHEREAS, those who unfortunately spoke contrary to a past resolution during the debate held prior to its being passed were necessarily speaking against the voice of the Spirit, and

WHEREAS, speaking blasphemy against the Spirit is an unforgivable sin proceeding from the mouth of the devil himself, and

WHEREAS, the devil can be silenced by eliminating his voice, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the persons or person who spoke against the passed resolution and especially this one, and or voted against it should be excommunicated, stoned, and then burned at the stake, and be it finally

RESOLVED, that the delegates who were actually filled with the Holy Spirit, having voted for the passed resolution joyfully stand and sing the doxology during said burning.

Monday, July 9, 2012

President Matthew Harrison’s Q & A at the Northwest District Convention

Here is the video of President Harrison’s appearance at the recent LCMS Northwest District Convention. It’s well worth watching. A few highlights:

At 31:38, President Harrison addresses his view of the implementation of the new synodical structure that was imposed at the last national convention.

At 34:50, his views on women’s ordination and the role of women in the church.

At 41:30, how he exercises ecclesiastical supervision.

At 48:30, what the plan is for the National Youth Gatherings.

At 50:40, his view on Licensed Deacons.

At 55:51 begins the long conversation regarding an LCMS pastor who communes with his wife at an ELCA church. First a pastor asks President Harrison about this case, followed by the unionistic pastor’s sister.

At 1:05:36 is the conversation with the pastor who doesn’t know if homosexual attraction is sinful. Listen closely. This pastor embraces Gospel reductionism.

At 1:17:17, President Harrison’s thoughts on the Specific Ministry Pastor Program.

President Matt Harrison Question and Answers Friday, June 22, 2012 from Northwest District LCMS on Vimeo.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why Does Faith Save?

"Again, whenever we speak about faith, we want an object of faith to be understood, namely, the promised mercy.  For faith justifies and saves, not because it is a worthy work in itself, but only because it receives the promised mercy."

Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article IV, 55-56

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Signs of the Times?

As reported by Air Force Times on June 22:
Sixty-six members of Congress sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Friday urging him to issue guidance to counter an “alarming pattern of attacks on faith in the Air Force.”

In their letter, the lawmakers blame Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz for cultivating a crackdown on religion within the service.

The letter blasts the Air Force for removing Latin references to God in a unit patch, removing religious references in missile training, removing bibles from Air Force Inn checklists and barring commanders from telling airmen about Chaplain Corps programs.

“When our sons and daughters join the military, they are not signing away their First Amendment right to religious liberty,” the letter states. “Unfortunately it seems that some parts of the military are intent on prohibiting religious expressions rather than protecting it.”
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:11 ESV

You can read the entire article here.

HT: Chris Johnson

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Monday, July 2, 2012

Was John Eck Right – Just 482 Years Too Early?

Just before the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, Dr. John Eck released his Four Hundred and Four Articles for the Diet in Augsburg. Eck’s theses were partly a mix of half-truths, out of context quotes, and straw men, designed to paint the Lutheran confessors as heretics. Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession was written, at least in part, as a reply to Eck’s theses 267 – 269, which read
267. Any one can absolve any one; accord freest authority of hearing confessions is to be to all brethren and sisters (Luther).

268. The Church of Christ ignores the sacrament of Ordination (Luther). But it is a figment invented by men (Zwingli, Rieger, Amsterdo).

269. As many of us as have been baptized are all equally priests; and any layman can consecrate churches, confirm children, etc. (Luther, Zwingli).
One has to wonder whether Eck’s three theses have more of a ring of truth to them today than they did when written in 1530.

As reported last week, the Rocky Mountain District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod resolved to “apart from renewals, discontinue the licensing of lay deacons to serve as pastors (preaching and administering the sacraments) without being rightly called and ordained into the pastoral office.” In their convention workbook, the Committee on Licensed Deacons Report stated
The Licensed Deacon Committee has consistently and unanimously agreed that the need for a vacant congregation is a pastor; thus, a man serving as a licensed layman needs to be called and ordained into the pastoral office. The licensing of a layman to serve the so-called “functions” of the pastoral office is not the same as the calling and ordaining of a pastor into the office of holy ministry as we confess in the Augsburg Confession Article XIV which reads “Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach or preach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a properly ordered call (Latin: rite vocatus)”. The Committee has worked diligently over the years to bring this issue to the attention of the Synod for action at its conventions.
On the other hand, the Northwest District (NOW) of the LCMS resolved to “to continue the practice of utilizing already accepted means of call, training, and supervision of Licensed Deacons to perform Word and Sacrament ministry….” The introduction in the NOW resolution claimed
The LCMS has properly held that the ministerium of the Synod serves the fundamental mission of the Church to faithfully proclaim the Gospel (Matthew 16:17-19, Romans 10:14). This has resulted in practices which, while perhaps not ideal, circumstances have compelled our Church to provide for the preaching of the Word and proper administration of the Sacraments, lest they be denied to the people of God for lack of an ordained clergyman. The Holy Scriptures repeatedly show that it is the privilege of all believers in Christ to share the good news of Jesus Christ to all people (Acts 1:8, Luke 10:1-2, Philippians 2:11, 2 Timothy 2:2, Matthew 28:19-20)

In the past, these circumstances were overcome through the use of “emergency helpers” (Nothilfern) in our earliest years, through circuit riders, through the combining of smaller congregations into dual (or more) parishes, and more recently through the use of properly trained, called, and Synod-approved Licensed Deacons. These methods have been used effectively, and while some smaller congregations grew to a size where they could call a seminary-trained, ordained clergyman, many have not and anticipate remaining of such a size that cost and other factors preclude them from that preferred option for the foreseeable future. The means of grace would be denied or reduced in these smaller congregations if it were not for these men serving faithfully in extraordinary circumstances.
Obviously, we’ve got some widely divergent thought processes going on in the LCMS, where one district resolves one thing, and another resolves the opposite. This is more than a pragmatic difference due to geographically-imposed need, this is a difference in theology. These two resolutions get to the core of Augsburg Confession Article XIV. They cannot both be correct. Dr. William Weinrich points us in the right direction, in his Logia article titled “Should a Layman Discharge the Duties of the Holy Ministry?
Historically, Lutheranism has answered the question of whether or not a layman should exercise the duties of the Office of the Public Ministry with a definite "No." …The exegetical, dogmatic, and pastoral tradition of the Lutheran heritage admits of no circumstance that justifies the use of unordained laymen for purposes of preaching, baptizing, and administration of the holy supper. This tradition does recognize the requirement of preaching and baptizing in cases of necessity, that is, when no ordained minister is available, nor can be acquired.
The NOW District has a page on its website titled “Deacons in Action…stories of ministry…”  which highlights two Licensed Deacons. The first is “serving as minister” in north central Washington state: “The congregation called me to a one-year contract to provide ‘pastoral services.’" One has to wonder how much of an “extraordinary circumstance” could exist in central Washington, as the NOW resolution implies must occur in order for a layman to exercise the duties of a pastor. The first president of the LCMS, C.F.W. Walther, quoted Heshusius regarding emergency situations where a layman could practice Word and Sacrament ministry:
Further Tilemann Heshusius (d. 1588) writes: “In a case of necessity, since one cannot have regularly called servants of the church, there is no doubt that every Christian has the authority from God’s Word and is authorized according to Christian love to carry out the service of the church with the proclamation of God’s Word and the administration of the Sacraments. … But here we are speaking of that case of necessity when one cannot have true Christian and upright servants of the church and what is then up to a Christian. As if some Christians are at a place where there are no called pastors [Seelsorger]; if some Christians were in prison for the sake of the truth or were in danger on the sea; or if some Christians were under the Turks or the Papacy where there were no correct pastors; if some Christians were under the Calvinists or Schwenkfeldians or Adiaphorists or Majorists, from whom, as from false teachers, they must separate according to God’s command; or if some Christians were under such pastors or such church servants who practiced public tyranny and horribly persecuted the correct confessors of the truth. …”
With Walther’s quote in mind, it hardly seems that the other Licensed Deacon highlighted on the NOW page fits the extraordinary circumstance category either, since he serves as “Visitation Pastor” at a congregation which also has a regularly called pastor in Beaverton, Oregon, located 7 miles west of Portland, a city of over a half-million residents. What is happening? This is a case where our practice has rewritten our theology. In our desire to reach more people with the Gospel, which is certainly a worthy desire, we have compromised our Confession. Notice that in the first paragraph of the NOW District’s resolution it immediately points to the priesthood of all believers, and then makes the jump to lay ministers. The everyone-a-minister church growth concept has infiltrated our theology. One could argue that a subsistence village in Alaska, where there are no roads to the village, might be a candidate for a licensed deacon (AC XIV disagrees, that situation would also require an ordained servant of the Word for Word and Sacrament ministry, but the argument has been made), but a town seven miles east of Portland doesn’t fit the bill. John Eck wasn’t right in 1530, but perhaps he is now. We now have laymen, who have not been ordained, co-opting the duties of the called and ordained pastor, preaching the Word, offering absolution, and administering the sacraments. John Eck is smiling in his grave.