Monday, August 6, 2012

The Atlantic District of the LCMS – Dividing the House

The Atlantic District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has its own version of Licensed Deacons, whom they call “Commissioned District Deacon.” It is unique to the Atlantic District of course – you must remain in their fiefdom. In this case, the lord of the fiefdom is District President David Benke.

A few highlights of the program from the Atlantic District’s “Diaconate Guidelines” document:
4.1 At the heart of the ministry of deacons are works of mercy, witness, and worship, in solidarity with the poor and needy. The actual tasks undertaken by members of the diaconate will vary according to the gifts and skills of the deacon and the needs of the church and its surrounding community. Deacons so gifted will engage in various ministries of teaching within the congregation/agency, including baptismal and communion preparation, catechesis of youth and adults, and small group Bible study leadership or supervision. All aspects of diaconal ministry are under the supervision of the supervising pastor.

4.2 Members of the diaconate assume a leadership role in worship, but this is never to be their primary task. Rather, the serving function of deacons in the Church’s liturgy is to be a reflection of their tangible, actual servant hood in the world.

4.3 Members of the district diaconate shall neither preside at the Holy Eucharist nor exercise the Office of the Keys. In the absence of an ordained pastor and with approval of the pastor and congregation, the deacon may serve at the divine service including the communion liturgy using reserved sacrament. This practice should be used sparingly so as to not confuse the “Office of Deacon” and the “Office of Pastor.” The deacon may officiate at funerals under the direction of a supervising pastor. The deacon may proclaim the Gospel in formal and informal settings after he/she has received training in homiletics and while remaining under the supervision of an ordained pastor.

5.5 It is expected that most members of the district diaconate will continue to hold regular employment and therefore would be involved in diaconal service on a part-time, non-stipendiary basis. There may be instances however, when a deacon serves a ministry for a stipend….
So the Deacon shall not preside at the Holy Eucharist, except where they may, and they may proclaim the Gospel in the worship service. This violates our own confession, as Augsburg Confession Article XIV reads “Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach or preach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a properly ordered call” – that means a pastor. And since the Deacons of the Atlantic District may be male or female, it certainly creates even more confusion, since women would then be preaching and administering the Sacrament, a move which violates the trust of our walk together as a synod. I’ve heard rumblings from people who think that this is a back door approach to women’s ordination. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but now would be a great time to reread Pastor Todd Wilken’s excellent article “From Exception to Rule: How Error Replaces Truth in the Church.”

Ironically, the Atlantic District’s program continues at a time when other districts resolved in convention to abolish these types of programs. A house divided against itself cannot stand.


photo credit: Martin Cathrae

7 comments:

Brian Yamabe said...

I choked when I read, "The deacon may proclaim the Gospel in formal and informal settings after he/she has received training in homiletics and while remaining under the supervision of an ordained pastor." Thanks for the heads-up. This really needs to be addressed at the Synodical level.

Anonymous said...

This is an "in-your-face" challenge and affront to President Harrison and his Koinonia efforts. President Benke is saying, in effect, "Go ahead--knock the chip off my shoulder." Unlike past SP's, President Harrison must act--and no matter what he does, Benke thinks Harrison will lose. The RC has its renegade nuns, the LCMS has Benke: Arians, Pelagians, Arminians, now Benke-ites.

Joe Strieter

Dave Lambert said...

I agree with "Anonymous" above who said: This is an "in-your-face" challenge and affront to President Harrison and his Koinonia efforts.

Martin Diers said...

This "under the supervision" mentality was the rule at my former fellowship. In other words, as long as the pastor had oversight, anyone was allowed to preach and lead the liturgy, as long as they were:

1) Male
2) Reading a sermon prepared by their pastor or some other "approved" pastor.
3) Were a seminary student preaching their own sermon under the pastor's supervision (and, except for rare exceptions, were not even called vicars).

I could not seem to get across that reading a sermon is still publicly teaching in the church without a call, and that student preaching was, without question, teaching without a call. They had the idea that "call" meant "supervision", sort of "borrowing" your pastor's call.

Scott Diekmann said...

Pasted below is the response of District President Benke on the ALPB Forum to this post, available here: http://www.alpb.org/forum/index.php?topic=4565.45

Note the differences between their practice and their “Diaconate Guidelines” document, available here:
http://www.ad-lcms.org/main/images/stories/pdfs/FINALADDiaconateGuidelines-Feb2010.pdf%20

All the more reason to read Pastor Wilken's article “From Exception to Rule: How Error Replaces Truth in the Church,” available here:
http://issuesetc.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/JOURNAL_MASTER_4.pdf

"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"

Anonymous said...

He's playing word-games, and as you said, Scott, if his vehement denials of women preaching, etc., etc., are true, then the language of the Diaconate Guidelines needs to be revised. If nothing else, he continues to push the envelope, and the guidelines themselves, if not corrected, are nothing but a stealth document, and cannot go unchallenged, as should his practices.

Joe Strieter

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