I. This study investigates the draft's proposition to establish an "ordained diaconate" in view of the following statements: "The pastoral office is unique in that all the functions of the church's ministry belong to it". "The church should take her ordination seriously in this regard, that it practices ordination as it is meant to be practiced, namely as a first time and original calling to the office, certainly also with the conferring of all functions".
II. In agreement with the draft proposal, we acknowledge and affirm, that … today's challenges posed by rural and urban congregations, as well as by immigrant groups, are to be met through Word and Sacrament ministry (pp. 1 and 2). such a Word and Sacrament ministry includes the rite of ordination (p. 2). this office of the ministry can be expressed by human regulation ("de iure humano"; p. 2) through various levels and functions (AC XXVIII, 29), as it exists today in the form of president, bishop, assistant pastors, missionaries and professors. This also includes this draft's concept of bivocational ministry (p. 1) whereby incumbents perform their Word and Sacrament ministry whilst finding their support through a parallel profession, just as Paul remained a tent maker and Luke a medical doctor. The "rite vocatus" demands an appropriate education, but the standards and requirements of such an education may be reviewed (p. 4).
The problem at hand is, whether the concept of an ordained diaconate is a theologically acceptable and viable option to address such challenges. In view of the most salient points of the draft, our investigation is guided by the following questions:
1. Does this proposal and understanding of an ordained diaconate find support in the Scriptures, the Confessions, or elsewhere in the history of the Christian church? This question will be answered in our diachronic overview.
2. Can the functions or components of the office of the church be legitimately broken down or divided from each other as the draft proposal does, whereby some are applied to the diaconate and others not? In view of being an ordained servant of the church and called to provide "basic pastoral care", can such a deacon be so easily barred from making "pastoral decisions "(p. 3) and assuming "responsibility" (p. 2), and is the distinction "practitioner and not theologian" (p. 4) acceptable or should it be avoided?
3. Is the proposed nomenclature "ordination" for the diaconate correct or misleading when within the LCMS and Lutheran circles ordination to the office of the church is still unmistakably understood as the ecclesial act of conferring all functions or components of the office of the church on the individual? Should or should not alternative terms to "ordination" be found for a subclergy office? All questions raised under points 2 and 3 will be answered in our theological overview.
III. To 1: DIACHONIC OVERVIEW
References made to "diakonia" in Scripture seem to express a plurality of services. Broadly speaking, this seemingly bewildering plurality can be arranged into three main groups.
a. There is the "generic" or "broad" meaning of "diakonia" which refers to various "works of service" of any kind performed by all Christians (e.g. Matthew 8: 15; II Cor. 9: 1ff.).
b. The word "diakonia" also often depicts the Word and Sacrament office, or the stewardship of the mysteries of God by the apostles (1 Cor. 3: 5; See the biblical contexts like Acts 20: 24; 21: 19; Rom. 11: 13; II Cor. 4: 1; 6: 3; Eph. 4:12; 6: 21).
c. Finally, mention is also made of a particular deacon office. In Acts 6, where the actual diaconate is commonly believed to have its origins, the Seven were initially assigned philanthropic duties in Jerusalem. [This work is perpetuated in Lutheran churches today in particular through the services of deaconesses (Rom 16:1)]. Later, however, the incumbents of this apostolic deacon office such as Philip also devoted themselves to performing spiritual tasks of teaching and baptizing (Acts 8: 5. 26ff.). Elsewhere, in 1 Tim 3: 1ff (cf. Phil. 1:1; Titus 1) the office of a deacon is paired with that of the bishop. Although there is no clear indication to the nature of its duties, it seems probable that this specific deacon office had a spiritual, yet secondary and supportive function to that of the bishop.
Here the Lutheran hermeneutic must serve as a final and normative guide. Unlike the Reformed, the Lutheran tradition has absorbed all the references to the apostles' ministry, to that of the bishops/elders and to the spiritual functions of the deacons into the one office of the church. For the Lutheran Confessions "the term ministerium goes back to the New Testament word diakonia, and it points both to the office itself and to the activities for which this special office was designed". Thus the Greek "diakonia", as a service to the Word, was translated in the Lutheran Confessions with the Latin "ministerium (verbi)" and the German "Predigtamt" (AC V). In all these cases the full "ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments" (AC V, Latin) is understood and not the vague or general "ministry" referred to above (cf. point a). This narrow and specific association of "service" with the preaching office was also perpetuated by later theologians such as Walther (see below).
In the early church and the middle ages, as the monarchical episcopate consolidated itself in the church structure, the diaconate became increasingly a subclergy office with limited spiritual and liturgical functions. Already in the first century, the deacon is described as "the bishop's ear, mouth and soul". Being at the bishop's disposal, he was called to perform numerous subaltern duties which varied to some degree, depending on the locality and tradition. From an examination of the Didascalia Apostolorum (Didache), Hippolytus, Justin, Tertullian and Cyprian, it appears that the office of deacon includes the following tasks:
reading the Gospel and preaching the Word of God in accordance with the express wish of the bishop. announcing prayers, and praying himself
bringing the Holy Eucharist to the sick confined to their homes.
distributing the consecrated wine at the Eucharist.
serving the whole people of God and taking care of the sick and the poor.
In all his duties, the deacon never functioned independently of the instruction and oversight of the bishop. Only upon authorization by the bishop was the deacon allowed to preach, baptize or distribute but not consecrate the sacramental elements. For the induction of the deacon into office, the church performed a special rite of consecration. Since the fifth century, a tradition arose (in Rome particularly) of dividing the diaconate into subdeacons, deacons and arch deacons. Each deacon became overseer of a region and the archdeacon over a number of regions. Today, the office of the deacon in the Roman Catholic Church serves as a stepping stone to the higher levels of the hierarchy. In exercising the office of the deacon, the incumbent could test himself, show the merit of his work, and prepare himself for receiving the dignity of the priesthood. Although the deacon enters the clerical state through the sacred ordination, his consecration does not confer on him the "habitus" of officiating at the mass.
The Reformation broke with the tradition of preserving the office of deacon in its subclergy form. Although the nomenclature "deacon" continued to be used during the Reformation, it represented individuals who had formerly been in a consecrated office under the papacy but were placed into congregations and given the pastoral office. In larger congregations the titles archdeacon and subdeacon were also employed (Treatise 62), but they were gradually replaced with titles such as "first", "second" or even "third" pastor. On May 14, 1525 in Wittenberg Luther himself publicly inducted George Roerer into the office of deacon with prayer and the laying on of hands. This performed rite was however none other than the ordination, that is, the public confirmation of Roerer's call into the preaching office with all its functions. Other German terms used during the Reformation and afterwards such as "Hauptpastor", "Kompastor", "Praedikant", "Kaplan" and "geistliche Kirchenraete" were also designations for the one office of the church, namely Word and Sacrament ministry. Luther himself sought to reintroduce the apostolic diaconate in accordance with Acts 6. In his sermon on St. Stephen's day he advised that the diaconate was originally designed "not as a service of reading the Gospel or epistle, as it is customary today, but to distribute the church's goods to the poor ...for it was with this intention, as we read in Acts VI, that deacons were instituted...after the preaching office there is no higher office in the church than this administration of managing the goods of the church correctly and honestly, so that poor Christians, who are unable to obtain and win their own support, may be helped and not suffer".
The Anglican Church has preserved the diaconate from the pre-reformation era and continues to find its scriptural support in a combination of Act 6 and 1 Tim 3. Within the ecclesial hierarchy the deacon's office remains the lowest in rank, and serves as an auxiliary office to that of the priest. The deacon assists the priest in the liturgy and in the distribution of Holy Communion. He may conduct worship services without the sacrament of the altar, undertake catechetical instruction and with permission of the bishop also baptize and preach.
Today, in various Lutheran churches where the office of the diaconate is retained, its incumbent is charged with the proclamation of the Word, instruction, counseling, youth work and taking care of charitable endeavors. Although these functions also coincide with those of the pastor, the deacon acts only as an assistant under the supervision of the pastor. To signify the distinction between pastor and deacon the rites of "consecration" (German: "Einsegnung") and "installation" (German: "Installierung") are used for those deacons called for service in the church. This tradition is prevalent in the Lutheran Church of Brazil (ELCB), the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA), the "Selbstaendige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche" (SELK) and the Lutheran Church - Canada (LCC).
Closing Observations to 1
The draft's claim for historicity, i.e. "The Christian and Lutheran church has throughout history recognized the validity of establishing pastoral assistants who are properly authorized to provide limited Word and Sacrament ministry under the supervision of a parish pastor" (p. 2) is tenuous because the proposed ordained diaconate as a "limited Word and Sacrament" ministry is unprecedented in the history of the church. Those biblical texts which seemingly propose the office of the deacon, such as 1 Tim. 3 and Philippians 1: 1, have been referenced to the one office of the church in the Lutheran tradition. Where, however, the office of the deacon persisted in the early church and throughout history to this day, it emerged as a subclergy office along the lines of Acts 6 and 1 Tim. 3. This office was restricted in its capacities to such a degree that the combination of Word and Sacrament (as the draft proposes) was never granted; it rather embraced the activities of supervised preaching and other subaltern duties. The reluctancy to provide a limited ministry of both Word and Sacrament is not merely coincidental but actually rests on important theological premises to which we will now turn briefly.
IV. To 2 and 3: THEOLOGICAL OVERVIEW
a. The Office of the Church and the Unity of All its Functions.
The office of the church is known as the ministry of Word and Sacrament (AC V, 1 Tappert 31). The following definition lists under the service of the Word the following God-given functions ("munera pascendi") or components: "According to divine right, therefore it is the office of the bishop to preach the Gospel, forgive sins, judge doctrine and condemn doctrine that it is contrary to the Gospel, and exclude from the Christian community the ungodly whose wicked conduct is manifest" (AC XXVIII, 21-22 Tappert 84) and to "administer the Sacraments" (AC XXVIII, 12 Tappert 83; Treatise 60 Tappert 331).
Preaching the Gospel, absolving from sins, consecrating the elements and distributing them, discerning doctrine and excommunicating the wicked are functions of the one office of the church. As a result, the Augsburg Confession emphasizes that if a man is admitted to ordination, this implies that the requirements for all functions of the office have to be met: "It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call" (AC XIV). Through all these functions the Word of God is ministered to the world. In fact, they are all parts of the one Word of God. Therefore, instead of breaking them apart, one should rather conceive them as being inseparable from one another. This can be seen from the following examples of theological reasoning:
The unity of Word and Sacrament. The Sacraments are the visible Word ("verbum visibile"). There is nothing like "half" the Gospel resulting from a division of the Word from the Sacraments. This unity of Word and Sacrament also points to the office of the church. Since it administers the "whole" Word, it must include all functions. Ordination thus becomes the act of placing an individual into the "whole" office over the "whole" Word.
The ability to discern doctrine is not only associated with teaching but just as much also with preaching. In their broader meaning preaching can mean teaching and vice versa. This is implied in AC V where the German "office of preaching" ("Predigtamt") is rendered in Latin as the "ministry of teaching" ("ministerium docendi evangelii").
The power of the keys of retaining and absolving from sins is not only confined to confession and absolution but actually embraces all functions, and therefore becomes synonymous with the one office of the church as this statement clarifies: "This power of the keys or of bishops is used and exercised only by teaching and preaching the Word of God and by administering the sacraments" (AC XXVIII, 8 Tappert 82 ). The keys, as retaining and absolving from sins also relate to preaching (the old Saxon agenda had confession and absolution spoken from the pulpit) and certainly to Holy Communion where they are applied in the act of admitting and not admitting to Communion as well as in the offering of Christ's body and blood to the communicant.
It is important to understand this unity and the interrelatedness of the functions of the office of the church. When creating a subclergy office one should not proceed eclectically without prior theological evaluation: "The pastoral duties of the office of the shepherd, which the Lutheran Confessions customarily refer to as Word and Sacrament, are in principle indivisible. When one ordains to the office (ministerium ecclesiasticum) then also the indivisible unity of the 'munera ministerii' must be maintained; they may not be torn apart". This organic unity of the office was defended in the Missouri Synod's own official organ, Lehre und Wehre, in a series of theses in 1874: "To whom the office of the Word is given, to him are thereby granted all offices which are exercised in the church through the Word" (Thesis 2) and "when the congregation confers an essential part of the ministry, then it virtualiter [in effect] confers the whole of the same…" (Thesis 6). Also the CTCR report on the "The ministry" (September 1981) affirms the above with the following statement: "The pastoral office is unique in that all the functions of the church's ministry belong to it".
b. Administering the Sacrament Includes the Power of the Keys and Pastoral Decisionmaking
In view of what was said above, also an incumbent of a limited Word and Sacrament ministry such as the proposed ordained deacon cannot - since he must administer the Sacrament - withdraw himself from making major pastoral decisions as they pertain to the power of the keys and other duties. A few examples may support this argument. Someone who administers Holy Communion…
may only administer the body of Christ to those who have been previously examined and absolved (AC XXV, 1 (Tappert 97).By administering the Sacrament of the Altar the ordained deacon would be forced to make major pastoral decisions by virtue of the fact that the power of the keys is his. Administering the Sacrament must include the ability to discern between those who give evidence of being ready for forgiveness and those who do not. Based upon this judgment, members may be either admitted to the Sacrament or else refused. No supervisor can relieve the administrator of the Sacrament of these duties. Therefore, the draft's statement that "the deacon is not authorized to make pastoral decisions" (pg. 3) is totally misleading in our context of discussion. For it is precisely in administering the Sacrament that he will have to make important decisions. In light of this, it also remains unclear why the ordained deacon should offer neither (private) Confession and Absolution nor formal counseling (p. 3). Also confusing is the description of the ordained deacon as a "practitioner" and not a "theologian". This could create the misconception that no theological studies are required for this office, but surely, this is not the intention of the draft's proposal (p. 5)!
may not admit those who do not know what they seek in Holy Communion (LC V, 2 Tappert 447) nor those who live shameless and wicked lives (Ap XI, 4 Tappert 180).
may not commune those who refuse to receive or accept the instructions of the Small Catechism (SC Preface 11 Tappert 339).
c) Holy Communion for the "Whole" Church
The idea that the ordained deacon "communes only the members" (pg. 3) threatens the important premise that the Sacrament of the Altar is a public act of the church ("res publica") in the sense that it was divinely instituted for the entire church of Christ and not only for a local church ("tota ecclesia" Ap XXII, 4 Tappert 231). The phrase 'only the members' seems to assume that members of other LCMS churches may not commune as guests at the Sacrament which is administered by the ordained deacon.
d) Ordination as a Timeless and Public Act of the "Whole" Church
The intention to ordain only to a local setting and to envisage a time frame for the ordained diaconate ministry, does not comport with ordination as a "transparochial" and public statement of the entire church and not only of a calling congregation. This is why only presidents or bishops (or pastors) are asked to ordain. Ordination to a certain locality would imply that if the deacon were to be installed in another congregation, he would have to be ordained again. With the Lutheran understanding of ordination this cannot be the case. Installation or induction are not the same as ordination. No pastor is ordained again when taking another call. Thus the deacon who is ordained may be restricted to an area for a limited period of time, but by virtue of his ordination he should be "eligible to be called by other segments of the church" once his time in a congregation has been served.
This raises the question whether the term "ordination" should be applied to such a diaconate. For if ordained, how can the deacon not "provide formal pastoral counseling" but only "Christian advice and comfort" as a layperson (p. 3)? Since the Lutheran doctrine explains ordination in its narrow sense as a confirmation of the call into the office of the church with all its functions, we suggest that a term other than "ordination" should be found. Here again the CTCR report on the "Ministry" (September 1981) provides an important directive: "Tradition, common expectations, and the uniqueness of the pastoral office speak against using the term 'ordination' for other than the office of the public ministry. Other suggestions regarding nomenclature appear below". Since call/ordination is the act of the church by which the office and all its functions are conferred, the still commonly practiced licensing system must be rejected as an abomination against which Walther himself already took a clear stand: "What an unbiblical, unscrupulous and soul-destroying act…the so-called system of licensing is with which one gives only a so-called license to those whom one is reluctant to ordain to the office because of their inexperience and lack of competence to hold it.
e) An Eclectic Understanding of Needs
In view of the manifold needs of every Christian believer we also have to affirm a total office with all its "munera pascendi". According to the draft every Christian is eligible for "basic ministry" to address his basic needs. However, the yardstick applied for evaluating such basic needs remains questionable: On what basis does a Christian's need not qualify for daily or weekly Confession and Absolution but "only" for the Sacrament of the Altar? Evidently, the draft has singled out the Sacrament of the Altar and promotes it as a "missionary" Sacrament to validate an ordained diaconate. A "limited access" to the office of the church, as the draft proposes, restricts the Word and Sacraments in their total and full claim. God instituted the office for the precise purpose that He may provide all his gifts to address and correct every need. A deacon if ordained can only be given the "whole" office of the Gospel. Therefore, certain terms and phrases paired with the concept "ordination", such as "no pastoral decisions" and "a practitioner but not a theologian" are to our understanding theologically incompatible.
f) Strategy Versus Theology
Finally, it remains to be asked, whether the outreach to immigrant groups or congregations in need could not be addressed in other meaningful ways. If the term "diaconate" is to be retained then it could be utilized properly in the form of the traditional helping office of the pastor, combined with catechetical and welfare duties (but not in the sense of the Reformation, e.g. Roehrer's case). Another alternative means to alleviate the desperate situation would be to call an ordained pastor for a particular immigrant group from the Lutheran Church in the country of the immigrants' origin (if one happens to be there). The draft offers little transparency as to why additional missionaries or pastors could not to be called by the Synod to already existing congregations through which the pockets of untargeted peoples may be reached (i.e. Loehe's concept). This addresses the ambivalent relationship between theology and mission strategy: Mission strategy must be realigned and modified to the overriding theological principles of the Synod (e.g. to the CTCR report on "The Ministry").
It is the request of this faculty that the proposal for the office of the "ordained diaconate" should be reconsidered. The claim for historic validity is inconsistent with the historic evidence provided. Unfortunately, the draft is riddled with perplexities which are also theological in nature. The attempt to break down the office of the Word and its functions seems to be done at random without the provision of any explanation for doing so. The underlying principle of this paper wishes to capture the Lutheran spirit: "whole" ordination to the "whole" office with "all" its functions for the "whole" Word. "Call" and "ordination" are complementary terms and have always been actions by which the "full" pastoral duties have been conferred on an individual with a view to shepherding a congregation, as Luther defines: "ordination should mean and be, the calling (Berufung) and commissioning (Beauftragung) to the pastoral office" (BSLK 458, footnote 1).