Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Latest from CSL

I just got CSL's public relations magazine in the mail today. Between the covers is pretty typical university alumni magazine fare. The covers are what caught my attention.

* Front cover includes a picture of what I lovingly call the Great Grey-Green Greasy Limpopo Eyesore affixed to the front of Sts Timothy and Titus. If you ever get a chance to see it in the flesh, you will no doubt be blown away by the depth of theological reflection written thereon (in black magic marker) by some of tomorrow's pastors. Does anything say "undergrad" quite like artwork that doesn't match its surroundings that is meant to be written upon by passers-by?

* Back cover quotation:"thinking about pastoral or diaconal ministry?" And the shift away from catholic speech is complete! Women are now diaconal ministers. Oh boy, er, oh girl.

UPDATE: A reader informs us that now Pres. Harrison has been using terms like "diaconal ministry" and "diaconal ministers" in reference to deaconesses for some time at the WRHC website. Our reader did not send along any links - but if true, we hope that Fr. Harrison will rethink this terminology as it causes more confusion than clarity in confessing the faith as Fr. Beane notes in the comments.



  1. I think the shameful thing is how they continue to pump deaconess students through the system when there are no positions for them in the Church. I AM in favor of the diaconate being fully restored (male and female) but I am NOT in favor of hiding from these prospective students the abysmal chances of their receiving a living wage position in the church.

  2. Architecturally the Green Square, I'm sure of good intention, and in keeping with the attempts to add color to a very grayish building in and out, ruin the whole point of the front exterior of the chapel which is to dwarf you and draw your eyes up, instead now your eyes are drawn down and to the left.. that is to the green square.

  3. Fr. Weedon,

    Where in church history are deaconesses called "the diaconate" or "diaconal ministers"? Chapter and verse, please.

    It behooves us to speak the same was as Christians of old and Christians all over.


  4. PS: Point well taken on the seminaries being willing to take fees from these women when they know quite well that the Church is not exactly clamoring for such service.


  5. You might wish to read this, those who assume that "deaconesses" in the Early Church were "female deacons:"

    which is by far the most judicious historical study (*Deaconesses: An Historical Study* by Aime-Georges Martimort, trans. K. D. Whitehead; San Francisco, 1986, 1996: Ignatius Press).

  6. In the LCMS, we now officially have women ministers.

    Some of them even wear clerical garb, including stoles, and serve at the altar. I know most of our deaconesses are confessional and faithful and are not wannabe pastors, but what we have done is erected a ladder for those who will most definitely come along and agitate for female ordination. It is a fact that some deaconess interns are asked to do things that violate their consciences even as this is the case with some of our vicars.

    I think we're playing with fire here.

    And if a congregation has both a pastor and a deaconess as the "ministry team" and the pastor takes a call and leaves the congregation pastorally vacant, the deaconess will naturally be seen as the "spiritual leader" of the congregation. She is the one who knows Greek and Hebrew and who has been trained at the seminary. We currently have many vacant "non-calling" congregations that do not want a pastor. Will they be allowed to have a deaconess and no pastor?

    I have asked these questions for many years now, and have never gotten an answer from anyone. The deaconess program has not been thought through. It may sound nice in the ivory tower, but in the real world, we are completely bombarded with feminism and an abdication of male headship of the family.

    Already, deaconesses are doing things we were assured that they never would, such as teach adult Bible classes of men and women, and serve as institutional chaplains giving spiritual care to both men and women. We currently have women with "calls" whose husbands may have to quit their jobs to follow their wives' church careers. Sometimes deaconesses are sent away from their husbands and children to go work someplace else for extended periods of time.

    And we talk the talk of "order of creation" so long as it involves pastors, but we completely shrivel when it comes to husbands being the spiritual heads of their families with submissive wives. How is a layman with a deaconess wife supposed to assert spiritual headship when his wife is a minister?

    There will be unintended consequences to this path that we have placed ourselves on. This is not what the church catholic has traditionally done, nor is it what Wilhelm Loehe did in his day.

    How sad it is that we are pushing a deaconess program when our own church body can't agree with itself as to what a deacon is. We have equated diakonia with some kind of "women's ministry."

    As one of my classmates said: what we need in the LCMS are "male deaconesses." He's also the same guy who coined the term "feminary."

    I think this is a case of good intentions destined to go awry. There is an old saying about good intentions and the road to hell, and Chrisostom said that this road is paved with "priest's skulls."

  7. Fr Beane,

    The position of the Synod is that the order of creation applies ONLY to the pastoral office. Women cannot be pastors. Thats it. Anything else is okay. So, she can be a diaconal minister because that is not the same thing as a pastor.

    I think it is also important to point out that deaconesses are not simply female deacons, just as much as deacons aren't just male deaconesses.

  8. Dear K:

    I think you're right about that ("The position of the Synod is that the order of creation applies ONLY to the pastoral office"), but Scripture does apply the order of creation to other areas besides the pastoral office.

    I think this is the crux of the issue.

    While we in the LCMS have the reputation of being "unenlightened neanderthals" on the question of the role of women, we've actually bought into feminism to a large degree. We're only one or two steps behind the ELCA, and I do believe we will see much more pressure to ordain women and bless homosexual unions as the younger generations grow up. It is already not that uncommon to see women serving as "elders" - at least theoretically opening the door to having a pastor submitting to the oversight of a board comprised of all women. Our district is trying to compel us to change our constitution to permit women to serve on our Board of Directors. This isn't ultimately about preaching and consecrating, it's really about authority.

    I mean, if our synod thinks the only created difference between a man and a woman is that a woman is not permitted to preach and say the words of institution, we have big problems: "Adam and Steve" type problems; problems as to who the head of the household is; problems with the table of duties itself.

    In other words, problems with the divine order of creation.

    And really, are there that many congregations out there clamoring for deaconesses anyway? The fact that there is basically no demand for this position leads me to believe this is being "pushed" by leadership rather than being "pulled" from the grass roots. I think the deaconess program is largely a solution in search of a problem.

    Several years ago, a person of influence in our synod candidly admitted to me that the deaconess program was dreamed up "to give the women something to do." I think that was an honest answer, and yet, one that is tragically condescending to the richness and dignity of Christian womanhood. "Something to do" indeed. In the real world, women are doing most of the work in our parishes, albeit quietly and behind the scenes. And, God bless them, they don't need degrees in theology, clerical attire, and rostered ministerial status to do it.

    the use of ceremony at CSL seems completely arbitrary to me, but perhaps it has an inner logic.

  10. Fr. HRC:

    Why does it, "behoove us to speak the same (way) as Christians of old and Christians all over"? We have never done so in the LC-MS. The largest Christian body in the world is the Church of Rome with over 1 billion adherents. Yet we do not speak the way they speak. We do not have monsignors, protonotary apostolics, prelates, bishops, cardinals, auxilliary bishops, and on and on. We have pastors and whatever else designations we use. Who determines the nomenclature of Christians of old and Christians all over?


  11. I think Pr. Anderson's point is well-taken. There are regional and denominational "sub-titles," if you will, that describe functions that the clergy may perform. Eastern Orthodoxy and Anglicanism likewise have such specific nomenclatures.

    And yet, there is an overarching catholic terminology that is understood across the whole spectrum: bishop, presbyter (priest), deacon. Those are not only historic and universal terms, they are biblical.

    By contrast, the LCMS tends to mimic either American Protestantism or the secular business world. I do believe we could use a little more catholic ecclesiological terminology rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.

    In the same way, all over the world, in nearly every language, there are military terms that are universal (even allowing for some differences), such as General, Colonel, Captain, Lieutenant, etc. Imagine the chaos if every country had its own unique system with no conformity to tradition whatsoever!

    The clergy of the one holy catholic church ought to have at least as much in common as soldiers from different nations.


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