Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Is an assistant or associate pastor really a pastor?

Of course. But strict Waltherians disagree. This came out on another forum in the comments on an unrelated article Read all about it from this comment and on down.

Once again, praise God for the conserving nature of the liturgy, in this case the liturgy for the rite of ordination which makes clear that Jesus created the ministry into which the Church (clergy and laity together) place fit candidates.



  1. Speaking of Walther and Church and Ministry: at our upcoming LCC Synod convention in June we will be considering a couple resolutions that seek to put Church and Ministry and the Brief Statement as official documents of LCC.

    I have read Church and Ministry only in the English because that is my only option. I have been told that the english translation we have is poor and can easily misrepresent what Walther wrote. I don't know. But I do know that after reading Church and mInistry I felt uncomfortable with it. The entire "transference" theory seems untenable to me.

    The Brief Statement also troubles me - especially with its application of John 20 to the Church in a way that was unknown to the Church before the 20th Century.

    Am I wrong?

  2. Fr. Curtis:

    My answer to your question is no, though for reasons completely other than those of your Waltherian interlocutors. Assoc. pastors and the pastor of a parish are all coequal in the fraternity of the presbyteral office. Nevertheless, the former are not, properly speaking, the pastors of anything. In a world free of Pietist influence (and maybe also free of the fear of Rome) we would refer to all of the above as Father so & so, and at the same time we would know that one guy in a given place is the pastor here, the one with episcopal responsibilities.

  3. Fr. Keith,

    You are spot on. For heaven's sake, vote no and tell everyone else to do likewise! The Brief Statement is especially weak in just those areas that Walther's Church and Ministry is weak. What we need in North American Lutheranism is a lot more interaction with the 16th and 17th centuries and a lot less with the localized squabbles of the 19th.


  4. Dcn. Gaba,

    Yes - you are quite right that part of the problem is that "pastor" - a term that is actually a job description - has become the default generic term for a presbyter/episcopos in our modern parlance.

    However, we can take some comfort in that the people have rejected the bureaucratic, IRS-tax code inspired "official" terminology: Minister of Religion - Ordained.



  5. What, your people don't address you as Minister of Religion-Ordained Curtis? :)

  6. Seems to me that to understand this best is to take the view that there is the Office of the Holy Ministry and that Office is to be filled in a parish. Whether that Office in that particular parish is filled with one, two, or more ordained men is not the issue. All would hold the Office to which Christ has called them and through which He has promised to work. Should a parish wish, by human right, to establish an hierarchy within that Office in that parish (associate, assistant, etc) is entirely up to them if it was deemed beneficial for the parish and for good order.

  7. Mike:

    I would just like to clarify your statement, "and that Office is to be filled in a parish." I would disagree if you mean that this office does not exist outside of the parish. For there are indeed nonparochial ministries which are vital in today's world, eg., military bases, university campuses, prisons, &c.

  8. This does expose the weakness of only using the term "pastor" as a catch-all for all men in the presbyterial order. "Pastor" is a function - and indeed most presbyters do serve in this way. However, as the deacon has pointed out, there are many presbyters who are not pastors - be they chaplains or servants of the church outside of parochial life.

    Some of my Protestant friends use the word "pastor" as a verb more than they use it as a noun. They see a man "pastoring" rather than seeing a "pastor" serving. They don't deny the latter - which is an ontological emphasis. But they would stress the former - which emphasizes the functional view.

    Our confessions see the ontological-functional issue as a both/and rather than an either/or. Unfortunately, in American Lutheranism, the balance is out of kilter, and we are leaning more and more toward functionalism and distancing ourselves from ontology.

    I think the reasons for this could be the subject of a dissertation on theology and culture in the American context.

    Or not. I'm just thinking out loud... ;-)

  9. I have yet to find any hard evidence that Walther actually denied the concept of a "branch office" (as Chemnitz describes them), in which all the various manifestations of the preaching office (Bishop, presbyter, evangelist, catechetist, etc.) which actually do teach the Word of God publicly, are all the one office, and as such are not "auxiliary" to anything.

    But you are absolutely correct that this issue is, in fact, one of the major problems with the Mueller translation, one that the earlier Dau translation does not have. In the explanation of Ministry Thesis VIII, where Dau accurately translates, "School teachers who have to teach the Word of God in their schools", Mueller destroys the sense of the phrase, and simply has, "Christian dayschool teachers", and thus opens the Wauwatosa door wide open.

    In retrospect, despite the opinions of the "hard-core Waltherians", I do not believe that Walther would consider an assistant/associate pastor to be anything less than a full incumbent in the preaching office. However, he did most certainly, and intentionally, leave the question of the school teacher as ambiguous as possible. Given this background, Ministry Thesis VIII is the reason that I cannot subscribe to the Theses.


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