The Office of the President of the LCMS has issued the report from the Task Force regarding Licensed Lay Deacons as called for by the 2013 Convention. Gottesdienst has published many things over the years regarding AC XIV and the Wichita Resolution. Here are the proposals from the Task Force (as quoted in their Executive Summary):
After visitations to districts, discussions with lay deacons and supervising pastors, consultation with the Council of Presidents, and input from theologians, the Task Force is hereby reporting to the Synod as mandated by 2013 Res. 4-06A. Briefly, we propose that:
1. Lay deacons who are regularly serving pastorally—as the de facto pastors of LCMS congregations—should be examined by a special LCMS colloquy process, receive further theological preparation where necessary, and be approved for ordination. Their roster status would be that of a Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP). (See Recommendation 1.)
2. The ongoing reality of geographic, financial, and demographic challenges that make it difficult to fill the calling needs of LCMS congregations and missions should be addressed by means of SMP and various other non-residential pastoral training programs in which future pastors are identified locally and then prepared for service.Need-based financial assistance for preparation will be available through the Pastoral Education Department of the LCMS. (See Recommendations 2 and 3.)
3. Districts should not neglect to explore other means of addressing the challenges to provide the ministry of Word and Sacrament for its congregations and missions. Such means include multi-point parishes, technological aids, and greater use of inactive pastors. (See Recommendations 4, 5, and 6.)
4. The role of the royal priesthood of baptized believers is not demeaned, but enhanced by a right understanding and practice of the Office of Public Ministry, for as believers share the Gospel in their daily lives and vocations, they are and always have been the primary arm of Christian outreach to an unbelieving world. This evangelisticor witnessing role should be emphasized and enhanced, not diminished. (See Recommendations 7 and 8.)
May the Holy Spirit guide the discussion and consideration of this report, in the name of Christ Jesus, to the gloryof the Father.
Rev. President Harrison and this Task Force deserve our thanks and our support in seeing this through to the 2016 Convention. They have exercised calm churchmanship while not shying away from actually leading. This is good news. This is a good proposal to bring our practice in line with our Confession. This use of the SMP program was discussed at the 2007 Convention and was the deciding factor in many a confessional vote for the program (including more than one Gottesdienst editor in attendance as delegates in 2007). There has been much concern over how the SMP program has been operated. There’s always room for improvement. But the fact remains that SMP leads to ordination, to men rite vocatus. We can urge and argue for better training within the program, greater oversight at the seminaries, etc. Again: always room for improvement. But this is what we hoped SMP would indeed be used for: to give the people of God what they deserve and what the Scripture demands: men called, examined, and ordained for the Office of the Holy Ministry.
Every confessional pastor should support this proposal with prayer and with letters to the floor committee who will eventually be charged with drafting these proposals into a Convention Resolution in Milwaukee. The perfect doesn’t need to be the enemy of the good. Oremus et laboremus . . . .