Author Topic: Unity and the Means of Grace  (Read 28952 times)

pr dtp

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #330 on: November 28, 2010, 09:03:13 AM »
In terms of titles, I prefer "deacon" to "elder," with all the biblical and historical warrants.  My parish has both, constitutionally and in life.  Out here the "Vorsteher" was the head usher in the old Teutonic original parishes - Herr Pastor took care of the front of the church, and the Vorsteher took care of the back.  My examination of parish constitutions finds elders a later add-on, conected to some signal from on high or widely used program - the Don Abdon governance comes to mind.   

In several parishes of my knowledge through the years, maybe because of pastoral vacancies, and sometimes at the instigation of a pastor who wanted to do away with more typical governance, the elders became an office carrying out the pastoral office and the congregation's governance.   Not advising the pastor, but either doing the work of the pastor or telling the pastor what to do.  Not elders with terms of office, but with lifetime tenure.  Not eldes with the concurrence of the pastor, but elders of whom the pastor was one - not necessarily the head elder either.  Elders who were the church council; in order to be a building trustee or a Sunday School superintendent one must be an elder.  Constitutionally conveyed, these were/are called by those leaders "the biblical constitution."  In these cases, the elders absconded with the pastoral office as well as the parish governance.   With lifetime tenure, the secular parallel is a "self-perpetuating board," or as we know them, an old-boys board.  Fr. Peters may have a couple of these in his distant memory.  I have them as current events. 

Take selection of hymns - the pastor in those cases cannot select a hymn the elders don't want.  Take selection of hymnals - the pastor cannot utilize LSB (in a Missouri parish) because the elders believe it to be doctrinally deficient.  Of course those are the less serious instances.    The use of biblical terminology, and terminology that was designated for the pastoral office rather than the diaconal office, is what is attractive and can be deadly.

Dave Benke

BISHOP

Change the name form "elder" to "deacon?" How would we distinguish them from the District consecrated deacons?

Peace, JOHN

John,

In a perfect world, you wouldn't need to...

A number of congregations in my area are beginning to insist (and pay for) their "elders" to at least take New Testament, Old Testament and Doctrine - and a few are recommending the entire course.   This is coming from the elders more than anyone else- they want to be prepared to assist their pastors, and yes, to know the basics of theology.

This changes the role of the elder from elected office holder to trained servant.  I have found it also gives them a much better understanding of the preparation and work of the Holy Ministry. and prepares them to serve as auxilary in and to the office. 

pr dtp

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #331 on: November 28, 2010, 09:57:48 AM »

We should be able to come together (in a process like Koinonia) and with prayer, deep study of the scriptures and frank conversation, work out a consensus. Most importantly, we must urge everyone in the Synod to conform to the consensus position, or leave the Synod. The most important step is the most difficult.

My congregation uses lay readers (including myself) who are exclusively male. Yet we do not teach that female readers are contrary to scripture, we just don't use them.

If consensus is reached that female lectors are acceptable, and if other congregations regularly use female lectors, than we should start using them as well as an expression of unity within our churches. This might be difficult or controversial in our congregation, but we should do this in the name of unity and clarity of confession. Those that cannot tolerate the consensus and find it antiscriptural should leave at this point.

The principle: various LCMS congregations should submit in love and conform themselves to the consensus position in all areas of belief and practice, so that we can truly walk together in unimpaired fellowship and joyfully celebrate the Sacrament of the Altar together. Those who find the consensus position unacceptable should leave the church body.

BUT. This consensus must be arrived at by including all opinions (in the beginning) and always submit itself to the authority of Scripture and confession. We have tried to arrive at this kind of unity through the democratic, parlimentary procedures of the Synod in Convention and have failed. I think Koinonia could be a better process.



I agree that this is what needs to happen.  We have to strive for unity in everything that is taught by God's Word, and not allow each pastor to do his own thing.


"And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Ephesians 4:5-6."     — The Augsberg Confession, Article VII ( Cited from Wordsearch 9's library - I believe taken from the Triglotta)


Dave Benke

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #332 on: November 28, 2010, 11:59:03 AM »
John,

An Atlantic District Deacon serves under the authority of the congregation and pastor, not independent of or in place of those authorities.  The deacon is not (in most cases) to serve in church governance, but to serve under the pastor in a variety of auxiliary ministries.  The deacon may not serve in the parish if not approved by the pastor, and is under the same wider church discipline as a pastor (candidate status, restricted status, suspended for cause, etc.) in terms of removal or restriction.  Parish elders are internal to the congregation and often not supervised or consider themselves to be above supervision.

Dave Benke

Matt

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #333 on: November 28, 2010, 01:03:41 PM »
I served as an elder in a situation much like Pr. Weedon describes above.

I do not understand Fr. Peters' objection to the role of the board of elders as it exists in most LCMS parishes. Obviously, there has been some fluidity in how we use and apply the titles of New Testament offices in the church to refer to our own. "Elder" is not the only title we have that is not used in the same way it was in the NT.

Never did I consider myself "above supervision" in the office of Elder. In this role, I submitted to the rightful authority of the pastor and to the counsel of my brother elders. We saw ourselves as the pastor's spiritual cabinet, a sounding board and an early-warning system when people were unhappy with the pastor for whatever reason. Our conversations were strictly confidential, and we helped the pastor manage sensitive situations such as those concerning church discipline.

We always acknowledged that the pastor had sole authority to make changes regarding worship, but the pastor sometimes voluntarily delegated decisions to the elders or the voter's assembly. This is a wise way to ensure that all voices are heard and all alternatives considered. The pastor also led an elder's Bible study with some advanced content. As elders we were expected to be well-catechized lay theologians.

I would not want to have a pastor who does not have a positive attitude toward his board of elders. I would not want to belong to a congregation who has abolished the function. As I see it, this is not necessarily an office established by scripture but is a matter of polity, i.e.: adiophora. But it is a good adiophoran that should be retained.

FrPeters

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #334 on: November 28, 2010, 01:46:43 PM »
I have not so much had objection but a question as to origin, uniformity of understanding and roles, and the quasi-official status of an office which does not appear to have much standing or stature in Lutheranism as a whole... how did we get there and why do we call them elders and what is their jjavascript:void(0);ob (same from place to place or different???
Fr Larry Peters
Grace LCMS, Clarksville, TN
http://www.pastoralmeanderings.blogspot.com/

Birkholz

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #335 on: November 28, 2010, 02:55:17 PM »
I have not so much had objection but a question as to origin, uniformity of understanding and roles, and the quasi-official status of an office which does not appear to have much standing or stature in Lutheranism as a whole... how did we get there and why do we call them elders and what is their jjavascript:void(0);ob (same from place to place or different???

A good place to start would be this article from Al Collver:

http://www.messiahlacrescent.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/CJ-Jan-2006-Elders.pdf
Pastor Mark Birkholz
Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church
Oak Lawn, IL
www.faithoaklawn.org

Dave Benke

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #336 on: November 28, 2010, 03:14:15 PM »
Helpful article, Birkholz.  The old Deutsch constitutions I've seen out East had the Vorstehers as ushers, with the Chief Vorsteher the head usher.  Now maybe that's a mission congregation constitution, where the governance was small.  Either way, the diaconate seems to me a good solution as a workable term. 

Matt J, my remaining question is whether a pastor, particularly as Al Collver describes at the start of his article, a young or new pastor, is going to buck heads with elders who are elected by the church and are there for the pastor to bounce things off of, or to be bounced from.  I would suggest from experience that in many cases the elders believe they have greater horse sense and local experience than the pastor, no matter his office or technical/theological education.  And of course they may be right!  But at the same time, that "buffer" zone can impede a pastor from making a choice he would lmake 99 out of 100 times, as in my illustration ordering up the new hymnal.   And the pastor's growth as a spiritual leader, even through the thickets of thorny decisions, is thereby impeded.

Dave Benke

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #337 on: November 30, 2010, 09:08:34 AM »
Somebody just forwarded this to me, on the topic of female lectors (note however it is a Baptist church, fundamental-ly liberal):  http://vimeo.com/16404771   

Dave Benke

Charles_Austin

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #338 on: November 30, 2010, 09:22:48 AM »
Someone explain to me how God could be offended with such a lector?

Revbert

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #339 on: November 30, 2010, 09:39:50 AM »
Someone explain to me how God could be offended with such a lector?

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 1 Timothy 4:13 (ESV)

11Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. 1 Timothy 2:11=15 (ESV)

33b As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. 1 Corinthians 14:33b-35 (ESV)

Mike

For a discussion of 1 Timothy 2, as well as 1 Corinthians, Galatians, and the Gospels and Acts, I refer folks to this interesting paper by Bishop Tom Wright (NT Wright), bishop of Durham (UK) http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Women_Service_Church.htm

When I read this, I found it sound and thought-provoking.


Matt

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #340 on: November 30, 2010, 09:41:12 AM »
I have observed a couple of opposite problems in congregational polity:

The Board of Elders can, in practice, oppress the pastor. Sometimes these guys are long-time members with strong opinions that are not necessarily informed by scripture or confession and they see the pastor as a hired hand, particularly if he is young or new to the parish. I have also seen domineering councils or presidents, it is not only Elders who make this error.

The opposite error is a domineering pastor who essentially hand-picks the elders and council and dictates his agenda to them. I have seen this when the pastor's "vision" becomes supreme and the choice is to get with the program or leave the church. Business leadership ideas in the church often encourage the pastor to think of himself as a CEO. From what I've read about Transforming Churches Network, it also encourages a move away from our polity, holding the pastor accountable to his own goals and allowing him to select his own leadership team.

I have also seen several situations where the elders and pastor formed a wonderful team of brothers, forming a relationship based in trust, confidentiality and mutual submission. I have seen experienced elders help form a young pastor and prevent him from making mistakes. Again, I don't think the office of Elder is scripturally mandated, but arises naturally in a congregation. There are inevitably a few senior members, deeply involved and theologically astute, that the congregation looks up to as leaders. If the pastor does not have confidence and trust with these leaders, trouble will result. So whatever name you give it, I believe the role of a Board of Elders is crucial in a congregation. I also think it is wise to distinguish their role from that of the council, trustees and voter's assembly.

Dan Fienen

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #341 on: November 30, 2010, 09:43:45 AM »
I once had an elder run for the Board of Elders with the express purpose of reigning in the pastor's and DCE's salary.  He felt that they were paid too much and the elders set the salary.

Dan
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Dan Fienen

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #342 on: November 30, 2010, 09:51:44 AM »
How does a lector exercise authority over others?

In an embassy, the communications clerk decodes cable traffic from the State Department, prints up the messages and delivers them to the Ambassador.  Does that put the communications clerk in authority over the Ambassador since he is delivering messages that the Ambassador is to obey?

The lector simply reads what God says to us in the Bible - a link in a communications chain.  It is not the job of the lector to interpret or explain the messages he or she reads but to be a courier.

Dan
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Michael Slusser

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #343 on: November 30, 2010, 10:12:43 AM »
Somebody just forwarded this to me, on the topic of female lectors (note however it is a Baptist church, fundamental-ly liberal):  http://vimeo.com/16404771   

Dave Benke

That was a real day-brightener. I wonder who wrote the modified version--didn't see any credits. It's almost enough to restore my good will towards children's pageants.

Peace,
Michael
Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian

swbohler

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Re: Unity and the Means of Grace
« Reply #344 on: November 30, 2010, 10:13:28 AM »
Rev. Fienen,

If the lector is nothing more than a "tape recorder" type thing, what is its point?  Why have them?  Can't the pastor read?  I have three services each Sunday morning, with no associate pastor or vicar for the past 5 years.  I can manage to lead the liturgy, read the lessons, and preach the sermon.  So why have a lector if I do not need a break?

Or, if just "reading" is not having authority, would you be OK with having a woman read (word-for-word) a sermon you wrote?