16 April 2009

The Assisting Minister

In LSB, the rubrics permit the use of an assisting minister in the Divine Service. This person may be either ordained or lay (Altar Book, p. x). A quick look through the Divine Service reveals the follow actions may be performed by an Assisting Minister:

Intoning of Kyrie Litany (DS 1,2,4)
Intoning of Gloria or This is the Feast (DS 1,2)
Reading of the OT (First) and Epistle
Preparation of the Altar for the Sacrament
Bidding the Prayer of the Church
Assisting in Distribution
Praying the Post-Communion Thanksgiving
The Benedicamus

Actions which may not be performed by other than the Pastor are:
Invocation
Absolution
Intoning of Gloria (DS 3)
Salutation and Praying the Collect
Reading of the Holy Gospel
Sermon
Conclusion of the Prayer of the Church
Preface through Pax Domini (obviously including the Consecration)
Leading the Distribution and dismissing the communicants
Salutation
Benediction

The liturgy is indeed first and foremost Gottesdienst - God's gracious service to us. Within this gracious service, though, the Church has experienced a richness in her response to God's gifts and in how she administered them to the people. Each has his "liturgy" to perform: the cantor or choir in leading Introit, Gradual, and Alleluia Verse; the people in singing their hymns, in singing the chants of the Ordinary, in offering thanks for the Word read, in listening to the sermon, in joining in the prayers; the musicians in supporting the music in various ways; everyone in receiving the Blessed Eucharist. The role of the Assisting Minister permits yet another way that the Church's experience of the Divine Service can be enriched, basically providing for the restoration of the ancient diaconal ministry.

21 comments:

Dr Matthew Phillips said...

What if no pastor is present? Obviously there is no Lord's Supper. Would matins be appropriate for a lay person to lead? Could someone read the pastor's sermon in his absence?

There are some places where a "substitute" pastors are difficult to obtain.

I've always thought that our lay elders essentially function as deacons. Shouldn't we just call them deacons and ordain/install them as such?

Anonymous said...

We celebrated communion during the Good Friday Tenebrae Service, and I had lay readers read the Passion readings from John 18 & 19...
Ordinarily, I read the Gospel reading (99% of the time), but Chritmas Eve candlelight service and Good Friday are the two glaring exceptions.

Former Vicar

Jon said...

Why the intoning of the gloria in DS 1 & 2 but not DS 3?

Chris Jones said...

Dr Phillips,

If no pastor is present, it is quite fitting for a lay person to lead Matins or any other of the daily offices. What is not appropriate is for the lay person to do is any of the functions in which the pastor speaks and acts in persona Christi: the consecration of the Eucharist, the absolution, or the priestly benediction.

Fr Weedon,

As described in your post, the role of the "assisting minister" is similar to, but not exactly the same as, the proper liturgical role of the diaconate. The deacon's liturgy is to lead the litanies, to chant the Gospel lesson, and to assist the priest in the distribution of the Holy Gifts. These functions are carried out by an ordained deacon; if no deacon is present, they are not delegated to a lay person, but are carried out by the priest.

What do you think is meant by the distinction in the rubrics between "leading" the distribution and "assisting" in the distribution? One might think that it means that the pastor goes first, administering the Lord's body to the people, and the assistant follows, administering the chalice. In our parish, however, the opposite is the case: the assistant administers the Lord's body and the pastor follows with the chalice.

Reading the Epistle and the OT lesson is not the role of the deacon; it is done by an ordained Reader (the order to which our friend Chris Orr belongs (as I did myself at one time)).

I agree with Dr Phillips, BTW, that those who fulfill the diaconal ministry ought to be formally ordained as deacons.

William Weedon said...

Matt,

Certainly something from the daily office and a prepared sermon.

Mark,

Why on Christmas Eve? I understand for the Passion - especially if it is broken up.

Jon,

Not the foggiest!

Chris,

What is odd is that the Lectionary to LSB acknowledges that the Gospel was historically read by deacon or priest, but still goes on to observe (correctly) that the Lutheran Church has reserved this for the pastor, and that LSB continues this Lutheran tradition.

As to whether the Assisting Ministers should be ordained, I do indeed tend to agree: we should ordain or consecrate men for the diaconate with laying on of hands.

On the distribution, I *thought* that LSB contained a rubric that the pastor was to administer the host as the decisive act of admittance to the Supper, but I can't seem to lay my hands on it at the moment. Certainly at St. Paul's and at many a parish I know, the pastor administers the host. Historically, Lutheran pastors alone administered both elements; the role of the assisting minister being something new to us.

Chris Jones said...

What is odd ...Not so odd, really, considering that Lutheranism has decided that there are no "orders" within the one office of the sacred ministry. If there are no orders, then a Lutheran pastor is bishop, priest, and deacon all rolled into one. It's not that the deacon doesn't read the Gospel; it's that the pastor is the only one who is in deacon's orders (and priest's orders, and bishop's orders).

What is truly odd is this collapsing of the historic orders of ministry into one. However, that is a battle which is not going to be won. Restoring the authoritative role of the lex orandi among us will be hard enough. Other, more quixotic, battles will have to wait.

Dixie said...

...the role of the assisting minister being something new to us.Pastor Weedon, did your parish ever use LW? I distinctly recall rubrics for the assisting minister (or some kind of assistant as we were taught them in my lay ministry coursework as something we could do) in LW. But perhaps you mean "new" in the sense of only in the last 100 years.

L P said...

I agree with Dr. Phillips...
Shouldn't we just call them deacons and ordain/install them as such?What I find weak if no Scriptural support in Lutheran Synods is the practice of using titles that are not in the Bible when in fact there is one that we can use. The Deacon is one of them. I can judge what the qualifications of a deacon should be - it is in Scripture so when I am asked to vote I have a guide, but I cannot judge what qualifications a lay leader or assisting minister should have (though I am one in my church).

LPC

Father Robert Lyons said...

Pr. Weedon,

As a non-Lutheran, one of the things that has historically kept me at a distance from Lutheranism is the lack of the instituted diaconate in the Lutheran Churches. I find it all the more odd that the LCMS and other Lutherans have an instituted position of Deaconess, but not a comparable position of Deacon - at least, not that I have seen.

I was somwehat shocked a few months back when I discovered the website of the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America (ELDoNA) to see that their 'deacons' were really pastors, vested as pastors, officiating at the Lord's Supper, etc.

I can accept the idea of a parish pastor as the local bishop, and appointing presbyters to officiate at the Eucharist in his absence (which, viewing history, seems to be the most plausable explanation for the eventual division of and practice of the orders of bishop and presbyter)... I can also accept the idea of Deacons and Deaconesses as a bit of a bridge order between the Clergy and the Laity... but it seems odd to me to not have a genuine diaconate in the Lutheran Church separate from the presbyterial/epsicopal ministry of the local parish pastor.

Rob+

jvwilliams said...

I've been thinking a bit about the future of an ordained diaconate in the LCMS, and it seems to me that we may actually be moving down that path, though with a slightly different understanding of the role of the deacon than is found among those churches that have maintained a three-fold distinction in holy orders. Two practices in our circles appear to be shaping up this way.

The first, most obvious, is the practice of licensing lay men to preach and administer the sacraments in the absence of an ordained pastor. As I understand the practice, these folks are requested to do this by their congregations and authorized to do so by the DP. I think they are even called Deacons in most places. To me, it seems like a short step to simply call and ordain them with the understanding that their ordinary ministerial duties will be restricted by a human arrangement.

The second practice, which is so new that we don't yet have any experience with it, is the Specific Ministry Pastor status on the clergy roster. It seems to me that this might provide a model for this kind of restriction by human arrangement of the role of ministers ordained into the Office of Holy Ministry. I know a lot of folks have some doubts about how this roster status will actually function in practice, but it certainly seems that one possible use for this status is as a kind of deacon who, where a GMP pastor is present would act in the role of the assisting minister, but who could, in the case of temporary absence or extended vacancy, lead worship, preach, and administer the sacraments.

This could even be expanded to include some kind of transitional diaconate where seminarians in their vicarage year would be called and ordained as an SMP pastor in their vicarage congregations. I know that might create theological problems with the temporary nature of the call, but I think there are ways that this could be done that would honor our understanding of calling and ordination.

Anonymous said...

The following ARE performed (even in "confessional" Lutheran Churches) by laymen (Vicars) in the LCMS:

Invocation
Absolution
Intoning of Gloria (DS 3)
Salutation and Praying the Collect
Reading of the Holy Gospel
Sermon
Conclusion of the Prayer of the Church
Preface through Pax Domini (obviously including the Consecration)
Leading the Distribution and dismissing the communicants
Salutation
Benediction

William Weedon said...

Anon,

NOT in my District!

William Weedon said...

Fr. Lyons,

The Lutheran use of the term deacon for an ordained presbyter who is not the chief, but an assisting, pastor at a place is quite old. As Chris pointed out, with the loss (in most places) of the three-fold office in Lutheranism, the terms came loose from their old moorings. Well, actually, they'd come loose beforehand. It was perfectly normal for an ordained reader in the middle ages never to read!

Jim Huffman said...

Weedon: "NOT in my District!"

But in your fellowship.

William Weedon said...

True, Jim, but something my District has gone on record as protesting and asking the Synod as a whole to fix, returning us to the norm of the Augustana.

Anonymous said...

The "norm" of Augustana is not found in what it says, but in what it does. "Ye shall known them by their fruit".

William Weedon said...

Indeed, come know those of us who subscribe the Augustana by our fruits.

Jim Huffman said...

But are you self-selecting what would be considered the appropriate fruit of a subscription to the Augustana?

William Weedon said...

Don't think so, Jim. You see, I live with a bunch of people who take that subscription quite seriously indeed, and each day they teach me more and more about what it means to live as a Lutheran Christian.

Jim Huffman said...

But I'd argue that there are 2 fallacies operating here. First is that there are levels of "seriousness" to a confessional subscription. The ones who allow the things our anonymous writer mentioned also -- presumably -- subscribe to the confessions, given that this is a condition of synodical membership. The second fallacy is whether -- again -- those who believe themselves to take the confessions "seriously" are the ones who define what is meant by confessional subscription and what that would entail in the real life of the church.

William Weedon said...

There are no levels of seriousness. There ARE those who take it seriously and those who don't.

To allow the things that our anonymous writer delineated (specifically preaching and administering the Eucharist without benefit of call) is to de-facto TOSS confessional subscription. NISI RITE VOCATUS.