22 July 2006


I've been blessed in my vicars, no two ways about it. Each has been a delight to watch and to HEAR as they grow in their preaching. In each of them, there comes a sermon when they cross a boundary. It's hard to describe, but suddenly it is not a student learning to preach (and even doing well) but a giving of the gift that is so decisive I want to stand up and shout "Amen!" Vicar Lehmann's sermon did that tonight. He didn't read it; he preached it. And there's a difference, but don't ask me what it is. I just know it when I hear it.


Anonymous said...

You are very fortunate, indeed, to have witnessed this so many times.

Congratulations to Vicar.


fr john w fenton said...

It is indeed a wonderful thing to see the growth and maturation of anyone--particularly a preacher. It's too bad that it must come at the expense of AC XIV and the Predigtsamt traditio of the western catholic church.

William Weedon said...

Ah, the Unding of Vicar... Well, at least he had hands laid upon him....

stagiare said...

Didache please.....

1) How is it at the expense of Av IV and predigtsamt traditio?

2) Unding...?

William Weedon said...

Nisi rite vocatus - without being ritely called, i.e., ordained. To be in conformity with AC XIV, vicars should be ordained at least as deacons so that they may preach in conformity with the Symbols. Sadly, the practice arises of making a "temporary" office out of the vicarage so that on August 1, Vicar Lehmann will just be plain, old seminarian Lehmann. We consider him a deacon - and he is put into office by the laying on of hands - but this is not recognized by the other parishes of the Synod, and it needs a Synod-wide solution. And so the Vicar as it exists and is largely practiced is an Unding, a non-thing. It doesn't fit the parameters of the Symbols of the Church to which the vicar will one day promise adherence.

stagiare said...

"plain, old"....understood in a secular context but he is anything but....he,as I understand it is in the midst of a ministerial transformation that could only be brought about by the Holy Spirit.

If I read your comments correctly it is by the providential hand of God that the church of which you are the undershepherd has been blessed by the service of plain, old, er...Vicar Lehmann.

"Rite Vocatus....where did the definition come from that is rightly called? Does not God call a man to ministry? And is there not a second call by the confirmation of others that surround this man in Christ' love? And is this second call not also confirmed by the fruit of his work in the Kingdom? Then and only then he is rightly called by the confirmation of the Church, i.e. ordination....True or No?

I do not see in AC IV a definition of rightly called.?.?

Allow me to be the catechumen.

William Weedon said...

Dear Stagiare,

Are you a vicar yourself? Stagiare means intern, no?

Ordination and "rite vocatus" are the same thing. If someone asks me: how do you know you are called? The answer is not to look within myself for a sense of God's calling. I look at the document that reminds me that a congregation called me to be their pastor. God is the originator of that call, to be sure, but it was given through his people. How that is all arranged has, of course, varied across history. But it involves election, consent (Axios!) and being put into the office with prayer and the laying on of hands. As Luther said: "God ordains." But He ordains through His Church.

When Vicar Lehmann is no more Vicar at St. Paul's, he will be sans any office in the Church until he is given a call and ordained - aside, of course, from the glorious calling as a baptized royal priest.

It is that odd state that a man returns to on the finishing of vicarage that seems so wrong. That's why I believe it is far better that the vicars be ordained as deacons and that they hold that office in the Church until they ordained as prebyters. Then we'd be in conformity with the words of AC XIV, and we'd be rejoicing also with the German of Apology XIII: "Denn die Kirche hat Gottes Befehl, dass sie soll Prediger *und Diakonos* bestellen." (par 12)

stagiare said...

No I am not a Vicar.

I have a hospitality lineage, therin lies the term 'stagiare'; one who works from station to station in want of being worthy enough to assume command of greater responsibility. God has placed me in a station of discovery and inquisitiveness as I serve His church in whatever capacity He deems.

But, please back to 'rite vocatus'...a man must have a sense of the path the Holy Spirit is leading. That 'sense' does not fall from the sky but is forged in the heart by the Holy Spirit. This leading sometimes characterized by the word 'calling'(rightly or wrongly)can bring some men to their knees in reverent surrender.
The pathway then taken now has a purpose other than the flesh. Circumstances or more aptly put 'godcidences' continue to shape and direct the direction of one's discipleship walk and decisions are made either in accordance with the Holy Spirit's leading or in rebellion to it.

That is what I have come to understand the tentatio that Luther so eloquently put into human words, the mental torment that precedes a Holy Spirit direction in one's life.

Yes it is true, it is an odd state for a vicar to be in. So it is for a stagiare, for a true disciple knows their completion comes about not in their own time or by their own humble efforts but by the power of Word and the desire of the Holy Spirit.AC XII,(par13).

I defer to you Pastor Weedon.

Pastor H.R. Curtis said...

Dr. Unding: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Vicar.

This is one I've puzzled over as well - the Vicar and preaching and AC XIV. Here are some thoughts.

1. The vicar non rite vocatus est - sed etiam RITE VOCATUR. He isn't called, he is being called. He is in the the process of being AC Fourteened. This is what makes him the Unding, the tertium quid.

2. What is preaching? Part of it is certainly speaking on the texts of the day from the pulpit - but is that all it is? It seems to me that that's not quite all of it. Preaching is the speaking that one speaks from the authority given to one - when you preach you are saying "This is the Word of the Lord" and you take responsibility for it - the buck stops with the preacher.

That's not what a Vicar is doing. Each and every word he speaks from the pulpit is spoken from his overseer's authority. It is at the overseer's desk that the buck stops. He is supposed to approve or reject every word the Vicar says from the pulpit. That is certainly how it was on my vicarage - every sermon had to be handed in at least a week early so Pr. Bischoff (what a name for vicarage overseer, non?) could approve, reject, or change anything in there.

So how about this: the vicar is ghost-writing and then ghost-speaking for the pastor - not preaching.

3. Why play such game of fine distinctions? Why do we do the vicar thing the way we do? Out of respect for the Office.

A) An ordained man must be proven capable to preach before he is ordained. This practice a vicar does - this ghost-writing and ghost-speaking for the pastor - helps us determine that.

B) Vicars often enough fail on vicarage and find out they don't belong in the Office. If we went with the, 'well, just ordain them first' route, we'd have a lot of fellows who were ordained dropping out in their first year. This is a problem because of the permanence of ordination and leads me to discuss. . .

4. The diaconal option. The deacon developed as the late antique and medieval solution to all this. Not a presbyter, but not a laymen; ordained but not to the confection of the Sacrament, the deacon is the original Unding. And that is the trouble with him from the Reformation view.

The Reformaers reminded the Church that there is but one Office that Christ gave - not three. They are at pains to note that even in canon law and certainly in the history of the church it is recognized that there is no divinely given distinction between presbyter and episcopos. (for citations see the famous article by Piepkorn in Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue IV on the Ministry - I have it in pdf if anyone hasn't read it). So those ordained presbyters fully possess the whole office just as much as episcopoi do - they have simply agreed, by human arrangement, not to perform all the functions of the Office and leave some - really just one, ordination - to those called episcopoi.

But what of deacons? Were they ordained to the one Office? That became a sticky wicket and, if memory serves, the Reformers generally accepted them as ordained to the Office (at least that is what I'm remembering about how Luther and Bugenhagen treated the Wittenberg clergy - can anyone help here?). So if you are ordaining someone to the diaconate - what are you doing? Do you even know? If you are putting them in the Office that's life long and they should be eligible to exercise any of the divinely appointed duties of the Office without further ordination - b/c they're already in the one Office. If you are not putting them in the one Office, you're in the same sticky wicket as the Vicar. If you want to say you can ordain them but only give them the potestas sermonis - well, now you are arguing with Jesus - the Office comes as one or it comes not at all.

5. Thusly did the Reformers critique the grades amongst holders of the Office: they are allowable only if it is recognized that they are by human right only.

6. A question that may now arise for the vicar stuff: So why can't he consecrate the Sacrament if he can preach? Two responses:
A) Why can't a deacon? If it's not a problem for that solution, it shouldn't be a problem for the Vicar solution.

B) You can't ghost-preside as you can ghost-write and ghost-speak. Presiding is an act where the Word you speak functions, creates, makes reality. That creative Word (Do This) has been given to the Apostolic Office. Therefore, the vicar simply cannot (not merely should not) consecrate. Think of the Vicar as a tape recorder for the pastor. That's why he can preach but not consecrate. Because we could profitably all listen to a recorded sermon of the pastor in his absence - it's second best, but it still works as a sermon should. That's what the vicar does - he speaks the pastor's words so that he might gain practice in being a pastor. That can work in the same way a tape recording of a sermon can work.

But no one would argue that a tape recording of the consecration could be placed on the altar to confect the sacrament. (Yes, yes, I know some fools down in TX did try to argue this - but I think it is fair to say it didn't persuade anyone).

In conclusion, it's always been difficult to deal with men who are training for ordination. They must be trained; they must have practice doing the pastor stuff, but they are not yet pastors. How to deal with this?

The diaconal solution (whether 'transitional' or 'permanent') has the advantage of antiquity - but it carries with it ancient problems as well. Is he in the Office? If the answer is No, this is no better than the vicar solution. If Yes, you have a whole new raft of problems from a Reformation perspective.

The vicar solution has advantages and disadvantages too. In the end though, I think neither the vicar or the diaconal solutions fit comfortably in AC XIV because, and here we come to my first point, we're talking here about a tertium quid - not ordained, not unordained, but being ordained.

I'd appreciate thoughts and comments on all this - but can't promise I'll have time to reply to each one. But I hope some folks will comment on these thoughts as I would find that helpful in sorting it out in my own mind.

Pr. HR Curtis
Trinity - Worden, IL
Zion - Carpenter, IL

William Weedon said...

Very interesting thoughts, Pr. Curtis. I believe that Walther headed that direction too when it came to students preaching - they were "on the way" to the Office and so neither in nor out of it.

What do you make of the Gottes Befehl though regarding the deacons in Apology (admittedly, Jonas' German)? Perhaps the word is being used as "assistant pastor" as I know it was at Bach's time (Stiller's work) and perhaps earlier.

Pastor H.R. Curtis said...

There are some things on which I'll consent to agree with Walther :)

It's my understanding that those who received the appellation Deacon in the churches of the Reformation in the 16th cen. were understood to be ordained, assistant pastors. As I said above, we really need a Reformation expert to give a definitive word on that one.


Father Hollywood said...

First of all, I agree with Fr. Weedon about ordaining vicars as deacons (this is how my vicarage was handled).

Will some deacons quit seminary and never be ordained as presbyters? Sure. But I know of several of my classmates who have (or are) leaving the ministry after a year or two. Same problem. We will have ordained presbyters teaching school or (as I did for a while) working at a video store. Some men leave the ministry - whether as presbyters or as deacons - it happens.

Some men may only want to be deacons. Like one of my pals quipped: "What the LCMS needs are male deaconesses." There may be a role for LCMS deacons besides being vicars.

The current LCMS "office" of vicar is basically a lot of slight-of-hand. Is he preaching? Well, [cough] no his bishop is preaching - the bishop is just using the vicar as a sort-of reverse Pinnochio - a real boy who is acting as a puppet, just without strings. You can't even see Weedon's lips move when Lehmann preaches! We all know this is giving AC14 a yoga workout... A very Clintonian way of looking at AC14: "I did not preach that sermon..."

A way around Pr. Curtis' well-worded objections about the unity of the office (which doesn't seem to be a problem for Lutherans in Scandinavia and Africa that have retained the traditional de humano threefold distinction of the office) would be to abolish the vicarage program and simply have ordained pastors serve as curates for a year after ordaination. That way, they'd get the "internship" experience, but can preach and say Mass while being fully in line with AC14.

I underdstand that vicarage is a newer thing anyway, that was a result of a glut of seminarians and not enough calls. Too many bad things happen to vicars: many are ordered to say "Mass," to "absolve" and to "preach" with no oversight. The seminaries turn the "Nelson's Eye" to such abuses.

Just have three years of sem, give the man an M.Div., lay hands on him, and place him on restricted status for a year pending completion of a curacy. At that point (after completion of curacy), he can receive a diploma of fitness for receiving a congregational call. Furthermore, the year of internship as a curate could be optional, if the seminary believes a man is mature enough, he could bypass it.

Anonymous said...

Just a few things.

1. The LCMS has historically been opposed to a provisional licesning of independant preachers. Many of the other synods of the time of the LCMS's founding, including the Ohio Synod, would issue preaching licenses to folks. Missouri expressly rejected this - either a man is a pastor or he isn't.

2. It was noted that Vicar Lehmann will soon just be Seminarian Lehmann. Technically speaking if we follow the RC and Anglican parlance, his full title will be "Reverend Seminarian Lehmann" - Seminarians have claim to "Rev". I think that wording, although not commonly used, does re-inforce the idea of a transitory stage into the office - or perhaps even goes beyond that.

Christopher Gillespie said...

"Just have three years of sem, give the man an M.Div., lay hands on him, and place him on restricted status for a year pending completion of a curacy. At that point (after completion of curacy), he can receive a diploma of fitness for receiving a congregational call. Furthermore, the year of internship as a curate could be optional, if the seminary believes a man is mature enough, he could bypass it."

One additional concern:

Unfortunately the legitimization of this practice is already in motion and is in practice in some areas. Specifically, after a few training sessions or inservices, pastor candidates are ordained as "sub-pastors". Again these folks have all the responsibilites of ACXIV but officially every word, written or spoken has passed through a supervisors critique. The supervisor (or bishop?) must have the full M.Div education. At least, this is how this program will look on paper... whether practice coincides is a question.

This is program of using regional large churches as mini-seminaries for inservices is in motion and is understood as a necessary reality to accomplish the mission starts required under "Ablaze!".

In my view it reconstructs the vicarage into a full fledged deaconate office but fulfilling responsibilities of the pastorate without the theological education. Hopefully, more than just the seminaries will raise the appropriate stink.

Father Hollywood said...


You raise a lot of excellent points, and have given great food for thought. However, I don't agree that having curates wouldn reconstruct vicarage. It would give rookie pastors the benefit of serving with a man of experience (which is a great benefit - I'm an associate pastor, and my role is rather different than a vicar) without causing an AC14 problem.

Lutherans and other historic Christian confessions have had curates for centuries (e.g. the curates in Bo Giertz's "Hammer of God"). Curates are common in the Anglican Catholic Church, for example, and used to be in the Roman Church (I'm sure the clergy shortage makes this next to impossible today).

Could such a system be abused? Of course! But I believe it would be a vast improvement and would bring us into line with AC14.

If it is of no value to team a younger pastor up with an experienced man, why not simply abolish vicarage entirely, ordain the man after three years, and send him to the parish with no restrictions? I'm not opposed to it, but I do see value in serving with (or in some cases under) a more seasoned pastor for a time.

In my own case, I have the privilege to serve with a senior pastor who has many years of experience both in the U.S. and in the mission field in Mexico - and I am grateful. I have no restrictions on my ministry, and we share the load evenly - and yet, I am an associate pastor. I get all the benefits of learning from a colleague and friend. There is no violation of AC14 in this arrangement.

Jesus sent out his first batch of preachers two by two. I consider it a profound blessing to serve with another pastor - and he has said the same on many occasions. We both have pastors of our own, enjoy more flexibility in our schedules, and the parish has more pastoral care available.

I just don't see a down side to having ordained curates (as opposed to vicars) - even though it is unlikely to ever happen in the LCMS.

RevFisk said...

Right or wrong, the best part of my vicarage was my fourth year back at Sem, where everything I'd learned and experienced could be tested in and with the consolation and tentatio of the brethren. I'd hate for our pastors in Christ to lose that valuable experience.

This, of course, does nothing to solve the very valuable contra-points which have been made on the issue.

Also, Pr. Weedon, I'd be curious to hear your response to Stagiare's most recent comments.

William Weedon said...

I don't trust my senses too much. : )

But I do trust the call that God has given me through the congregation. It's the real deal.

Anonymous said...

Rev. Weedon,
I would point out that the good bishop Slavik addresses me as "Reverend Father Deacon."