In this six-page paper (presented by the author in January 2017 during the Exegetical Symposium at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Indiana), Dr. Juedes offers a concise introduction to a view that supports “deacon” as an office from a Lutheran theological perspective. Dr. Juedes supports each of his main points with documentation of his exegetical study of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.
Here are some excerpts:
ON THE ROLE OF THE FIRST DEACONS AS A MODEL FOR INTEGRATING THE GREEKS
“People who think the Seven (deacons in the book of Acts) were tasked to help the poor struggle to explain why stories of them baptizing Greeks don’t fit the theory. But if we see that the Seven were tasked to assist the apostles in converting and integrating Greeks into the church, everything makes sense. Luke offers the Seven as a model for how to assimilate Greeks because this problem plagued the Church for generations, from the Jerusalem council to Corinthians eating food sacrificed to idols.”
ON THE TEMPLATE PROVIDED BY ACTS FOR THE OFFICE OF DEACON
“….Acts 6 lays out five elements of the deacon office which are the pattern for today:
- Deacons are a separate office with a ministry similar to, but distinct from apostles, overseers and pastors; neither “layman” nor “pastor.”
- The office of deacon and overseer overlap because deacons assist and expand their ministry,
- Deacons are called by local congregations and publically ordained.
- influential spiritual ministry of deacons requires spiritual and character qualifications as in 1 Timothy 3
- Ministry portfolio is broad, and varies in response to needs of congregations and overseers.”
ON WHAT THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS SAY
“….The confessions speak of deacons as being ordained. In the modern Missouri synod “ordain” is a word restricted to pastors, but in the New Testament and Confessions it is a multipurpose word used of bishops and deacons also. Lutheran practice is that one must have a call before he can be ordained. Since the confessions consider deacons to be ordained, they also consider them to be called.
Overall, the Lutheran confessions teach that deacon is one of three orders, or offices, of minister, one type of called and ordained clergyman, neither pastor nor layman, with liturgical functions….”
ON THE USE OF DEACONS IN OTHER LUTHERAN BODIES
“….We identify modern deacons by looking at their functions not their titles. A list of 18 Lutheran and nonLutheran bodies that have deacons, and their titles, is available. In general, liturgical churches give deacons pastoral functions while nonliturgical churches limit them to social ministry. The recent American Missouri Synod (i.e. the LCMS) is an anomaly in that it has no nationally recognized office of deacon.
There are two gaps in synod’s view of deacons. The theological knowledge gap is that recent American Missouri Synod tradition does not realize that the Confessions consider deacons a biblical office nor that there are three orders. The administrative gap is that there is no roster of deacons.”