1. The purpose of a processional is to facilitate the Divine Service; more circumstantial than pompous. Those who process do so for the purpose of carrying an object necessary to the service or because they will be performing some function in the service. Surely we do not have so many thuribles as to require a throng of deaconesses to bear them (particularly when every pastor of Synod has also been invited to process via the official invitation appropos of an installation, and no gentleman would ask a lady to carry something when his hands are free). As to performing a function, the function of a deaconess in a public worship service is the same as any other lay person: to receive the gifts of God offered by His called and ordained servants.
2. To single out deaconesses is arbitrary. It suggests some heirarchy among Commissioned Ministers. Why were teachers, DCEs, DCOs, and other CMs excluded? Whereas deaconesses are a subset not only of CMs but also laity, why not bricklayers, bean counters, bus drivers, or (as a caller to my house recently suggested) pregnant ladies? Or perhaps the deaconesses were selected to represent -esses, in which case waitresses, actresses, stewardesses, or blogresses could have been just as appropriately invited. Anyway, it's confusing and invites animosity.
In puzzling over this strange matter, I was informed that there are certain quarters which think President Elect Harrison does not value women highly enough and this move was intended to disprove that. Again, respectfully, I believe there is a better way to refute this absurd accusation. While the invitation is clearly intended as an honor, it is in the end tokenistic since the deaconesses do not have an official role in the service and therefore no proper place in the processional. Tokenism always brings the credibility of the token into doubt. But the Church can do better, for no one knows better than we the true value of every child of God and therefore has less need for cosmetic posturing.
The deaconesses would do well to say, "Thank you, Pastor Harrison. We know what you mean, and we appreciate it, and we know this is the kind of thing the world eats up. But you know us; we're much more comfortable in the highways, hedges, hospitals, and homes. What is our want, anyway? We want to serve. Whom do we want to serve? Well, the Lord's wretched and poor will probably be thirsty after that long service, so why don't we have some drinks ready outside afterwards? We'll be able to save our financially floundering Synod the cost of the wait staff and demonstrate the humble service for which Loehe saw a need in the church and world and fostered the development of the deaconess as we know her today. That's so Dorcas!" Or something like that. I'm sure any deaconess, as a licensed servologist, could come up with an even better idea.
And President Elect Harrison, if he is truly interested in serving the women of our church and world (which I believe he is) could inaugurate this task by doing something the LCMS (and the C there is for Chicken) has failed to do. He could apply his skills of scholarship and writing to a clear, unequivocal, Scriptural statement (not to say encyclical) of what women are given to do at home, church, and world; in celibacy, marriage (addressing both maternity and infertility), and widowhood*. He could reframe our discussion of women's service into an explicit confession of what women are positively given to do instead of a negative campaign against women's ordination.
Such a statement could render the benefit of cutting into the "how far is too far" games currently being played in our church body which are effectively turning the LCMS into a technical virgin. Such a statement could help make the LCMS the place where women are valued for what they do naturally, rather than narrowly frowned at about what they cannot (which merely provokes more mischief) or transmogrified into imitation dudes. And such a place as that could make a woman happy to say, "Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord. Let's rock the cradle roll!"
*For all the feminist readers of this blog, of whom I'm sure there are scads: why are women being considered only according to their marital/reproductive status? Because when God tells Adam and Eve "Be fruitful and multiply," He's giving Eve instructions very different from those He's giving Adam. That's just how Christians roll; thanks for asking! :)