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Sep 29, 2005

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grace

Excellent article, one of the best I've seen on this topic.

I'd like to see someone tackle how we apply this thought to our current organizations and culture. How do we put it into practice and what do our communities look like if we do?

will spotts

Excellent piece. Of course my perspective is probably skewed because I agree with it.

I have always had a distaste for the esoteric and non-egalitarian. I always thought it odd that we pay a class of people to be holy for us. It is not just in minsitry that we make this distinction, but also in behavior and thought life. Clergy are supposed to be "spiritual". This is unfair to them as well -- they are held to a different standard of behavior that is often unrealistic and not particularly Christian.

Earlier you mentioned a differentiation between authority and ministry -- and that is fair enough. But I'd point out that these are also a polarity . . .

Michael W. Kruse

Thanks Grace.

"How do we put it into practice and what do our communities look like if we do?"

Precisely! I have some thoughts on that but I hope you and others will chime in over the next few posts.

Michael W. Kruse

"Of course my perspective is probably skewed because I agree with it."

I don't look at it as skewed. I look at it as having exceptional insight! **grin**

"Earlier you mentioned a differentiation between authority and ministry -- and that is fair enough. But I'd point out that these are also a polarity . . ."

Hey, watch it. No fair using the author's own posts against him. Actually, I haven't really thought of authority and ministry as polarity. Can you say more about that?

will spotts

OK. Serves me right for going for the joke. This will take far too long to explain properly, but here's the brief version.

It is a false dichotomy -- but many of the ones you're talking about are. Authority and ministry are related in that ministry is based in authority -- Jesus begins with "All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me . . ." Paul had authority -- by virtue of ministry; Peter did, James did. Priscilla and Aquilla had authority over Apollos. Timothy had authority over the church at Ephesus. But these authorities were not by virtue of human decisions or the will of people.

The poles would be on the one hand some Quakers or some so-called Anabaptist groups, or some liberation theologies that posit an anti-authoritarianism as ministry. Often these last two have supported things that were not good. (Note: that's not a fair description of Anabaptists as the Reformation era excesses were often labeled Anabaptist actions, but most Anabaptists were in reality quite peaceful.)

The other pole would be something akin to the Teutonic Knights -- who took it upon themselves to militarily Christianize parts of Eastern Europe that were already Christian -- because they had not received their Christianity properly from the Roman Church. Today this pole can be seen in the elitism applied to the clergy or the hoops necessary to be an approved ministry, or the concept of only one type of ministry.

Jesus, on the other hand, gives very clear guidance about the exercise of authority. The example of washing the disciples' feet drove home this point.

Michael Kruse

Got ya. I see what you mean now. Very interesting insight.

Christian Boyd

Great article!

Although I am a "Rev'd", I have always disliked the way "lay" is used. Elders are called lay leaders, but at the same time they are ordained with the laying on of hands and prayer. Thus they are clergy in the traditional sense.

"Lay Pastor" is a term in our current Book of Order that is profane to the Reformed tradition. They are ordained elders who have been trained and commissioned to serve a congreation as a minister of Word and Sacrament. We really need to look at what ordination is within our communion, and how it is different from the ministry we are called to through the grace of our baptism.

I personally see myself as an elder of the Church catholic, set aside by the community to be a teacher and spiritual director. That is what I am being compensated for, just like a public school teacher or college professor. The authority received comes from the community as they see and hear and grow in Christ. That is my function for which the community has set me aside for, as well as to preside at the sharing and prolamation of the Word and adminster the sacraments of God's grace (however, this last part is not relegated to ministers of Word and Sacrament alone, but also may be administerd by an elder of a congreation with approval of the Presbytery).

Why are there ordained offices within the Church? It is our inheritance from the synagogue and the way of the early Church. It provides order and vouchsafes orthodoxy (in theory).

Traditionally there have been four offices within the Church catholic, through which some of the baptized are set aside to minister within due to their spiritual gifts. According to Calvin, they are pastors or bishops (which was retained in the first PCUSA constiution). They are teaching elders, provide oversight of the whole congregation, and symbolically connect the congregation to the greater Church as its ambassador. Next are elders, or presbyters (shorten in English as "priest"), who are the spiritual leaders of a congregation, and minister to them by providing and organizing for the community's worship, discipline, instruction, care, and mission. With the elders are the deacons, who aid the elders in their ministry, as well as being the compassionate heart and witness of Chirst to the congregation and the world, and are to overseee the benevolences. Lastly are the teachers, who in the early church were called the Catechists. They are trained and are set aside to be the doctors and professors of the Sacred Tradition, training the young, those who are confimrming their faith, and preparing those who have been called to minister as an elder, deacon, or baptized. Normally they have also been elders, although Tradition shows that some, like Origen of Alexandria, was not ordained until later in life.

As Calvin and Luther pointed our, these are offices and functions. Those called to minister through these offices are not raised above the baptized, there is to be no heirarchy, for their is no heirarchy in ministry of the Trinity. Authority of these offices come from the Gospel and the people of God, sealed by the Holy Spirit. Those who have been set aside for these offices therefore are entrusted with the sacred duty to ensure Christ's commission is followed through, and the people of God will be the body of Christ in the World and for the World.

In short, I would be all in favor of removing the "laity" and "clergy" terms from the BoO.

Michael Kruse

"As Calvin and Luther pointed our, these are offices and functions. Those called to minister through these offices are not raised above the baptized, there is to be no heirarchy, for their is no heirarchy in ministry of the Trinity. Authority of these offices come from the Gospel and the people of God, sealed by the Holy Spirit."

Thank you for this Christian. I have an unpublished paper on this topic written 25 years ago by Dr. Thomas Gillespie that I hope to put on my blog soon. I got his permission last week at GAC to do so.

Your post anticipates where I am headed with this series of posts. I have just begun discussing Ephesians 4 and there is no question that God gives us the offices and functions you mention. There is authority in the church. There are pastors (which is not synonymous with clergy.) However, all the baprized are ministers but God sets asided a few to minister to the minsters. The inescapable connotation of clergy/laity is professional/amateur, spiritual/secular, giver/receiver. It is DEEPLY destructive to the mission of the church. It focuses all of our attention to what happens inside the four walls of church. Whatever attention does get directed outward is often calculated in terms of what benefit it brings inward. This is hardly pick up your cross daily and follow me.

Personally, my favorite metaphor comes from Elton true-blood who wrote of player-coach and team.

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