Neo-Monasticism, Lay Ministry, and Korah

dirt-crevice-1-1353922Monasticism was one of the very things that the Reformation fought against by teaching the truth of God’s Word about vocation over and against the self-chosen good works of the papist monks.  Well, almost 500 years later we are still struggling with that.  This is subtle at times and pretty obvious at other times.

In the Lay Ministry debate there are those who are claiming that the effort to make sure we follow Augsburg Confession Article XIV by having ordained men preaching, teaching, and administering the Sacraments is “Clericalist”.  Besides the obvious attempt to divide God’s people in classes rather than make distinctions in callings (aka doing for theology what Karl Marx did for politics), this reflects a “new monasticism”.  The new monasticism is an effort to make the pew pale in comparison to the pulpit.  That is not how God has made distinctions in His Church.

This effort to divide God’s people and erase distinctions is nothing new.  It is Biblical (well, in a way).  The rebellion of Korah is mentioned in Numbers 16.  Go ahead and read it.  There is nothing new under the sun.  Those seeking to divide God’s people and advocating class warfare should pay close attention to the ground beneath them.

Every time we try to erase the distinctions that God has given we end up diminishing both things that were distinguished.  So when feminism tries to “elevate” women, it actually shows it devalues women by trying to make them into men (or to be more “masculine”).  When hearers (using the Small Catechism Table of Duties distinctions in the Church) are elevated to become preachers, then the vocation of hearer is devalued.  In this way, the “everyone a minister” movement has done great damage to laity.

The Church has preachers and hearers.  Its a distinction, not a division.  The best place for you in the Church is right where God has put you.  If ordained (publicly recognized as having a call), preach and teach.  If God has made you a hearer, then listen and be the hearer.  Both are great God-given vocations in the Church.  Both have more than enough opportunity for good works unto our neighbor.

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO.

Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


Comments

Neo-Monasticism, Lay Ministry, and Korah — 15 Comments

  1. Pastor Scheer:
    I appreciate your article. I would agree with the concept of distinction versus division. I would agree that both positions of hearer and preacher/teacher have their own value. Each of these two vocations hold their own value in the Church, and compliment each other. Your article draws out a question from me. Perhaps it is a question best asked outside of an electronic medium, and appropriately done in face to face communication. Be that as it may, perhaps you could add to your article by addressing how a person is called to be speaker of the pulpit. Can you add to your article to elucidate when one is sure they are called for the purpose of preaching and teaching in and of God’s Word? Thank you for considering my request.

    Sincerely,
    Darrell Magruder

  2. Yes. That “Every One A Minister” garbage has really screwed tings up. Anecdotes filtered into lay deacon discussion. Pastors who wish to multiply their reach… Why? Are they trying to do to much? Control issues that they do not want to delegate out, train new leaders, spin off daughter churches to be independent on them? A bit of laziness and shirking duties in raising up lay deacons to preach for them? (one story came in that the pastor sat in the pew to listen to his deacon preach)

    The monastic side come in of lay people who think that the only way they have worth is to “do churchy things”. Street corner preach? (try witnessing winsomely instead of trying to be the pastor/preacher) Laity will try to covet and acquire titles (I am guilty of this) to build them selves up. Kinda like the “dreaded ontological change in a person” that the liberals ironically bring up when they unwittingly demean the Office of Holy Ministry, confusing the OHM with the Priesthood of all believers.

    Lost in all of this is Vocation, which this article draws out. We have gotten into so much trouble with we as the Body of Christ all trying to be the Head, or mouth, instead of each being the different appropriate parts: arm, foot, etc.

  3. @Darrell Magruder #1

    From an AC XIV perspective, a man is “called” to publically teach, preach and administer the sacraments with [by means of] the proper religious ceremony (“rite vocatus”). The ceremony by which men are called to publicly teach and administer the sacraments in the church is (and always has been) the laying on of hands: ordination. No ordination, no “call.” That’s what the very simple Latin grammar of AC XIV gives us.

    This simple, literal reading of “nisi rite vocatus” is also the one the Roman response to the Augsburg Confession assumed. The Roman Confutation’s only point of contention with Article XIV was that the Confessors must still use the canonical forms of the proper religious ceremony (ordination by Bishops.) In Apology XIV Melanchthon affirmed that the Lutherans were quite willing to do so.

    This isn’t complicated, however controversial it might be amongst the Schwarmeri.
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  4. @Jason #2

    I wonder if the “lay-ministry” advocating pastors in the LCMS would be willing to reciprocate as regards legitimate lay-vocations. Perhaps we could have a “clerical-civil servant” movement where pastors would show up at my office and do my job for free. Or a “clerical-farmer” movement where they work the land (for free) so the farmers can focus on administrative duties. Just sayin’ fair is fair.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  5. AC.XIV: “…unless he be regularly called”

    In 2001 the Synod Convention reaffirmed Walther’s Die Stimme unserer Kirche in der Frage von Kirche und Amt (The Voice of Our Church on the Question of Church and Ministry) as the definitive statement under Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions of the Synod’s understanding on the subject of church and ministry; recognizing C. F. W. Walther’s book as the official position of the LCMS, and that all pastors, professors, teachers of the church, and congregations honor and uphold the the official position of our Synod on church and ministry and teach in accordance with them.

    Accordingly, regarding the official Missouri Synod’s understanding of AC.XIV, Thesis VI, On the Ministry (Church and Ministry) states in German and various English translations:

    WaltherDas Predigtamt wird von Gott durche die Gemeinde, als Inhaberin aller Kirchengewalt oder der Schlüssel, und durch deren von Gott vorgeschriebenen Beruf übertragen. Ordination der Berufenen mit Handauflegung ist nicht göttlicher Einsegung, sondern eine apostolische kirchliche Ordnung, und nur eine öffentliche seierliche Bestätigung jenes Berufes.

    Graebner – The ministerial office is conferred by God through the congregation, the possessor of all church power, or the keys, by the divinely prescribed call of such congregation. The Ordination of the persons called, with laying on of hands, is not of divine institution, but an apostolicoecclesiastical ordinance, and only a public and solemn confirmation of that call.

    Dau – The ministry of preaching is conferred by God through the congregation, as holder of all church power, or of the keys, and by its call, as prescribed by God. The ordination of those called, with the laying on of hands, is not by divine institution but is an apostolic church ordinance and merely a public, solemn confirmation of the call.

    Mueller – A. The ministry of the Word [Predigtamt] is conferred by God through the congregations as the possessor of all ecclesiastical power, or the power of the keys, by means of its call, which God Himself has prescribed. B. The ordination of the called [persons] with the laying on of hands is not a divine institution but merely an ecclesiastical rite [Ordnung] established by the apostles; it is no more than a solemn public confirmation of the call.

    Tappert – The office of the ministry is transferred by God through a congregation, as the possessor of all church power or the keys, and through its call, which is prescribed by God. Ordination with the imposition of hands on those who have been called is not of divine appointment but is an apostolic church ordinance and merely a public and solemn confirmation of the call.

    Drickamer – The ministry of the Word is conferred by God through the congregation as the possessor of all ecclesiastical power, or the power of the keys, by means of its call which God Himself has prescribed. The ordination of those called, with the laying on of hands, is not of divine institution but is an apostolic ecclesiastical arrangement and only a solemn public confirmation of the call.

    Harrison – A. The preaching office [Predigtamt] is conferred [übertragen] by God through the congregation [Gemeinden] as the possessor [Inhaberin] of all ecclesiastical authority [Kirchengewalt], or the power of the keys, by means of its call, which God Himself has prescribed. B. The ordination of those men called by the laying on of hands [Handauflegung] is not a divine institution, but rather an apostolic, ecclesiastical rite [Ordnung], and only a solemn public confirmation [Bestätigung] of that call.

    The Missouri Synod has established that a candidate will be ordained after receiving his first Divine Call to a congregation as prescribed in the LCMS Bylaws, and in other subsequent Divine Calls the pastor is to be installed. Both ordination and installations are to follow Lutheran forms, including a pledge to Scripture and the Confessions. Also an 1851 resolution stated that installation and ordination serve the same purpose: to confirm the Call, and an 1863 resolution stated that there is no essential difference between ordination and installation. See also “The Ministry Offices, Procedures and Nomenclature: A Report of the
    Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
    ,” (September 1981, p. 17ff).

  6. @Carl Vehse #5

    That’s a fine collection of anachronistic 19th and 20th century quotes Mr. Vehse, but it does not change the text of AC XIV. The Latin text of AC XIV’s “… nisi rite vocatus” cannot be translated “…unless he be regularly called”, period. “Regularly” is simply not an acceptable translation of the adverb “rite” when used in an ecclesiastical context. (You might as well use “The Message” for the lectionary readings.) And, there is simply no way to explain Melanchthon’s answer to the Confutation in Ap XIV, if “rite vocatus” was not intended as “ordained.”

    Words have meanings.
    -Matt Mills

  7. @Matt Mills #3
    The task force focused hard on ordination, as it was also affirmed in CTCR’s Theology and Practice of “the Divine Call”. Ordination was the PUBLIC recognition by the WIDER church, basically giving the man ‘transferability’ as all recognized his call to the OHM. Otheriwse, it becomes more sectarian, our congregation called him to ourselves, we don’t care what the rest of you think….

    @Matt Mills #4
    My observation and interaction with these pastors (to me) feels more like a power/control issues. These pastors and DP’s want to be able to determine who gets into the office. Right now we have the seminaries, with multiple people preparing and screening candidates. Next is the “Presidium” in the office of 1st VP handling colloquy. But colloquy understands that the man has gone through somewhat rigorous training, maybe experience. But even then, it is a multiple person committee, and not a blank check. Sometimes candidates need a little more schooling to get a right understand and a natural thinking of being Lutheran.

    But now a number of DP’s want the COP to be a third option, where as the DP, his hand-picked staff, etc., runs men through their own district lay program and lets them play pastor. Then have the audacity to demand the rest of the synod to recognize their men, since they represent “synod in place”. Quite honestly, 5-2, PLI and even a bit of TCN jives with this mode. Decentralization is desired so that someone else higher from farther away cannot be allowed to tell them what to do. Each his own pope, I guess.

    @Matt Mills #6
    And our modern contextualists are blind to understanding what the context was when the Confessions were written. What the environment was, what and how the arguments were being made, and the unspoken assumed agreements were. By not understanding Rome’s position, the Confutation, the Apology, Smalcald Articles… It is a reductionism to reduce the Office down to a single sentence (AC14), argue from silence and then fill that silence with all manners of pastoral, lay and deacon abuse.

  8. @Jason #7
    It is probably reductionism to reduce the Office down to a single sentence (AC14), but if that sentence were properly translated, and enforced it would prevent the kind of pastoral, lay and deacon abuse we seem amongst our Schwarmer clergy.

  9. @Matt Mills #8

    The Lay Deacon task force would like the synod to really get into a study on just that: rite vocatus.

    Plus I have some of my own personal thoughts on how we prepare pastors. I empathize some with maybe we do a little too much to prepare pastors. An accredited school? 4 years to get a masters? Most of that is why do we need so much gen ed to get the BA? If we could do some streamlining and COORDINATION between CUS and the sems, maybe pastors wouldn’t rack up 8 years of college debt. But believe me, I so do NOT want to get with over reliance on distance ed (attending CSP, I can attest to being in an onsite nurturing culture) and PLI 5-2 things are so the wrong answer.

    My thoughts are from a ‘former’ life, when I was in Civil Engineering. And comparing to related field of Construction Management Engineering, and the carpenters’ union. Like Pres. Harrison has said/will say in his president’s report, trying to fix the DRP. But maybe not throwing out the baby with the bath water.

  10. Rather than changing the text of AC.XIV, the various references and excerpts from 1852 to 2012 instead are the definitive (or translated) statements under Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions of the Synod’s understanding on the subject of church and ministry, including AC.XIV (Vom Kirchenregiment wird gelehrt, daß niemand in der Kirche öffentlich lehren oder predigen oder Sakramente reichen soll ohne ordentlichen Beruf), which all pastors, professors, teachers of the church, and congregations are to honor and uphold as the official position of our Synod on church and ministry and teach in accordance with them, as done in CTCR document, “The Ministry Offices, Procedures and Nomenclature,” 1981.

    Contrary views of church and ministry, including that ordination is a divine institution (Grabau) or that ordination is more than a church ceremony that publicly attests the validity of the call (Loehe) were also dealt with by LCMS President A.L. Barry in his summary report on the findings of his 1996 official visitation of Concordia Theological Seminary:

    “The following is a summary of the theological issues we noticed surfacing in the visitation, with the recommendations we made to the seminary community:

    “1) The relationship between the church and the office of the public pastoral ministry. In such discussions it needs to be recognized that in the matter of church and ministry our Synod and seminaries still stand clearly behind Dr. C.F.W. Walther’s position as he articulated it in his book Kirche und Amt. Because of this, our Synod rejects both the errors in the positions of Loehe and Grabau positions, as well as the errors in the position of Hoefling.”

  11. @Carl Vehse #10

    I want to be careful here. I am not claiming that AC XIV says that the laying on of hands confers the OHM per se, but only that the grammar of AC XIV clearly requires ordination in order to teach preach and administer the sacraments in a Lutheran congregation.

    Walther’s quote above, in which he refers to ordination as “eine apostolische kirchliche Ordnung” clearly shows the close correlation between the Latin and German texts of AC XIV on this point. “Ordnung” is the root of the adjective “ordentlich” as “ritus” is the root of the adverb “rite.” In both cases there is a clear requirement for “the proper rite” to be accomplished prior to a man publically exercising the duties of the OHM. The use of “Ordnung” as “rite” is strengthened in the very next Article (XV) when “ecclesiastical rites” is translated into the German as “Kirchenordnung.”

    AC XIV is not a treatise on the OHM, and does not necessarily conflict w/ later Lutheran thought on the OHM when translated literally (as it must be done in the Latin), but the grammar of AC XIV requires ordination, and should be enough to put an end to laymen “…playing church and deceiving [themselves] and [their] followers.” (AE 25:34).

    I don’t want to minimize the differences between Grabau, Loehe, and Walther (w/ the later LC-MS theologians) on this point, but so long as we ordain the men in receipt of a mediate call, as AC XIV requires, there is at least no disagreement on whether the men serving our altars and pulpits are in the OHM.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  12. @Matt Mills #11

    I agree that you claim “AC XIV clearly requires ordination in order to teach preach and administer the sacraments in a Lutheran congregation,” but this is not what is claimed in the Lutheran Confessions as understood by the Missouri Synod for almost 170 years in statements and documents referenced earlier.

    And while it is the policy of the LCMS that its called pastors be ordained, the authority of the office of public ministry comes through the Divine Call from Christ.

    In fact, before the Missouri Synod was founded by C.F.W. Walther and others, including his brother-in-law, Ottomar Fürbringer, Fürbringer received a call to a congregation, and was their pastor for over two years before he was ordained. Walter Forster tells about it in his Zion on the Mississippi (pp. 512-3):

    Fürbringer adopted a curious course of action in accepting a call to Elkhorn Prairie (Venedy), Illinois, without ordination, although he considered ordination so highly important that he wished to have Rudelbach write to O.H. Walther in St. Louis to authorize the latter to do it. (This was because Rudelbach was a “Superintendent” in the Saxon State Church and therefore qualified to perform or authorize such a rite, in the Fürbringer version of apostolic succession.) Without ordination Fürbringer felt he should not accept. However, the final result was that he went nevertheless, took office August 23, 1840 (after having preached there in May), but was not ordained until 1843. This interesting bit of casuistry apparently can be rationalized only by concluding that Fürbringer considered it bad to serve a congregation without proper ordination, but that if he decided to serve a congregation – for whatever reason – he would rather serve it unordained than ordained by the wrong people. Stephanism was not dead!

  13. @Carl Vehse #12

    What I’m saying is, the clearly stated doctrine of the LCMS that the authority of the office of public ministry comes through the Divine Call from Christ, in no way requires a grammatically incorrect, figurative, translation of “rite” in AC XIV. In fact, AC XIV as written basically says: “it is the policy of the Lutheran Princes that its [called] pastors be ordained.” Why is that ok when the synod bureaucracy says it, but sacerdotalism in AC XIV?

    I’ve said this before, but reading the Latin “rite vocatus” as “regularly called” is like reading the sentence: “The orthodox rabbi asked if the chicken salad was kosher” and insisting on the word “kosher” taking the figurative meaning of “genuine, legitimate, or proper.” No, if an orthodox rabbi uses the word kosher in a sentence about chicken, he is referring to dietary restrictions, and if a 16th century theologian uses the Latin word “rite” in a sentence about ecclesiastical order, he is referring to a churchly rite. Words have meanings.

    Mistranslating AC XIV is not required to oppose sacerdotalism, and the practical effect of several generations of mistranslating AC XIV, and no longer requiring MDiv candidates to know enough Latin and German to catch them at it, is the “lay ministry” bologna that we seem incapable of extirpating in the LC-MS.

    Puzzled,
    -Matt Mills

  14. @Matt Mills #13

    Mistranslating AC XIV is not required to oppose sacerdotalism, and the practical effect of several generations of mistranslating AC XIV, and no longer requiring MDiv candidates to know enough Latin and German to catch them at it, is the “lay ministry” bologna that we seem incapable of extirpating in the LC-MS.

    That one man, before LCMS was organized, played at being a minister for two years before being ordained doesn’t excuse “lay ministry” in this day and age. (Fuerbringer did have his theological education?)

    Keep saying it, Matt Mills. Maybe someday, enough will hear to renounce the lay ministry!

  15. @helen #14: “That one man, before LCMS was organized, played at being a minister for two years before being ordained doesn’t excuse “lay ministry” in this day and age. (Fuerbringer did have his theological education?)”

    That one man didn’t “[play] at being a minister for two years before being ordained.” He was not a lay minister. Fuerbringer had accepted the Divine Call to that congregation.

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