A Laymen’s Commentary of the Smalcald Articles: Ordination and Call

This is part 16 of 17 in the series A Laymen's Commentary on the Smalcald Articles

Part III, Article X. Of Ordination and the Call.

1] If the bishops would be true bishops [would rightly discharge their office], and would devote themselves to the Church and the Gospel, it might be granted to them for the sake of love and unity, but not from necessity, to ordain and confirm us and our preachers; omitting, however, all comedies and spectacular display [deceptions, absurdities, and appearances] of unchristian [heathenish] parade and pomp. 2] But because they neither are, nor wish to be, true bishops, but worldly lords and princes, who will neither preach, nor teach, nor baptize, nor administer the Lord’s Supper, nor perform any work or office of the Church, and, moreover, persecute and condemn those who discharge these functions, having been called to do so, the Church ought not on their account to remain without ministers [to be forsaken by or deprived of ministers].

3] Therefore, as the ancient examples of the Church and the Fathers teach us, we ourselves will and ought to ordain suitable persons to this office; and, even according to their own laws, they have not the right to forbid or prevent us. For their laws say that those ordained even by heretics should be declared [truly] ordained and stay ordained [and that such ordination must not be changed], as St. Jerome writes of the Church at Alexandria, that at first it was governed in common by priests and preachers, without bishops.

According to Roman Catholic doctrine one needs to be part of the apostolic succession and must be ordained by a bishop to have a proper ordination.  We reject this. So long as the ordination and call are done in good order they are proper and acceptable. One can ordain without a bishop as it is the right of the church to call and ordain ministers.  True apostolic succession is one of doctrine not of lineage.

The history of the church has shown many different methods for preparation of men for ordination.  The church learning from this history has settled on formal residential seminary education to be the best and most efficient way to form men for the ministry.  From the breadth of learning, to the camaraderie with their fellow students, to the mentorship of their professors, and unity in daily worship; the seminary forms men who live and breath the Scriptures.  These men learn how to be pastors both in the classroom and the field, working with the best and brightest minds in the church who work and serve at our seminaries as well in the various excellent pastors who serve as vicarage advisors.  With such an education one is ready to be a undershepherd in the Lord’s church and to receive ordination, as the seminary certifies that the men conform to the standards for pastors defined in Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-16).

In the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod we require a pastor to have a Master of Divinity from one of our seminaries, to have received a certificate from one of the Synodically approved alternate routes to the ministry, or to colloquize from another church body.  Individual churches cannot ordain their own ministers with out Synodical approval within the LCMS. This is for the sake of good order, church unity, discipline, and for the maintenance of pure doctrine and practice.

When it comes to ordinations and installations the pastors in the area, the Circuit Visitor, and the District President are usually present along with the congregation. This is to show that the man being installed is rightly called and has been rightly trained, with all due diligence and oversight.  The Holy Spirit is active in and through this entire process via the Word and prayer, forming and molding the man to be fit for the call to the congregation the Lord grants him.

1 Send, O Lord, Your Holy Spirit
On Your servant now, we pray;
Let him prove a faithful shepherd
That no lamb be led astray.
Your pure teaching to proclaim,
To extol Your holy name,
And to feed Your lambs, dear Savior,
Make his aim and sole endeavor.

2 You, O Lord, Yourself have called him
For Your precious lambs to care;
But to prosper in his calling,
He the Spirit’s gifts must share.
Give him wisdom from above,
Fill his heart with holy love;
In his weakness, Lord, be near him,
In his prayers, Good Shepherd, hear him.

3 Help, Lord Jesus, help him nourish
All our children with Your Word
That in fervent love they serve You
Till in heav’n their song is heard.
Boundless blessings, Lord, bestow
On his faithful toil below
Till by grace to him is given
His reward, the crown of heaven.

(LSB 681)

About Dr. Paul Edmon

Dr. Paul Edmon is from Seattle, Washington and now resides in Boston, Massachusetts. He has his B.S. in Physics from the University of Washington in 2004 and Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Minnesota in 2010. He is professional staff at Harvard University and acts as liaison between Center for Astrophysics and Research Computing. A life long Lutheran, he is formerly a member of Messiah Lutheran Church in Seattle and University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis. He now attends First Lutheran Church (FLC) of Boston where he teaches Lutheran Essentials. He sings bass in the FLC choir and Canto Armonico. He was elected to the Concordia Seminary St. Louis Board of Regents in 2016. He is single and among his manifold interests are scotch, football, anime, board games, mythology, history, philosophy, and general nerdiness. The views expressed here are his own and do not represent Harvard University or Concordia Seminary. Twitter: @pauledmon

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