Saturday, October 13, 2012


Although Paul was accepted into the company of the apostles in Jerusalem, and was therefore recognised as an apostle by the Church, he was never formally ordained as an apostle by the apostles in Jerusalem. Furthermore, Paul never recognises or acknowledges the necessity of such an ordination and always refers his own calling as an apostle to the will of God (1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1). However, in his epistle to the Galatians, among whom his apostleship seems to have been in question and to whom he had to defend it, he goes much further than this and specifically denies any such ordination, insisting instead that his calling as an apostle was neither by man nor through man (Gal. 1:1) but through Jesus Christ (cf. vv. 15–17). Even in Acts 13:2 where Paul and Barnabas are chosen for the work of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles it is the Holy Spirit, not the Church at Antioch, who calls and appoints them to this ministry.

It is questionable, therefore, whether Paul himself could in any sense be described as an office bearer in the New Testament Church, since apostleship is a ministry not an office, and the former is never inextricably tied to the latter in the apostolic and sub-apostolic age. It was the tying of ministry to office at a later period that produced clergymen, i.e. a special class of professional Christians, who reduced the faith to a set of liturgical rituals that were under their exclusive control. These rituals then took the place of the life of faith in the Christian community, and the clergyman, as the community’s professional Christian, effectively took on the role of performing the faith, in the form of these liturgical rituals, on behalf of the congregation, which became passive (for example the agape feast was discontinued, and eventually banned in Church buildings, and replaced by a liturgical ritual performed by the clergyman). This corruption of the Christian faith, i.e. its reduction to what amounts to little more than a ritualistic mystery cult, has continued in various forms up to the present time (anyone who doubts this need only consider that in most mainline Christian denominations only duly ordained clergymen are licensed to administer the Lord’s Supper, a form of sacerdotalism that is as characteristic of the Protestant denominations as it is of the Episcopal denominations), and has had disastrous consequences for the mission of the Church as a social order (one of the definitions of the Church given by The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Usage is the clergy or clerical profession).

Peter makes it clear that he is an elder as well as an apostle, but not because he is an apostle (1 Pet. 5:1); and the fact that a man may have a ministry as well as an office in the Church does not mean that either cannot exist without the other. All that is required of an elder in terms of ministry is that he is apt to teach, i.e. that he is able to teach when it necessary that he do so (1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:24; the same term is used in both texts). Elders in the Church are ordained, i.e. chosen and appointed, by men (cf. Acts 14:23); ministers are given, i.e. called and appointed, by God (Eph. 4:8, 11–13). Eldership is a human calling. Ministry is a divine calling. Ministry and eldership are distinct categories; appointment to the office of elder (priest) in the Church by men does not in itself confer any ability to fulfil the ministries mentioned in Eph. 4: 8, 11–13, which are given to the Church by Christ. And it has been only too clear from the history of the Church up to and including our own time that many who manage to obtain office in the Church are not called by God and have not been equipped by God with the gifts and abilities necessary for exercising the ministries mentioned in Ephesians, and are therefore incapable of exercising such ministries, which are necessary for the building up and equipment of the Church for her mission. It is also clear that many who have held no office in the Church are called to, and equipped by God with the gifts necessary for, the exercise of these ministries. Yet the Church on the whole continues to tie ministry to office with disastrous consequences. The resulting concept of clergymen and their reductionist misrule of the Church as a community and as a social order has seriously misdirected the Church and severely weakened her mission to the world.

There is only one way to solve these problems: get rid of clergymen. Of course, this will not solve all the problems facing the Church; nevertheless, it seems impossible to solve the Church’s problems, and in particular the present failure of the Church to pursue her God-given mission to the world, without getting rid of what has been throughout history and continues to be the greatest single obstacle to the effective fulfilment of that divine mission: clergymen.

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