Friday, July 30, 2010

Does the Office of Ministry Evaporate?

Here's a fairly good discussion of the office of ministry as a permanent call by Rev. Dr. Burnell Eckhart:

I've been having a debate on the question (elsewhere on the internet) as to whether the office of ministry some how evaporates if one doesn't have a congregation. My argument would be in agreement with Eckhart, namely, if it has been bestowed on you in the past, it doesn't some how go away if one doesn't have a congregation. If that was the case, then we would have to ordain someone every time they switched congregations.

I would qualify this by saying that one needs to be validly called to exercise said ministry in a particular congregation or perhaps missional setting. Just because one has the office doesn't qualify one to decide when and where one can exercise the office. There must be an actual body which God the Holy Spirit mediates the call to a specific setting. Hence, people who just decide to set up churches on there own without a call are wrong to do so.

Teaching false doctrine would of course also invalid one's ability to exercise ministry- so those who teach false doctrine should be removed. Nevertheless, if they repented and taught the truth, they could again exercise ministry without being re-ordained.

Does anyone object to this?


  1. With the caveat that I didn't really read the linked article, the term "indelible character" makes me a bit uncomfortable because of the association with ontological change. I agree that holding the office of ministry doesn't evaporate when one is between calls, but there needs to be a better way of expressing this. It's that God's external designation of a person as a minister doesn't go away, not that they are somehow marked or changed in their being. Note similar discussion at BJS:

  2. Yes, Bethany I agree that one should be less than happy about the idea of an ontological change in the person. Eckhart's point though is that for Lutherans, the office of ministry doesn't go away because of an external promise present in the Word, not in some sort of character internal to the person. Roman Catholics tend to think that something has to change substantially for effects to be real.

  3. Fair enough. Hmmm...maybe I should read articles before commenting on them...

  4. Certainly the people who argue that a pastor without a call isn't a pastor would be more consistent if they argued that we should re-ordain a man each time he receives a new call.

    However, the fact that we don't re-ordain men doesn't seem like enough justification for the doctrine. It certainly seems to point to something our fathers knew that we may have forgotten, but there are so many different positions on this that I don't know of a good source for this. Is there a theologian you would recommend reading on this?

  5. "Certainly the people who argue that a pastor without a call isn't a pastor would be more consistent if they argued that we should re-ordain a man each time he receives a new call."

    In the Missouri Synod. a pastor who has accepted another call is installed, which is essentially no different than being ordained again.

    In fact, in 1851, and 1863, doctrinal resolutions were passed at the synodical conventions stating that installation and ordination served the same purpose: to confirm the call.

    Also at the 1863 convention, synodical resolutions were passed that stated it was wrong to necessitate or to forbid reordination since ordination is not commanded, and also that it is inconsistent that ordination is not repeated every time a man receives a call, which only shows that ordination is an adiaphoron.