“Learned Ministers”

“Learned Ministers” April 23, 2018

At dinner the other night a friend of mine, Graham Cole, reminded us that in the Anglican tradition we emphasize a learned ministry. That is, theological informed and biblically educated in order to teach and guide according to the gospel.

In fact, in the ordination service in the Anglican tradition (BCP) these words are uttered by the ordaining bishop:

My brother [or sister], the Church is the family of God, the body of
Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. All baptized people
are called to make Christ known as Savior and Lord, and to
share in the renewing of his world. Now you are called to
work as pastor, priest, and teacher, together with your
bishop and fellow presbyters, and to take your share in the
councils of the Church.

As a priest, it will be your task to proclaim by word and deed 
the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to fashion your life in 
accordance with its precepts. You are to love and serve the 
people among whom you work, caring alike for young and 
old, strong and weak, rich and poor. You are to preach, to 
declare God’s forgiveness to penitent sinners, to pronounce 
God’s blessing, to share in the administration of Holy 
Baptism and in the celebration of the mysteries of Christ’s 
Body and Blood, and to perform the other ministrations 
entrusted to you.

In all that you do, you are to nourish Christ’s people from the 
riches of his grace, and strengthen them to glorify God in this 
life and in the life to come.

Notice the focus here: both knowing the gospel/Bible/theology and pastoring the people of one’s parish. Preaching and pastoring, not just preaching and teaching and theologizing and homileticizing (if that’s a word, and it ought not to be) and not just pastoring and shepherding and meeting, but both preaching and pastoringI’d put it this way: the pastor preaches and the preacher pastors and it is the combination of the two — pastoral preaching and preacherly pastoring that marks the “pastor, priest, and teacher.”

Such a dual role of pastoring and preaching requires education. Education doesn’t mean simply taking classes, listening to lectures, or reading books. It means guidance into the wisdom of the pastoral life by sages in the pastoral life. Future pastors need to be immersed in church life by sitting at the feet of a sage in pastoral wisdom.

David Steinmetz, in his wonderful essay collection, Taking the Long View, has a fascinating essay on the ordained ministry. His essay is worthy of a careful reading but he summarizes the whole in his last paragraph:

To sum up, then, one may say that there are certain elements in the Protestant tradition concerning the teaching office of the church that are still important for our consideration: (i) although the whole people of God shares in the ministry of the church by virtue of baptism, officers in the church are to be regarded as a gift of the Holy Spirit; (2) while baptism is the ordination of all Christians for ministry in the world, ordination is the act of setting aside some Christians for public ministry to the church; (3) the function of the ordained ministry is the public proclamation of the Word of God in its manifold forms to the congregation; (4) the offices of preaching, teaching, and discipline are inseparable from the single office of the ministry of the Word of God; (5) the discharge of the office of a minister is the faithful transmission of the Word that has been entrusted to the church; (6) the minister in transmitting this Word is both a messenger and a witness; (7) responsibility for the faithful transmission of the Word is corporate; and (8) the faithful transmission of the Word of God commits the church to the provision of a learned ministry.

Steinmetz’s focus is slightly out of angle with the BCP’s ordination emphases: there is a lack of pastoral care, of pastoral theology, of spiritual direction in his Reformers’ heavy emphasis on preaching the Word and sacraments (and some discipline).

Pastors who want merely to preach will either find themselves disconnected from their audience (I hesitate to call it a parish or congregation when the pastor thinks of them as his students or audience) or find their way to a very large church where the expectations mostly revolve around the Sunday AM service in which he preaches. The word “pastoring” is not identical to the word “preaching.”

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