“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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  • Salvatore Anthony Luiso

    I heartily agree that there is more to being a pastor than preaching, and that pastor’s preaching should be pastoral.

    Regarding “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)”: I suspect the Reformers emphasized as they did because it seemed self-evident to them that a pastor should be pastoral. It was not a controversial notion. The question was: By which means should a a pastor care for his sheep? Luther’s answer: Through Word and Sacrament. Later Reformers agreed, and added discipline.

    In connection with this, readers might find the following excerpt from Luther’s preface to his Small Catechism to be of interest. Note that he wrote it to clergy who claimed to be followers of him–thus not to Catholics.

    The deplorable, miserable conditions which I recently observed when visiting the parishes have constrained and pressed me to put this catechism of Christian doctrine into this brief, plain, and simple form. How pitiable, so help me God, were the things I saw: the common man, especially in the villages, knows practically nothing of Christian doctrine, and many of the pastors are almost entirely incompetent and unable to teach. Yet all the people are supposed to be Christians, have been baptized, and receive the Holy Sacrament even though they do not know the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, or the Ten Commandments and live like poor animals of the barnyard and pigpen. What these people have mastered, however, is the fine art of tearing all Christian liberty to shreds.

    Oh, you bishops! How will you ever answer to Christ for letting the people carry on so disgracefully and not attending to the duties of your office even for a moment? One can only hope judgment does not strike you! You command the Sacrament in one kind only, insist on the observance of your human ways, and yet are unconcerned whether the people know the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, or indeed any of God’s Word. Woe, woe to you forever!

    Therefore dear brothers, for God’s sake I beg all of you who are pastors and preachers to devote yourselves sincerely to the duties of your office, that you feel compassion for the people entrusted to your care, and that you help us accordingly to inculcate this catechism in the people, especially the young.

    At present the entire preface in English translation is accessible here: http://catechism.cph.org/

  • Ancient Near Eastern sources show the notion of Shepherd to mean more “leader” than “caregiver.” While I like this article, I find myself wondering what is missing in it.

  • This is really good.