The Ordained Ministry in the Lutheran and the Roman Catholic Church

Seminar Paper, 2003

26 Pages, Grade: 70of 75

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 History of the ordained Ministry in the Church
2.1 The Ministry of Jesus
2.2 Ministry 27 to 110 A.D.
2.2.1 Presbyter and Episkopos
2.2.2 The Twelve and the Apostles
2.2.3 Deacons and Other Titles of Ministry
2.2.4 The New Testament and the issue of ordination
2.2.5 The Eucharist and its Relationship to New Testament Ministry
2.2.6 Apostolic Succession
2.3 Ministry in the Second Christian Century: 90 to 210 A.D.
2.4 Ministry in the Patristic and the Early Medieval Church: 210 to 1000 A.D.
2.5 Ministry in the Theology of the Reformers

3 The Roman Catholic Understanding of Ministry
3.1 The Very Definition of Priesthood
3.2 The Christological Base of Christian Ministry
3.3 The Ecclesiological Basis of All Church Ministry

4 Administration in the Lutheran Church
4.1 The common priesthood and Justification
4.2 Way of administration nowadays
4.3 The structure of the hessisch-nassauische Landeskirche

5 Mutual Recognition of Ministry
5.1 Points of common understanding
5.1.1 The Calling of the whole People of God
5.1.2 Ordained Ministry and its Forms
5.1.3 Ordination
5.1.4 Succession in the Apostolic Tradition and Episcopacy
5.2 Difficulties in the several fields

6 Conclusion

7 Bibliography

1 Introduction

The present paper will examine the understanding of ordained ministry in two mainline Christian churches. This is for sure one of the limitations of this research. It will not deal with the various gifts of ministry in the church, but will take an exclusive look at the ordained ministry. Going out from the Catholic understanding of the ordained ministry it will be compared to the theology of ministry in the Lutheran church. This approach is chosen because of the risk to lose the overall view when examine a lot of different churches and their handling of ordained ministry.

In the ecumenical context or dialogue the discussion about the meaning of ordained ministry is one of the most important, because it is very closely connected with the understanding of the Eucharist as the very heart and source of the church. Therefore this research will not only compare the two official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church. Rather it will start with a very detailed look on the history of ministry and ordained ministry - with Jesus as its starting point up to the Theology of the Reformers. Means of the documents of the Vatican II Council, the Catholic understanding will be presented. It will be followed by a brief staging on the theology of Martin Luther and the structure of the Lutheran church nowadays. The points of a common understanding will be worked out and even the existing difficulties will be mentioned. In the conclusion the results will be valued and tasks for the further ecumenical dialogue will named.

The aim of this research is reached when not only the different positions of these two mainline churches will be known, but the reader gets a better understanding of the ordained ministry and the possibilities of reforms even in the Roman Catholic Church in the future.

2 History of the ordained Ministry in the Church

In the following an overview about the development of the ordained ministry in the church will be presented. The main focus there will be on the New Testament because the scripture is the part of the tradition which all the Christian churches have in common and it must be in any case the fundament for the search of a proper understanding of ministry in a united church.

2.1 The Ministry of Jesus

Every research about ministry must have its very starting point in looking at Jesus and his ministry on earth as the son who was sent by the father. His own ministry remains the abiding source or model of all Christian ministry, ordained or non-ordained. When reading the New Testament one can find a few main characteristics of Jesus´ own ministry. In the following this characteristics will be named and proved by exemplary passages from the gospels[1].

1. Jesus´ ministry is from God

In Mk 1:11 we read “Thou are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. “(σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα). There is no doubt about Jesus sonship of God even in Lk 4:16-30 when Jesus reveals his origin and mission to his fellow Jews in the synagogue: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised." (πνεῦμα κυρίου ἐπ' ἐμέ, οὗ εἵνεκεν ἔχρισέν με εὐαγγελίσασθαι πτωχοῖς). One of the most urgent passages we read in Jn 3:16-21 “"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son (…)” (οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν).

2. Jesus´ ministry is a ministry of love

Jesus ministry on earth started end ended with love. His ministry is a loving response to the will of the father. John indicates this fullness of love when he writes in the passage about the last supper (Jn 13:1): “but know he showed how perfect his love was” (εἰς τέλος ἠγάπησεν αὐτούς). The words εἰς τέλος can be translated in two different ways[2]. On the one hand it can mean “to the end of his life”. On the other Hand it can be translated as “to the end of love itself”. But not just his love is part of his ministry, even the demand of loving the neighbour (cf. Mk 12:31, Mt 22:39) shows the outstanding importance of love (even to enemies) in Jesus life and preaching. A minister without love for God and his fellow men is not a Christian minister.

3. Jesus´ ministry is a ministry of service

Jesus mission was full of restless activity. The importance of being a servant shows Mk 10:42-45: "And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister (…).” (καὶ γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἦλθεν διακονηθῆναι ἀλλὰ διακονῆσαι). Good symbols or signs of Jesus´ service are the parable of the good shepherd (Jn 10:1-21) and the washing of the disciple’s feet at the Lord’s supper (Jn 13:1-20). Jesus came to serve and even his followers have to serve each other and all men and women.

4. The political aspect of Jesus´ ministry

Even when Jesus always refused the title “Messiah”, because of its political overtone, he never hid himself from the political powers or accepted political injustice. For sure Jesus was not a political rebel, but his public ministry was of course even understood in a political way. It is not easy to draw a line between the political and the apolitical Jesus.

5. The ministry of Jesus was a preaching ministry

This point is very obvious. Jesus ministry was that of an itinerant preacher. This is why the Word of God is so central for his mission and ministry. Jesus did not install a hospital ministry. Rather, he preached. Preaching is an essential part of Christian ministry generally, and of ordained ministry in particular.

Looking brief at the content of Jesus´ teaching on can find four main points[3]: the return of the quenched spirit, overcoming the rule of Satan, the dawn of the Kingdom of God and the poor have the good news preached to them. This continues to be the massage of church ministers. All these points have to be seen in the light of the Lordship of the risen Jesus after his death. He continues his ministry in and through the church’s ministry.

2.2 Ministry 27 to 110 A.D.

This period of time is worth to examine, because the naming of ministry began to take place and their different functions started to develop[4].

2.2.1 Presbyter and Episkopos

Various different Christian communities existed in this time and the scripture names a diversity of ministries in these first churches. One can find namely the twelve disciples or apostles. Further we have prophets, teachers, deacons (male and female), fathers, servants, overseer, episkopos, presbyteros, leitourgos, neoteros, and evangelists[5]. In the development of the church plays the episkopos and presbyteros an important role.

It is not undisputed that the word ἐπίσκοπος, which means guard, watcher or later bishop, comes only from non-Jewish (Greek-Christian) Christian communities and the word πρεσβύτερος, which means elder or leader, follows a Jewish understanding. The title ἐπίσκοπος was general used for an overseer respectively an oversight task or management in the service of the state. The title πρεσβύτερος goes without any doubt back to Jewish tradition. The “elders of Israel” had a leading power from the very beginning times of Israel’s history. But it did not include liturgical functions (not “priestly”). This was a development later in the Jewish Tradition.

These two titles appear to be interchangeable. They seem to be titles for the chief leadership position in the local church. Besides administrative duties (ἐν ᾧ ὑμᾶς τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον ἔθετο ἐπισκόπους, ποιμαίνειν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ, Acts 20:28), they have been preachers and teachers. A liturgical leadership is minimally alluded to. This shows even the using of the word πρεσβύτερος instead of the liturgical or sacred title ἱερεύς. Jesus did not establish these names and they cannot be seen as the following generation of the apostles.

2.2.2 The Twelve and the Apostles

Another important New Testament title is οἱ δώδεκα (the Twelve). The Twelve have in the first place a symbolic function, showing that the new Israel has even his twelve figures just like the twelve patriarchs of the old kingdom. They are called by Jesus to the ministry of healing and preaching. The New Testament sustains not in a simple formula that the Twelve were seen as the bishops. Jesus even sent seventy (or seventy-two) “apostles” in Lk 10:1-12. Can they be considered as priests? Even if we don’t know exactly what Jesus wanted the Twelve to be, we can say, that they are most important for building the church and had the highest reputation in the first Christian communities and up to our time. In any case is everything what Jesus told them to do and to preach valid for all kind of ministry.

2.2.3 Deacons and Other Titles of Ministry

One other ministry which is mentioned in the New Testament is the one of deacons (διακόνοις, e.g. Phil 1:1). The ministry of deacons is described in 1 Tim 3:8-12 and even valid for other kinds of ministry. This ministry of deacons goes back to the times of the apostles (cf. Acts) and is not presented as the highest ministry. Beneath the description in 1 Tim 3:8-12 we don’t have a precise explanation of the functions of deacons. Even in the development of installing men and women as deacons it is nowhere called an “ordination”[6].

All the other titles of ministry as shown in 2.2.1 were not handed down through the first centuries. Perhaps they did not meet the needs of the Christian community? The titles for the ministries where used differently in the different communities and rose because of pastoral needs and not because Jesus established them. This is important when we look for adequate ways of ministry nowadays.

2.2.4 The New Testament and the issue of ordination

At first: In all passages on New Testament ministries we have no clear indication of any ordination rite, as we understand it today[7]. But there where instances of lying on of hands in the early church (cf. 1 Tim 4:14, 2 Tim 1:6, 2 Cor 8:19 speaks of an election). A good example is the election of Stephen in Acts 6:5-6: “and they elected Stephen (…) and when they had prayed, they [the apostles] laid their hands on them” (οὓς ἔστησαν ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀποστόλων, καὶ προσευξάμενοι ἐπέθηκαν αὐτοῖς τὰς χεῖρας). Even when this passage is not undisputed one can say that there is an election process and a commissioning process. But laying on hands was not only used to call to ministry, but even for reconciliation or baptism (Heb 6:2). Even the giver of the “ordination” differs in the New Testament. It is not clear e.g. if Paul laid his hands on Timothy the presbyterion.

The laying on of hands has its roots in the Old Testament. For example in Num 8:10 we read: “When you have brought the Levites before Yahweh, the sons of Israel must lay their hands on them”. As we see the kind of ordination we know today, can not easily be found in the New Testament.

2.2.5 The Eucharist and its Relationship to New Testament Ministry

The Roman Catholic Church links ordained ministry and celebrating the Eucharist in the closest way. The passage in Lk 22:19 seem to be a proof for this when Jesus speaks to the Twelve: “Do this in memory of me!” (τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν). It is a very common approach to see all pastoral power of spending the sacraments in the hands of the apostles. Most of the material about Eucharist is in the Synoptics. Most of the material referring to Ministry can be found in Acts and the epistles. Thus the connection of ministry and celebrating the Eucharist is not very close. When we look at the church as an institution founded by Jesus during his lifetime and of apostles he ordained to be priests, the Catholic understanding is very obvious. But this changes if one looks on the church as coming into being after the resurrection of Christ, with leadership, not Eucharistic presidency, as the dominant ministerial activity. Luke and Paul include the statement “Do this as a memorial of me.” But it can be doubted that this statement is an original part of the words of institution, but a liturgical addition to the text[8]. The parallel sections in Mark and Matthew do not contain this statement. It raises no question about the Eucharist in general at all. But it should be clear, that Jesus didn’t ordain the apostles during the last supper to be “priests” and giving them thereby the power of celebrating the Eucharist. This understanding differs from the practise of the church in her tradition.

2.2.6 Apostolic Succession

The upcoming of the term “apostolic succession” in the second century finds its roots in the very respect to the apostles. It is never treated in the New Testament. Another reason for the importance of apostolic origins of churches and leaders was the fight against Gnosticism[9]. The apostolic succession was assertion to bear the true faith. But this succession was meant for the whole community and their belief.

2.3 Ministry in the Second Christian Century: 90 to 210 A.D.

The important sources for an examination of the development of ministry during this time are the Didache (ca. 150A.D.), the first letter of Clement “Adversus Haereses” (90 to 100 A.D.), the teachings of Ignatius of Antioch (died between 98 and 117), Polycarps letter to the Philippians (death 156), the letter of Barnabas (between 70 and 138) and St. Irenaeus of Lyons (born between 140 and 160).

By the end of this period the episkopos has become the major leader in the local Christian community. The presbyter had moved into a minister and leader of second rank. There was a “college of presbyters”, which primary task was not liturgical, but rather the giving of advice to the episkopos in the area of community leadership. The naming of episkopos, presbyter and deacon is establish in this time and is still valid nowadays.

But at the end of this period we read about the connection of episkopos and presbyter to hiereus or sacerdos. A more priestly interpretation developed, i.e. priestly in the sense of the Jewish and Greek world. Liturgy began to be the basis for church leadership. But still every kind of ministry is seen as a call from the Lord. Only around the year 200 A.D. do we have an ordination ritual which can be verified. The ordination of episkopos, e.g. in the ordination ritual of Hippolytus, is an ordination as a pastoral leader and exemplarity of Christian life. The main focus with the ordination of presbyter is to advice the episkopos. Both ministries meant not in the first way liturgical leadership. Even deacons are mentioned as important pastoral workers, more present than the presbyters. Other kinds of ministry, done by lay people, like prophecy or teaching was still important and present.

There is no indication in the sources of this time that there was an ordination of women.

2.4 Ministry in the Patristic and the Early Medieval Church: 210 to 1000 A.D.

In a very brief way we can say, that the most important development during this time is a change in the understanding of ordained ministry. Episkopos and presbyter became a more holy, sacerdotal understanding. By the end of this period it is very clear, that episkopos and presbyter are ministers in a very holy way. Of course this causes a clericalization of the church, which means a separation of the clergy man and the laity. The ordained episkopos was seen more and more as a successor of the apostles, there by divine commission and in a way married with his local church. The meeting of all episkopoi of the koinonia at the council of Nicea 325 shows the importance of the ordained episkopos for church leadership[10].

The apostolic succession, understood as an unbroken relationship between an episkopos and an apostle in teaching and hierarchy, was very important.

With the Carolingian reformation the different tasks of the three kinds of ministry have been defined more clearly. The spending of sacraments was now delegated for every sacrament in a special way. Some sacraments, like confirmation, could just be spent by the episkopos, others even by presbyters or deacons. The status of the bishop of Rome as the head of the Western Church was fixed as a result of a 1000 years lasting development.

2.5 Ministry in the Theology of the Reformers

One of the major reformers of 16th century was Martin Luther. He lived in a time where the church was full of problems and dominated by financial interests. His main concern was not to change the ministry in the church. But to understand his idea of ministry one must even look on the different fields of the reformation program, e.g. the relationship of grace and good works, the question of justification or the authority of the pope.

Important documents for the research on the Lutheran understanding of ministry are the Augsburg Confessions, the Smalkald Articles, the Tractatus on the Power and the Primacy of the Pope, the Large Catechism and the Epitome of the Formula of Concord. P. Manns[11] gives an outline of four areas of differences in the understanding of ministry between Luther and the Roman Catholic Church.

1. The relationship between official Church ministries on the one hand, and on the other hand the priesthood of all believers. The official ministry is not identical to the priesthood of all believers, nor does the official ministry derive from the priesthood of all believers. The sacramentalizing of church ministry can not be found in the New Testament and is a creation of the Roman Church.
2. Thus a second issue is the one of sacramentality. This base on Luther’s general understanding of sacraments, which differs from the one of the Roman Church.
3. The most important difference between Luther and the Roman Church was the sacrificial character of the Mass. In this issue, the question of gratuity of grace over against good works, the full efficacy of the sacrifice of Jesus, as well as justification generally, is raised. For Luther is the divisive issue basically christological and ecclesiological, rather than simply a matter of the sacrament of order itself.
4. For Luther it was a problem of ordaining priests. Thus in the later Lutheran world there were no bishops who would ordain Lutheran candidates.

In the following the material of the writings of Martin Luther will be brought together and summarized. Specialized Christian ministry is a ministry ordained by God and it is in complete agreement with the gospel and with a solid doctrine on the priority of grace. This ministry is a ministry of the word. The word of God is above all ministry, whether that which comes from baptism or that which comes from holy ordination. Thus no special ministry can be in opposition to the word of God and never be above the church, but only within the church. Following Luther one can say, that the only essential or specialized ministry is the preaching ministry. But in this specialized ministry is the right administration of the sacraments (baptism and Eucharist) included. Ministry as coming from God is de iure divino.

As we see Luther emphasis the preaching aspect of ministry. This means no difficulties for the ecumenical dialogue in our time.

3 The Roman Catholic Understanding of Ministry

For an examination of the theology on ministry in the Roman Catholic Church the documents of Vatican II mark the most important and actual sources. Theses documents are the guideline of Catholic theology from the twentieth century and for the next decades or even centuries to come. But even Papal Writings and other sources will be mentioned.

3.1 The Very Definition of Priesthood

The definition of priesthood in Vatican II is an enrichment of the old scholastic understanding. Before Vatican II the priest was defined as someone who celebrates the Eucharist. It was only this relationship to the Eucharist which meant the very character of the priest’s life and spirituality. Vatican II enlarged this understanding when it speaks about the episcopacy as the fullness of the priesthood[12]. Even can the priestly ministry just be understood in relationship to the ministry of the bishop and be seen as a part of it[13]. But both priestly and episcopal ministry can only be understood in the apostolic dimension of teaching, sanctifying and governing[14]. The task and power of the priest is named in the Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests PRESBYTERORUM ORDINIS (No.2): “These ministers in the society of the faithful are able by the sacred power of orders to offer sacrifice and to forgive sins, and they perform their priestly office publicly for men in the name of Christ”.

3.2 The Christological Base of Christian Ministry

As we see, it is Christ himself who is the basis of ministry[15]. The foundation of ministry is not that much found in the writings of the patriarchs and scholars, like Thomas, Bonaventure or Scotus, but in the mission and ministry of Jesus. LUMEN GENTIUM (No.13) tells about the dimensions of Jesus ministry: “It was for this purpose that God sent His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, that be might be teacher, king and priest of all, the head of the new and universal people of the sons of God.”

Jesus ministry is threefold even referring to the New Testament. As a teacher (or prophet) he proclaimed the good news. Jesus is a sanctifier (priest) who brings holiness to the people. As the good shepherd, the leader or pastor he was traditionally called king.

3.3 The Ecclesiological Basis of All Church Ministry

It is this threefold ministry of Jesus which is the fundament for all church ministries. All baptized are sharers “in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ”[16]. But what does this mean for the ordained ministry?

The bishop has the fullness of this described ministry. “But episcopal consecration, together with the office of sanctifying, also confers the office of teaching and of governing, which, however, of its very nature, can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and the members of the college”. This means “that bishops in an eminent and visible way sustain the roles of Christ Himself as Teacher, Shepherd and High Priest, and that they act in His person”[17].

Even for the ministry of priests, the Roman Catholic Church emphasises the threefold of ministry: “Priests personally represent Christ, and are collaborators of the order of bishops in that threefold sacred task which by its very nature belongs to the mission of the Church”[18]. In which way this ministry differs from the episcopal is not very clear, because bishop and priest are sharing the same christoligical and ecclesiological ministry.

Deacons are just mentioned very brief in the Vatican II documents: “At a lower level of the hierarchy are deacons, upon whom hands are imposed; not unto the priesthood, but unto a ministry of service. For strengthened by sacramental grace, in communion with the bishop and his group of priests they serve in the diaconate of the liturgy, of the word, and of charity to the people of God”[19].

What about the laity? As we have seen, they share the same threefold ministry of Jesus through their baptism and confirmation. They “all share a true equality with regard to the dignity and to the activity common to all the faithful for the building up of the Body of Christ”[20] and “they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world”[21]. It his difficult to bring this sharing together with the statement mentioned in 3.1. There is still a discrepancy between several definitions of ministry in the Vatican II documents. The old scholastic link between priesthood and Eucharist is in a way still valid. The following diagram shall show the understanding of the threefold ministry by Vatican II[22].

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

This diagram shows the ecclesiological basis for all ministries. The terminology in the Vatican II documents reserves the title ministry for the ordained ministry. Lay ministry is called apostolate. But this distinction was not followed by later papal writings[23]. The theological essential difference is not described in the Council documents.

4 Administration in the Lutheran Church

In this part, the kinds of administration in the Lutheran Church will be examined. This will be done in showing the contrasts or different understandings to the Roman Catholic Church. Chapter 5 will deal with the aspects Catholic and Lutheran theology has in common even today.

4.1 The common priesthood and Justification

First of all the Lutheran Church makes no difference between pastors and lay people[24]. Through the baptism all believers have share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. There is no need for a special communicator of grace between God and his people[25]. Lutheran theologians refer to the scripture and the diversity of gifts mentioned in the pastoral letters more than to the later tradition of the church.

One of the basic elements of the Reformation was the teaching on justification, which is connected with the Lutheran understanding of the common priesthood of all believers. Martin Luther found among other things in Rom 3:22-25 an important proof for his belief: “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”. The question behind this is: What is necessary to put the relationship of God and his people right? Is it only God’s gift of grace or is it done by the good deeds of the believers? The Lutheran teaching on justification says that neither charity nor good works contribute anything towards justification. Christians are justified by their faith. This is in a very brief form the theology of Martin Luther when he writes “Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favour, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins”[26].

Luther did not contradict that ministry and the sacraments are given from God: “That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith[27] ”. Following the Lutheran theology everybody has the right and the task to proclaim the gospel and celebrate the sacraments. But this does not mean that he refused a special leadership which is in charge of spending the sacraments and proclaiming the word. Even in the Confessio Augustana he writes: “Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he is regularly called”[28].

But there are discussions among protestant scholars about the understanding of ministry in this article. Some say Luther meant just a functional kind of leadership in the Christian community. Others say he speaks about a divine given ministry.

4.2 Way of administration nowadays

Every Lutheran parish elects her pastors. Luther wrote that the community has to test the preacher if he is preaching and living according to the gospel. The parish has the right to appoint and to dismiss their preachers and pastors.

According to Luther’s writings there are certain criteria for the understanding of ministry in the Lutheran Church:

1. The minister has to teach and proclaim the gospel.
2. He has to be judged by his teaching. Every judgement has to be made by the community in the light of the scripture. The scripture is the very scale for every decision.
3. Ministers are appointed and dismissed by the parish. That means that they receive their power by the common priesthood of all believers. They work in the parish acting for all baptized.

But the existence of a minister relives the baptized not of their duty to live their own ministry in their everyday life. In the gathering of the community it is the task of the elected leader to lead the meeting or the worship[29].

The structure of the Lutheran church is in a way democratic and guarantees that the community of the ministers does not become to powerful. On different levels synods are in charge of leading the parish or the diocese. The minister, the pastor or bishop, is a part of the synod but not over the synod. The responsibility of the tasks of the parish lies in the hand of the church council. These elected representatives of the community are in charge of all important decisions concerning finances or organization. How does this look in detail?

4.3 The structure of the hessisch-nassauische Landeskirche

As an example for the structure of the Lutheran church the constitution of the hessisch-nassauische Landeskirche will be sketched here[30].

The Lutheran church in Hessen and Nassau has a democratic order. On the parish level the church board, consisting of elected parish members, is in charge of the administration of the parish. The board is elected for six years. The chairman should be a non-pastor. But the pastor should be the vice-chairman. Important documents have to be signed by both. The pastor is responsible for the service, pastoral care and the religious education. All other things like the management of kindergartens or hospitals are in the responsibility of the church board. The pastor is elected by the church board but not an employee of the parish. He or she is an official of the church in the diocese and thus under control of the leadership of the diocese.

The church board sends deputies to the synod of the next higher level. From this level representatives are sent to the synod of the diocese. Just one third of the synod may be pastors. The diocese synod elects as a legislator the church board of the diocese which is the executive. Even the bishop is elected there.

In analogy to the diagram in point 3.3 the following diagram shows the Lutheran understanding of ministry.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

5 Mutual Recognition of Ministry

From the Roman Catholic perspective the Churches of the Reformation do not have a ministry or have a deficient ministry, because of their lack of apostolic succession. The Second Vatican Council states: “Though the ecclesial Communities which are separated from us lack the fullness of unity with us flowing from Baptism and though we believe they have not retained the proper reality of the Eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Orders (…)”[31].

This negative assessment of the special ministry of the Reformation Churches is part of a long estrangement between the two types of churches. Following the Roman Catholic understanding the Reformation ministers are “only” ministers of the word and just lay people without sacramental ordination.

For the ecumenical dialogue about ministry and a mutual recognition it is necessary to understand what the “defectus” in UNITATIS REDINTEGRATIO means and if there are points where the understanding of ministry is already the same or similar. The Catholic Perspective on the Lima document of the Faith an Order Commission of the World Council of Churches offers approaches to a common understanding[32].

5.1 Points of common understanding

5.1.1 The Calling of the whole People of God

One cannot move immediately from Jesus Christ to the ordained ministry (cf. 3.3.). One has to take into account the calling of the whole people of God that actualizes, in the power of the Spirit, Christ’s mission of service to the world. It is a common understanding, that the ministry of the whole church and of all the baptized comes before the specific ministry of the ordained. This special ministry must be recognized as one of the many gifts by which the spirit enriches the church. Thus the ordained ministry cannot claim for itself the unique gift of building up the church and serving the world to which the church is sent.

5.1.2 Ordained Ministry and its Forms

But the ordained ministry has a special purpose in the church. It lies in “pointing to [the Church’s] fundamental dependence on Jesus Christ and thereby providing, within a multiplicity of gifts, a focus for its unity”[33]. But this has not only an organizational character. As the Lima Document says in Article 12 about the ministry: the presence of the ordained ministry within the community “reminds the community of the divine initiative and of the dependence of the church on Jesus Christ […]”[34]. Even more: the ordained ministry is “constitutive for the life and the witness of the church”[35].

This sounds like emphasizing the ordained ministry very strongly. But the Lima Document continues that the ordained ministry only exits in and for the community. It applies for every Christian pastor that the ordination is not a possession of the ordained persons, but a gift for the continuing edification of the body in and for which the minister has been ordained[36].

5.1.3 Ordination

The Lima document is elaborate on the meaning of ordination. This is a crucial point for the Roman Catholic Church as we will see later on. But she can agree to the Lima statement which says: “Ordination denotes an action by God and the community by which the ordained are strengthened by the Spirit for their task and are upheld by the acknowledgment and prayers of the congregation”[37]. But what about the churches which have not retained the episcopate? This leads to the issue of the apostolic succession.

5.1.4 Succession in the Apostolic Tradition and Episcopacy

In this field of dialogue one deals with the question of the order of the church as well as with the nature of ordination. It is difficult to find a common ground for dialogue between churches which don’t know the Episcopal structure anymore. The Lima document proposes for the dialogue to discover the historic episcopate. At the same time it strengthens the diversities of ministries mentioned in the New Testament and introduces a very wide understanding of Episcopal ministry. The Lima document proposes in a way that the unity of the church should take place in the form of the threefold ministry of bishops, presbyters and deacons, because its potential offers for many churches ways to justify their actual ministry. It sees the chance to come to a common understanding of a personal, collegial and communal ordained ministry.

The Lima documents sounds quiet Catholic when saying concerning a ministerial succession that “the continuity with the church of the apostles finds profound expression in the successive laying on of hands by bishops and that […] this sign will strengthen and deepen that continuity”.

5.2 Difficulties in the several fields

These points of a common understanding sound like unity in a common understanding of ministry is to not far. But every single point bears still a lot of difficulties and problems[38].

For the Roman Catholic Church e.g. the focus is on an episcopal succession while the Lima document speaks about apostolic succession in many different ways possible. The critics of the Lima document say that the practise of the Roman Catholic Church was not taken enough into consideration. This means the ordination ceremony for bishops, the presence of neighbouring bishops as witnesses of the apostolic faith of their own churches or the laying on of hands and thereby inserting the new bishops’ church into the communion of local churches that recognize and affirm each other in the apostolic faith.

Even the stress on the calling on the whole people of God remains on the surface of the issue. The importance of the priest for the celebration of the Eucharist in the Roman Catholic Church can not easily be brought together with the Lutheran teaching of Justification. Either the ordained priest or bishop is necessary for the grace of the Eucharist or this special ordination is not necessary for receiving the full grace of God in the Eucharist. Here we see how close the topics of ministry and Eucharist are connected.

Other issues like the ordination of women are not even mentioned in this research but represent major problems for a mutual recognition of ministry in the different churches.

In any case the Roman Catholic Church has to speak in the light of UNITATIS REDINTEGRATIO of “deficient” ministry in the non-catholic churches instead of a lack. Only this way, further steps in a mutual recognition of ministries are possible[39]. But the official writings of the last years, especially about laity, do not encourage the hope for a reform of the ordained ministry in the Roman Catholic Church towards more personality, communality and collegiality.

6 Conclusion

The ecumenical dialogue on the ordained ministry is as difficult as the search for a proper understanding of ordained ministry itself. As seen, the differences in the understanding coming from different values attached to scripture and tradition. But even on the level of fundamental theology reasons are found for the one or the other understanding.

In the light of the tradition of 2000 years the Catholic understanding of ministry is understandable and offers a richness of leadership in a kind of apostolic succession. But even the models of ordained ministry in the other churches bear important aspects of church leadership. Luther’s emphasising of the common priesthood of all believers is for sure a good way to overcome the gap between the clergymen on the one hand and the lay people in the other.

Without forgetting or rejecting the tradition and the growing of the ordained ministry, the Roman Catholic Church should be more open to the possibilities of ministry which are offered in the scripture. This would make a common understanding of ministry in the Christian churches more possible. The scholastic connection between Eucharist and ministry should be thought over. It should be more emphasized, that the minister, bishop or priest is a part of the community and a minister of all men and women. The Lutheran teaching should take more into consideration the historicity of the ordained ministry and the sacrament of ordination.

One problem both the Lutheran church and the Roman Catholic Church have in common is a lack of awareness of their members, that it is them who are called to a priestly ministry everyday. Often believers want the priests or leaders of their church to be what themselves don’t want to be or don’t have the time to be: preachers of the gospel and witnesses of the love of Christ in the world.

Perhaps it is a little to radical and far every from the reality of the ecumenical dialogue, but I agree with the German protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he writes: “The church is on church if she exists for the suffering people. To start this she should give all her property to the suffering people in the world. The pastors should only live from the gifts of their parishes and have perhaps a worldly job. Only in living as a model of giving everything to the suffering the church can truly be witness for the good news she brings to the world.”

I am afraid that Bonhoeffers church won’t be the church of the future, neither of the Lutheran, Roman Catholic nor a united church. In any case the theologians of all Christian churches, but I think mostly in the Roman Catholic Church, should be aware of the words of St. Augustine who wrote: “ecclesia semper reformanda est”. This is even valid for old traditions.

7 Bibliography

Clark, Alan C. (Edit.)

Modern Ecumenical Documents on the Ministry

First Printing, 1975 by SPCK, London

Heideman, Eugene

Reformed Bishops and Catholic Elders

First Printing, 1970 by Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, USA

Jeremias, J.

New Testament Theology

First Printing, 1971, Charles Scribner’s Sons, USA

Langevin SJ, Paul-Emile

The Church and the Churches in the New Testament: Ecclesiogical Perspectives in: Cardinal Bea Studies II, Editor Pedro S. de Achetegui SJ, The Dublin Papers on Ecumenism

First Printing, 1972 by Loyola House of Studies, Manila, Philippines

Luther, Martin

Confessio Augustana 1530

The Large Catechism

St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921), pp. 565-773

Mann,s, P.

Amt und Eucharistie in der Theologie Martin Luthers

Amt und Eucharistie, Bonifazius Druckerei, Paderborn 1973

Marrevee, William

Lima Document on Ordained Ministry in: Catholic Perspectives on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, Editor Michael A. Fahey

First Printing, 1986, University Press of America, Inc., Lanham

Osborne, Kenan B. O.F.M.

Priesthood - A History of the ordained Ministry in the Roman Catholic Church

First Printing, 1988 by Paulist Press, Mahwah, New Jersey, USA

Rusch, William G. and Gros, Jeffrey (Edit.)

Deepening Communion – International ecumenical documents with Roman Catholic Participation

Second Printing, March 1999, United States Catholic Conference, Inc., Washington, D.C.

Schatz, Klaus SJ.

Die Geschichte des päpstlichen Primats

Full version of this book under

Welsch, Matthias

Amt im evangelischen Verständnis

Vortrag über das evangelische Amtsverständnis am 13.11.2001, Erwachsenenbildung Rödermark

Decrees of the Second Vatican Council

all used from - in English and German

Instruktionen zu einigen Fragen über die Mitarbeit der Laien am Dienst der Priester

Vatikanstadt 1997, Kongregation für den Klerus,

Das geistliche Amt in der Kirche

Gemeinsame römisch-katholische/ evangelisch-lutherische Kommission, 4. Auflage, Bonifatius-Druckerei, Paderborn 1982

Bible & Translations of the Bible


Das Neue Testament - Griechisch und Deutsch

27. Auflage des Novum Testamentum Graece; Deutsche Texte: Revidierte Fassung der Lutherbibel von 1984 und Einheitsübersetzung der Heiligen Schrift von 1979

King James Bible

African Bible

Second Reprint 2000, Paulist Press, Nairobi

Revised Standard Version

Some Translations of the Greek Text were made by the author himself. These Translations are marked in the text and shown as not taken from one of the current Translations of the Bible.

Internet sources without Authors

Reference Books, Encyclopaedias, Dictionaries

Kassühlke, Rudolf

Kleines Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament. Griechisch - Deutsch

Dritte, verbesserte Auflage 2001, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart

Dictionary English – German, Deutsch – Englisch

Microsoft Word


[1] Osborne, Kenan B. O.F.M., Priesthood - A History of the ordained Ministry in the Roman Catholic Church, p.4f

[2] Kassühlke, Rudolf, Kleines Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament. Griechisch - Deutsch

[3] cf. Jeremias, J., New Testament Theology, p.76f

[4] Das geistliche Amt in der Kirche, Gemeinsame römisch-katholische/ evangelisch-lutherische Kommission, p. 26

[5] Osborne, p. 42

[6] Schatz, Klaus SJ, Geschichte des päpstlichen Primats, p. 24

[7] Osborne, p. 56

[8] Osborne, p.79

[9] Langevin, Paul-Emile, SJ, The Church and the Churches in the New Testament: Ecclesiogical Perspectives

in: Cardinal Bea Studies II, Editor Pedro S. de Achetegui SJ, The Dublin Papers on Ecumenism, p. 44

[10] Heidemann, Eugene, Reformed Bishops and Catholic Elders, p. 76

[11] Manns, P., Amt und Eucharistie in der Theologie Martin Luthers, p.129f




[15] cf. 2.1, p.4



[18] AD GENTES, No.39




[22] Osborne, p.323


[24] Welsch, Matthias, Amt im evangelischen Verständnis, p. 2

[25] Justification, in: Catholic Encyclopaedia, at

[26] Luther, Martin, Confessio Agustana, Article IV

[27] Luther, Martin, Confessio Agustana., Article V

[28] ibid., Article XIV

[29] Das geistliche Amt in der Kirche, p. 93



[32] c.f. Marrevee, William, Lima Document on Ordained Ministry, in: Catholic Perspectives on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry

[33] Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, Faith and Order Paper No.111, M8, p.21

[34] ibid., M12

[35] ibid., M8

[36] ibid., M15

[37] ibid.,M40; 39-44; 15

[38] c.f. Marrevee, William, Lima Document on Ordained Ministry, in: Catholic Perspectives on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, p. 175

[39] Clark, Ellen, (Edit.), Modern Ecumenical Documents on the Ministry, p. 22

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The Ordained Ministry in the Lutheran and the Roman Catholic Church
Seminar Ecumenism - The Irrevocable Commitment to Unity
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The present paper will examine the understanding of ordained ministry in two mainline Christian churches. Going out from the Catholic understanding of the ordained ministry it will be compared to the theology of ministry in the Lutheran church. This approach is chosen because of the risk to lose the overall view when examine a lot of different churches and their handling of ordained ministry.
Ordained, Ministry, Lutheran, Roman, Catholic, Church, Seminar, Ecumenism, Irrevocable, Commitment, Unity
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Markus Demele (Author), 2003, The Ordained Ministry in the Lutheran and the Roman Catholic Church, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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