Saturday, March 06, 2010

Separation horizontally and vertically (ordination)

Justin Martyr (presumably not _the_ JM) asked me to expand on my comments about ordination.

One point at issue is whether ordination confers any sort of spiritual superiority compared to other Christians, to which the fairly uncontentious answer is No. However, there are things which the church does which do confer that spiritual superiority (superiority is a bad word for this, but I can't fathom a better one just now).

I am thinking of baptism. Baptism grafts a person onto the Body of Christ and equips them for ministry. The community of the church is a community set apart, consecrated, a royal priesthood. The church functions for the world in the way that the Levitical priesthood functioned for the people of Israel. They are called to be holy.

Ordination to the priesthood neither requires nor enables any greater degree of holiness on the part of the minister, compared to what is expected of any baptised believer. What it does do is mark out a person for the exercise of a particular role; it also prays for the guidance and blessing of the Holy Spirit to be with them as they exercise that role (this could be rendered in 'ontological' language but doesn't have to be). So someone who is ordained is not called to be more holy than someone who is baptised.

The separation is not vertical (more or less holiness) but horizontal (a different part of the body).

5 comments:

  1. Would it be better to say that the church recognizes that spiritual superiority, rather then confers it.

    e.g. marriage. The ceremony just lets everyone in the community know what's happened - the church confers recognition. I would say that I married my wife long before the ceremony took place.

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  2. "Ordination to the priesthood neither REQUIRES nor enables any greater degree of holiness on the part of the minister."

    Shouldn't that read:

    "Unfortunately, there is a tendency to believe in the modern church that ordination to the priesthood neither REQUIRES nor enables any greater degree of holiness on the part of the minister."

    In today's society scripture is regarded as an old, dusty collection of manuscripts that can't speak to 21st Century problems.

    In that context Christians must show as much holiness as we can to illustrate the spiritual regeneration possible through the enabling of the Spirit.

    Also, a pretty huge chunk of NT seems to suggest that in the light of the ressurection of Jesus that holiness is required.

    I genuinely can't believe I'm reading the above in the midst of Lent of all times!

    Yes, I above all others, know that the clergy are all flawed like the rest of us. But that is no excuse for not at least trying.

    Why don't you re-read the book of James? Or "The Cost of Discipleship?"

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  3. Grumpy cleric - I think you've misunderstood my point; I'll make a slight amendment to the post to make it clearer. Of course we are called to holiness - all the BAPTISED are called to holiness (Bonhoeffer and James weren't just writing to the ordained were they?). What I'm saying is that the ordained aren't called to a greater holiness than that required of the baptised.

    (Which, by the way, is not quite CofE teaching - the reason why homosexual priests are required to be chaste is because they are to be a living sign of the church's teaching. I don't agree with that specific point, but there is something there that needs teasing out another time.)

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  4. Grumpy Cleric said, "In today's society scripture is regarded as an old, dusty collection of manuscripts that can't speak to 21st Century problems."
    I genuinely can't believe I'm reading the above in the midst of Lent of all times!
    SDR

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  5. I agree with with your point that all Christians require to be holy but the clergy have to be role models for the laity.

    PS "Anonymous" - I wasn't inferring that was my belief or that wider society is correct in their belief.

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