Thursday, May 3, 2007

Roundtable 15: Order in the Church

Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call (nisi rite vocatus, ohn ordentlichen Beruf). AC XIV.

Short, sweet, and to the point. Article XIV is the third of what I call the “defensive articles,” defending the Lutheran Reformers against slanderous associations with the radicals. This article is in direct response to Eck (Thesis 267) who stated that the Lutherans had abrogated the ordered ministry and had made every Christian a minister. There is no corresponding article to AC XIV in the Schwabach or Torgau articles. The title refers to the order of the office (ordo) (see Ap XIII), not to everything being neat and tidy.

In the background, of course, is the canonical episcopal polity and ordination at the hand of the bishop. Luther had already dealt with this extensively in his letter to the Senate of Prague in 1523 wherein he advocated a “bootstrap” process for reestablishing the holy ministry when the bishops refused to ordain priests for the congregations. Since the papal bishops opposed the reformation, they refused to ordain candidates to fill vacancies in evangelical parishes. This became a serious issue after 1525. It is important to remember that Luther and others were ordained prior to the reformation and so continued in office without any disruption of the ministry. This was not the case as vacancies occurred and pulpits had to be filled. Melanchthon treats this topic extensively in the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, which should be read as a companion piece and commentary to AC XIV.

Key to understanding this article is the meaning of “publicly” (publice, offentlich) and “rightly ordered call.”

It was well established among the Lutherans that heads of household were responsible to teach their children and servants, and when necessary, also to baptize. In his 1523 letter to the Bohemians, Luther strongly advised against any private household celebrations of the Lord’s Supper, even to the extent of going a lifetime without it rather than having it in a dubious way. AC XIV is concerned with what goes on “in the Church,” that is officially, in the name of the Church.

What Melanchthon means by an “ordered call” is spelled out more clearly in the Treatise, where Melanchthon defends the thesis that the local congregation always retains the right to a pastor and the authority to make one. “For wherever the church exists, the right to administer the Gospel also exists. Wherefore it is necessary for the church to retain the right of calling, electing, and ordaining ministers” (Treatise, 67). To have a “rightly ordered call,” according to Melanchthon, is to be called, elected, and ordained. This authority, Melanchthon argues in the Treatise, resides with the local congregation and her pastor by divine right (de jure divino) and with the bishops only by human right (de jure humano) for the sake of peace and good order.

The Confutation understands a “rightly ordered call” as “called in accordance with the form of law and the ecclesiastical ordinances and decrees hitherto observed everywhere in the Christian world....” This prompts Melanchthon to both defend the canonical episcopal polity (Oh, that we would have heeded Ap XIV, but don’t get me started!), and at the same time condemn the papal bishops for their cruelty in withholding pastors from their congregations. It is the papal bishops, not the reformers, who are responsible for the breakdown.

The underlying theology of AC XIV is the objectivity of the external Word of the Gospel. “We know that the church is present among those who rightly teach the Word of God and rightly administer the sacraments” (Ap XIV). Melanchthon has already established the Office of the Holy Ministry as the instrumental means of delivering the Gospel and Sacraments (AC V) and has indicated that holy order and ordination have a place among the “sacraments” in that they provide for the proper sacraments of Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper (Ap XIII). This article underscores the important fact that no one takes it upon himself to become a minister, but he is granted this office by an external, objective act of God - a rightly ordered call. In his writing Against the Heavenly Prophets (1525), Luther held ordination papers to be of far greater value than any interior, subjective “calling” to preach. The objective, external Word makes preachers of the Word.

The objectivity of the ordered call is a source of great strength and comfort, both to preacher and to hearer. As Luther puts it in a Tischreden: “Die vocatio tut dem Teufel sehr wehe” (The call pains the devil greatly.)

An addition to this post:
I love the liturgy. I love the liturgy for many reasons, not the least of which being that it guards us from our own agendas and amnesias. What struck me today as I prepare to preside at the liturgy tomorrow in my congregation are these words: "called and ordained." They have been with me since my childhood in the Lutheran church. "Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word...." They've gone that way from TLH to LW to LSB. LSB adds a little reference to authority, which is the essence of office, the permission to speak and act granted by another. "As a called and ordained servant of Christ and by His authority...." You can't say Office of the Holy Ministry any clearer than that.

Called and ordained. Some would have the call be everything; others would have ordination be the clincher. What God has joined together, let man not rend asunder. "Called and ordained" is how the liturgy has us confess it. Here is the right use of that little slogan "lex orandi, lex credendi." As the church prays in the liturgy, so she believes. The liturgy bears witness over and against our attempts to bend things our way like some wax nose.

Called and ordained is the way of our tradition. In the 14th article of the Augsburg Confession, the Reformers defended themselves against Eck's slanders that they were like the radical protestants, making everyone ministers without distinction. "It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church with a regular call (an "ordered call," ordentliche Beruf)" (AC XIV). Ordination by a pastor, or by a bishop, if such is the arrangement, testifies and confirms that the call is ordered, that is "in order." "Afterwards a bishop, either of that church or of a neighboring church, was brought in to confirm the election with the laying on of hands; nor was ordination anything more (else) than such confirmation" (Treatise 70).

Called and ordained. Both are essential in the making of a pastor. When the bishops attempted to choke out the Lutheran congregations of Germany and refused to ordain pastors to fill their vacancies, Melanchthon and the Reformers argued that the authority to ordain inherently resides with the congregation as an inalienable right. "Consequently, when the regular bishops become enemies of the Gospel and are unwilling to administer ordination, the churches retain the right to ordain for themselves. For wherever the church exists, the right to administer the Gospel also exists. Wherefore it is necessary for the church to retain the right of calling, electing, and ordaining ministers" (Treatise 66-67).

Ordination by a bishop was, and is, a human arrangement (de jure humano), granted by common consent for the sake of peace and unity among the churches. However, "since the distinction between bishop and pastor is not by divine right, it is manifest that ordination administered by a pastor in his own church is valid by divine right (de jure divino)" (Treatise 65). Every congregation manifests the fulness of the Church; therefore every congregation possesses the right to elect, call, and ordain pastors, for without the preached Word, the Church would perish.

Ordination is not a "sacrament" in the same sense as Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord's Supper. These are "rites which have the command of God and to which the promise of grace has been added" (Apology XIII.3). Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord's Supper benefit the recipient and bestow on faith the gifts of salvation. Ordination provides ministers of the Word and sacraments. The Office of the Holy Ministry is the instrumentality of the Word and the sacraments, the means by which these are administered (AC V). "If ordination (that is "order," ordo) is interpreted in relation to the ministry of the Word, we have no objection to calling ordination a sacrament" (Ap. XIII.11). Further, "if ordination (order, ordo) is interpreted this way, we shall not object either to calling the laying on of hands a sacrament. The church has the command to appoint ministers; to this we must subscribe wholeheartedly, for we know that God approves this ministry and is present in it." (Apology XIII.12).

We best understand "call and ordination" in terms of what is proper to each one. The call locates a man in a particular place; there is no such thing as absolute, unlocated, floating ordination. Ordination ratifies and confirms the call, placing the man into the holy order of the Office in such a way that the congregation may receive him as the gift from God that he is as their pastor. Externum verbum, extra nos. We have an approximate analogy from public offices of the state. We elect a person to be president on the first Tuesday of November. And in January we inaugurate him into office with a solemn vow. Only then are we given to address him as "Mr. President."

God calls and ordains through His instruments, the churches and her pastors. There is much that is confessed in that little persistent phrase, "I, a called and ordained servant of Christ...." And much for which to be thankful.

William Cwirla


William Weedon said...

Excellent summation.

This is, of course, a *doctrinal* article and yet it alleges no Scriptural support for its position - a sign that they didn't expect argument with Rome?

I wonder, though, if the lack of explicit Scriptural back-up is a chief cause for folks in current Lutheranism treating this article itself as an adiaphoron - which it manifestly is not.

Piepkorn's *The Church* gives the goods on numerous instances in middle ages and also after the Reformation even in Rome where those in presbyteral order ordained.

Although our Confessions disagree with Aerius for teaching that prayers for the dead are useless, still the fellow did get this particular right on. Consider what Epiphanius cites of him in the Panarion, LXXV, iii, 3:

"In what respect is a bishop superior to a presbyter? There is no difference between them: for they are one order, one office, and one dignity. A bishop lays on hands; so does a presbyter. A bishop baptizes; so does a presbyter. A bishop performs the office of stewardship; a presbyter does likewise. A bishop sits on a throne; a presbyter sits on one two." (see *The Apostolic Ministry* p. 318)

wm cwirla said...

Thanks for that patristic citation, William.

Melanchthon's insight in the Treastise that the distinction between presbyters and bishops is de jure humano is no novelty. One can also see this reflected in the ancient ordination rites of bishops and presbyters.

William Weedon said...

I should clarify, though: Aerius was an Arian heretic whom Epiphanius was condemning in Panarion. But while he got much wrong, I don't think Aerius got the ministry wrong, and he seems to be very much of a piece with Jerome on the question.

Paul T. McCain said...

So, is this article confessing that as long as one has a "rightly ordered call" one may teach and administer the sacraments in the Church, regardless of whether one is in that office referred to, even if in a secondary sense, in AC V?

That seems to be the question many Lutheran churches are struggling with today.

dthomas said...

A question then,

A congregaiton joins, or is part of a synod, where and agreement is reached "de jure humano" in regards to the qualifications of one who is "eligible" to call.

In the process of calling, the congregation determines that someone who is not qualified by by the synod' standards is whom God would have them place in the office.

They determine to offer the call.

Is the call,legitimate or not?

William Weedon said...


I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at? Explicate a tad more, bitte?

Paul T. McCain said...

What is the connection between AC V and AC XIV?

Paul T. McCain said...

We would have to know why the person they called is not qualified according to Synod standards to receive a call to be a pastor of a congregation before that question could be answered.

wm cwirla said...

"So, is this article confessing that as long as one has a "rightly ordered call" one may teach and administer the sacraments in the Church, regardless of whether one is in that office referred to, even if in a secondary sense, in AC V?"

If I understand this question correctly, then the question makes no sense. The "rightly ordered call" in AC XIV refers to the examination, call, and ordination that makes a pastor. If you have a "rightly ordered call" (examined, called, ordained) then you are in the Office.

With regard to AC V and AC XIV: AC V deals with what the Office does - preach the Gospel, administer the Sacraments; AC XIV deals with who does it - those who possess a rightly ordered call. In his Kirche u. Amt, Walther makes a similar distinction, albeit with less than happy terminology, when he notes that AC V deals with the Predigtamt in abstracto while AC XIV deals with the Predigtamt in concreto. I never much cared for this distinction, as it potentially leads to the mischief we see today with functionalized "ministry," but his point was the same as mine, that AC V deals with the "what"; AC XIV deals with the "who."

There are countless casuistry questions that are going to arise, the more we disregard AC XIV or read it in isolation, neglecting Ap XIV and the Treatise.

To the question posed above: Is it a "legitimate call" (you can tell you're going the way of the Law when you use legal terms) when a congregation calls an otherwise qualified man to the Office who is not recognized by the church body to which the congregation belongs?

I think at issue here is the nature of the local congregation as a manifestation of the Church (una Sancta) in time and place (AC VII). When a congregation acts autonymously, to the exclusion of other congregations who believe, teach, and confess the same, it is acting sectarianly and is obscuring the una Sancta by its actions. The Reformers were more than willing, even desireous, to hold to obey the bishops and maintain the episcopal polity so long as the Gospel was permitted.

One of the purposes of ordination is to confirm or ratify the appointment, placing the congregation in a receiving position. It may have chosen the man, but it still receives him at the hands of others. You can do the right thing in the wrong way. AC XIV and the Treatise, and the extreme circumstances that gave rise to them, are not license for sectarian behavior.

Paul T. McCain said...

As it is unwise to try to use AC XIV in isolation, or "in abstracto" from AC V, similarly, it is unwise and misleading to read AC XIV "in abstracto" [meaning: in the abstract], from AC XXVIII. But, we'll get to that in a a few months, or maybe sooner? Dare we take a peek over to AC XXVIII for the light it can shed on AC XIV?

wm cwirla said...

Afterthought: What makes a call "rightly ordered" is ordination. Ordination orders the call and places the man into order (ordo). That's why Melanchthon calls it "the Sacrament of Order" in Ap XIII.

Paul T. McCain said...

One other point on the "legitimate call" question.

A congregation who calls a man to be its pastor who is not on good standing on the roster of the Synod thereby may well necessarily forfeit its fellowship in the Synod to which it belongs, and rightly so.

Now, let's pursue this a bit more. A call extended to a woman to be a pastor is neither legitimate nor valid, in any circumstance, since a woman may not be a pastor.

While the Word preached and sacraments administered by a woman may still be valid and efficacious, her acts are not pastoral acts, but irregular acts by a lay person.

Paul T. McCain said...

It is interesting to observe that today C.F.W. Walther has been invoked as approving the routine administration of Word and Sacrament by laymen when in fact the dear man, for instance, in the Norwegian "lay preacher" controvery, sent his representative, I believe it was Cramer, to deliver the position of Missouri on the issue. Walther's position was that a layman should not even *read* a collect out of an agenda if/when there was an ordained clergyman present for the Divine Service!

And, for that matter, Walther did say that only a schismatic would think of omitting ordination, even though, of course, it is not the liturgical ritual of the laying on of hands that "makes" a man a pastor.

Part of the confusion we find today comes from the simple fact that the Lutheran Confessions speak of "ordination" which is merely shorthand for both call and the liturgical rite of ordination. Neither are omitted, but call precedes ordination, of course.

wm cwirla said...

To be precise, CFW Walther had AC V as the Predigtamt in abstracto and AC XIV as the Predigtamt in concreto. The terms come from Christology, though Walther borrows this usage from the early pietist Ludwig Hartmann (cited in the 1865 2nd edition of Kirche u. Amt).

"And, for that matter, Walther did say that only a schismatic would think of omitting ordination, even though, of course, it is not the liturgical ritual of the laying on of hands that "makes" a man a pastor."

I think CFW Walther unnecessarily diminished ordination as nothing more than an "apostolic custom." Of course, he was reacting to Grabau on this matter, and I think, overcompensated in the opposite direction.

I compare ordination to the inauguration of the President. He is elected (called) in November, but does not actually become President until his inauguration (ordination) in January. If he tried to act presidential before then, he would be flagged for it.

Ordination makes one a pastor, that is, it places him into holy order. It is never without prior examination (He is worthy! He is tested!) and the approval of the assembly, but as the last "step" of a rightly ordered call, it is the act that finally makes one a pastor. One of the grave errors that is being made today is the failure to see ordination as authorization to act officially (ex officio), and replacing it with various sorts of institutional "licensing."

The instance of female ordination is easy. If it can be demonstrated (and it can!) that women are not to be called to the Office of the Holy Ministry, then she fails the "examination" by virtue of being female and may not be called. To call the uncallable and ordain the unordainable is to bring doubt on that which must be absolutely certain, that this Office speaks in the stead and by the command of the Lord of the Church.

wm cwirla said...

In this context, I thought it might be interesting to hear the ordination prayer from Luther's rite of holy ordination (1539) (AE 53:126).

Merciful God, heavenly Father, thou hast said to us through the mouth of they dear Son our Lord Jesus Christ: "The harvest truly is penteous, but the laborers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest." Upon this thy divine command, we pray heartily that thou wouldst grant thy Holy Spirit richly to these thy servants, to us, and to all those who are called to serve thy Word so that the company of us who publish the good tidings may be great, and that we may stand faithful and firm against the devil, the world, and the flesh, to the end that thy name may be hallowed, they kingdom grow, and thy will be done. Be also pleased at length to check and stop the detestable abomination of the pope, Mohammed, and other sects which blaspheme thy name, hinder thy kingdom, and oppose thy will. Graciously hear this our prayer, since thou hast so commanded, taught, and promised, even as we believe and trust through they dear Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.

Petersen said...

McCain has asked me to re-join the blog. The problem is that I find Cwirla has said everything I would have said, both in his original post and comments.

The only way I can think to muddle to waters and start a fight is to bring up the idea of student preachers preaching. Do student preachers (vicars) violate this article?

There is a fundamentalist approach to the Confessions that would say they shouldn't. But that answer fails to understand several key things. In the first place, the Office of the Ministry is not given among us in an instant. Before ordination (well explained by Cwirla) the man prepares himself through study and he is examined. Part of that preparation includes writing and preaching practice sermons under direct supervision of a man (or men) in the office. If he preaches the sermon to the congregation he does so under someone else's authority. He is not actually preaching his own sermon, but is reading a sermon. The distinction is critical. But so also it is not insiginficant that he is being prepared for the Office. He is "in process." He is not fully in the office but he is not fully out of it either. The process, by the way, continues when he is deemed acceptable to the Ministerium and placed as a candidate for a call. The call specifies his jurisdiction, the human order under which he will serve. Then he is ordained. In ordination he is authorized and sent to do all things God has given the Ministry to do: preach, baptize, pray, ordain, teach. But according to his call he will only do some of those normally. Since he is authorized for all of them he might do them outside his jurisdiction if invited. Thus an ordained man may preach in other churches if invited and a simply parish pastor may ordain if invited to by the district president, etc.

This understanding of jurisdiction and specification gets out of the silly idea that the only "legitimate" minister is the one in a parish. Something of this, by the way, is seen in Acts 6.

Paul T. McCain said...

Pr. Petersen, welcome back. If you think Pr. Cwirla has said a lot, just you haven't seen anything yet. Just wait until Pr. Fouts weighs in. He always has a lot to add. We each contribute from our own unique experiences and background wrestling and living with these texts for years, so it's always interesting to read what each us might have to say. Of course, I, being typically shy and retiring, always reticent to say what I think, rarely have much to add to anything on this, or any other blog site for that matter. Yes, that was said in jest.

Paul T. McCain said...

Pr. Petersen raises a good point. Vicars preaching would be comparable to students studying to be full medical physicians some day, and doing so under the careful tutoring of a trained, certified and legally placed physician. They have to learn the craft. Similarly, students learning to be preachers and pastors. But one thing I certainly would not want is a person who is not fully trained and certified acting as a fully trained and certified physician as a matter of course. In a true pinch, of course, but on an ongoing basis? Nope.

Paul T. McCain said...

Pr. Cwirla, I lean mightily toward your position on ordination, in many respects, but finally I do not believe it can be said that the ritual of laying hands on a man's head is the "act" that "makes" a man a pastor. I believe it is a necessary part of the action that results in a man being a pastor and to omit ordination is the height of schismatic behavior, and may well also go a long way toward betraying a complete misunderstanding of ministry and office.

As for our Dr. Walther and his view of ordination. I do concur with Walther, but one must carefully understand what Walther is saying, and what he is not saying.

His point I believe is simply to follow Luther's lead in placing the greater emphasis on a legitimate and valid call, as per AC XIV.

I believe Walther's language of "merely" or "only" apostolic customer has been taken where he would never have intended it to go and where he himself refused to let it go; namely, omit it.

In this Pastoral Theology he notes, "Anyone who unnecessarily omits one or the other [call or ordination] is acting schismatically and makign it known that he is one of those whom congregations with itching ears heap up for themselves" (2 Tim. 4:3)."

These words are how we are to understand his comments about ordination!

If you read his commentary on this point he notes that what he is arguing against is "absolute ordination" that is ordination without a call.

He notes quickly in his conversation at this point about ordination: "The benefit and relative necessity of ordination are also found in the presentations of our theologians." He quotes a man named Ficht who notes three reasons why ordination is so important:

"(1) Public testimony that the candidate has been found fit and worthy for the souls of men to be entrusted to him.

(2)Makes the candidate himself publicly certain that he has been legitimately called and that the church is therefore obligated to his holy office.

(3) The whole congregation prays over him that his gifts, necessary for the church, may be increased and that he may be granted courage to serve God steadfastly and to care for the salvation of souls." point is simply that when we refer to Walther's "merely" or "only" remarks, we need to keep in view precisely what else he said along with that, and when we do, I think we realize that ordination was in fact a *very* big deal for Dr. Walther.

He was wishing to avoid two extremes: "Papists...invent an absolutely necessity according to which this custom impresses a character upon the person that turns him from a worldly into a spiritual person" and, on the other hand, avoiding "with the Calvinists....consider[ing] it unimportant, as if nothing depended on it. For if we do not even consider a marriage a truly Christian marriage which has not been consecrated by public blessing, how much less the holy office?"

And so you see how some today are quite selective about what of Walther they quote when they speak about ordination today. They are quite selective, for you do not really hear the whole story on to what degree Walther did regard ordination as necessary and beneficial.

I recall speaking with a Synodical official who was going about telling people that Walther would be entirely in favor of regularizing the practice of men performing the office of the ministry without themselves actually being in the office of the ministry, via call to the office and ordination into the same. I challenged him to provide me with even one single quote from Walther in which he, Walther, would concede that non-called and non-ordained men could, on an ongoing regular basis, preach and administer the sacraments as pastors. He could not and he never has. Why? Because Walther never held to any such position, at all.

Paul T. McCain said...

My apologies, all my quotes from Walther's Pastoral Theology are from "Walther's Pastorale that is American Lutheran Pastoral Theology" by Dr. C.F.W. Walther. Translated by John M. Drickamer. (New Haven: Lutheran News, Inc., 1995), pgs. 16ff.

Paul T. McCain said...

Some other comments on AC XIV.

It might be thought when we read this article that what we have here is simply something "for the sake of good order." But there is more here than simply keeping good order. Here we read that in fact our churches to teach that no one ought to teach publicly in the church or adminsiter the sacraments unless he is rightly called [rite vocatus]." The German version, titled, "Vom Kirchenregiment" [of church government], says nobody should "teach or preach publicly, etc." without a regular call.

And what are we to make of the German word here, at this point, "soll" or "debeat." As Dr. Kurt Marquart points out in his superb treatment of all these issues: The Church and Her Fellowship, Ministry and Governance (Waverly, Iowa: International Foundation for Lutheran Confessional Research, 1990):

"The usual English "should" here is far too weak as a rendering of either 'soll' or 'debeat.' The utter inadequacy of "should"is at once apparent if we substitute it for the same "sollen" in the Commandments: "You should not murder, you should not commit adultery, etc.!" As Maurer rightly says, 'If there is no divine call, preaching is a fiendish temptation for those who preach and those who hear' (Historical Commentary, p. 192" (Marquart, p. 145).

Marquart asks, "What then is ordination?" And he indicates:

"The word 'ordination' comes from the Latin ordo, order, and is a close relative of ordinance. It is in this general, substantive sense of "ordering, arranging, appointing" as distinct from any ritual, ceremonial meaning--that the English Bible uses "ordain" for instance in Acts 10:42; Acts 13:48; Acts 14:23; Acts 17:31; Rom. 13:1; Titus 1:5; Heb. 8:3."

"The Book of Concord likewise uses "ordinare/ordinatio" mainly in the sense of order, institute/ordinance, institution a applied for instance to marriage, civil arrangements, and sacraments."

"Applied to the ministry, "ordinare" (to ordain) and "ordinatio" (Ordination) means basically nothing else than "ordering" or placing someone into the "order" (better: office) of the public ministry. What specific ceremonies or rituals (e.g. laying on of hands) are to be used in this connection, is another secondary question, which should not be mixed into the primary, substantive, and root meaning of "ordination" as placement into the public ministry."

(Marquart, p. 151).

This is why it is important for us to distinguish between the theological meaning of ordination, the "what" if you will and the liturgical/ritual "how" of ordination. The "what" is divinely instituted, the "how" is not. This is why our Confessions speak of "ordination" as encompassing what we can break down into: call and ordination.

This was Luther's understanding:

"For ordaining should consist of, and be understood as, calling to and entrusting with the office of the ministry...Our consecration shall be called, ordination, or a call to the office." (Luther, 1533, "On the Private Mass and Consecration of Priests," LW 38:197; WA 38:238.7-8).

The actual act of laying hands on a person is a good, churchly and apostolic custom, but does not, as an act, in and of itself, result in the validity of the ministry. Our Lord Himself never "ordained" the Apostles, in this sense. He did breathe on them. As Marquart points out "ordination by spiration" is no more instituted any more than child-blessing ceremonies are established by Mk. 19:16. (Marquart, p. 152).

Even Romanists like Carl Rahner understand that the physical action of laying hands on the head is not a divine law. Rahner writes, "Such a transmission of ministry can be thought of as taking place in any way, provided it is evident and clear." (Marquart, p. 153).

To omit the laying on of hands, however, under normal circumstances, is to "despise this apotolic custom and order of the church and such a peson is an "obstinate ass" as Dannhauer puts it, cited by Walther in Church and Ministry, p. 266. See Walther, pgs. 249-267 for a selection of quotes from older Luther divines on this issue. (See Marquart, p. 156).

Paul T. McCain said...

A bit more Walther: "He who without necessity omits ordination is a schismatic, he separates himself from the orthodox church of all times" (Lehre und Wehre, 20:12 [Dec. 1874], 364).

Interestingly, at the conference in which Luther made this statement, it changed a thesis on this point from: "Who is to administer an essential part of the ministry of the Word should [sollte] be ordained..." to "Whoever is to administer an essential part of the ministry of the Word MUST [muss] be properly called, thus set apart, but also be ordained according to churchly order" (op cit., p. 363). [Quoted in Marquart, p. 156].

The old Lutheran divines, quoted favorably by Walther and company, report on a situation in which a certain person had ordained others without himself having been ordained. He was in the end forced to leave Pomerania on account of the turmoil that his stubborn refusal to be ordained provoked.

Both mature Luther and young Luther compared ordination to the marriage ceremony, hence Walther's use of that analogy to describe the place of ordination.

Paul Gregory Alms said...

I admit to having quickly browsed all these posts so maybe this has been touched on.

A basic question amidst all the rest: Why? Why does it matter? How would you guys explain to a slightly skeptical, practically minded, run of the mill adult Bible class as to why the pastor must be ordained. I mean why is AC XIV important. Why MUST it be so? Can't anyone read the Bible and preach? Can't anyone baptize or even in a pinch adminster the Sacrament? If it is the Word of the Lord and the sacraments themselves which are important why the emphasis on ordination and call?

I am playing devil's advocate, of course, but I would liek to hear some of the wisdom of this group addressed to, say, my Bible class on Sunday morning :)

Paul T. McCain said...

Greg, I would explain simply by showing them that it is a matter of receiving the gifts of God with thankfulness and faithfulness, walking through Eph. 4, etc. The gift of the apostolic ministry is given precisely to safeguard the treasure of truth entrusted by Christ to His Church, etc. etc. Of course there is a certainly wonderful little pamphlet that I am aware of that lays it out quite nicely for lay folk.

"What About Pastors?"

Available for as free PDF download at the following web address. You will need to paste this together to make it work:

Some human analogies come to mind as well.

We do not turn everyone loose on the streets to be our policemen or firemen. We do not hand the keys of a car to just anyone to drive the car, etc.

Some quick responses.

How do you answer these questions for your folks during your bible class?

William Weedon said...

Another Walther gem about ordination that I do not believe appeared yet:

According to God's Word there is no doubt that even today ordination is not a meaningless ceremony if it is connected with the ardent prayer of the Church, based on the glorious promises given in particular to the office of the ministry; *it is accompanied by the outpouring of heavenly gifts on the person ordained.* (Church and Ministry, 248)

William Weedon said...

William has posted the prayer that Luther composed for holy ordination, setting us on a liturgical tract which is most fruitful. The "rite" of Article XIV and the "ritibus" of Article XV are not unconnected.

Here are the words from the LCMS's first agenda for the moment of the laying on of hands. They very much support that the ministry itself is given through that process which culminates precisely in the laying on of hands:

We hereby commit to you through the laying on of our hands the holy office of the Word and the Sacraments of God, the Triune, ordain and consecrate you to be a minister of the holy Church in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!

The assisting, co-ordaining ministers answer:

Amen! Amen!

Then all the ministers pray together: "Our Father..."

Paul T. McCain said...

Cwirla has translated the Synod's first Agenda, featuring, of course, as a matter of course, the ordinand celebrating His first Communion immediately following his ordination.

The real Walther is always so much more delightful than the Walther of fiction, fantasy, revisionism, etc.

wm cwirla said...

"This is why it is important for us to distinguish between the theological meaning of ordination, the "what" if you will and the liturgical/ritual "how" of ordination. The "what" is divinely instituted, the "how" is not." - Paul

True, but finally you have to do something. We're not talking here about one hand or two, or hovering hands vs hands firmly laid on head. That is a question of what is the appropriate ritual gesture. We're talking about the official placing of a man into office by those who hold the office, without which one does not have a call that is "rightly ordered."

Again, this reminder from Melanchthon: "If order (ordo) is interpreted in relation to the ministry of the Word, we have no objection to calling order a sacrament....If order is interpreted this way, we shall not object either to calling the laying on of hands a sacrament." (Ap XIII.11-12)

A futher thought: Ordination underscores and supports the catholic and trans-parochial nature of the Office. Without it, the Office is being treated as the private property of the congregation. Ordination is not the frosting on the call's cake.

William Weedon said...

Piepkorn points out two further pieces of information that might be useful to the discussion:

Luther's letter in 1531 of John Sutel (WA Br 6, 43-44). Sutel had been called, but not ordained, and yet presumed to celebrate the Sacrament. Luther instructs him to refrain from this until he "publicly before the altar with prayer and the laying on of hands receives from the other clergymen the evidence and authority to celebrate the Sacrament."

Luther's Genesis commentary (on 28:17) records the good doctor as saying: "The laying on of hands is not a human tradition; on the contrary, God makes and ordains ministers."

Paul T. McCain said...

Pastor Cwirla, you said

True, but finally you have to do something. We're not talking here about one hand or two, or hovering hands vs hands firmly laid on head. That is a question of what is the appropriate ritual gesture. We're talking about the official placing of a man into office by those who hold the office, without which one does not have a call that is "rightly ordered."

Precisely so! I find nothing in C.F.W. Walther or any of the early Missourians to even remotely suggest they regarded ordination as nothing but "frosting on the cake" and those today attempting to claim that this is what ordination is are plainly wrong.

Perhaps we could say: "No ordination, no rightly ordered call" -- understood per previous conversations.

The regular, routine and ongoing functioning in the office of pastor by one who has not been called and ordained to the office of pastor can find no justification Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, or any of our orthodox Lutheran fathers from the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Where a change came on this point is an interesting question to pursue.

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

I think some of the difficulty that we have with "ordination," particularly from the perspective of the layperson, is that as Americans we approach the question from an understanding of "freedom" that means, "anyone can do something, unless there is a word of scripture saying 'No, you can't.'"

That is very different than the biblical and confessional perspective that one only does, with respect to the Office, what one has been given to do according to the Lord's mandate.

Is anyone *capable* of standing in a pulpit and preaching a good sermon? Sure. Is anyone capable of standing in front of the altar and speaking the Verba? Yes.

But with Ordination we confess that those who are doing it are those whom the Lord has put there to be doing it.

That's all behind ordination as the "confirmation," or "comprobatio" of the call.

Ordination is there to leave no doubt that the man standing there is the man the Lord has put there to be doing it. He isn't there on his own authority. He isn't even there on the authority of the congregation. He is preaching, binding and loosing sins, because the Lord has put Him there to do it as His mouth-piece, or instrument.

Ordination is the "clincher." It makes is a sure bet, without any doubt, that the pastor's forgiveness is the Lord's forgiveness. If you doubt it -- look to the laying on of hands. Hands were laid upon this specific man to be doing the specific thing the Lord has put him there to do: to forgive sins, proclaim the Gospel, administer the Sacraments.

In that sense, ordination is no less "optional" than it is optional that the people should have the certainty that the forgiveness they are being given through their pastor's words is the Lord's forgiveness.

As Dr. Nagel says, "Doubt is inimical to the Gospel." For that reason, unordained folks doing what is given to the office to do is also inemical to the Gospel.

So -- while the "laying on of hands" is the apostolic custom that is there to show that "comprobatio" or confirmation/sure bet... if you don't have hands being laid on, you have to have something that specifies that same certainty: This man, right here, is here as the Lord's instrument to do what the Lord has put him here to do.

Thus, while the laying on of hands isn't absolutely necessary, what the laying on of hands "signifies" or does is necessary.

Rev. Robert Mayes said...

Brothers: Good discussion, everyone. I'm not a regular on here, but was interested in the writings already posted.

I would like to throw out a few questions regarding ordination from Scripture and the Confessions in response to the view that ordination only "confirms" the call.

1) Heb. 6:1-2 puts "the laying on of hands" in the same category of doctrine as faith, baptism, repentance, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. Is this a reference to the laying on of hands in ordination? And if so, do we say too little by referring to ordination only as an "apostolic custom"?

2) In Treatise 65, Melanchthon argues for the practice of the Lutheran pastors ordaining when the bishops would not do this. He says "However, since the distinction of rank between bishop and pastor is not by divine right, it is clear that an ordination performed by a pastor in his own church is valid by divine right" (K/W pg. 340). Ordinations, then, are not done merely by human right or custom, even the custom of the apostles. Has God ever given divine right in matters of true adiaphora, like lighting candles? No. All that is by human right. So since we confess that He has given divine right for pastors to ordain when the bishops refuse to do it, ordination itself must be more than a mere custom. In fact, it must be a divine act. Your comments?

3) If ordination is only the confirmation of a pastoral call, as Ficht suggests, then why is a man only ordained once even if he serves several calls in his ministry? Does only the first call need to be confirmed, but not the second, third, or more?

4) Is ordination itself the custom of the apostles, or is the manner of laying on of hands the custom of the apostles? In the first understanding, ordination itself is de iure humano. In the second, the ritual manner association with ordaining is de iure humano but ordination itself is not. This needs to be discussed.

Thank you all for your insights. I look forward to your remarks.

In Christ,
Rev. Robert Mayes
Mt. Calvary, Fullerton NE

Paul T. McCain said...

Pr. Mayes, I believe the quotes offered from Kurt Marquart's book and those provided from Walther's works provides answers to your questions.

wm cwirla said...

These are excellent and pertinent questions.

1. To Hebrews 6:1-2 - it sure seems that way, doesn't it? Don't forget 2 Timothy 1:6, which is even more to the point.

2. The Treatise is the key to the right understanding of AC XIV. Ordination by a pastor in his congregation is de jure divino, according to Melanchthon. There is a Luther quote (cited in Walther's Kirche u. Amt), to the effect, "God calls and God ordains."

The delegation of the authority to ordain to the bishops is what is de jure humano, according to the Treatise.

3. Several issues come into play. Historically, pastors didn't move to "other" calls. Canon 15 of Nicea forbids this. Walther didn't know what to do with ordination and installation. He viewed installation as kind of a mini-ordination. I would concur. One is being ordained as pastor in that particular place.

I wouldn't view ordination as "only" a confirmation of the call, as though it were the frosting on the cake. It is an essential part of a rightly ordered call.

4. I would agree that the ceremonial act of laying on of hands is the "apostolic custom," not ordination. Melanchthon is very clear on this distinction in Ap XIII.

Those are my 2 cents. Your mileage may vary. Void where prohibited by law.

William Weedon said...

Note the repeated "in his own parish" as cited by both Ben and William. I think that has some import to the peculiar Missourian practice of ordaining in a VACANT parish.

G�tjen said...

May I join this discussion? I have read the other entries, and concur for the most part. May I make a couple of comments that you more leared folk can comment on.

First, I have always thought that AC V should be more properly titled in English as: "of the ministry (or work) of the Holy Spirit" Of course, this title also reflects my understanding of the Article. Any comments?

Second: I have a slightly different understanding of "ordentlichen Beruf" because my major background is business. (I have an MBA, not an MTh) "Ordentlichen" to me is the discriptions of the action of a prudent business man when he is examining another business for purchase. This is properly called "due diligence". He examines, he audits, he diligently digs for any hidden imperfections in the purchase that may cause a problem, or change or ruin the value of the proposed purchase.

Also to me "Beruf" is simply "profession". So: "soll ohne ordentlichen Beruf" is "without due diligence having been preformed and the man being properly placed into the Profession" (which of course is an just an expanded version of; and means the same thing as "examined, called and Ordained")

I would think then the English in the Triglotta should not be "regularly called" but maybe better: "trained, examined in all aspects of learning, faith and life, and found fit; Called and Ordained."

Why is it so difficult not to do what the triglotta did? "Regularly" is an adverb..."Called" is a verb, but "ordentlichen" is an adjuctive in the accusitive voice, and Beruf is a Noun?????

Not "without a regular call" is better from a grammer standpoint, but is still not a true expression of what is meant (at least to me) I know the pastors call is from God, and I also understand that call is not time or space limited. That is: I understand a man's Ordination is a confirmation that God has called him to be His Shepherd, and is not limited to a particular congregation.

Do I make any sense?