20 March 2008

Those pesky passives

In his blog's discussion of the Issues Etc. problem, Rev. William Weedon noted the following: "Passives allow you to avoid saying WHO did the action. Yes, we all know the decision "was made." What we want is the name of the man who made it."

Rev. Weedon is right.

Oh, sometimes, passives can be fine--indeed, powerful in their humility. The Byzantine baptismal formula is, "The servant of God name is baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Here the passive confesses that the Triune God is the One who baptizes--that the priest is but his unworthy servant.

But sometimes passives can hide a lot of mischief--like when someone says the church is found "where the Gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered," but does not address the pressing question of our day in the protestant community: whether layfolk, too, can rightly be the actors in the eucharist and absolution.

the sacraments rightly administered in a body where layfolk do them? If one answers "yes," then he should abandon any pretense that the administrators be "rightly called." If one answers "no," then he must either conclude that such bodies as allow the practice cannot be church--or that the term "church" has no visible referent beyond the level of the parish. (Remember, those who reject lay administration of sacraments are in pulpit and altar fellowship with those who practice it.)

If one says that "church" has no visible referent beyond the level of the parish, then let him drop all ecclesial pretense concerning trans-parish entities.
  • Toward his own people, a man may function as minister; toward the broader group, he is a field-office manager.
  • And what of the place where new minister/managers are trained? It is simply a professional school. If its function can be performed in other ways, more efficiently, let it be done. If skilled managers wish to set up a Parallel Leadership Institution, then by all means let them do so.
  • Finally, if someone is deeply unhappy with the corporation he is in, then let him start a new one. As long as the view is held that "church" has no visible trans-parish referent, that's all he will have started: a new corporation.
If, however, one concludes that such bodies where layfolk administer the sacraments are not church, then let him seek the Church, the pillar and ground of the Truth, to which Christ has given unshakeable promises.


Dixie said...

You might appreciate this. When I was taking my doctrine class for my Lay Ministry certification one of our test questions was to comment on the acceptability of defining the Church as "where the Gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered". My comment was that the definition was unworkable. "Rightly preached" and "rightly administered" were pretty much subject to the individual deciding deciding what constituted "rightly". For example: for one person (or even congregation) "rightly administered" Eucharist could mean open communion (as it did in my congregation)...but to another it would not be. Who, then, is rightly assessing "rightly"? It's a subjective definition of Church. FWIW, I got full credit for my answer! It was only later that I learned this was the Lutheran definition of Church :o !!!

Ignatius said...

Ok, I will bite!

Fr. Gregory,

Is this truly the pressing question of the day, regarding lay ministers, for Protestant communities? As a convert and past Lutheran I have pondered many things and some so frightful maybe I ought not ponder them. Like our worship and life, my thoughts have revolved around Him who comes escorted by angelic hosts, and completely gives Himself to us in His body and blood. I find more concern, that is having so many loved ones in the Lutheran fellowship, in what is being administered than as to WHO is administering it. It is likely I am opening up Pandora’s Box here but other than training is there really a difference between Lutheran Lay Ministers and Lutheran Clergy in the corporation model. Especially, if one takes into consideration the break down from excommunicated German monk, to Lutheran Bishops (Scandinavia), into the post Reformation/Renaissance western European vacuum, and eventually resulting in today’s contemporary American voter assembly ruled parishes.

The undivided Church of the first century was grafted into the tree; or rather that Holy lineage, moving from the Levitical priesthood and passing into Christ’s new covenant with the priesthood of Melchizedek “The King of Righteousness” onto the Apostles at Pentecost. This is the power of Christ’s priesthood and like the Holy Trinity, His body, His blood, and His power cannot possibly be divided. If one believes that incarnate God can be divided, then they are casting lots for a garment empty of His body.

Just for conversation let us say the Lord does change His mind and moreover changes in variation and shadow. This of course goes against what scripture tells us but it allows me to move toward my next point. That is, the Sacrament of Confession, and taking into consideration what I previously have stated, can give cause to a whole other question. But for now let us say that in the Lutheran churches the mysteries of Christ are present. As far as the Sacrament of Confession goes in Lutherandom, well, we both know what The Book of Concord says concerning private confession.

On Confession and Communion: Saint Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain

“Holy Communion purifies, illumines, and sanctifies those who eat the Master’s body and drink His immaculate blood with a pure conscience and having made a sincere Confession of their sins to the priest. But it scorches and injures severely the souls and bodies of those who commune unworthily and unconfessed, just as in the case of those who, as the sacred gospel says, enter the wedding feast not having a garment worthy of the wedding –that is, not having works and fruits worthy of repentance. Or as St. Paul warns that many in Corinth who were partaking of Holy Communion were sick and even dying. This is what St. John Chrysostom says: ‘Since the priest cannot know who are sinners, and who are unworthy to partake of the Holy Mysteries, God often delivers such people to Satan. For when diseases, attacks, sorrows, calamities, and the like afflict them, it is on this account. This is shown by Paul, who says: “This is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1 Cor. 11:30).’ For this reason, we must purify ourselves beforehand from all stain through confession, and certainly from rancor and ill feelings toward our brothers and sisters, and then draw near with trembling to the Holy Mysteries.”

In brief, would it not be more of a concern if our loved ones, in the Lutheran fellowship, were actually receiving the terrible mysteries of Christ? I would find more comfort in the belief that it is literally impossible.


Fr. Gregory Hogg said...


You've hit on something there. Who decides what's "right" and what's not? The man I rebuked for lay absolution thought himself no less Lutheran than I thought myself.


We have no idea what is taking place in rites administered outside the Church; that is for God to judge. Even when receiving such people by chrismation, their baptism is viewed in connection with its completion in chrismation, and not on its own.

It's enough for me that God is good and loves mankind. May he have mercy on us, and save us!