Clergy & Laity (The False Dichotomy Of Specialness)

by jpserrano on October 10, 2011 · 1 comment

I often hear in Lutheran circles (ELCA) a division between laity and clergy that is completely unhelpful. What I find particularly troubling is the degree to which some exalt clergy to such a point that the Pastor’s vary nature changed–somehow by the laying on of hands the person is now elevated and special in ordination.

I had an experience a while back where someone told me that the Job of a Youth Minister and that of a Pastor are completely different. This person, who was not a youth minister nor was ordained, told me that my 10 years in ministry did nothing to prepare me for my call to the ordained ministry. Rather, only seminary and internship would do that.

To this day, I am really bothered by this false dichotomy.

Now I will stipulate, a call to ordained ministry is unique in many respects. However, the function of the Pastor is comparable (on some level) to other professions.

Second, I believe that my 10 years of ministry while in school/seminary have prepared me very well to be an Ordained Pastor in the church.

During my 10 years I have taught the Bible, Lutheran Theology, and intertwined it with the specific cultural context that youth and their families are in. I “counseled” youth and their families, helping them seek the will of God in their lives, providing assurance that their sins are forgiven, offering them grace and encouraging them to give more grace to themselves, walking with them in their pain, doubt, unbelief, along with their joys and accomplishments. And I pointed them to professional help when needed. I have preached and led worship on Sunday mornings (to the whole congregation). I managed a budget, coordinated volunteers, provided opportunities for families to deepen their faith and connect with each other and the congregation. In all I have shown those whom I walk with the love of Jesus and his unmerited grace for them.

The above are only some of the things that are a part of my youth ministry.

The only thing I did not do was preside over the sacraments.

I have spoken to several Pastors & Youth Ministers to see how they feel on the subject and they agree–Youth Ministry does provide one with a skill set to enter into the ordained ministry along with seminary (for the education) and internship (for the power dynamic).

I guess what bothers me the most in this is the level of specialness assigned to the ordained ministry (remember this is what I feel called to do). By elevating the ministry of Word and Sacrament we subordinate lay ministries in the church.

LAY MINISTRIES IN THE CHURCH ARE NOT SUBORDINATE MINISTRIES–THEY ARE JUST DIFFERENT MINISTRIES WITH DIFFERENT CALLS!

We are called to be the body of Christ together. Our ministries are supposed to be complimentary, not hierarchal.

I guess my encouragement is this; get to know their pastor. Take him or her out for a beer, talk theology–it’s probably their favorite subject. And realize that your vocation as a Christian is the same as a Pastor’s. The only difference is they are called to Word and Sacrament while you are called to being a sales person, teacher, interpretor, youth minister, janitor, hairdresser, cobbler etc.

We need each other, one call is not more “special” than the other.

-jpserrano

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rico Ludovici October 11, 2011 at 11:15 pm

I’ll bet I could guess who made that comment about ‘preparation for ministry’. Don’t tell me. As Lutherans, we believe – well, most of us – in the priesthood of all believers. You know yourself that pastors are ordained for the purpose of ‘keeping order’. There are churches, yes even Lutheran churches, where factions have stolen the host or held the communion vessels hostage so that the Lord’s meal could not be celebrated by the ‘wrong’ pastor. Well, when I asked an earlier pastor if I was qualified to teach Sunday School to junior high youth, he said I was fully qualified because I “loved children and I loved the Lord.” Opinions are like belly buttons; everyone has one. De confessio Lutheranis, the clergy and the laity are one. This most certainly is true.

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