Sunday, July 13, 2003

XIV. Order in the Church

It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call.

Now by a regular call I imagine the person preaching and teaching has been called by the local congregation and this person's ministry is recognized as regular by the broader church body. The emphasis here is not on intelligence, right doctrine, education, qualifications, etc., per se, but rather on the regularity of the call. The person hasn't jumped up up into the pulpit, pushing the normal preacher out of the way, or grabbed the elements and run to the back of the sanctuary to administer them from there.

This is trite, but also, this kind of thing has happened. The emphasis on a regular call has helped keep congregations in order in terms of relationships and right ordering of who does what.

The problem with the order, though, is when lots of things are attached to what it means to prepare for a regular call. In the ELCA, currently, a regular call includes graduation from an M.Div. program (4 years) after completion of an undergratduate degree, plus all of the other stuff- approval interviews, interviews, and more interviews, essays, psychological and identity examinations, etc. Now, we're all for regularity, but if your sphincter is too tight you won't be regular, you'll be constipated.

Regular call must and needs to be oriented towards getting the gospel out, providing ministers for the people, and these preparations, though worthy at times, can end up in the way. Ice bergs are powerful but they move awful slow.

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