Sunday, February 29, 2004

Bishops and Pastors

Bishops and Pastors

Melanchthon seems to argue with Jerome that "the distinctions of degree between a bishop and presbyter or pastor are established by human authority" (para. 62). He claims further that any pastor may ordain and that "the churches" retain the right to do so. My first question is: what does Melanchthon mean by "the churches"? He seems to indicate an individual congregation or collection of congregations (para. 80) becuase he speaks of how it used to be custom for a neighbor bishop to confirm the choice.

It is here that I think Melanchthon shows his deficit of reflection that the New Testament should enlarge for him. True as far as it goes but it seems to me that the view he holds of congregations is quite atomistic. The need for mutual communion and so forth between congregations does not seem to exist in his discussion of bishops. And thus, he can see no distinction between bishops and congregations than one of human necessity. Does the view of church as the church of churches change this? If so, it would seem that the distinction between bishop and pastor is not one of divine right in the sense of the bishop having different evangelical tasks but instead a different congregation: a bishops church is a church of churches and she therefore has a different task than a pastor of a congregation does. She does not have a different set of powers than the local pastor. They both have the same evangelical responsibility. I am therefore less convinced that one pastor shouldn't ordain but the bishop can. She and the local pastor both are the same, in a way.

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