18 August 2010

What Am I? I know, but do you?

For your consideration and discussion.

What am I? I am a parish pastor of the LCMS. When discussing Church and Ministry, what really am I? American Lutheranism has a convoluted grouping of theories and explanations to try to describe what exactly is going with the office of the Public Ministry -- even amongst where the various Blackbirds come from.

I know what I am. I am a bishop.

Plain and simple. I am a bishop. I am the overseer of the Christian Community of Lahoma, OK. I have an altar which I am to attend to - by virtue of my own call to my office as bishop. I am what 1 Timothy 3 is talking about when Paul says, "If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task." It's bishop, it's episcopos.

But here is the problem I see - we have lost the understanding of a bishop as fundamentally a pastor tending to a flock of Christians and substituted the later development of a bishop as an overseer of a bunch of priests and congregations. A bishop isn't an administrator, a bishop as described by Paul isn't a paper pusher - a bishop isn't the person who shuffles the priests under him around, exercising earthly, structural power in the Church. A bishop is one who is the chief steward of the mysteries of God in a place.

Should I ever have an assistant pastor, who can do all the things I can, but is subordinate to me at this congregation - then he would be a presbyter (or a priest, if you will). He assists.

If there were to be one who serves as a member of the clergy who is appointed to do works of service, to aid in distribution, and perhaps even to learn the art of preaching so as one day to hold the office of presbyter or bishop - this would be a deacon (you know, either a stand alone deacon, or a seminarian).

These are the Scriptural categories - and the problem is our language, our terminology doesn't match up. And of course, the reason things don't match up is because we are so concerned about who gets to put people into what office. We need to have some "superbishop" putting folks in - no, we need a majority vote - no we need a consistory or synod of bishops who tend to themselves -- to which I say, I don't care. Let a man be mediately called into which ever office it is peaceably, in good order, and with the consent of those being served. But when they are properly called - they are what they are - bishops, or presbyters, or deacons, with the duties and obligations placed upon them by the Word of God.

We do not need some overarching structure to reintroduce "bishops" - we have proper bishops already. We don't need to have a congregational polity to protect us from the tyranny of bishops - we have proper bishops already. We aren't arguing about the ministry - we've abandoned the scriptural idea of the ministry to fight over the table scraps of earthly power attempting to impose our sinful will over others.

Tend to your altars, you who are bishops! You who are assistants and thus presbyters - assist your bishop in the service for the people! You who are deacons, serve with care and compassion, and if you are studying, study diligently!

But, what of "Associate Pastors" -- eh, you have co-bishops. Awkward, but hey, share and play nicely.

But what of cities where there are multiple congregations - can't there only be one bishop? If the congregations are one entity, sure. If they are separate houses - no, each gets a bishop. Now, if we wanted to be organized amongst ourselves where there would only be one bishop in the town (or region) and only one proper congregation with multiple locales of worship each headed by the presbyter - so be it. But if we are separate congregations - eh, lots of bishops - and there's nothing wrong with that.

But how can you be a bishop without clergy to oversee. . . because a bishop's oversight is of the sheep, first and foremost. That's what it is to be a bishop - and this is what we have forgotten. Be bold in your office, and point to Christ who is the true bishop.

1 comment:

Steve said...

As one who is striving to be a Biblically defined Deacon I say a hearty "Amen!!!"

Steve Foxx SSP