Monday, April 23, 2012

A Priesthood Sustaining Priests

"The idea of an invisible Church is, of course, always attractive for the simple reason that one chooses in the privacy of one's own mind who are the members and who are not. By contrast, the Church in the New Testament is represented by visible communities of men and women located in places which can be visited and to which letters can be written. This is not to deny the very important point, which was the subject of Chapter 16, that there is a spiritual reality 'in the heavenly places' which is not visible to the eye of flesh but which is the reality which has visible embodiment in these congregations; that there are 'angels' of the churches, spiritual realities which are more than simply the sum of the individual members; and that the 'angels' can be accused of behavior which is not in accordance with the will of God (for example, Rev. 3:15ff.) But the 'angels' do not have any impact on events except as they are represented by visible congregations which have a specific location- whether in the primary geographical sense, or in the sense of location within one of the sectors of public life in a complex and multisectional modern society. I have already said that I believe that the major impact of such congregations on the life of society as a whole is through the daily work of the members in their secular vocations and not through the official pronouncements of ecclesiastical bodies. But the developing, nourishing, and sustaining of Christian faith and practice is impossible apart from the life of a believing congregation. It is therefore important for my thesis to consider, however briefly, the question of the leadership of such congregations.

In some Christian circles it is unfashionable to talk much about the ordained ministry, because of the fear of being guilty of elitism, one of contemporary society's catalogue of unforgivable sins. . . . I hope I have made clear my belief that it is the whole Church which is called to be- in Christ- a royal priesthood, that every member of the body is called to the exercise of this priesthood, and that this priesthood is to be exercised in the daily life and work of Christians in the secular business of the world. But this will not happen unless there is a ministerial priesthood which serves, nourishes, sustains and guides this priestly work. The priestly people needs a ministering priesthood to sustain and nourish it."

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