Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On the laity

Meanwhile, in the convoluted world that is Anglican politics, various people are perusing the third draft of the Anglican Covenant, aka the Ridley Cambridge draft. (What is the Anglican Covenant, you ask? You really don't want to go there.)

Mark Harris over at Preludium is doing a mighty fine job of reviewing this document in detail, and in his latest analysis drew my attention to section 3.1.3.

3.1 Each Church affirms:

(3.1.3) the central role of bishops as guardians and teachers of faith, as leaders in mission, and as a visible sign of unity, representing the universal Church to the local, and the local Church to the universal and the local Churches to one another. This ministry is exercised personally, collegially and within and for the eucharistic community. We receive and maintain the historic threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, ordained for service in the Church of God, as they call all the baptised into the mission of Christ.
(emphasis mine)

Please note that in the Episcopal Church, we talk about a fourfold order of ministry, as found in the catechism:

Q. Who are the ministers of the Church?
A. The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests and deacons.

so already we have a difference of opinion.

One thing I find objectionable in this draft of the covenant is the idea that it's only the ordained ministers who call the baptized into the mission of Christ. Personally, I think it's Christ's job to call the baptized; that would be rather more biblical, don't you think?

A while back I interviewed Louis Weil, my liturgics professor at CDSP, to ask about confirmation. One of the things he said is that he feels his primary ministry is as a baptized person; how he happens to live that out is as a priest. I really like that. And I also think it's true: that our call to ministry comes from being baptized, not from being ordained.

I think this document, in a rather minor provision, has revealed a profound theological difference between the Episcopal Church and a great deal of the rest of the Anglican communion. There's no doubt in my mind that lay people do the bulk of the ministry in the church. To not think of them as part of the church's ministry seems ludicrous to me.


qoe said...

Maybe your title should actually read: "Off the laity." :-\

Laura Toepfer said...

I also tried to work in a reference to a book I read yonks ago called "Liberation of the Laity," but it was not to be.

it's margaret said...

yes --and the hierarchy of the answer in the catechism reveals that. the laity comes first...