The Teaching of the Synodical Conference on the Office of the Public Ministry
Spring Circuit Meeting of the Laymen of Circuit Six
Lutheran Church, Thornton, Iowa
Pastor Rolf Preus
you very much for inviting me to speak to you today about the teaching
of the Synodical Conference on the office of the public ministry.
This is an important topic because the office of the ministry is
a very precious gift. Jesus
Christ himself instituted this holy office for the expressed purpose of
giving to us the eternal treasures that he won for us on the cross.
Jesus redeemed the whole world by his life of perfect obedience
and his suffering for the sin of the world.
He died. He was
buried. He was raised again for our justification.
He then showed himself alive to his disciples.
All four Gospels recount Christ’s calling of the apostles as
his first ministers. The
account most familiar to us is probably the one in St. John’s Gospel
because it is included in the Small Catechism.
Jesus displayed to his disciples the wounds he received as he
took away the sin of the world. He
spoke peace to them. It was
the peace promised on Christmas and won on Calvary as he drank to the
bitter dregs the wrath of God against all sinners.
This peace was not only intended for those frightened men,
however. He said, “‘As
the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’
And when he has said this, He breathed on them, and said,
‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If
you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the
sins of any, they are retained.’” (St. John 20:22-23)
In the other Gospel accounts Jesus tells his ministers to preach
the gospel, to baptize, to feed his sheep, and thereby to take oversight
of the flock. On the
previous Thursday evening he had given them his body and blood to eat
and to drink and said, “This do in remembrance of Me.”
Jesus won the treasures of forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation and
then he gave these treasures to his holy church.
St. John writes, “there are three that bear witness on earth:
the Spirit, the water, and the blood” (1 John 5:8).
Jesus gave to his church the gospel and the sacraments.
The pure preaching of the gospel and the right administration of
the sacraments are the means of grace.
They literally bring God’s grace to us where we live.
We hear the gospel and we hear our Lord Jesus telling us that he
has taken our sins away on the cross, justified us, set us free, and
provided our eternal home in heaven.
This is how the Holy Spirit creates and sustains saving faith in
pure preaching of the gospel and the right administration of the
sacraments are the marks of the church.
We can mark or identify the true church by recognizing these pure
marks. Since no one can see
or judge the faith of his neighbor, we may not and must not presume to
discern who does and does not have the true faith. We most certainly can know, however, if the pure gospel is
preached and the sacraments are rightly administered. The means of grace are also the marks of the church.
pure preaching of the gospel and the right administration of the
sacraments are the duty – the sole duty – of Christ’s ministers.
Jesus established his ministry among us for this reason and this
reason alone: that through the preaching of the gospel and the
administration of the sacraments sinners might be justified through
faith alone. The purpose of
Christ’s ministry is thus to preserve us in the true and saving faith
through all trials, temptations, and demonic assaults.
means of grace, the marks of the church, and the duties of the office of
the public ministry are one and the same.
And it is our Lord Jesus who has determined this.
This is why we had better be sure of the truth of our doctrine
when it comes to the office of the public ministry.
This office is Christ’s precious gift to us and it is Jesus who
determines what it is.
gave the office of the ministry to his church.
It does not belong to the ministers alone.
It is his gift to all Christians and to every individual
Christian. However, he did
not simply toss out the duties of this office in a haphazard fashion,
leaving it up to the church to figure out what to do with them.
Jesus personally called his first ministers and told them quite
specifically what he wanted them to do and why he wanted them to do it.
They were to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments for
the salvation of sinners.
cannot understand what God teaches us about the office of the public
ministry until we understand what God teaches us about how we are
justified and saved. The
Augsburg Confession carefully lays down for us the order of salvation.
In Article II we confess the doctrine of original sin and our
need for a Savior. In
Article III we confess that Jesus is our Savior and that he has
reconciled us to God. In
Article IV we confess that we cannot become righteous before God by our
own works or merits, but that we receive the forgiveness of sins and
righteousness before God by grace for Christ’s sake through faith when
we believe that God, for Christ’s sake, forgives us our sins.
In Article V we confess that God instituted the office of the
ministry to provide the gospel and the sacraments so that we may obtain
the faith through which we are justified.
Through the gospel that is preached and through the sacraments
that are administered the Holy Spirit is given and works faith where and
when God wills in those who hear the gospel.
A simple way to understand the office of the ministry is to see
it as God transcending space and time and bringing us to Calvary and to
the empty tomb, or rather, bringing Calvary and the empty tomb to us.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
No, I was not! But
my crucified and risen Lord Jesus comes to me today.
He washes me at the Font, he absolves me through the words of his
minister, he preaches the words that are Spirit and life to me from the
Pulpit, and he feeds me with his body and blood at the Altar.
I am thereby justified by faith as the Holy Spirit leads me to
trust in the words of salvation that I hear.
You and I need to know that the man who baptizes, absolves, preaches, and administers the Holy Supper has been put there by God and so acts in the stead and by the command of Jesus. We need to be certain that the office Jesus instituted when he called his first ministers remains with us even today. Since Christ gave the office of the ministry to his church we can be certain that when the church calls a pastor it is God himself who acts through that call and puts his minister into the office he has instituted. We confess in Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession that “nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call.” St. Paul in Romans 10:15 asks, “And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” Clearly, they cannot. Yet we read in Acts 20:28 that it was the Holy Spirit who made the pastors in Ephesus overseers of the flock and those pastors had not been chosen directly by Jesus but through the agency of the church. This is how we can know without any doubt that the men called today through the church are called by God just as surely as Jesus Christ himself chose the original ministers when he called the apostles.
don’t teach the false notion that only a pastor who has received the
laying on of hands from a bishop with the so called “apostolic
succession” is rightly in the office of the ministry.
We do, however, teach that our ministers are successors to the
apostles. Listen to these
words from Article XXVIII of the Augsburg Confession:
ministry of Christ among us is not the ministry or service that man
offers up to God. Christ’s
ministry is rather the ministry or service that God offers to us.
Through his ministers Christ gives to us the eternal treasures
that he won for us by his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering
and death. After he
purchased our salvation, he rose from the dead and instituted the
ministry of reconciliation to which he graciously binds himself to the
end of time.
the 19th Century the Norwegian Synod, the Missouri Synod, and
the Wisconsin Synod were united in what they taught about the office of
the public ministry. They were united because these three synods of the old
Synodical Conference subscribed unconditionally to the Lutheran
Confessions. They had
different histories, cultures, and languages.
The Saxons who formed the Missouri Synod came to this country
under the leadership of a tyrannical bishop that they deposed shortly
after their arrival in America. They
were then required to go back to the Scriptures and the Lutheran
Confessions to prove that the office of the ministry did indeed belong
to the church and not just to the pastors. The Norwegian Synod, on the
other hand, had to appeal to the Lutheran Confessions to oppose
self-appointed lay preachers who presumed to preach without a call from
the church to do so. Quite
different circumstances brought these Norwegian and German Lutheran
most of the second part of the 19th century, C. F. W.
Walther, the first president of the Missouri Synod, was also the leader
of confessional Lutherans in America. When the Norwegian Synod was first begun and they were in
search of a seminary in America at which they could train their future
pastors they turned to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.
What united those German and Norwegian Lutheran immigrants was a
common devotion to the pure gospel teaching contained in the confessions
of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
The established Lutheran churches in the eastern part of the
United States had long before compromised with the Protestant mainstream
and the Pietists in the Midwest likewise despised the authority of the
Lutheran Confessions. The
founders of the Norwegian Synod – the mother church of the Evangelical
Lutheran Synod – were strongly committed to the Lutheran Confessions
because they knew that these confessions faithfully taught the pure
teaching of the Bible, God’s inerrant word.
cannot overstate how important it was for our forefathers to remain
faithful to the teaching of the Lutheran Confessions.
Time does not permit me to give a thorough presentation of what
the old Synodical Conference taught on the doctrine of the ministry.
If you really want to know what they taught, you simply must read
the Lutheran Confessions and take their scriptural testimony to heart.
The founders of the Norwegian Synod regarded themselves and their
posterity – you and me – to be bound to the biblical teaching
contained in the Lutheran Confessions.
It was the confessional fidelity of the synods that comprised the
Synodical Conference that united them.
And they were united.
we examine the teaching of the Norwegian Synod, the Missouri Synod, and
the Wisconsin Synod during the 19th century, we find an
amazing agreement on the office of the public ministry.
They agreed that this office was instituted by God and was
distinct from the priesthood of all believers.
They agreed that this office belonged to the whole church and not
to the ministers only. They
agreed that this office was entered into by a legitimate call from the
church, and while they refused to say that ordination was absolutely
necessary, they never failed to ordain their ministers.
They also all spoke of the office of the public ministry and the
office of the parish pastor as one and the same thing.
should not surprise us since this is how the Lutheran Confessions speak
of the office. The minister
is the one who preaches the gospel, baptizes, absolves, administers the
Lord’s Supper, and provides evangelical discipline and oversight of
the congregation. We
usually call the one who does this the pastor. In the Bible and in the
Lutheran Confessions he is called by a number of titles, including
preacher, elder, pastor, teacher, and bishop.
These various titles all refer to the same office.
you were to read over the appendixes you have received you will see that
the 19th century confessional Lutherans of the Norwegian
Synod, Missouri Synod, and Wisconsin Synod all taught that the office of
the ministry is the pastoral office.
The purpose and the duties of the office were spelled out in
Article V of the Augsburg Confession which in the German calls the
ministry the “preaching office” and the call into the office was
mandated by Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession.
Consider, first of all, Walther’s Theses on the Ministry that
you have as Appendix A. Walther
clearly identifies the ministry of preaching with the pastoral office. Appendix B is the Theses on Lay Preaching adopted by our
synod in 1862. In theses
one, two, three, and five, we read of the “public ministerial
office” and learn that it is the only office instituted by God for the
edification of Christians and that it is for our salvation by God’s
word. Who is in this
“public ministerial office”? Thesis
six tells us. The pastor*
1907 Catechism of the Norwegian Synod that you have as Appendix C
teaches the same thing. In
explaining the meaning of the Call that is required by Article XIV of
the Augsburg Confession, question #516 asks, “Who are those that are
properly the Church’s servants?”
The answer? “Those
who by a proper Call from God are ordained can rightfully teach others
God’s Word and legitimately administer the Sacraments.”
Who is the one who teaches God’s word and administers the
sacraments? He is the
pastor. The person who is called into the office of the public
ministry may carry out all of the duties of the office.
is the teaching of the great Wisconsin Synod theologian, Adolf Hoenecke.
Look under Appendix D at the first thesis that he prepared in his
Dogmatics on the office of the ministry.
He writes, “The teaching office, by which we here mean the
pastors, the estate composed of the servants of the Word, is divinely
unanimous testimony of the great confessional Lutheran theologians of
the 19th Century Synodical Conference was that the office of
the public ministry and the pastoral office were one and the same thing.
started out in a dispute in Cincinnati in 1899 about a father who was
excommunicated from a Missouri Synod congregation for no good reason.
I’ll spare you the details of the case, but it ended up
involving both the Missouri and the Wisconsin synods and it raised the
question about who had the right to excommunicate.
Was it only the local congregation?
Or did a synod also have that right?
If so, a synod was also a church.
If only the local congregation could excommunicate, this must
mean that only the local congregation was a church.
scriptural and confessional definition of the church is simple.
We read in the Augsburg Confession, Article VII, “The Church is
the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and
the sacraments rightly administered.”
Obviously this takes place in the local congregation.
Everyone agreed that the local congregation was a church. But did this definition of the church apply to other
gatherings? Some said yes,
some said no.
Wisconsin Synod theologian by the name of August Pieper argued strongly
in favor of the opinion that a synod was a church in the very same sense
as a congregation was a church. He insisted that God had not ordained any particular form of
the church. The church was
any gathering or grouping of Christians around the word of God.
The local congregation was not the divinely established form of
the church. August
Pieper’s view came to be known as the “Wisconsin” position, while
the view that only the congregation was properly to be regarded as the
church came to be known as the “Missouri” position.
Proponents of both views were found in both of these synods as
well as in our own ELS. I
suspect that most folks are somewhere in between the two positions,
teaching that the congregation is a church in a sense that the synod is
not, but still believing that the synod is a church in a sense because
it is made up of churches. At
any rate, we don’t have the time today to settle this argument that is
still being argued.
reason I have to bring it is that the flip side of this debate about the
church is a debate about the ministry as well. Of course, that’s to be
expected. Since the
ministry belongs to the church, and the church has the authority to call
ministers, if there is no divinely fixed form for the church it stands
to reason that there is no divinely fixed form for the ministry, either.
This was August Pieper’s position.
until this debate, the Synodical Conference was agreed that the office
of the public ministry and the pastoral office were the same thing and
that this was the only office that Jesus instituted for his church on
earth. When they spoke of
other offices in the church, such as parochial school teachers, they
would call them auxiliary or assisting offices.
Our Lutheran Confessions refer to the schoolteacher only once.
In the Large Catechism Luther teaches us that the office of the
schoolteacher derives from the office of father and mother.
We read, “Out of the authority of parents all other authority
is derived and developed. Where
a father is unable by himself to bring up his children, he calls upon a
schoolmaster to teach him.” (LC Ten Commandments, 141)
August Pieper’s older brother, Reinhold, taught the same thing. Within the old Synodical Conference some joined the parochial
school teacher’s office to the pastoral office since it carried out a
portion of the pastor’s duties under the pastor’s supervision.
This was the view of Walther, Hoenecke, Francis Pieper and
course, in the old country, the schoolteacher would teach religion
according to the rules of the state.
In America, with separation of church and state, the church had
to figure out just where to “plug in” the parochial school teacher.
Our forefathers did not always agree on precisely how this should
be done. They did agree, however, that the pastoral office was
divinely instituted and that the office of parochial school teacher was
not divinely instituted. The
pastoral office was necessary for the church.
The church could not exist without it.
The office of parochial school teacher carried out duties already
assigned by God to parents and pastors.
August Pieper and his colleagues in Wauwatosa did was to break radical
new ground. They said that the “preaching office” of Articles V and
XIV of the Augsburg Confession was not the pastoral office. They taught
that the pastoral office itself was just one form of the office that
Jesus instituted. According
to this opinion, we need not say that the schoolteacher’s office
derives from the pastoral office. We
can teach instead that it is simply another form of the ministry that
the church may establish. And,
of course, the church may establish as many forms of the ministry as she
wishes subject, of course, to the scriptural command that everything be
done decently and in good order and that women may not have authority
over men in the church.
is the new Wisconsin Synod view of the ministry as presented in Appendix
E. Look at the single antithesis at the end.
It reads, “We hold it to be untenable to say that the pastorate
of the local congregation (Pfarramt) as a specific form of the public ministry is specifically
instituted by the Lord in contrast to other forms of the public
ministry.” The unanimous
view of the theologians of the Synodical Conference, including the
venerable Wisconsin Synod theologian, Adolf Hoenecke, is regarded as
untenable in the Wisconsin Synod today.
new Wisconsin Synod opinion originated when English was replacing German
as the language of the Wisconsin Synod and the Missouri Synod.
The term “preaching office” – an office that surely would
require a preacher – came into English as ministry, which is a rather
vague term. We all know
what a preacher is. A
preacher preaches. What is
a minister, however? He
need not be a preacher at all. This
explains the current practice of talking about the “preaching
ministry” as a reference to pastors and the “teaching ministry” as
a reference to parochial school teachers.
Now there would be nothing particularly wrong with talking this
way if we made it clear that God himself instituted the so called
“preaching ministry” and that the church instituted the so called
“teaching ministry.” Unfortunately,
this is not made clear.
let me be very clear about this. The
Bible says that Jesus sent out preachers who preached.
That is why our Lutheran Confessions identify the office Jesus
established as the preaching office.
The church certainly may establish assisting offices that will
carry out the duties of both parents and pastors and when she does so
these servants should be honored, even as children should honor their
parents and their pastors. However,
the honor we show to one another as we seek to carry out the duties of
our various callings must never confuse what God has instituted with
what the church has instituted.
me illustrate my concern. God
has instituted Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
He did not institute Confirmation.
We may observe the rite of confirmation as a church custom or we
may not, as circumstances might determine.
But we may not fail to baptize or to celebrate the Lord’s
Supper. Similarly, we may
have parochial schools staffed by dedicated, confessional Lutheran men
and women who carry out a holy calling as they assist parents and
pastors in their God given duties.
Or, we may choose not to have parochial schools.
We may not choose not to have pastors.
The church is the assembly of saints among whom the gospel is
purely preached and the sacraments are rightly administered.
God has joined together the means of grace, the marks of the
church, and the duties of the office of the ministry.
What God has joined together let not man put asunder.
formed the office of the ministry by putting together into one specific
position the duties of preaching, teaching, baptizing, absolving,
administering the Lord’s Supper, and taking oversight of the flock.**
Every single duty of the office is for the purpose of bringing us
to the saving faith and giving us eternal life.
The law that the pastor preaches always serves the purpose of the
gospel. When you come to a Lutheran church and listen to a Lutheran
minister you should be hearing the words of life that reveal to your
sinful heart the blood of Jesus shed for you on the cross for the
forgiveness of your sins. Everything
the minister does is for that very purpose.
It is an evangelical purpose.
The minister does not have any civil authority.
The minister may and must preach God’s law to you, and this law
condemns you to hell. That is the main purpose of the law preached by
the Lutheran minister. But
he may not issue you a fine, require you to do penance, or administer
any kind of physical penalty at all.
The purpose of his law preaching is to lead you to despair of
yourself and to acknowledge your utter sinfulness and helplessness so
that you will learn to trust in the gospel alone for your salvation.
This is the purpose of the ministry as we confess it so clearly
in Article V of the Augsburg Confession.
parochial school teacher also teaches God’s word to the children.
When he or she teaches the gospel that gospel has the very same
power and comfort as the gospel preached by the pastor.
However, while the pastor’s office is solely to administer the
means of grace, the schoolteacher’s office includes administering
external discipline. She
must apply penalties. Little
Johnny must sit in the corner, have a “time out”, write sentences,
or receive a “D” on a test. The
primary purpose of the law for the parochial school teacher is to
require the children to behave. It
is her duty to discipline them so that they may become responsible
citizens and productive members of society.
This is what parents have the right to expect.
have learned something over the years about the “ministry” of the
Christian Day School teacher. I have learned that even the most pious, dedicated, and
thoroughly orthodox Lutheran teacher cannot do the job that God has
given him or her to do by relying solely on the power of the gospel.
It doesn’t work. A pastor, on the other hand, cannot do his job unless he
relies solely on the power of the gospel.
The reason is obvious. The
nature of the tasks is different.
The pastor dare not evaluate his work on the basis of the performance of his parishioners. Of course, many pastors do, and they invariably fall into legalistic and manipulative techniques by which to improve the outward behavior of people instead of relying on the power of the gospel to create faith, new life, and new desires. The schoolteacher, on the other hand, must evaluate her work on the basis of the performance of her students. If the children cannot read or write or if they talk when she is talking, she isn’t doing her job.
What I am saying is that the essence of the pastor’s job is evangelical, while the essence of the schoolteacher’s job is legal. But does not the gospel motivate everything that the parochial school teacher does? And is it not the power as well to sanctify every single activity in the classroom and every kind of study? Indeed it is. And this gospel sanctifies as well the holy vocations of the Christian mother, father, farmer, lawyer, laborer, and civil servant. When we teach our Christian Day School teachers that they are called into the public ministry of the church they will naturally begin to believe that what they do when they discipline children is Christ’s ministry. This breeds legalism. God instituted the full ministry of preaching the gospel, forgiving and retaining sins, administering the sacraments, and serving as the representative of Jesus Christ for the benefit of Christ’s people. But Jesus doesn’t give out “C’s” or make you sit in the corner or give you homework. This is not Christ’s ministry. When we call the actual work of the Christian Day School teacher the work of the public ministry, we confuse law and gospel. We redefine Christ’s evangelical ministry and turn it into a law ministry. This is the way it works.
attended Lutheran parochial schools for most of my grade school and high
school years. I have served
as the pastor of about forty Christian Day School teachers over the
years. I served as the
pastor of a Lutheran congregation with a parochial school that was also
affiliated with a local Lutheran high school for over eight years. My children’s total years of instruction by Christian Day
School teachers is about ninety years.
I share this biographical information with you just so that you
will know I have a little bit of personal experience with the parochial
school system. What I have
learned is that the very best Christian Day School teachers are the ones
who act as if they are the children’s mom or dad.
In my opinion we have done a great disservice to many faithful
Lutheran schoolteachers by telling them that they are in the ministry.
They have fretted over their inability to run a classroom by the gospel.
But nobody can do that! It
is an impossible task! I am
a minister of the gospel and as such I can do my job without the
exercise of any coercive power whatsoever.
I am also a father and I cannot do that job without ever
resorting to coercion. So
why don’t we tell our Christian Day School teachers that they
represent the fathers and the mothers of the children they serve and
that their offices derive from the parental office as the Large
Catechism teaches? Surely
there can be no greater or higher calling than to raise children.
If our desire is to honor those who devote themselves to this
holy task let us do so by extolling the divinely ordained office of
father and mother. Does a
Christian Day School teacher have a divine call?
Yes! By all means,
yes! It is the divine call to assist parents in the rearing of
is nothing inherently wrong with the idea that a parochial school
teacher takes over a part of the pastor’s job.
When our forefather’s set down that arrangement and spoke of a
divine call for the teacher on that account, it was perfectly
permissible for them to do so. But
they could just as easily have defined the office of Christian Day
School teacher entirely as an extension of the office of father and
mother as Luther did and as Reinhold Pieper did.
Frankly, I wish they had. It
would have spared us much confusion in our day. But we can agree to disagree on precisely how we should
categorize the work of the Christian Day School teacher since this
office does carry out duties that belong to both parents and pastors.
What I hope we do not do is to elevate to a doctrinal status the
claim that a parochial school teacher is in the office of the public
ministry. According to the
Augsburg Confession, only preachers are in the office of the public
ministry and parochial school teachers are not preachers.
Time does not permit a thorough analysis of the Theses on the
Ministry prepared by the Doctrine Committee of our synod.
The members of the Doctrine Committee should be commended for
spending so much time and work on the theses they have prepared.
It is especially difficult to work hard on something and then
have to see your work criticized. This
is why I offer my criticism as a brother who sincerely appreciates the
hard work of his brothers even when he has to express disagreement with
them. Much of what the
Theses say is quite sound and needs to be affirmed.
I cannot support the Theses for two basic reasons.
First, they fail to distinguish correctly between what is
divinely instituted and what is not.
Second, they define the ministry too loosely.
Theses do not say that the pastoral office is divinely instituted.
In Thesis 6 we read that “a form like the pastoral office is
indispensable to the church.” Nowhere
do we read that the pastoral office is instituted by Christ.
The reason for this is that the Theses are designed to agree with
the new Wisconsin Synod teaching that the pastoral office is no more
divinely instituted than any other form that has been or might be
invented. But when Jesus
instituted this office he told specific men to preach the gospel and
administer the sacraments. This
is what he does today as well through the call of the church.
This is, by definition, the job of the pastor.
Therefore, the church must acknowledge that the pastoral office
is more than merely the most “comprehensive form” of the office of
the ministry. It is the office of the ministry.
is not to say that the church is not at liberty to establish offices to
assist the pastoral office, whether this be parochial school teachers,
Sunday School teachers, or whatever. This is not to say that the church is not at liberty to call
pastors to a more focused form of the office, as, for example, a
visitation pastor, a chaplain, a missionary, or a theological professor.
This we may do. What we may not do is confuse the divinely mandated office to
which our Lord has bound his gracious presence to the end of time and
without which we cannot even be Christ’s church with any other office
that we in Christian liberty may choose to establish.
Second, the Theses define the office too loosely by saying that
the ministry is any use of the means of grace on behalf of the church
and in the name and stead of Christ.
This is an inadequate definition. By this definition we can have
a divine call into the office of the public ministry to carry out any
portion of any function of the office.
The possibilities are endless.
Jesus did not simply toss out duties to be done and leave it up
to us how to arrange those duties.
There is an organic connection between baptizing and preaching
and teaching and absolving and administering the Lord’s Supper to
God’s people. The word
and the sacraments go together. To
conceive of the ministry apart from the full use of these precious
treasures of God’s grace is to distort its very essence.
Finely tuned distinctions between comprehensive and limited
forms, formal and informal calls, and so forth may look good on paper
and may even work in the abstract, but Christ didn’t institute an
abstract office. He called
real flesh and blood men (not women) and he gave them specific tasks.
He does so today. Since
this is Christ’s ministry we must accept it as his gift and not
dismember it according to our own fancy.
It is his ministry, not ours.
We may not do with it what we choose.
C. F. W. Walther taught that the sheep must judge their
shepherds. He was right.
The laity of the church have the duty to judge doctrine.
This is why meetings such as this one are so important.
We need to talk theology together.
The ministers of the church have the duty to explain to the laity
that their doctrine is sound. I
have argued today that the office of the public ministry and the
pastoral office are the same thing.
I believe that I have shown you this is the teaching of the
Scriptures, the Lutheran Confessions, and the Synodical Conference.
It has also been the teaching of the ELS.
The office of the ministry is also called the office of the keys. Let me read to you question and answer number 297 from the
1981 edition of the ELS Catechism.
“How do Christians publicly administer the Office of the Keys?
Christians publicly administer the Office of the Keys by calling
qualified men to forgive and to retain sins on their behalf (office of
the public ministry).” (p 213)
me conclude by speaking from my heart in expressing my admiration of the
Wisconsin Synod. While the much larger Missouri Synod got bitten so badly by
the respectability bug that she was willing to compromise with error
after error, the Wisconsin Synod stood firmly on the word of God even
when it wasn’t popular to do so.
She stood firmly for biblical inerrancy and the pure gospel while
she courageously opposed religious unionism, feminism, and numerous
other errors, even taking a stand against the Boy Scouts.
That takes courage. She
stood by the ELS as a faithful brother should, and we owe our brothers
respect. I want you all to
know that this is how I feel.
I also believe that a brother’s duty to a brother is never to
imitate him when he is wrong.*** We
in the ELS should not adopt the new Wisconsin Synod position on the
ministry. We should show
our brothers the kind of love and respect that takes true courage.
We should tell them in love where we must respectfully disagree
with them as we invite them to return with us to the confessional
Lutheran foundation from which our synods were born.
Norwegian version uses the word prest
which translates into the English, according to Einar Haugen’s Norsk
Engelsk Ordbok as clergyman, minister, or pastor.
Of course it is related to the English word, priest, a word we
don’t ordinary use to refer to a pastor.
true that a pastor will at times be called to a position in which he
does not ordinarily carry out all of the duties of the office.
If the discussion of “forms” of the ministry were merely a
discussion about whether or not a pastor remains in the ministry if he
takes a call to teach at the seminary or to begin a mission congregation
somewhere, that would be one kind of discussion. We could affirm our historic teaching that God did indeed
establish the pastoral office but that at times the incumbents of this
office may be serving in a more focused or specialized area. Still, they would be pastors who could, if necessary, take on
the full duties of the one office.
***My disagreement with the Wisconsin Synod on this matter is not an accusation of false doctrine against the Wisconsin Synod.
Teaching of the Synodical Conference on the
of the Public Ministry
Walther’s Theses on the Ministry
1862 Theses on Lay Preaching
1907 Catechism of the Norwegian Synod
The Old Teaching of the Wisconsin Synod (Adolf Hoenecke, 1835 –
The New Teaching of the Wisconsin Synod (adopted in 1969)
Walther’s Theses on the Ministry
holy ministry, or the pastoral office, is an office distinct from the priestly
office, which belongs to all believers.
ministry, or the pastoral office, is not a human ordinance, but an office
established by God Himself.
ministry of preaching is not an arbitrary office, but its character is such
that the Church has been commanded to establish it and is ordinarily bound to
it until the end of days.
ministry of preaching is not a peculiar order, set up over and against the
common estate of Christians, and holier than the later, like the priesthood of
the Levites, but it is an office of service.
ministry of preaching is conferred by God through the congregation, as holder
of all church power, or of the keys, and by its call, as prescribed by God.
The ordination of those called, with the laying on of hands, is not by divine
institution but is an apostolic church ordinance and merely a public, solemn
confirmation of the call.
The ministry of preaching is conferred by God through the congregation,
as holder of all church power, or of the keys, and by its call, as prescribed
The ordination of those called, with the laying on of hands, is not by
divine institution but is an apostolic church ordinance and merely a public,
solemn confirmation of the call.
ministry is the authority conferred by God through the congregation, as
holder of the priesthood and of all church power, to administer in public
office the common rights of the spiritual priesthood in behalf of all.
is the highest office in the Church, from which, as its stem, all other
offices of the Church issue.
unconditional obedience is due to the ministry of preaching when the
preacher is ministering the Word of God. However, the preacher may not
dominate over the Church; he has, accordingly, no right to make new laws,
to arrange indifferent matters and ceremonies arbitrarily, and to impose
and execute excommunication ALONE, without a previous verdict of the
A. Reverence and unconditional obedience is due to the ministry of preaching when the preacher is ministering the Word of God.
The preacher may not
dominate over the Church; he has accordingly no right to make new laws and
to arrange indifferent matters and ceremonies arbitrarily.
The preacher has no right to impose and execute excommunication
ALONE, without a previous verdict of the entire congregation.
According to divine right the function of passing judgment on doctrine belongs indeed to the ministry of preaching. However, also the laymen have this right, and for this reason they also have a seat and vote with the preachers in church courts and councils.
B. 1862 Theses on Lay
Preaching of the Norwegian Synod (From
Grace for Grace, p 139)
God has instituted the public ministerial office for the public
God has not instituted any other office for the public edification
When a man assumes the direction of the public edification of
It is a sin when a person assumes this (office) without a call or
It is both a right and a duty in case of actual need for anyone
The only correct definition of "need" is that there exists a
When such need exists, efforts should be made to relieve it by
A Selection from the 1907 Edition of the Norwegian Synod Catechism
by Dr. Johann Conrad Dietrich (in use when the “Little Norwegian
Synod” – now called the Evangelical Lutheran Synod – was formed in
Shall then in accordance with this any Christian be so bold, though
himself having no call, as to administer the Office of the Keys?
By no means; for "No one in
the Church shall teach or preach or administer the sacraments without a
proper Call". [Augsburg Confession, Article 14]
Rom. 10:15: And how shall they
preach, unless they are sent?
1 Cor. 12:29: Are all Apostles? Are
all Prophets? Are all Teachers?
1 Cor. 4:1: Let a man regard us in
this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
James 3:1: My brothers! Let not many
of you become teachers, knowing that as such we shall incur a stronger
Jer. 23:21: I have not sent these
prophets, but they ran.
Hebr. 5:4: And no one takes the honor
to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.
Who are those that are properly the Church's servants?
Those who by a proper Call from
God are ordained can rightfully teach others God's Word and legitimately
administer the Sacraments.
The Old Teaching of the Wisconsin Synod (from Adolf Hoenecke, Evangelical
Lutheran Dogmatics, Northwestern Publishing House, 1999, page 187).
The teaching office (Lehramt),
by which we here mean the pastors, the estate composed of the servants of
the Word, is divinely instituted.
The New Teaching of the Wisconsin Synod (officially adopted in
Statements of the WELS
ON THE CHURCH AND MINISTRY
to the Theses
Theses on the Church and Ministry
1. All Christians
are equal before God, neither superior nor inferior to one another, and
all are equally entrusted with the same ministry of the Gospel. 1 Pe 2:9.
Hence no one may assume the functions of the public ministry except
through a legitimate call. Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope
67-69: The authority to call (ius
vocandi) is implied in the authority to administer the Gospel (ius ministrandi evangelii) given to the Church. Hence, it is proper
to speak of the derived right of local congregations to call.
We hold it to be
untenable to say that the pastorate of the local congregation (Pfarramt)
as a specific form of the public ministry is specifically instituted by
the Lord in contrast to other forms of the public ministry.