I began the last chapter by referring to a statement that my Bishop writes on the cover of the Bibles given at the ordination of Deacons: “In the heart of the Presbyter is the heart of a Deacon.” This statement not only implies that the Diaconate extends into the Presbyterate but that the Presbyter has a serving ministry similar to the Deacon. The Presbyter just like the Deacon is shaped by the threefold ministry of Christ: Prophet, Priest, and King. He is different in that he is a Presbyter, called to serve a local parish. But he is to reflect the ministry of Christ in his calling as Presbyter. The Biblical qualifications required of him follow the threefold ministry structure. And, his functions as a Presbyter can be organized the same way. Let us begin with the functions of his office where we see most clearly the ministry of Christ. Threefold Ministry of the Presbyter Shortly after Deacons were appointed, the need for Elders (Presbyter) arose. Luke describes the establishment of the first Presbyters, And when they [Paul and Barnabus] had preached the Gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they believed. And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia (Acts 14:21-25). Immediately we begin to see a major difference between the Deacon and Presbyter. Deacons were mostly temporary. When the Apostles wanted to establish more permanent oversight of churches, they appointed Elders. They ordained them city by city keeping in mind the context of the passage above. Notice that the Apostles were moving from city to city: Lystra, Iconium, and so on. A Church in the early Church was always in terms of a city: the church of Corinth, Ephesus, Rome, and so forth. A Church was not – page 65 – Presbyters what we normally think of in the Twentieth Century, so we must be careful not to read into the New Testament what we want t o see. My interpretation of this passage is confirmed as we compare it with what Paul says to Titus, “Appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). The plurality of Elders was at the city level of the Church, leaving open the possibility that individual Presbyters could pastor smaller church groupings within the city, what I will develop later as the parish church. The role of the Presbyter was distinguished from the Deacon in that the former normally served in a local Church in a more permanent arrangement. For this reason, he is called a shepherd, as Peter equates the role of Shepherd and Presbyter when he says, “The elders who are among you I exhort . . . Shepherd the flock of God” (I Peter 5:l). The relationship between shepherding and Eldering is reflected in Luke’s statement above, “Through many tribulations entering the kingdom of God.” The Elder is a Shepherd who is entrusted with the care of the souls under him, the English word care corning from the Latin, cur, from which one of the ancient titles for the Pastor and Assistant Pastor, Curate. Thus, a Presbyter is a Shepherd, explaining the connection with Christ, who was called the Good Shepherd (John 10), as Peter goes on to say, “Elders . . . Shepherd the flock of God. . . . and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (I Peter 5:1-4). The parallel is striking, reminding us of the famous Good Shepherd passage that is the Gospel lesson appointed in the Book of Common Prayer for the ordination of a Presbyter. I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father, and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice, and there will be one flock and one shepherd (John 10:7-16). – page 66 – Captains and Courts Christ’s ministry is the model for ministry. With regard to the Deacon, he is to serve as Christ served, Deaconed. Pertaining to the Presbyter, he is to shepherd as Christ tended His flock. What Christ was, He tells the officers of the Church to be. As He was a servant, Church leaders are t o serve. As the Good Shepherd, they are to be shepherds. Within this shepherding model of Christ, all three offices of king, priest, and prophet are found. Since Christ specifically defines Presbyters as shepherds, we only have to examine Christ’s role as Shepherd to understand the office of Presbyter. First, the kingly aspect of the shepherd: Presbyters are like shepherds in that they are to lead the congregation, an inherently kingly task. But kings may not seem to have anything to do with shepherds. In the Bible, they do. The first kings of Israel were called within a pastoral context. Saul was selected while he searched for his father’s donkeys (I Samuel 9:4). David was literally a shepherd boy. Why? What is the Bible trying to tell us? Leadership is pastoral not forceful, the best example of which is tending sheep. The Apostle Peter details the pastoral nature of leading, when he says, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (I Peter 5:2-3). Leading sheep is delicate. According to Peter, who was told by Christ to “tend sheep” (John 21:16), pastora1eadership required a gentle hand. It woos and moves the sheep along, not being heavy-handed. It is persuasive not pugilistic. It is considerate not caustic. It is understanding not underhanded. It is self-reflective not sanctimonious. The Biblical Presbyter leads by being an example of basic attitudes and behavior toward the sheep. If the Pastor is angry, he will evoke anger. If he is belligerent, he will face stridency. On the other hand, if he is tender, interestingly derived from the pastoral word tend, he will cultivate the same spirit. The pastoral tone of a Biblical Pastor was recently provided by an explanation of leadership: “A leader is a person who gets people to do what they don’t want to do to accomplish what they want to achieve.” Thus, the Pastor has a kingly role, historically illustrated by the title, Rector (leader), not according to the world’s standard of power but according to Christ canon pastoral care. Second, the priestly aspect of the shepherd: Biblical Presbyter/shepherds are priestly in their task, keeping in mind that the priesthood is Melchizedekkal and sacrificial – page 67 – Presbyters (sacerdotal). The original priestly task of Adam was to feed, being called to “till” the ground. This feeding character of the priesthood continued through the Old Testament and was made a particular part of the Melchizedekkal priesthood when Melchizedek served Abraham bread and wine after the defeat of Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14:18). It carried into the ministry of Christ as He fed God’s people, and even extended to the Church through the challenge given to Peter after the Resurrection. Christ told him to “Feed the sheep” (John 21:17), a distinctly Melchizedekkal commission. He thereby commanded the pastors of the Church to do the same through both means of grace: the Word preached and the Word eaten in the sacrament. Both are called food in Scripture. Both are nourishment on the Living Christ when taken in faith. Thus, the Presbyter performs a Melchizedekkal priestly function when he teaches the Word of God and administers the sacrament of Holy Communion. Third, the prophetic aspect of the shepherd: Biblical Presbyter/shepherds are given a prophetic responsibility of watching the flock so as to protect it from wolves. The Apostle Paul commanded the Ephesian Presbyters, Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears (Acts 20:28-31). Paul’s language is the same used to describe the role of the prophet in the Old Testament. In fact, The image of pastor as watchman, or protective, vigilant, allnight guard, was already well developed by the Hebrew prophets. Radical accountability to God was the central feature of this analogy, as dramatically stated by Ezekiel: “The word of the Lord came to me: . . . I have made you a watchman for the Israelites . . . it may be that a righteous man turns away and does wrong . . . I will hold you answerable for his death” (Ezekiel 3 : 16-21) . . . Listen to the analogy: The watchman over a city is responsible for the whole city, not just one street of it. If the watchman sleeps through an attack, the whole resultant damage is his responsibility. This was the covenantal analogy later applied repeatedly to the – page 68 – Captains and Courts pastor, who was charged with nothing less than the caring of the souls of an analogous small city, the ekklesia. If the congregation falls prey to destructive teaching or forgetfulness, whose responsibility can it be but that of the presbuteros, the guiding elder?16 The Presbyter was like a prophet to his congregation, standing watch over their souls. Without his vigilance, he would become an accomplice in the parish’s spiritual death. Thus, the Presbyter is called to be a shepherd, analogous to Christ. His ministry is the same threefold ministry of Christ. As he shepherds the flock of God, the congregation will sense that they are being ministered to by Christ as king, priest, and prophet, explaining why the Presbyter’s qualifications must exemplify the same threefold ministry of Christ. Qualifications For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you — If a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination (Titus 1:5-6). I will explain in detail why I believe that this particular list of qualifications differs from those of the Bishop in the following verses (Titus 1:7ff.). In short, Paul uses a different word for Elder, Episcopos, from which the word Episcopal is derived. Sometimes he uses presbuteros and episcopos interchangeably, but not always. In Titus, he doesn’t for reasons I will mention in the next chapter on the Bishop. For now, it is worth noting the qualifications of the Presbyter, listed in Titus and other passages to which I have already referred. The criteria for the Elder are organized easily in terms of the threefold offices of Christ. First, the Presbyter is expected to be “blameless” in his character, implying purity, a priestly characteristic. God’s priesthood is to be holy. As Peter says, Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, . . . you also as living stones are being built up a spiritual house, 16 Thomas Oden, Pastoral Theology, p.70. – page 69 – Presbyters a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (I Peter 2:l-5). The church is to be a holy priesthood and so are the Presbyters who minister within it. As the Body of Christ is to be priestly in character so are its officers. Second, the Presbyter is to be faithful his wife, a kingly attribute. In the Old Testament, kings were explicitly forbidden to accumulate wives (Deuteronomy 17:17). Why? The king represented the Lord. To be unfaithful to his wife conveyed that God would be unfaithful to His bride, the people of God. This sent a confused message to Israel because God was faithful when His people were not, the opposite of what the king’s unfaithfulness communicated. The Presbyter was to represent Christ to the people in his fidelity to his own family, the principle being that the Elder will treat the Church the way he does his wife. An adulterous Presbyter, therefore, sends the message of an unfaithful God. Nothing could be further from the truth, shedding light on the strict requirement of fidelity. Third, the Presbyter is to have believing children, a prophetic qualification. The distinctive of the prophetic office is bearing witness. If the Presbyter has believing children then he proves himself to be a faithful and vigilant witness to his own children. He also exemplifies God’s relationship with His children, encouraging the people of God to be faithful. Thus, the qualifications of the Presbyter reflect the need to image the threefold ministry of Christ. The Presbyter is to be Christlike in all three senses. As he is, he demonstrates accurately who Christ is. As he reproduces Christ in his life, he will in others, those who are given to his flock. Now that we have considered the threefold ministry of Christ as a standard of what the Presbyter does and who he is supposed to be, we can proceed to the actual organizational structure of Presbyters in the early Church. Early Church Organization As the Church developed into many congregations in geographic areas, the Apostles became involved in appointing presbyters, whose captain responsibilities consisted of serving as pastors (1 Peter 5:2). These pastors were also arranged in a hierarchy. Keeping Jethro’s system in view, the local pastor was initially the captain over the smaller cells, tens or ten family units. A captain over ten families, a house-church, or what can be called the parish, was the parish minister. Interestingly, in the historic Church and even in Judaism the presumption has – page 70 – Captains and Courts always been that ten families were needed to form a synagogue or church. Keep in mind, however, that local churches in the First Century were organized in terms of cities, explaining why the “elders being appointed from church to church” were understood to be city by city (Acts 14:21-23). Note carefully that the passage in Acts speaks of the travels of Paul and Barnabus from city to city. The appointment of Elders should be understood in this context because initially in the Church the organization was in terms of cities: the Church of Corinth, Ephesus, and so forth. The plurality of Elders in these Churches was on a city-wide scale. But this should not be understood to mean that what the Twentieth Century calls a Church is the same as what the New Testament called a Church, forcing the same criteria of organization on the parish, where more than likely one presbyter was assigned to each mini-church as distinguished from a citychurch where more than one Elder existed. Granted, a captain over fifties may have five other captains under him. But every indication in the New Testament is that although there should be more than one presbyter at the city-Church level, this was nowhere required, even though preferable, at the parish level. Virtually all of the instructions to churches in the New Testament should be understood as being given to a city-church. The Apostles never envisioned a “denominational” Church. They organized in terms of geography, directing their commands at the city level. It is necessary to understand this because many of the instructions can end up being forced in their application if the corporate or covenantal sense is missed. For example, the passage that says the sick are to call for the “Elders,” plural, presumes a city-church organization. What about a sick person at the parish level, what Jethro calls the “captain over ten families” where there may only be one Elder? Normally, the pastor (Presbyter) would call on other Presbyters from nearby parishes or he could even ask the local Bishop. If this couldn’t be worked out, however, he could go by himself. James‘ directions do not preclude one elder from coming in representative fashion to lay on hands (James 5). The representative principle is that one represents many, an aspect common to Western government, especially in America. As a representative of the larger body of Elders, the single Elder enables the Elders (plural) to reach out to the sick and ask God for healing. Some denominations have argued that healing cannot be performed where there is only one Elder, even attempting to use this passage as a prooftext for such a notion. But this forces the text out of its normal city-wide Church configuration. This is not to say that more than one Elder is preferred, but again, since James was not speaking to the parish – page 71 – Presbyters Church level in application, more than one Elder is not absolutely necessary for anointing and the laying on of hands. One Presbyter can go and represent the larger body. For example, when an emergency arises and a call is made for the police, usually one policeman shows up. It doesn’t occur to us to argue that unless more than one comes the police (corporately) have not responded. The assumption is that one represents the larger body and so it is with the elders of the Church. All of this is to say that a plurality of elders is mandated at the city level but not at the house phase. More than one elder can be at the parish and in many ways is desirable, especially if there are more than ten families. If there is, the sense of hierarchy should not be lost because scripture does mandate a captain system that requires captains down to the ten-family level. The buck must stop with someone, meaning that even if there is more than one Elder in a parish, one of them is the designated captain, the pastor. The traditional title in the Episcopal Church is rector, which means leader, an appropriate paraphrase of the Biblical concept of captain. If one of the Elders is not the captain, and if all of the Elders try to have equa1 status in terms of authority (Parity), a horrible rivalry will develop. Inescapability of Hierarchy Hierarchy is inescapable. If it is not established through an orderly system of designating captains through the government of the Church, Biblical and Ecclesiastical criteria, a hierarchy will be arrived at on the basis of other standards. For example, it might be established in terms of perceived knowledge or even academic degrees, what I call intellectual standards. It is a structure based on who knows the most or who is perceived to know the most regardless of real Godliness. The captain in this system becomes the “smartest.” If not a kind of rationalistic hierarchy, it can be formed according to experience. It is not a structure based on knowledge, a reaction to the rationalistic hierarchy. It is a matter of who has apparently the richest experience in Christ as the ultimate determination of the hierarchy. Of course, it will have the opposite problem of the previous kind of pecking order. It will have leaders with rich experience but who may not know much about the Bible and the historic creeds of the Church. This is a hierarchy of irrationalism, where the captain becomes the one who has the best “testimony.” Finally, if hierarchy is not set up in terms of the rational or irrational standards, it is sometimes established purely on – page 72 – Captains and Courts the basis of charisma, natural gifts, talents, or personality. It is a hierarchy by popularity created around the dynamic personality of an individual. It easily degenerates into a personality cult. The captain becomes the one who is the most liked. Whatever the case may be, hierarchy runs its own course. If not determined by Scriptural Ecclesiastical standards, the hierarchy will develop around other standards. Unfortunately, it may not be a declared hierarchy, which is always the case where an organization is not “up front” about who is in charge. It becomes like the alleged creedless church that moves people in and out of leadership on the basis of the unwritten creed. Undeclared hierarchies can be extremely tyrannical. Thus, the historic Church has deemed it far better to declare a hierarchy and not attempt to live in the illusory world of parity. One writer has summed up the need for a careful and declared process of selecting a hierarchy, Thomas Oden. He says, “If historical experience be our guide, communities of prayer perennially engender social processes in which the office and duties of religious leadership become publicly exercised. Persons are carefully chosen by due process to fill roles rather than chosen haphazardly on the basis of unexamined charismatic immediacy. This social regularity does not rule out charisma, but wishes to bring native gifts of religious leadership into some more reliable, socially functional framework of expectations. Consequently, it is hoped that communities who look to that leadership will be better protected from the abuses of charlatans or manipulators who might exploit these powerful passions for their own individual interests. That is the social function of routinization and ordering charismatic gifts.”17 Thus, parity is a myth and hierarchy is inescapable, providing another proof for the captains system of Jethro where there is singularity and plurality of leadership worked out in an ordered hierarchy. The Wardens Does the reality of hierarchy mean that there is not a plurality concept at the parish level, analogous to the plurality of Presbyters at the city-Church level? No. The ideal seems to be for the pastor at the house-church level to cultivate Deacons and Presbyters to assist him as the parish grows. This is why he is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. He should be 17 Thomas Oden, Pastoral Theology (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), p.59. – page 73 – Presbyters developing the laity and even future Deacons and Presbyters to assist. He should not perpetuate aloneness. He should always be working to produce more leadership. The presumption of Scripture is that the Deacon begins at the parish and city level. Remember, the first Deacons were selected by the people. Perhaps there were seven different parishes in Jerusalem, explaining why seven candidates were put forth. Whether or not this was the case, leadership was developed from the bottom up at the grassroots level. Historically, in the Church, this has been a practice. Every minister must begin by first becoming a Deacon, and even then he is nominated from the local parish. So, the pressure is always on the parish minister to reproduce himself from the parish on up. Historic Anglicanism has also recognized the need for a plurality of assistance at the parish level in the role of Church Wardens, Senior and Junior Warden, as has already been explained in Chapter Six. These are key lay people who serve on the basis the “wise man” principle referred to by the Apostle Paul (I Corinthians 6:5). Together the Wardens serve as a Parish Council with the Pastor. They are not ordained, however, so they do not have permanent positions, meaning they can be rotated in and out. This has several advantages. It allows for other laymen to be developed in leadership ability. It offers wide diversity of gift and personality in the parish, lending to the surfacing of a full range of talents. It prevents stagnation of leadership in the parish, avoiding the accusation of a “good ole’ boy network.” The Half Elder Other Church traditions since the Reformation have gone so far as to call the lay leaders Elders and Deacons. Interestingly, even in the Presbyterian tradition, the Elders were re-elected each year and they were not ordained. This is still the case in the Reformed Churches of France. They were simply called Elders, meaning the original intent of lay leadership in Presbyterianism was very close to the lay leader structure of the Anglican Church. Originally, the real difference between these two churches at the parish level was more in terms of what the lay leader was called and not so much in the function of the lay leader. Moreover, Presbyterians lacked the office of Bishop, which dramatically distinguished them from Episcopalianism, but as we shall see in the next chapter, Presbyterianism was initially not in principle opposed even to an office of Bishop. American Presbyterianism, however, permanently ordained its lay leaders, calling them, Ruling Elders and Deacons. I believe that designating the lay leader an Elder or Deacon has led to – page 74 – Captains and Courts serious problems. The greatest concern is that although so called “Elder rule churches” pride themselves in having Biblical titles for their leaders, the function of these offices is not Biblical. Presbyterian Elders and Deacons are half Elders and Deacons at best! And in the Baptist Church, their version of the lay Elder, who is called a Deacon, is also a half Deacon. Confusion of Function In Presbyterianism, the lay Elders, usually called Ruling Elders, do not at all fit the Biblical description. They are distinguished from the so called Teaching Elder, a distinction that is foisted on the Bible text. Paul says, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in word and doctrine” (I Timothy 5:17). But notice that Paul says literally (in the Greek text), “The ruling well Elders,” referring to those who are strong in teaching. This is not how Presbyterianism makes the distinction at all. Those who are strong in teaching are not called Ruling Elders. They are called Teaching Elders. Moreover, the Ruling Elders in Presbyterianism are not technically allowed to preach and certainly they are not permitted to consecrate the sacraments. Nowhere does the Bible substantiate that certain Elders cannot teach or serve the sacraments. Paul simply says that the ones who rule well in terms of being strong in teaching should be given double honor. Some Presbyterians following the teaching of the famous Southern Nineteenth Century Presbyterian, James Henley Thornwell, have tried to do away with the Teaching/Ruling distinction. But this is only to move toward Anglicanism, in that all Presbyters in Anglicanism are allowed to preach and consecrate the sacraments. Even so, arguing for parity will not overcome the only problem of the Teaching/Ruling distinction among Presbyterians. Although some democratic versions of Presbyterianism push for parity, the local lay Elders are never allowed to be members of the Presbytery. The Pastors (Teaching Eiders) may be able to join the local church but the lay Elders are not allowed to join Presbytery; they only get to participate. Thus, a total confusion of office results that dilutes the real office. What do I mean? When layman and pastor have the same office, the standards for pastor will eventually be lowered. They have to be because a layman does not have the time to go to seminary and take extensive training in the Scriptures (I realize that because of the deadness of the seminaries this may be an asset to the Church in many cases). For the layman to have parity with the pastor under existing Elder rule systems, however, the requirements will have to be low enough in order for – page 75 – Presbyters the layman to become a pastor. This is not the direction that the Church should be going at this time in history. Granted, training should be made available through non-residence programs, but the training to be a Pastor should still be required. To minimize standards hurts the office of Presbyter. Built-In Rivalry Moreover, the lay designation of Elder not only dilutes the office of Presbyter but it creates a built-in rivalry between the Pastor and the Ruling Elders. The Pastor receives highly specialized training to do what he does, training for years in the seminary. Furthermore, he is the one who is ordained to preach and consecrate the sacraments. To give others the same title who do not have the training or the same kind of ordination undermines the position of the Pastor. On the other hand, very talented laymen have much to offer the Church and the Pastor. They may be much more experienced and qualified in certain areas. They need to be able to offer leadership to the Church. They don’t need the same title as the Pastor, however, to do this. This only confuses matters. It is far better to have titles and functions, such as the Episcopal Church, where laymen can give valuable input and participate in the administration of the parish without being forced into some kind of rivalry because of confusion of title. Granted, the titles of office in the Episcopal Church may not be as Biblical in sound, but neither are some of the titles in other churches, such as Session and Consistory. The Apostle Paul allowed for great flexibility regarding lay titles: Vestryman, Church Warden, Parish Council. He didn’t specify what the wise men should be actually called (I Corinthians 6:5). He also permitted leeway on titles among Presbyters. He authorized these distinctions among Presbyters in terms of difference in degree and not kind. All Presbyters were allowed to preach, consecrate the sacraments, and administer discipline. Some, however, were given greater honor, which, although including money, meant more than money; honor means both! Historically, Presbyters with greater honor have been placed in charge of assisting the Bishop (initially in the training of Deacons), for which they are called Archdeacons. Or, they were appointed to help run the cathedral as Deans. Even in these cases, they still had certain Ecclesiastical functions in common. They were full Presbyters and not half Elders! Nevertheless, the attempt on the part of various denominations to give laymen a role in the administration of the parish creates some parallels with the Biblical model and historic Anglicanism. But where these groups have gone too far – page 76 – Captains and Courts by actually ordaining permanent laymen, the office of Presbyter has been confused and diluted. They have forced additional practical problems to develop, such as in the case of large congregations where the system becomes clogged because of permanently ordained laymen on the board. Since they are ordained, how do they get off the board to make room for “new blood”? Some of these congregations have gone to rotation systems. But this puts ordained Elders off the active board and into the congregation, opening up the possibility of rival Elders, kind of like the problem King David had with all of his sons who were floating around in his kingdom but who were not ruling with him. Often, the ordained but rotating Elder also can lead to two congregations in one parish. The Biblical and historic Anglican view of the Presbyter leads to a far better system of government. Presbyters are allowed to be Presbyters, but, laymen are also given the opportunity to be laymen and participate in parish leadership without damaging the office Presbyter.