Project Wittenberg

The Ministry
Offices, Procedures and Nomenclature

Introduction and Contents

A Report of the
Commission on Theology and Church Relations
of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

September 1981

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This report on "the ministry" has been prepared in response to questions and requests for guidance from many areas of The Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod. The Commission on Theology and Church Relations has conducted a thorough exegetical investigation of this subject. The results of this study have been discussed in conversations and conferences with District presidents, presidents and representatives of the Synod's teacher colleges, seminary faculties, and other leaders of the church.

The manner in which the church considers issues relating to the doctrine of the ministry is important for the church and also for the men and women whose lives and services are involved. For instance, the church needs to distinguish the office of "the teacher" from the office of "the pastor," and yet to do so while paying full respect and honor to each. This necessitates a consideration of terminology end definitions. Words such as "ministry," "ordination," "installation," Pastor," "teacher," and "call" possess a variety of meanings for various people. These terms have taken on different connotations as they have evolved in our pluralistic, 20th-century society.

Questions concerning ministry must be approached on a number of levels. On certain levels we must speak with the authority of divine revelation. On other levels we speak in awareness that even adiaphora (things indifferent in themselves) may become matters of confession (FC SD, X). on yet a different level we may seek uniformity in the church as we use our freedom in awareness of the influence of our choices upon others. On still another level we must speak with integrity and clarity in our pluralistic society and to governmental agencies whose decisions impinge upon the personnel of the church. We must therefore take into account the following factors in this consideration of the ministry:

    1. Some matters pertaining to ministry are set forth in the Holy Scriptures and are not negotiable in a church that declares God's Word to be its norm. Moreover, in a confessional church attention must be paid to those documents which are accepted as a true exposition of the Scriptures. What is taught and practiced in The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod about the ministry must be in agreement with The Book of Concord.

    2. Some matters regarding the ministry, although not divinely commanded by the Lord or by apostolic authority, have suggested patterns or models in Scripture.

    3. Some matters concerning ministry, having developed by common agreement and usage, are not "doctrine" but have contributed to good order in the church.

    4. Some aspects of the ministry are in themselves matters of freedom, except that the usage, understanding, and sensitivities of fellow Christians and sister churches must be carefully taken into account.

    5. In a study of this type consideration must also be given to the understanding and usage of certain terms relating to the ministry in non- Lutheran churches and even among unchurched members of our society. For instance, "clergy" may mean simply a professional and duly authorized worker in some religious enterprise. It may mean something different to a hospital administration that issues "clergy" passes for parking privileges.

    6. Matters of ministry are of concern to some governmental agencies. In the United States, for example, agencies concerned with internal revenue and selective service for the military require accurate definitions. While the exigencies of state-church interaction cannot dictate our doctrine of the ministry, proper and consistent definitions are needed to avoid confusion and inconvenience.

    7. Finally, inadequate definitions of terms tend to lead to a drift into practices that create confusion in the church and that may even contradict sound doctrine. The result is confusion in the minds of both the lay members of the church and of those who work professionally in the church in various capacities.


This text was converted to ASCII text for Project Wittenberg by Rev. Robert Grothe and Rev. Todd Dittloff and is in the public domain. You may freely distribute, copy or print this text. Please direct any comments or suggestions to:

Rev. Robert E. Smith
Walther Library
Concordia Theological Seminary.

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