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June 03, 2008

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Chris Jones

Father Gregory,

Thanks for your comment. I am honoured to have you comment here.

The distinction you draw between doctrine and practice is an important one. But I notice that you have avoided the question whether Lutherans in fact have the right doctrine concerning the priest's role in the Eucharist. You note that it is necessary but not sufficient, and then go on to say that the real problem in Lutheranism is practice, not doctrine. Implicitly, then, you are granting that the necessary condition (right doctrine) has been satisfied. Is that what you are saying?

If our Lutheran fathers erred in supposing that the presbyteral office is the essential Apostolic ministry, and the episcopate a later administrative arrangement, they came by their error honestly. Such was the common teaching of the Western Church at the time, and there was little in the contemporary practice to suggest that a bishop was in essence anything but an administrator. Don't judge them too harshly.

Finally, it has to be said that if shortcomings in practice vitiate correctness in doctrine, then the Lutheran Church is not the only ecclesial body which is in trouble. I know of no Church body from New Testament times to our own whose practice perfectly embodied its doctrine. In particular, I think you understate the extent to which jurisdictionalism in Orthodoxy undermines her doctrine and her mission, and give too much value to communion in the sacraments as a "fix" to the problem. Neither the "one bishop one city" rule of Nicaea nor the condemnation of phyletism in the 19th century was addressed to a problem of multiple bishops or multiple parishes which were not in communion with one another. The presence of an Arian or Donatist bishop who does not belong to the communion fellowship of the Orthodox does not violate the "one bishop one city" rule; the presence of a 2d Orthodox bishop in a city, who does belong to the same communion fellowship, is precisely the situation to which the canon was addressed.

Chris Jones

Father Weedon,

That is apostolic teaching; and no later tradition can contradict it without forfeiting the title of being apostolic.

It is not that "later tradition" contradicts the teaching. Rather, the Apostolic Tradition shows us how the Scriptural teaching is to be understood. And the way that it shows us to understand this is not the way that you are interpreting it.

There is one essential Apostolic ministry, for which the New Testament and the earliest Fathers use both terms, bishop and presbyter. Over time, the Church settled on the term "bishop" to denote this office, and reserved the term "presbyter" for the office of those who assisted the bishop in the governance of the local Church. This was a change in terminology only, not a change in the nature of the Apostolic office or in the Church's teaching about it. The same office that was earlier referred to by both terms remained. And that office is the office of bishop, not that of presbyter.

What is of human origin is not the office of bishop as a "supervisor" of presbyters, but the delegation to the presbyters of the sacramental and liturgical ministry of the bishop. We Lutherans cannot claim that the essential Apostolic ministry is presbyteral, and that we have it by presbyteral succession; such a view is historically completely untenable. We can only claim that our Churches ordained bishops for themselves because no non-heterodox bishops were available to them.

If you are not a bishop, you have no right to stand at the altar; if you are only a presbyter, you have no bishop to delegate to you his ministry of Word and Sacrament. It is said that the problem with Lutheranism is not that we have no bishops, but that we have one in every parish. That has to be true; if it is not, we haven't a leg to stand on.

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Rev. Weedon,

1) The word "episcopos" is defined relative to some other group. The presbyteroi are episcopoi relative to the layfolk committed to their care; hence the term can, in early texts, be used in the plural. But that one of that group was called "episcopos" not only relative to the layfolk, but also relative to the other presbyters, is evident from the letters of Ignatios.

St. John Chrysostom notes, on the Philippians passage: "What is this? were there several Bishops of one city? Certainly not; but he called the Presbyters so. For then they still interchanged the titles, and the Bishop was called a Deacon. For this cause in writing to Timothy, he said, “Fulfil thy ministry,” when he was a Bishop. For that he was a Bishop appears by his saying to him, “Lay hands hastily on no man.” (1 Tim. v. 22.) And again, “Which was given thee with the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery.” (1 Tim. iv. 14.) *Yet Presbyters would not have laid hands on a Bishop*." The titles may have been fluid, but the offices were not.

2. Your comment that such is apostolic teaching, and that no later tradition can contradict it etc. wrongly opposes Scripture and tradition to each other. Second, it seems to assume that you have access to apostolic teaching apart from the context of tradition, by which we understand what apostolic teaching is.

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Rev. Weedon,

1) The word "episcopos" is defined relative to some other group. The presbyteroi are episcopoi relative to the layfolk committed to their care; hence the term can, in early texts, be used in the plural. But that one of that group was called "episcopos" not only relative to the layfolk, but also relative to the other presbyters, is evident from the letters of Ignatios.

St. John Chrysostom notes, on the Philippians passage: "What is this? were there several Bishops of one city? Certainly not; but he called the Presbyters so. For then they still interchanged the titles, and the Bishop was called a Deacon. For this cause in writing to Timothy, he said, “Fulfil thy ministry,” when he was a Bishop. For that he was a Bishop appears by his saying to him, “Lay hands hastily on no man.” (1 Tim. v. 22.) And again, “Which was given thee with the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery.” (1 Tim. iv. 14.) *Yet Presbyters would not have laid hands on a Bishop*." The titles may have been fluid, but the offices were not.

2. Your comment that such is apostolic teaching, and that no later tradition can contradict it etc. wrongly opposes Scripture and tradition to each other. Second, it seems to assume that you have access to apostolic teaching apart from the context of tradition, by which we understand what apostolic teaching is.

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Christopher, let me rephrase my earlier remarks to make things clearer. The canons against multiple bishops in one city were drafted for two reasons: (1) Because the Church must guard against schism, of the Donatist and Novatian sort. Schism prevented intercommunion.
(2) Because the bishop serves to demonstrate the unity of the Church, as St. Ignatios teaches.

My point in saying that intercommunion is possible among all canonical Orthodox is precisely that there is no schism in the American Church--certainly not in the Novatian or Donatist sense.

The strictures of phyletism do not apply to the American situation either, since priests and layfolk of one ethnicity regularly belong to and serve in other jurisdictions.

If all American Orthodox were united in one jurisdiction, it would certainly better show forth the unity spoken of by St. Ignatios. But, as I pointed out, movements in that direction are happening. Because the Church is a living organism, it heals.

Oh, and for the record, I am not granting that Lutheranism satisfies the necessary condition. Lutheranism is right that doctrine is a necessary condition. It's just not right about what that doctrine is.

Nor do I judge the Lutheran fathers harshly. (Dcn. Gregg Roeber demonstrated the bind in which they found themselves, and their attempts to solve it.) Anyone who's grown up in a dysfunctional home should be shown mercy. Whether their tenth-generation descendants should be given the same pass, is a matter of some serious doubt.

It is not yet too late. Come home.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

John H

Fr Hogg: could you clarify when it will be "too late", in what sense, and for whom?

Chris Jones

Fr Gregory,

This is wandering a bit from the topic, but:

I disagree with your analysis of the reasons for the one-bishop canons. A Donatist or Novatianist bishop did not regard himself as a "second bishop" of the city alongside the Catholic bishop; nor did the Catholics recognize him as a "second bishop." Both the Donatist bishop and the Catholic bishop regarded himself as the sole bishop of the city (and the Church over which he presided as the Apostolic Church in that city). If the one-bishop canon had been a guard against schism, it would be equivalent to saying "a schismatic bishop is no bishop at all." If that is what the canon meant, then that is what the canon would have said. No, the intent of the canon is to prevent overlapping jurisdictions of Catholic bishops, not to regulate the relationships between Catholic bishops and schismatic bishops.

The bishop does more than "demonstrate" the unity of the Church. The liturgical assembly under the presidency of the bishop IS the unity of the Church. If that Eucharist is accounted valid which is offered by the bishop or one to whom he delegates, then what of a Eucharist which is offered by a presbyter (of another "jurisdiction") to whom he has not delegated? There is no unity in such a Eucharist.

While you have noted the importance of the one-bishop rule for the unity of the Church (though not taking it as seriously as I believe it deserves), you have neglected an equally important dimension: the apostolicity of the Church. Our Lord sent forth His Church to proclaim the Gospel to the entire world, and in each place it is the bishop, as the successor of the Apostles, who is chiefly responsible for proclaiming the Word of God in that place. All in the Church assist him in this, of course; but in evangelism as in everything else, "let nothing pertaining to the Church be done apart from the bishop." But if there is more than one bishop in a city, then the apostolic responsibility for the proclamation of the Gospel is divided, and each bishop focuses on "tending his own" and none of them focus on spreading the Gospel. If there is a bishop for the Greeks, a bishop for the Serbs, a bishop for the Arabs, and two or three bishops for the Russians, then there is no bishop for those who have not yet heard the Gospel.

Finally, I am astounded that you say the strictures of phyletism do not apply to the American situation. If the condemnation of phyletism does not apply to the American situation, what possible situation could there be to which it would apply? In what other time or place have there ever been so many Churches organized along ethnic lines? The organizing principle of Orthodox jurisdictions is precisely ethnicity. But for that, there would be absolutely no reason for the jurisdictions to continue to exist. I hope you are right that Orthodoxy is moving away from jurisdictionalism, but I remain skeptical. Let me know when you have the Greeks on board; then I will take it seriously.

It is not yet too late. Come home.

I would like to, but I cannot tell where "home" really is. Who is the bishop of Boston? Have him send me an e-mail.

Fr Gregory Hogg

Christopher,

We will have to agree to disagree on the analysis of the canon, I suppose. Each of the jurisdictions reach out to all Americans. I have not a drop of Arab blood in me, for example (though I have processed a fair amount of Arab food):-).

Phyletism was recognized as an error in late 19th century, when Bulgaria tried to make a national church and removed non-Bulgarian priests and refused to serve non-Bulgarian people. An already-existing harmony was broken over merely ethnic reasons, and revealed itself in ethnic discrimination. The American situation arose out of the Russian revolution, not ethnic reasons; and American jurisdictions do not display ethnic discrimination, either towards clergy or laity.

Re your comment of having the bishop of Boston send you an email--Perhaps it *is* too late. I hope not.

Steve Martin

I'm with Jason on this one.

The direction is the important thing. If it's from us to God than all this Eucharist being presided over by properly ordained clergy would be important. But this meal of forgiveness and life comes from the Lord... TO US.

Luther was dead right on this one.

Do we want to really trust in Christ, or do we want to trust in something that we must do?

Thank you!

- Steve M.

Fr Gregory Hogg

With all due respect, Steve, here's what Luther said. "...it is not sufficient if a man has the Word and the pure doctrine. He must also have the assurance of his call, and whoever enters without this assurance enters only in order to kill and destroy." (LW 26.19)

Sadly, he rejected the line of those who had been given the task of calling, in favor of secular leaders, when he says "...when someone is called by a prince or a magistrate or me(!), he has his calling through man. Since the time of the apostles this has been the usual method of calling in the world." (Op. cit. 18) The Supreme Voters' Assembly is simply a fragmented prince, a corporate magistrate.


If you're going to extol Luther, at least get him right.

Rev. Benjamin Harju

Christopher Jones,

WRT the necessity of a priest for actually having the Sacrament there, I can only agree with you. I'm glad to see people are still interested in this issue, especially since it is so misunderstood and abused today.

Sadly, though, there will be no unanimity among Lutherans on this issue anytime soon. Too many read the word "church" in the Treatise and understand "local congregation," when in fact the Church is that which is spread over all the world (in context of the Treatise, not just the pope in Rome and his majesterium). The Church in its fullness has received the Keys, which the German of the Treatise expressly calls a power and office in the Church, and exercises those Keys (in various degrees of locality) by setting apart men into the Ministry rite vocatus. This Office of the Ministry/Keys is Christ's Priesthood (as you have said), and It/He administers the Blessed Sacrament.

Hand in hand with the denial of the necessity of a Minister for there to be a "valid Sacrament" is the denial that ordination does anything, despite what the Confessions clearly state (not to mention the Scriptures). To make this short, Lutherans disagree over the fundamentals of what the Ministry is and how one ought to administer the Blessed Sacrament. The problem is systemic and chronic. Yet, good job addressing it!

Those who are suggesting that merely bandying about the right words with a good intention is enough for a "valid" Sacrament are suffering from a Christological error. If we were some sort of sacramental-Pentecostals, then that sort of thing would be understandable. But, come on, the Son of God who assumed human nature from the flesh and blood of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who appointed the Apostles and the 70/72 to share in His ministry and to work with/through them, who ascended bodily into heaven, and who offers us His own Body and Blood in the Sacrament is just supposed to willy-nilly provide His Body and Blood because anyone with a forged permission slip (a licensed lay deacon or some other man-invented homunculus) or his own self-appointment decides to "play church"? It's terribly inconsistent. Christ works through appointed means, and appointed people. If He's chosen to do otherwise, He didn't let us in on it. At the very, very, very least of leasts, utilizing a layman (with or without a note from his DP) introduces a tremendous amount of doubt - and who wants that? After all, the Sacrament is supposed to be administered according to Christ's institution - and that institution includes the use of His Ministers.

Fwiw.

christl242

A Sacrament is a ceremony or work in which God presents to us that which the promise annexed to the ceremony offers ... A sacrifice, on the contrary, is a ceremony or work which we render God in order to afford Him honor.

Well, not entirely. A "Sacramentum" was originally used to designate a "pledge" or "oath" made by a Roman solider when entering the Roman military. As she did with many other terms, the Church "baptized" the Roman usage for her own purposes, i.e., a "sacrament" became a "visible sign of an invisible reality." The sacraments convey what they signify, i.e., when a priest offers the Eucharist it is Christ himself, through the priest, renewing his one, eternal sacrifice at the heavenly altar. In joining us to that one, eternal sacrifice we become living sacrifices with Christ through the liturgy.

steve martin

Where His Word is present, so is He.

The 'touch' is not important. The call is important but as much as the Word itself.

A pastor, a bishop, a layman is just a delivery boy for the Word. The Word is not hindered by our lack of a good resume.

Otherwise, you lift man higher and lower Jesus. He must increase, we must decrease.

Thanks.

micah lile

Christopher,

I tried to email you via your email link, but my computer told me I couldn't b/c the email link wasn't set up correctly. Either way, I would like to ask you a question via email, as opposed to in this comment section, so I would appreciate it if you would email me at micahlile@yahoo.com so that I will be able to email you back w/my question. enough!

thanks,

micah

PS

Most of this discussion fails to ask what the scriptures say, which is more fundamental than what the Confessions say.

After Jesus rose, who was "ordained" and therefore able to preside at a communion meal? When did ordination and call start? How much seminary education is necessary for being called? What if a person is much-learned on his own and could pass all the sem tests vs a slacker in seminary who just barely passes? What if a person graduates from a sem but seems to be cold and lacking in showing the Grace of God which we hope is shown in our pastors?

Seminary, ordination, and Call are important for "order" which as been mentioned, but they (and "order") are man-made layers added to Biblical scripture. If we don't put this in perspective, we might start requiring that only certain people carry the elements to the alter, put the elements on/in the plate/chalice, clean the alter dishes, even bake the bread/make the wine. There would be no end to the "requirements."

If the lay people in the pews don't have confidence because of who is at the altar, that has to do with their own faith, their own theological/doctrinal education, the teaching of their pastors, etc. that somehow it isn't Christ who is present that is important, but rather the presider who makes it important, ie makes "it" really happen. Pastors ARE really important, but that importance is sometimes elevated to mean, in the minds of some people, that a particular person is important, [Then you end up with, for example, the new, young pastor not being accepted as being as-good-as the old guy] or that the Bible can't be studied without a pastor leading the study (I've seen numerous examples of this) or that if there is no pastor, then we can't have any worship service at all.

The True body and blood of Christ in the communion elements and the Word (both meanings) and the Grace of God must always be more important than who is at the altar saying the words.

PS

Are these comments moderated? Mine didn't show up.

Rev, Robert Waters

You are exactly right. Ordination is a human rite, a matter of decency and good order. The call makes a pastor.

Bob Waters

If ordination had any theological significance de jure divino, the man might be wrong. But he's not, with all respect to others in this thread. It is the call, and not ordination, that makes a pastor- at least for Lutherans. Ordination is a purely human rite.

William Tighe

"It is the call, and not ordination, that makes a pastor- at least for Lutherans. Ordination is a purely human rite."

If this is correct, then "Lutheranism" is a purely sectarian phenomenon, ans can no more lay claim to the Catholicity of the Apostolic Church than can Adventism or Mennoniteism.

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