What has ordination implied for Reformed Christians, and how might Reformed theologies of ordination inform our current debates about ordination and sexuality?

– Dawn DeVries

The theology of the Reformation fundamentally reshaped the doctrine of ministry, and the practices surrounding ordination in Reformed churches. In the Roman Catholic as well as the Eastern Orthodox Churches, ordination as a sacrament ritually distinguished one group of people from another within the church. Priests, it was argued, by virtue of an “indelible character” conferred on them through valid ordination in the apostolic succession, were elevated to the role of mediators on behalf of the laity…  For the Roman Catholic Church, the unity of the church’s whole ministry is secured by the Bishop of Rome – the Pope – who is the ruler over the whole Church, standing in the place of Christ, and as the successor to St. Peter. Under the Pope, the entire leadership of the church is hierarchically organized, with metropolitans over bishops, bishops over priests, priests over deacons.

A quick glance through our Book of Confessions will confirm just how completely the Reformed churches rejected this theology of the ministry. In the first place, they did not recognize a fundamental distinction between priests and the laity. On the contrary, they saw the church as a communion of the faithful who have all been made priests and kings in Christ and are therefore able to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God through Christ. Thus understood, the priesthood includes all hierarchical understanding of ministry inherited from patristic and medieval times. The priestly work of interceding before God on behalf of others is a common work of the people of God…

 

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