The Purpose of the Church and its Ministry by H. Richard Niebuhr, Daniel Day Williams, & James M. Gustafson
H. Richard Niebuhr was Professor of Christian Theology at Yale University Divinity School. His most famous book is Christ and Culture. Assisting him in this project were Daniel Day Williams, Professor of Theology at Union Theological School, and James Gustafson, then on the staff of the Study of Theological Education in the U.S. and Canada. This text was prepared for Religion Online by John C. Purdy.
Chapter 2: The Emerging New Conception of the Ministry
I. THE PERPLEXED PROFESSION
A school, we have noted, is related in a double way to the society in which it carries on its work. Participating in the common life it devotes itself to the social objectives in the special way these can be served by a company of scholars or learners who exercise intellectual love of the values toward which the society is directed. In the second place, as one community agency among many, the school also serves the ultimate social objectives indirectly, insofar as its immediate concern is to teach men who will be able to guide and carry on the activities of other agencies; so it functions as a community of teachers. A medical school, for instance, is a research and often also a healing center, directly concerned with the increase of knowledge about the human organism and with its health; but it is also a training center where men are prepared to work in many other institutions of the society, from private practice to public health offices. So also a university in a free society is devoted in intellectual freedom to the pursuit of the universal, liberating knowledge and wisdom that are objectives of the society; it is on the other hand a teaching institution where men are equipped to direct the affairs of the governmental, legal, cultural, educational and economic institutions of the society.
The Protestant schools of theology in the United States and Canada along with all other schools are subject to the tensions inescapably given with this duality of academic functions. But on the whole they are less bothered by them than they might be, for in their relation to the churches they have chosen or been required to devote themselves primarily to the second, that is, to the teaching function of schools. Their express purpose is to educate men who will direct the affairs of church institutions, especially local churches. They tend in consequence to neglect the first function of a theological school—the exercise of the intellectual love of God and neighbor. To this imbalance we shall need to address ourselves in other connections For the present we must only point out that whatever just criticism may have been made of theological schools in other countries and times because they were too remote from parish and national church activities and because they overlooked their responsibility for training preachers, pastors, evangelists and priests, the North American schools with which we are concerned have not erred in this direction. (Theological schools are characteristically defined in previous reports as institutions for the training of ministers. So William Adams Brown and Mark A. May in The Education of American Ministers (New York, 1934), I, 74; III, 3. See also Robert L. Kelly, Theological Education in America (New York, 1924), pp.vi,vii-ix, 23-28. The idea of a theological school the present study presupposes is described more fully in Chap. III.) Their concentration on the task of educating ministers gives them their unique character; it determines the content of their courses of study and influences decisively their choice of students, teachers and administrators. It also involves them in great difficulties, since the contemporary Church is confused about the nature of the ministry. Neither ministers nor the schools that nurture them are guided today by a clear-cut, generally accepted conception of the office of the ministry, though such an idea may be emerging.
Similar confusion seems to have characterized some other periods of the Church's history but we shall derive more help toward understanding our situation and its possibilities if we attend to those times when a definite conception of the ministry gave to both those who filled the office and those who prepared them for it a standard by which to judge their work. Such a well-defined idea seems to have prevailed in the Middle Ages. The Pastoral Rule of Gregory the Great formulated and disseminated the medieval theory of the minister as the pastoral ruler or the ruling pastor. The pattern was not imposed on the churches by external authority; it grew out of tradition, practice, experience and the needs of the time. Similarly the conception of the minister as priest, though supported by the formidable institutional authority of the Roman Church and its Council of Trent was not legislated into being. The law formulated and gave precision to a conception or a standard that had developed out of traditional and Biblical origins under the influence of historic experiences, resolutions and needs. The theory of the ministry in the churches of the Reformation was also precise; the minister was fundamentally the preacher of the Word, an idea which later, in the days of Pietism and Evangelicalism, was modified in the direction of the conception of the minister as evangelist. In all these instances the men who exercised the ministry, those to whom they ministered and those who prepared them for their task knew with relative precision what was expected of the man who held this office.
The confusion about the conception of the ministry characteristic of the time from which we seem to be slowly emerging was pointed out twenty years ago by Professor Mark A. May. The conclusion of his study of The Profession of the Ministry: Its Status and Problems (May, The Education of American Ministers, II, 385-94.)
was that this confusion presented theological education with its chief problems. On the one hand, he pointed out, the very definite concepts of the ministry held in some quarters conflicted with the desires or needs of students and congregations and with the temper of the times. On the other hand, and partly because of such conflict, the idea of the ministry was vague and uncertain.
What is the function of the minister in the modern community? The answer is that it is undefined. There is no agreement among denominational authorities, local officials, seminaries, professors, prominent laymen, ministers or educators as to what it is or should be. This lack of agreement, even along the most general lines, is a characteristic feature of the situation today and accounts in a large measure for the low educational status of the ministry The work of the lawyer, the physician, the teacher, the artist, the writer and the engineer, is clear-cut and rather sharply defined (at least in the mind of the average man), so that when a young man chooses one of these professions he has some idea of what he is getting into. But not so with the ministry. Entering the ministry is more like entering the army, where one never knows where he will land or live or what specific work he will be called upon to perform. This lack of clear definition of the functions of the pastor that can be widely accepted influences theological education.... How can the seminaries train men for a work that is so tenuous, and concerning the nature of which such a diversity of opinion exists?
Much has happened in Church and world, among ministers and laymen, in the years that have elapsed since this judgment was made, and what has happened has led in directions that could not then be foreseen. We can speak today of an emerging new conception of the ministry. But emergence is not yet appearance and in large areas the indefiniteness, vagueness and conflict characteristic of thought about the ministry in the 1930's continues to prevail.
A decade after Professor May's observations had been made Professors Hartshorne and Froyd undertook to study the ministry of the Northern (now American) Baptist Convention. Making their approach from the functional point of view they tried to discover how ministers defined their more important objectives, how they rated the relative importance of their various tasks and how they divided their time in the performance of their duties. The findings of this study indicated how great was the confusion in 1944 even in a single denominational group. It was noted that in the case of a considerable group of ministers "the more conventional patterns are being broken up as these men face the actual needs of their people in the light of increasing knowledge of what these needs are"; that for many others the ministry tends "to drop to the level of a trade, each man being sent into a church with a set of routine procedures, which he is supposed to use indiscriminately in all situations," unequipped, however, with a set of principles such as are necessary for the exercise of a profession.( Hugh Hartshorne and Milton C. Froyd, Theological Education in the Northern Baptist Convention: A Survey (Philadelphia, 1945), pp. 42, 119.)
The evidence that perplexity and vagueness continue to afflict thought about the ministry is to be found today in the theological schools and among ministers themselves. Some schools and some pastors are highly conscious of the problem; others are in a more difficult state because they have not realized the source of their perplexities. In the schools the lack of a clear-cut conception is evident there where a frankly pluralistic approach to the work of the ministry has been accepted and where men are prepared for the varieties of the ministry as well as the varieties of ministerial work without reference to a common function to be carried out by all ministers and by every minister in all the things he does. In these places the course of study consists of a series of preparations for a series of loosely connected acts In this situation each one of the more general disciplines—such as study of the Bible, theology, church history, psychology, sociology—may then be directly related to a specific function such as preaching? educating, counseling, social action. In the same and in other schools uncertainty about the meaning of the ministry comes to appearance also in the feeling of conflict in a faculty between its loyalty to a traditional idea, such as that of the preacher, and its sense of obligation to denominational officials, alumni and churchmen in general who urge a more "practical" education. Such faculties feel that they are being deflected from their proper work by outside pressures, that they are compromising their ideals and making concessions to expediency when they yield to these demands. Again uncertainty about the meaning of the ministry may be indicated by the silence of many faculties when they are asked to speak of their precise objectives, or by the great generality of the phrases employed when they answer.
Ministers no less than the schools give evidence of the prevailing mistiness of the conception of the ministry. Those who have fought their way through to a clear-cut definition of theiI task and office often say that they have have had to do this in isolation, without real help from school or Church, and that the maintenance of their sense of specific vocation is a highly personal responsibility. Such men will also point out that the over-busyness of some of their colleagues and the great sense of pressure under which these men work may be due to failure to define what is important and unimportant in a minister's work. The minister who knows what he is doing, they say, is able to resist the many pressures to which he is subject from lay groups in the churches, from the society, from denominational headquarters, and from within himself, however hard he must fight to keep his ship on its course; but the man who has no such determinative principle falls victim to the forces of all the winds and waves that strike upon him. There may be a connection also between indefiniteness in the sense of vocation and the fact that sloth or "downright laziness" is often mentioned by ministers as a reason for failure in the ministry. Doubtless a significant temptation to sloth or "accidie"—as this vice was called in older days—is to be found in the frustration a man experiences when he has no clear sense of his duties and no specific standard by means of which to judge himself. One must not, of course, ascribe too much responsibility to the vagueness of theory. At all times human frailty and sin make the ministry whose business it is to point to the highest reality and the profoundest faith a morally perilous vocation. That "we have this treasure in earthen vessels" is generally very clear to ministers, Church and world. Special temptations abound for men in this calling—temptations to authoritarianism, to pretentiousness, to self-deception, to love of prestige, to the cultivation of popularity and visible success, et cetera. No matter how definite the theory of the ministry, the individual pastor and the whole profession will never be able to drop their guard against these and more common human temptations to faithlessness. Yet when the Church's and the minister's idea about his work is uncertain it is not unlikely that some of "our calling's snares" are more than usually difficult to understand and avoid.
Many reasons have been given for the prevalence of this uncertainty and many remedies have been suggested. Some men believe that it is due to a loss of Christian conviction on the part of young men and women entering the schools and applying for ordination or to the weakness of their sense of call to the ministry. Others, who also see the situation only as a result of human failure, believe that ministers and schools have been deflected from their purpose and have lost their sense of mission because they have succumbed to the temptation to improve their personal and professional status by doing anything that might make them pleasing to the greatest number of people. The voluntaristic system of the free churches in North America, it has been said, has tended to transform their officials into merchants who offer all sorts of wares so that as many customers as possible may be attracted to their ecclesiastical emporiums. Those who approach the subject sociologically have sometimes maintained that the difficulty arises out of the fact that many functions the ministry once discharged have been taken over by new agencies.
If then, the educational functions of the church have been taken over by the state, the charity functions by local agencies, so that
"pastors now regard the educational and civic among the least important of their activities; and if the number of mid-week prayer services, evangelistic meetings and Sunday evening meetings are declining: if more marriages are being performed by justices of the peace and civil authorities; if attendance at the Sunday morning service is declining owing to golf, radio, good roads, etc.: then what is left for the pastor to do?" (May, Education of American Ministers, II. 389.)
So Professor May wrote twenty years ago and his ideas are occasionally echoed in our day, especially in circles that have not participated in or observed the renewal of the Church. It is also pointed out that uncertainty about the office of the ministry may be a by-product of that more intimate interaction among denominations and communions which has been characteristic of recent times. Various ideas are merging: the idea of the preacher as this was worked out in the churches of the Reformation, of the evangelist as this developed in the churches founded during the Revivals, of the priest as represented by the Anglican Catholic movement but also as it becomes effective on Protestants in their relations to the Roman Catholic Church. Yet they are not meeting in such a way as to give rise to a definite new conception but only so as to obscure the definite outlines of each traditional idea. Another sociological explanation of the phenomenon is that the traditional functions of the clergy are not adjusted to the needs of the modern world and that the responsibility for the prevailing uncertainty must be placed on the Church as a cultural laggard which has not kept up with the times.
There seems to be a measure of truth in each of these statements. Temptations to abandon the proper work of the ministry because of ambition or the desire to please are encountered— and succumbed to—at all times. Temptations to continue a traditional course by virtue of sheer inertia are also familiarly human. But what critics who point to these reasons for the loss of certainty seem too often to forget is that the Church is never only a function of a culture nor ever only a supercultural community; that the problem of its ministers is always how to remain faithful servants of the Church in the midst of cultural change and yet to change culturally so as to be true to the Church's purpose in new situations. Those who suggest that the ministry should provide for its continuation by turning itself into a kind of social or counseling service ignore the nature of the ministry and really provide for its discontinuation. So do those who seek a remedy for present ills by insisting on unchanging adherence to a form of the ministry developed in some earlier cultural period.
During the time in which analyses of the sort we have alluded to were being made and such remedies proposed, and in part tried, an unspectacular process of reconstruction has been going on in Church and ministry so that we can speak today of an emerging new conception of the ministry, a conception which leaves it ministry and does not change it into something else. It is a conception which has not been manufactured in the study, though theologians in their studies have contributed to its development. It has grown out of the wrestlings of ministers with their problems, out of the experiences of the times and the needs of men, yet it has its roots in the Bible and in the long tradition of the Church. In time it may be so formulated that schools training men for the ministry will have as clear a picture before them of their immediate objective as their predecessors had when the ideas of the pastoral ruler, the priest, the preacher and the evangelist prevailed. Ministers also and the laity of the Church will know what is expected of those who hold this office For the present it is possible only to feel after and to describe in sketchy outline what this new conception is, a conception that we may believe is at least as much gift of grace as consequence of sin and perhaps more something produced by historic forces under divine government than the creature of human pride and fickleness. Before we undertake to set forth our understanding of this emerging new idea we need to analyze what the elements are that constitute any such pattern.
II. PASTORS, PREACHERS AND PRIESTS
Whenever in Christian history there has been a definite, intelligible conception of the ministry four things at least were known about the office: what its chief work was and what the chief purpose of all its functions; what constituted a call to the ministry; what was the source of the minister's authority; and whom the minister served.
a. The Work of the Ministry. Since the days described in the New Testament Christian ministers have preached and taught; they have led worship and administered sacraments; they have presided over the church and exercised oversight over its work; they have given pastoral care to individuals in need. Though at times these functions have been distributed among specialized orders of the clergy, still each minister, in his own domain, has needed to exercise all of them. Yet whenever there has been a clear conception of the office one of these functions has been regarded as central and the other functions have been ordered so as to serve, not indeed it, but, the chief purpose that it served directly. In the case of the medieval pastoral ruler of Gregory's description it seems evident that the chief ministerial function was the exercise of that "art of arts," the government of souls. The pastoral ruler also preached; he also administered the sacraments and led the service of worship; he also supervised the activities of the church; but all these other indispensable activities were directed toward the same end as the care and government of souls. Preaching and sacrament and church administration were dominated by the purpose of so directing needy souls that they might escape from the snares of sin and achieve everlasting life. The great motive was love of neighbor and this was found to be in a certain tension with the love of God, since the latter prompted a servant of the Lord to shun worldly duties as well as distractions and to give his life to adoration and contemplation in monastic seclusion. The great purpose of saving souls from hell was most directly served through the penitential office, but it was also to be achieved through preaching, teaching, prayer and church administration.
Similarly the preacher of the churches of the Reformation carried on all the traditional functions of the ministry. He preached and taught; he administered the sacraments and led in prayer; he presided over the church and he cared for the needy. Yet there was no question about his chief office nor about the chief purpose which he had before him in the performance of all traditional or new functions. His main work was preaching the gospel of forgiveness, declaring God's love for man as revealed in Jesus Christ. And in all his other work the objective of such preaching was the guiding purpose. The objective was salvation. Salvation meant for him as for the pastoral ruler deliverance from the pains of hell, yet not quite so much this as forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God with all their consequences. The purpose of the ministry was the renewal of life by evangelical faith in God's love for man. As the minister's first work was always the preaching of the gospel of divine love, so all his other activities were directed to the same proximate end of bringing men to a personal, internal apprehension of the good news, an apprehension which resulted in genuine repentance and trust. The meaning of worship and of the administration of the sacraments lay in their preparation for, or their response to, the gospel. The care of souls was a matter of personal admonition and consolation addressed to men who needed to apprehend in penitence and confidence the forgiveness of sin, the great love of God extended toward them, so that in life and death, in sin and sorrow, they knew they were in the hands of a holy, loving God. Churches were organized and administered with this purpose in view. The church building was designed as a place where the gospel could be preached; the laity was organized to support the preaching; the instruction of youth was in catechisms that set forth the content of the gospel. The minister might be tempted, as Richard Baxter's The Reformed Pastor points out, to conceive his office too narrowly as consisting only of public preaching. But even for Baxter preaching was the most excellent part of the pastor's work. Moreover, for the ministers of the Reformed churches "preaching" was a symbolic word; it meant not only public discourse but every action through which the gospel was brought home and men were moved to repent before God and to trust in him. Public discourse was never enough; private admonition, catechetical instruction, personal pastoral care, the administration of the sacrament the leadership of public worship—all these needed to be faithfully attended to; but in everything he did the preacher had one thing to do, namely, to bring home to men the gospel of divine love.
The evangelist of the Wesleyan, Evangelical, Pietist movement represented a variation on the Protestant idea of the preacher. Even more than the minister of the Reformation churches he found his chief function in preaching; insofar as he was often a traveling evangelist he discharged the other traditional functions of the ministry less frequently than the Reformed or Lutheran pastor. So long, however, as he was only evangelist he needed to consider himself as belonging to only one of several orders of ministers, an order which like that of the preaching friars of the thirteenth-century required the accompanying work of the "secular clergy" or of the local parsons. When he became the settled minister of a local church he needed to add to the preaching function the other activities of the ministry—the care of souls, the administration of the sacraments, the conduct of public worship, the government of the church. But the organizing principle of all these activities was the evangelical conversion and sanctification of souls, which was the direct purpose of the evangelistic sermon.
The distinction of the priest-minister from the preacher-minister is relatively easy to make. Though both perform the same functions these are organized in different ways both in relation to each other and to a central purpose. From Chrysostom ("On the Priesthood") to Pius XI ("On the Catholic Priesthood") the idea of the priesthood is marked by emphasis on the importance and greatness of the work of administering the sacraments. The priest also teaches and preaches; he governs and cures souls; he presides over the church; but above all he offers the, sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist and is the minister of those sacraments "through which the grace of the Savior flows for the good of mankind." The purpose of the sacraments is the reconciliation of God and man, a reconciliation of God to man as well as of man to God, for the priest is always the mediator between God and humanity. This reconciliation is the precondition for the exercise not only of man's love to God and neighbor but also of God's love to man. It is the proximate purpose of the chief sacramental act but also of every other exercise of the priestly office. Few exponents of the priestly idea want to confine priestly activity to the administration of the central sacrament, just as few Reformers understand the preaching minister as solely a preacher. The priest exercises "the ministry of the word," says Pope Pius XI, describing in some detail what this ministry is; the priest, furthermore, leads in public and official prayer, in intercession, adoration and thanksgiving; he is the "tireless furtherer of the Christian education of youth," defends the sanctity of marriage' contributes to the solution of social conflicts, and is the "most valorous leader" in the crusade of "expiation and penance." But in all his acts he serves the purpose chiefly served in the administration of the sacrament—the purpose of mediating between God and man.
As these examples of typical ideas of the ministry all indicate, a clear-cut conception always includes not only an understanding of what the most important work of the ministry is but also the recognition that it must perform other functions. Unity is given to such a conception not only by ordering functions in a scale of importance but by directing each function to a chief, though still proximate, end. Now that end is the salvation of souls from eternal punishment, now the cure of guilty souls through their apprehension of the love of God, now the reconciliation of God and man through sacrifice and sacrament and works of expiation. If there is confusion in the conception of the ministry today, whether only among those who once held to the ideal of the preacher or also among those who have maintained the ideal of the priest, that confusion appears at both points—in inability to define what the most important activity of the ministry is and in uncertainty about the proximate end toward which all its activities are directed. If a new conception of the ministry is emerging it will be marked by the appearance of a sense of the relative importance of the activities and a definite idea of the proximate end sought by the minister in all of them.
b. The Call to the Ministry. A definite understanding of the ministerial office also includes a relatively clear-cut conception of what constitutes the call to the ministry. How and by whom are men appointed to this office? Once more, differences in historic definitions of the ministry are less due to exclusive insistence on some one interpretation of what constitutes a call than to variations in the emphasis placed on the various elements present in every call. Christians of all ages and churches have encountered in their reading of Scriptures socially appointed, institutionally recognized priests, prophets and apostles, but also extraordinary, "natural" or "charismatic" leaders—non-Levitical priests, prophets without human appointment and apostles chosen like Paul. In their contemporary experience they have dealt with both types of ministers and have found virtues and vices attached to both types. Even the most highly organized churches which insist on the importance of `'legitimate'' orders recognize with the Church of England that '`there always remains the power of God to give to the Church prophets, evangelists and teachers apart from the succession," and even the most spiritualistic groups will elect certain men to interpret the sense of meetings in which anyone moved by the spirit is allowed to speak.
It appears that there is general though only implicit recognition of the fact that a call to the ministry includes at least these four elements (1) the call to be a Christian, which is variously described as the call to discipleship of Jesus Christ, to hearing and doing of the Word of God, to repentance and faith, et cetera; (2) the secret call, namely, that inner persuasion or experience whereby a person feels himself directly summoned or invited by God to take up the work of the ministry; (3) the providential call, which is that invitation and command to assume the work of the ministry which comes through the equipment of a person with the talents necessary for the exercise of the office and through the divine guidance of his life by all its circumstances; (4) the ecclesiastical call, that is, the summons and invitation extended to a man by some community or institution of the Church to engage in the work of the ministry. At no time have the Church and the churches not required of candidates for the ministry that they be first of all men of Christian conviction, however such conviction and its guarantees were interpreted. The Church everywhere and always has expected its ministers to have a personal sense of vocation, forged in the solitariness of encounter with ultimate claims made upon them. It has also generally required that they show evidence of the fact that they have been chosen for the task by the divine bestowal upon them, through birth and experience, of the intellectual, moral, physical and psychological gifts necessary for the work of the ministry. Finally, in one form or another, it has required that they be summoned or invited or at least accepted by that part of the Church in which they undertake to serve. But ideas of the ministry have varied as Christian call, secret call, providential call and church call have been related to one another in varying orders of importance and modes of relationship. In the cases of the pastoral ruler of Gregory the Great and of Chrysostom's priest the summons of the church to men whom it found divinely chosen by Christian and providential call was of the first importance. The secret call, the summons and decision that occurred in solitariness, usually came after the public or church call. In the case of the evangelist, however, the order of these calls was reversed. "I allow," said John Wesley, "that it is highly expedient, whoever preaches in his name should have an outward as well as inward call; but that it is absolutely necessary I deny." More extremely, early Friends not only maintained that the "inward call, or testimony of the Spirit" was "essential and necessary to a minister" but denied the validity of the church call and seemed indifferent to the providential call, at least insofar as they discounted the significance of "birth-right" Christianity. Whatever the variations, it seems true that when a clear idea of the ministry prevailed there was also a clear idea of what constituted a call to the ministry and for the most part such a clear idea took into account the necessity of all four calls and ordered their relations.
Modern vagueness in thought about the ministry appears in the uncertainty of the churches, the ministers themselves, of boards and schools about the nature of the call. This vagueness doubtless is partly due to the conflict of traditions—a conflict in which exponents of the primacy of the "secret call" may take the position that it alone is adequate while others who emphasize the first importance of church call come to the indefensible position of renouncing the importance of command and obedience enacted in solitariness. It may be due also to the inapplicability to the Christian experience of young persons in our time of a theory of call developed in another age of Christian experience—the age of revivalism and evangelicalism. Whatever the reasons for the uncertainty, there is evidence that a new idea of call is emerging among Protestant churches and is contributing its share to the emerging new concept of the ministry. The idea is not a simple one but an idea of order and relation in the complex action and interaction of person, community and God, governing providentially, working by his spirit, active in history. But the further description of this idea of the call must be deferred for a moment while we undertake to analyze other elements that enter into the definition of the ministry.
c. The Minister's Authority. In those periods when clear-cut ideas of the ministry prevailed pastors and people were relatively agreed on the acceptable answer to the question: By what authority do you do these things, i.e., preach, care for souls, preside over the church and administer the sacraments? Today, however, answers to the question are frequently uncertain and vague.
Authority, to be sure, is a complex phenomenon and some elements in the power which office-bearers exercise at any given time and place as well as in the respect accorded to them cannot easily be stated in conceptual terms. An effort to analyze the authority of the ministry as this was exercised and recognized in the early and medieval Church and in the centuries immediately after the Reformation would lead us deep into social history and psychology, into theology and political science. The further effort to account for the loss of pastoral authority in the modern world would require no less extensive researches into the effects on men of the democratic, industrial, technological and scientific revolutions. Such detailed inquiries lie beyond the scope of this study; we must content ourselves with a few reflections on the various answers to the question about ministerial authority that have been given at different times.
In those answers there has always been indirect reference to the ultimate power that lies behind all human authority, but the defined source of authority has been some mediate principle. Only in the case of the prophet or some other exceptionable person has the answer pointed more directly to God as the giver of the authority. The ministry in general and the Church, as community and as institution, have been highly aware that false prophets claiming immediate empowerment by the Divine always greatly exceed in number the true spokesmen for God, that there are more lying visions than authentic ones, and that personal inspirations must be subjected to social or historical validation. Hence though the minister in all times is "man of God" he does not as minister undertake to prophesy with a "Thus says the Lord," and to claim that his words are the Word of God. He is "man of God" at least in the sense that his office is as such a human acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God, as the Church in its very existence is a confession of faith in God. But the authority which accrues to him as such an official witness to divine authority is neither under his nor the Church’s control. In times of great unbelief his social authority will be diminished by the fact that the office points to divine authority; he will participate in the humiliation rather than in the exaltation of Christ. While then the office of the ministry refers to ultimate authority the reference is more by way of indication than of representation. Even prophecy points to divine power more than it regards itself as the vehicle of that power; and the ambassador for Christ is no plenipotentiary. Hence when we ask about the authority of the ministry we leave aside, though we do not forget, his authority as "man of God" and "ambassador for Christ."
We must also leave aside, and in this case try to forget, several sorts of incidental authority that have accrued to ministers at various times because of the interactions of Church and world. Among these is the authority of government which is attached to the ministry when Church and state are so closely united that the minister is also an official of the state and represents it in the discharge of his functions. Something of this ambivalent authority remains even when Church and state are separated, as in the case of the military chaplaincy and in the authorization of ministers by governments to perform civilly sanctioned marriage rites. Again the authority of the minister as representative of the community of learning is incidental and not essential to the office. That he ought to be well educated is one thing, but that he ought to have the authority of learning is something else. For a long time in Western history clergymen, like the priests of ancient Egypt, were the only learned group and hence represented the mystery and power of learning. Now it is often bewailed that they have lost that authority and it may be maintained that the fault is theirs or the Church's for not insisting sufficiently on an educated ministry. But the loss of this authority seems due far more to the rise of a large and varied group of learned men in many other professions than to a failure on the part of the Church and ministry as such to maintain previously established standards. The loss of social power by the ministry as a result of the spread of education and the transference to scientists of the representative authority of learning is comparable to the loss ministers suffered when Church and state were separated. Neither civil power nor learning in itself form the basis of ministerial authority however much they may contribute at certain times to the prestige of the ministry.
Ministers have derived their immediate authority to preach and teach, lead worship, care for souls and perform their other offices from the Church and from Scripture. When they have been asked about their authority they have pointed to these two "powers" as the ones they represent. Accordingly they have been questioned about the extent to which they truly represented them and have been accorded the kind of respect which was extended at the time to Church and Scriptures. But within this framework of validation by Church and Scriptures there have been many variations in the ministers' and the churches' conceptions of pastoral authority. For one thing there have been differences in the order of precedence as between Church and Scriptures. For another, there has been variation insofar as now Church as institution, now Church as community has been the source of authority. And again changes have occurred as in some instances the delegation, in others the acquisition, of power has been emphasized.
Ministers at all times have exercised authority as representatives of churchly institutions and the dignity of the institutional Church, the respect accorded to it—whatever its measure at the time—have been in some ways transferred to them. They have also been spokesmen of the Church as community, have represented the mind and tradition of the Church, and so they have exercised the kind of communal authority that accrues to the person who represents the community to itself; for instance, in the parallel case of a national community a leader such as Abraham Lincoln, quite apart from his institutional authority as president representing the state, has particular power as the exponent of the national mind and spirit. Ministers have been, further, representatives of the Scriptures, as interpreters possessing the authority of teachers, and often as judges charged with the responsibility of deciding definitively, though not infallibly, what the meaning of the Church's constitution is in a particular situation.
Finally, it has been expected of ministers that they should acquire the authority possessed by those who have directly experienced what they commend to others. This also is a kind of teaching authority, but even more the authority of the witness. As preachers of the gospel it is expected that they themselves have experienced its power; as guides to the life of penitence and faith they need to know directly the nature of the humble and contrite heart. They cannot teach the law without being under the law nor unlovingly seek to increase love; when they attempt to do so their work lacks authority. Though the authority of experience and character is gift of grace it is also achievement on the part of men who work out their salvation with fear and trembling because God works in them.
These various kinds of authority—church authority as institutional and communal, Scriptural authority as teaching and judicatory, personal authority as spiritual and moral—are intricately interrelated. In some conceptions of the ministry one or the other sort may be entirely lacking, or, as in the case of judicatory authority, may be transferred by communal or institutional decision to certain ministers or companies of them or to representative bodies of clergy and laity. Nevertheless, when we ask the pastoral ruler or the priest or the preacher and evangelist by what authority he carries on his work his answer usually seems to include reference to all these sources of his empowerment. But there are striking differences in the order in which they are mentioned.
The authority of the priest is first of all institutional. His ordination is mentioned first, then his personal discipline of life, and his study of the Scriptures and the mind of the community. His "august powers," says Pope Pius XI, "are conferred upon the priest in a special Sacrament designed to this end." These powers include "power over the very body of Jesus Christ" to make "it present upon our altars" and "the power which . . . 'God gave neither to Angels nor Archangels'—the power to remit sins." The priest, however, must exercise other functions besides administering the sacraments and institutional means cannot empower him to fulfill these duties; hence he needs to practice spiritual discipline, cultivating all the Christian virtues; he also needs to study, for "how can he teach unless he himself possess knowledge" and have gained a "full grasp of the Catholic teaching on faith and morals?"
The sources of the authority of the pastoral ruler Gregory the Great describes are doubtless the same, but as his functions are differently ordered from those of the modern priest so also the bases of his power are mentioned in a different order and with a varying emphasis. The primary source of his authority seems to lie in the personal discipline that enables him, as one who knows how to govern himself as Christian, also to govern and guide others. Ordination can be taken for granted but it seems clear that ordination cannot give the pastoral ruler the strength he requires. Personal experience and discipline as well as study of the Scriptures are the foundation stones of his authority.
The preacher of the Reformation needs institutional empowerment, but ordination plays no such role in his accreditation as do first of all the study and personal appropriation of Scriptures and especially of the gospel, and, secondly, the corresponding discipline of life. In the case of the evangelist institutional ordination can become a matter of wholly minor significance and even the study of Scriptures is often made secondary to personal experience of the power of the gospel. To the priest, the pastoral ruler, the preacher and the evangelist we may add the churchman, the kind of minister, appearing in many periods, who exercises authority in the interpretation of the Scriptures, in the direction of the church, in the leadership of prayer and the care of souls as one who participates deeply in the mind of the community and who has acquired communal authority by study and discipline. Such men—Bernard of Clairvaux is one representative of the type—will also be institutionally authorized, but their authority comes from the community more than from the institution, and their relation to the Scriptures is that of members of the interpreting and obeying community rather than that of isolated individuals.
The confusion in modern Christendom about the meaning of the ministry makes itself evident in uncertainty about pastoral authority as well as in the vagueness present in thought about pastoral functions. Outside the Roman Catholic Church institutional authority is generally weak, partly because in their pluralism the institutions too clearly represent something else than God, Christ and Scriptures or the Christian community. These local churches and denominations, greatly loved as they are by their members, are not so hedged by divinity that pronouncements made in their name invite reverent attention. The ambiguous, sometimes slightly amused attitude many laymen betray toward ordination may be somewhat indicative of the lack of power in the institutional aspect of the ministry. The power of the Scriptures remains very great but that power is ill-defined today when the older theories about the nature of Scriptural authority have been eroded and the Christian's present understanding of it remains still to be formulated. The minister who is a faithful interpreter of the Word continues to exercise considerable authority because of the actual power of the Bible, but not a few ministers themselves have been uncertain about its authority and have not mediated it since they were not subject to it themselves. Communal authority has been weakened by the individualization of religious life in the fragmented modern world and by loss of continuity with the past. To many men there has remained only the spiritual authority they derived from personal religious life, or, as a spurious substitute for any kind of authority, personal attractiveness whether genuine or fictitious. One may speak of a general weakening of the authority of the ministry in the modern world. This weakening may be the ecclesiastical counterpart of that decline of respect for authority which has occurred among men who first having thought themselves masters of their fate then, as mass-men, became the prey of powers which moved them about not as persons but as things or bundles of conditionable reflexes. To such men no power was anything but brute force, unentitled to respect; every word was simple propaganda.
Since this problem of authority among men is always ultimately theological the crisis in pastoral authority is symptomatic of the crisis in civilization, though it is not as some apologists for the Church seem to believe the cause of the latter crisis. At all events it seems true that with increase among men of respect for the Church and Scriptures, above all with increased awareness of the sovereignty of God, the authority oŁ the pastor who represents or at least points to these powers also increases. But the problem remains how and what he is to represent in the first place and how such representation can come about.
d. The Idea of the People. The final element in a theory of the ministry which we can consider here is the notion of the people to whom the ministers are sent as servants. When the idea of the ministry is relatively well-defined both of these questions are answered: Is the minister primarily sent to the people of the Church or to those of the world? What, in the light of Christian faith, is the greatest need of the people to whom he is sent, that one need which amidst all their needs is always to be kept in view by the minister?
The relations of Church and world being what they are no ministry has ever been exclusively directed to those within or to those outside the Christian community. Even when the minister begins as missionary to some people in the world he soon gathers a Church that claims his special attention; even when he begins as a shepherd of a separated flock he is bound to have relations to those who seem to be the wolves that prey upon it or the dogs that protect it. Still, there are differences of emphasis. When the Church is regarded as all-inclusive and locally becomes the parish Church, universally the ecumenical Church, then the ministry knows itself to be the servant of all it can reach since all are nominally in the Church. When the Church is regarded as exclusive, separated from the rest of society, an ark of salvation in a great flood of destruction, then the emphasis falls on service to the elect few. Today there is uncertainty about the ministry in Church and world partly because it is not clear whether the Church is fundamentally inclusive or exclusive, whether therefore the minister's concern is to extend to all in his reach or only to a faithful elite. Is the rural, the suburban, the inner-city, the college minister a parish parson or a builder of a separated community? Is the theological teacher a minister of a separate, ecclesiastical science or of a university subject?
A definite theory of the ministry always includes, furthermore, specific awareness of the nature and fundamental need of the people it serves. When Gregory wrote his Pastoral Rule there was present to his mind the immature and sinful yet immortal race whose members needed the service of the pastoral ruler on their wayward course of life that they might escape hell and enter into heaven's joy. The understanding of man characteristic of the Reformers was that of a sublime but perverted creation, a ruined work of art, Milton's Adam. He was a highly dynamic, willful, loving and rebellious being, whose power was thwarted, whose will was in bondage, whose love and anger were misdirected. His fundamental need was for reconciliation to God through repentance and faith. All other wants were secondary to the need for the experienced forgiveness of his sin. Gregory as well as Luther and Calvin knew that man lacked many other things besides the one thing needful and that the cure of all his other diseases would not ensue automatically on the healing of his deepest wound. But they knew where to begin their ministry, to what human need ministers as ministers needed to address themselves in all their words and deeds, whatever else they might be required to do because physicians, social workers, teachers and lawyers were not available.
For a long time now the Christian understanding of man has been obscured by theories of his nature built on other dogmas than that of the sovereignty of God and constructed out of observations of his behavior made from other points of view than those of Christian faith. As the conception of nature to which man is always related has changed, churches and ministers have often succumbed to the temptation to substitute the needs of natural man (that is, of man as primarily related to nature) for the needs of theological man (that is, of man as primarily related to God). Or again' as the great significance of the individual's relation to society became clear the needs of social man seemed to be primary. But the traditional work of the ministry in teaching the Word from God, the word to God and words about God, of administering the sacraments, of building the Church and caring for souls seemed to have too little direct relevance to the needs of men so naturalistically or socially understood. Was not the approach to the needs of such men from natural or social science more direct and more helpful than the circuitous approach from divine science? Hence great discussions developed over the question how to make the gospel relevant to needs it never had had primarily in view. It was translated into evolutionary and social terms, though it resisted efforts to cast it into such strange forms. Confusion was bound to result. The political needs of men struggling for survival or status, the economic needs of hungry and competitive men, the psychological needs of anxious and guilty interpersonal beings, these and other highly important wants seemed to require the ministrations of the Church. And to justify themselves churches and ministers had before them the example of the Great Physician and Reformer who had compassion on every man in natural need and prophesied to an oppressed, divided nation threatened by disaster. The context in which he did these things, the cause for which he came out and why he was sent was often forgotten.
In this situation some ministers abandoned the ministry for medicine or social service, while others attempted to transform their traditional work into semiclinical or social service activity. The great mass of clergymen remained true to their primary calling but they were puzzled. There was good reason for their perplexity, for the theological view of man is always bound up with natural and social views of man and what had happened was that old views of nature and society had changed radically. How to understand men as fundamentally related to God when their relations to nature and society had so changed presented a most difficult practical as well as theoretical problem. The temptation to try to convert the concept of the ministry from one directed to the needs of man-in-relation-to-God to one directed toward the wants of natural or social man was the more attractive because the alternative seemed to be a ministry that could not speak of God and man in their relations to each other without employing thirteenth- and sixteenth-century conceptions of nature and society. Often the ministry seemed to be divided between those who sought to make the gospel relevant by allegorizing it so as to meet the needs of modern men and those who regarded its earlier translations as so literal that any new translation was betrayal. Most clergymen probably avoided these extremes, but their problems were so much the greater.
The confusion is lifting somewhat. Out of the great wrestlings of men with their personal and social problems, out of renewed study of Scriptures and critical reflection on history, a view of man is emerging that sets in the forefront again his relation to God. The scene in which the divine-human encounter takes place is not, to be sure, a flat earth canopied by a heavenly tent; the scene has become stranger and vaster. The human protagonist in this encounter is not a being that thinks with heart and kidneys; he has become an even more mysterious creature. The history of his wrestle with God is not confined to a few thousand years of dramatic events occurring in Asia Minor, though the crucial importance of those events seems even greater as the story expands into remoter pasts and futures. -But still, man is seen as man engaged in conflict, conversation and reconciliation with God. Before the new yet old view comes clear an incalculable amount of work must be done by poets and theologians, by historical scholars and Biblical students, by ministers dealing at close range with men in this encounter, and especially by these men themselves. Those among them most conversant with nature and society in their modern aspects must make particular contributions. Nevertheless, as soon as man has been understood as man-before-God confusion about the nature of the ministry has begun to disappear, no matter how great the remaining problems of "demythologizing" and translating the gospel and the law.
III. THE PASTORAL DIRECTOR
In the foregoing analysis of the elements that enter into any well-defined theory of the ministry some indications have been given of the character of that theory which seems to be emerging out of contemporary study of the Bible, participation in the tradition of the Church, the experiences and reflections of ministers in our day, and the needs of the time. Each of these is an important source of the emerging idea and signs of its appearance are to be found in all the centers of church activity—in the theological schools, in the conferences and discussions of churchmen, and, above all, in the work and thought of ministers themselves The new idea is not equally significant everywhere, for in some areas older conceptions—those of the priest, the preacher and the evangelist—remain more pertinent than the new. Yet the developing idea seems more widely significant and applicable than is often believed by those who are holding fast to the earlier conceptions. Priests are affected by it as well as preachers(Cf. Joseph H, Fichter, S.J., Social Relations in the Urban Parish (Chicago 1954 ), Chap. X, "Social Roles of the Parish Priest.") rural no less than urban ministers are challenged to develop a ministry in accordance with it; it applies to the ministers whose provinces are denominations or regions as well as to those whose concern is a neighborhood. We cannot here raise the question about the part cultural changes on the one hand, renewed Christian convictions and the new sense of Church on the other, play in its development. Our problem is to describe the theory that seems to be emerging and to be gaining ground in the thought as well as the practice of ministers. For want of a better phrase we may name it the conception of the minister as a pastoral director, though the name is of little importance.
What the term is meant to designate is indicated rather indirectly by the character of modern church architecture and by the perverted form in which the idea occurs. The place in which the minister mainly functions always signalizes the Church's idea of his task. The building and room in which the priest discharges his office is designed for the celebration of the mass; it is dominated by the altar, though provision is also made in it for preaching and confession. The space in which the preacher does his work is a room in which the pulpit with its open Bible is the central feature though provision is also made for the administration of the sacraments and sometimes for meetings of the ruling elders. The period of greatest confusion in Protestant conceptions of Church and ministry was marked by the conversion of the room into a place in which organ, choir, pulpit and communion table simultaneously claimed first attention and Akron-plan Sunday School rooms were extruded from an amoebic nucleus. To be sure, contemporary church architecture continues to betray how uncertain and groping are the efforts of the Church to define the nature of its ministry. Some of it is symptomatic of an experimentation controlled by no leading idea but only by vagary and the desire to please as many potential church visitors as possible. Yet there is a dominant movement so that the modern Protestant church building, not to speak now of the Roman Catholic, becomes a sign of what is being done in it. What is being done is evidently a very complex thing for these many rooms of the parish house or religious education building, are designed for a great number of meetings besides those of Sunday School classes and official boards. But the manifoldness is not unorganized. The focal center of the complex building is a room for which no name yet has been found. To call it either auditorium or sanctuary seems false. It is the place of worship and of instruction. The prominence given to Holy Table or altar, to cross and candles, does not indicate so much that this is the place where the sacraments are celebrated as that it is the place of prayer. The pulpit, however, has not been relegated to a secondary place as though preaching were not now important. Another architectural feature is symptomatic. The minister now has an office from which he directs the activities of the Church, where also he studies and does some of his pastoral counseling.
A second indirect indication of the character of the new conception of the ministry may be gained from a glance at its perverse form—the one in which the pastoral director becomes the "big operator." When ministers comment on the kinds of men who are failures in the ministry they frequently describe among these types the person who operates a religious club or a neighborhood society with much efficiency and pomp and circumstance. He is active in many affairs, organizes many societies, advertises the increases in membership and budget achieved under his administration and, in general, manages church business as if it were akin to the activities of a chamber of commerce. In their reaction to such secularization of the office some men try to return to the idea of the preacher or of the priest. But the needs of men and the responsibilities of office prevent them from doing so. Then they realize that the "big operator" represents a perversion of the minister's office not because he is an executive but because he does not administer the church's work. The pastoral director of a contemporary church has his historical antecedent. His predecessor is to be found in the bishop or overseer of an ancient church, a man who, unlike modern bishops, was not primarily entrusted with oversight over many clergymen and local churches but was elected to oversee a single local church. As bishop of Hippo Regius Augustine was such a pastoral director. The bishops described in the First Letter to Timothy were such men—the heads and overseers of the Household of God.
In his work the pastoral director carries on all the traditional functions of the ministry—preaching, leading the worshipping community, administering the sacraments, caring for souls, presiding over the church. But as the preacher and priest organized these traditional functions in special ways so does the pastoral director. His first function is that of building or "edifying" the church; he is concerned in everything that he does to bring into being a people of God who as a Church will serve the purpose of the Church in the local community and the world. Preaching does not become less important for him than it was for the preacher but its aim is somewhat different. It is now pastoral preaching directed toward the instruction, the persuasion, the counseling of persons who are becoming members of the body of Christ and who are carrying on the mission of the Church. It is therefore at its best more inclusively Biblical rather than evangelical only; it is directed indeed to sinful men who need to be reconciled to God but also to men who need in all things to grow up into mature manhood in the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ and who are to interpret to others the meaning of Christian faith. Leading the "royal priesthood" of the whole Church in worship becomes more important for this pastoral director than it had been for the preacher; this worship is not simply the accompaniment of the preaching of the gospel but the effort of the Church to demonstrate its love of God, whose love of man is being proclaimed in the gospel. The activity of the Church as a priesthood making intercession for all men, offering thanks and praise on behalf of all, now requires the minister's devoted leadership in a particular way. The activity on behalf of individuals is for this pastoral director not only a matter of pastoral rule or of the pastoral cure of souls, though it will include both, but is best designated as pastoral counseling, a counseling that has them in view as needing reconciliation to God but also to men, yet knows that reconciliation is not automatically productive of wisdom. It is a counseling, moreover, that calls into service the aid of many other men and agencies able to help a person in need, and, very frequently, it is a counseling of counselors. So also as teacher, the pastoral director becomes the teacher of teachers, the head of all educational organization which he cannot simply manage but must lead as a competent Christian educator. These and other less central activities of the ministry of all periods are carried on by the pastoral director, but the work that lays the greatest claim to his time and thought is the care of a church, the administration of a community that is directed toward the whole purpose of the Church, namely, the increase among men of the love of God and neighbor; for the Church is becoming the minister and its "minister" is its servant, directing it in its service.
It is significant that when ministers reflect on their theological education they are likely to regret more than any other deficiency in it the failure of the school to prepare them for the administration of such a church. What these men have in mind was expressed by one of them who said in effect: The seminary prepared me for preaching and taught me the difference between preaching and public speaking; it helped me to become a pastoral counselor and not simply a counselor; it prepared me for the work of Christian education; but it gave me no preparation to administer a church as Church; what I learned about church administration was a nontheological smattering of successful business practices. It may also be significant that a superintendent bewailed the fact that while he would like to find for the churches under his care the best preachers available these churches themselves were not so concerned about preaching; they wanted "all-round men."
In the contemporary situation the idea of the minister's call is undergoing a change in the direction of greater emphasis on the significance of the call extended to a person by the Church on the basis of its understanding of his Christian and providential calling. The secret call as always remains important, but in the conception of the ministry that is emerging out of the Biblical and systematic theology of the day and out of the personal reflections of young people and their pastors, the divine action whereby men are chosen for their station and calling is less spiritualistically understood than was the case for the past hundred years. The mode of election whereby God appoints individuals to their lifework is seen as not different in character from the mode whereby he elects them to serve him as men or women, as American or Asian, as first- or twentieth-century men. In every case, to be sure, the call requires internal apprehension of the divine will, the response of human will, the acceptance of the yoke of the kingdom. Without a personal sense of vocation gained in the solitary struggles of the soul with its Maker and Redeemer the minister will always be deficient. But the call to the ministry is not for our contemporaries first of all a mystic matter enacted in the solitariness of lonesome encounter; it is rather a call extended to social man, the member of a community, through the mediation of community. It is more like the ca}l of Stephen than of Paul, of Ambrose and Augustine than of Francis of Assisi, of Calvin than of Fox. Young men and women today feel themselves challenged to identify themselves with the community and institution devoted to the service of God rather than with an ideal; the human need of which they are made aware is one that only the community can minister to; the words through which they hear the Word of God addressed to them are likely to be the words of the Church. As the conception of the work of the ministry changes into the idea of the whole Church ministering so the conception of call changes into the idea of the called and the calling Church—always, of course, as Church under the authority of God. In such a situation the providential call assumes increased importance, for the question the Church raises through its various agencies is which young men and women have been endowed by God with the spiritual, moral and intellectual qualities necessary to this work, which of them through the guidance of their lives have been led by God toward the ministry, which of them it ought therefore to call. Hence also the Church requiring young people to consider whether they are not called of God to this work asks them to reflect especially on the requirements he has laid upon them by his watchful providence over the whole course of their lives and by bringing them into being in this time with its needs.
As in the cases of the ministry's functions and of the call so also when the minister's authority is in question the Church moves nearer the center of the picture in the emerging new conception. The ministry of today and tomorrow must indeed represent all the kinds of authority associated with the office in the past—institutional, teaching or Scriptural, communal and spiritual; but as institutional authority was central in the priest's office and Scriptural in the preacher's so communal authority becomes of greatest importance to the pastoral director. He will continue to be ordained by the institution and will, if he is faithful to it, have as much authority as the institution he represents has; spiritual authority is as necessary to him as to ministers of every other type; he is not less under the authority of Scriptures or less representative of it than the preacher; but his relation to all these authorities is different.
This is most evident in connection with the pastoral director's Scriptural, teaching authority. Community and Scriptures have been brought much more closely together in practice and in theory than was the case in the older view of the minister as preacher. Historical studies have made clear that both under the Old and the New Covenants the people and the book were far more closely associated than was once thought to be the case. Then individual men, personally inspired, were regarded as the original mediators of the Word of God and individual preachers obedient to these writings mediated the Word to men. Now we are aware that frequently the authors and always the editors of the sacred writings were communities which in obedience and by inspiration selected true prophecy from false, genuine gospels from spurious ones, apostolic letters from epistles written by men who had no divine commission. Now it becomes apparent that one cannot know the Scriptures without knowing the community which recorded what it had seen and heard; and that one cannot know the mind of the community without knowing the Scriptures. The result of two centuries of Biblical criticism, as this has affected the thought of the Church, has not been an impairment of the power of the Scriptures but it has been an increase of the sense of the communal character of the book. For this and other reasons the best Biblical preaching going on in the churches today undertakes to interpret the Word of God as a word spoken to Israel and the Church. The minister who is obedient to Scriptures and represents its authority does so as one who is interpreting the mind of the community-before-God. When he undertakes to think with the logic of the community, he does so under the discipline of Scriptures. He must learn to think Biblically if he is to think Christianly. So Scriptural and communal authority begin to fuse but the nature of each changes in the process.
The significance of the communal authority of the minister in our time appears also in his relation to the tradition of the Church. Tradition has assumed a new significance for Protestants in a period dominated by the historical understanding of human life. So long as the Church was understood as primarily institutional, in terms of its parallelism to a state rather than to a cultural society, and so long as tradition meant resistance to reform, conflict between the principles of traditional and Scriptural authority was inevitable. But in our time tradition is conceived otherwise than it was in the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. It appears in a different form partly because the problem of social continuity has become as great for us as the problem of change and reform, but even more because the historical, cultural character of human existence has come into fuller view. We know tradition now not only in the form of social rigidities resistant to change but as the dynamic structure of modifiable habits without which men do not exist as men. Tradition means a society's language, its conceptual frames of reference, its moral orientation in the world of good and evil, the direction of its science, the selection of the best in its literature and art. We know tradition as a living social process constantly changing, constantly in need of criticism, but constant also as the continuing memory, value system and habit structure of a society. Partly under the influence of comparable movements in a world that has become aware of the significance of tradition in politics and literature, partly under the influence of its own studies and needs, the Church has begun to pay a new attention to its tradition. It sees it not as a dead thing once and for all given for acceptance or rejection, but as living history constantly being renewed, rethought and re-searched for meanings relevant to existing men. The minister of today and tomorrow represents that tradition to a greater or lesser extent. If he knows it and lives in it as the tradition of the great Church he has an authority in the local and the contemporary Christian community which the man who represents only the tradition of a national or denominational or localized community cannot have. If he knows the great tradition he will also know that it is his duty to represent it, interpreting the mind of the Church rather than acting as the representative of a fleeting majority of living and local church members. At worst the effort to exercise this authority becomes a servile representation of old forms, a religious antiquarianism; at its best, however, such communal authority speaks in contemporary language and to contemporary needs out of the long experience and painfully gathered wisdom of the Christian centuries.
It is questionable whether the prominence of communal authority in the new idea of the ministry has special significance for the development of spiritual authority. The latter always remains a highly personal matter; the minister is fitted to exercise this authority by the personal crises through which God leads him It is conferred upon him only in the inner chamber where ordinary thanksgivings, intercessions, confessions and petitions are daily made and where the extraordinary humblings or clarifications take place. Highly personal, however, as this authority is the experiences out of which it grows can also be affected by the participation of the lonely individual in the life of the whole Church, including its life of prayer.
Whether the minister's institutional authority in Protestantism is being established in our times so that we can speak of the emergence of a clearer idea at this point may remain questionable. American Protestant institutions in general are in flux; the common life of the Protestant church is in part seeking institutional forms through which to express and discipline itself, in part it has developed such forms without officially recognizing their presence, continuing to think in terms of historic structures or polities that do not fit the actual situation and operations of the various agencies. New organizations and activities in the Church are being analyzed with the aid of ancient categories in somewhat the same way that in economic society problems of the distribution of rights to income are discussed with the use of private property concepts applicable to lands and houses but not to stocks, bonds and wages. It seems to be clear that the Church in America in our time like Church in any place at any time is deeply influenced in its institutional forms by the political and economic society with which it lives in conjunction. As the polity of all the churches, whether they are episcopal, presbyterian or congregational by tradition, has been modified in the direction of the political structures of Canada and the United States, so the institutional status and authority of the ministry are being modified in the direction of the democratic type of political, educational and economic executive or managerial authority. In this situation the temptation of ministers to become business managers is balanced by the opposite temptation to maintain the kind of status and authority their predecessors enjoyed in more hierarchically ordered society. The question is not whether the ministry will reflect the institutional forms of leadership in the world but whether it will reflect these with the difference that Christian faith and church life require, whether, in short, the minister will remain "man of God" despite the fact that he is now a director instead of a ruler. Perhaps the kinds of studies that have been made of the art of administration, of the relations of policy and administration, of organization and management in other :spheres will be carried forward into the sphere of the Church and may show how much the pastoral director of our time, as pastoral preacher, teacher, counselor and leader of worship has also become the democratic pastoral administrator, that is to say, a man charged with the responsibility and given the authority to hold in balance, to invigorate and to maintain communication among a host of activities and their responsible leaders, all directed toward a common end.
Something has previously been said above about the final point in the emerging new conception of the ministry. The people to whom ministers are sent are first of all the people of the Church but the Church is recognized to be the ministering community whose work is in the world. Hence the minister directs his attention as much toward the "world" as the dean of a medical school has his eye on the potentially and actually sick people of the society outside his closed community of healers, or, to use a wholly different analogy, as much as the mayor of a city keeps in view the nature and the needs of the cultural and economic society of which his city is a center. But the relations of Church and world are as unique as they are constantly changing so that no analogy does justice to the situation. What seems most evident in the case of the modern pastoral director is that he can think of himself neither as parish parson responsible for all the people in a geographic area nor as the abbot of a convent of the saved, but only as the responsible leader of a parish church; it is the Church, not he in the first place, that has a parish and responsibility for it. The minister confronts many of his greatest difficulties at this point, since on the one hand he may lose himself and his ministry among the manifold demands made upon him by the neighborhood, and on the other hand, if he directs his Church as though it had no responsibility for the environing society, he will develop an institution of narrow scope and outlook. Clear understanding of the nature and mission of the Church are prerequisite to any effective solution of the problems that present themselves.
The human needs that the Church exists to meet are much the same at all times. Whether the stars are as near as they seemed to the Psalmist or are removed by the millions and billions of light years to which we must accustom our imagination, still the question is the same: "When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast established; what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him?" (R.S.V.). Whether Israel is exiled by Babylon or a modern people displaced, whether Rachel or a twentieth-century mother mourns for her children they need the same assurance that "your work shall be rewarded.... There is hope for your future, ... and your children shall come back to their own country(R.S.V.)." When the social gospel was at the height its greatest exponent in America, Walter Rauschenbusch, despite his animadversions against traditional religion, saw clearly how much the human problem would remain the same in the best of all possible worlds. He wrote:
"In the best social order that is conceivable, men will still smoulder with lust and ambition, and be lashed by hate and jealousy as with the whip of a slave driver.... No material comfort and plenty can satisfy the restless soul in us and give us peace with ourselves.... The day will come when all life on this planet will be extinct, and what meaning will our social evolution have had if that is all?"
We can make far too much of the changing needs of men in changing civilizations. Religion is a highly conservative thing because the fundamental needs of men as finite and delinquent creatures aspiring after infinity and wholeness do not change.
Nevertheless our views of men change somewhat with the changing forms in which the ultimate dilemmas of existence present themselves. The cry, "What shall I do to be saved?" is made in various ways. At one time it is the cry, "What shall I do to be saved from hell?" At another time, `'How can I have a friendly God?" Again men ask, "How can our lives be rescued out of dissipation and dispersion into unity?" It is always the same cry, with the same implications, yet always newly phrased. The form in which it is uttered and heard today is variously interpreted For T. S Eliot and the many for whom he speaks it is the cry of salvation from '`The Wasteland." For Paul Tillich
"[man] experiences his present situation in terms of disruption, conflict, self-destruction, meaninglessness, and despair in all realms of life. This experience is expressed in the arts and in literature, conceptualized in existential philosophy, actualized in political cleavages of all kinds, and analyzed in the psychology of the unconscious.... The question arising out of this experience is not, as in the Reformation, the question of a merciful God and the forgiveness of sins; nor is it, as in the early Greek church, the question of infinitude, of death and error, nor is it the question of the personal religious life, or of the Christianization of culture and society. It is the question of a reality in which: the self-estrangement of our existence is overcome, a reality of reconciliation and reunion, of creativity, meaning and hope." ( Systematic Theology, Vol. I ( 1951), p. 49)
The cry for salvation here has become the cry for rebirth. There are others who understand the human situation more in terms akin to those prevailing in certain areas in New Testament days, when it seemed to many men that they were in the control of forces indifferent to their fate and that God, however potentially powerful, was very far off. Not a few men today experience their dilemma as that of creatures who were born to be free but are everywhere in chains. Nature for them is a power whose iron laws or chance throws of the dice decide the time and place and race and endowment of the child at birth. History, whether interpreted as the realm of determinism or of chance, moves on its way like a tide carrying individual drops and waves of water to melt into the sands or to disappear on the horizon. Social forces, economic movements, machines and inventions that neither inventors nor statesmen can control, biological movements multiplying populations despite leagues for planned parenthood, psychological powers mysteriously hidden beyond the reach of consciousness—these and many other lesser forces direct the course of life and determine its destiny. And God is a God who hides himself. They are not unbelievers, these men; but for them the dominions, principalities, powers and rulers of the darkness of this world have a reality that makes the difference between ancient and modern mythologies of little importance. The cry for salvation that such men make is the cry for freedom from bondage, or to use a contemporary phrase, from the "other-directedness" and heteronomy of existence, from the life of mass-man. ''
As it becomes aware of the specific form in which ultimate human problems present themselves in our own time, the ministry, and therewith the schools that prepare men for it, begin to understand more sharply what the pastoral function is, in what language the gospel speaks to this need, and what form the Church must take in serving such men in such a time.
Viewed 89869 times.