General Information

Ministry means "service," which is an ideal for all Christians; the image of Christ as servant (Phil. 2:5-7; Mark 10:45) has been extended to the Christian church as a whole. From the beginning, however, certain individuals have been designated to perform spiritual functions within the church. Those ordained to these special ministries, which are usually full-time occupations, are now called ministers or Priests. Even in its early development, the church was a structured society consisting of the body of the faithful served by a group of individuals charged with particular functions and responsibilities.

The Gospels agree that the first ministers received their commission directly from Jesus Christ, but their ministry was set within the context of the church. The first ministers were called the Twelve, and later, the term Apostle was applied to them and to some other leaders of the community: Matthias, who succeeded Judas, Paul, Barnabas, and others. One important qualification of the original apostles was to have been eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ. The apostles went out from Jerusalem to preach, baptize, and establish churches. Other wandering ministers included the 70 sent out by Jesus (Luke 10:1), evangelists such as Philip (Acts 8:5), and charismatic prophets (Acts 11:27).

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As the church spread and became more institutionalized, local ministries emerged, presided over by prominent converts appointed by the apostles. The original offices were those of Bishops (overseers) and Presbyters (elders), although to begin with these were not clearly distinguished. Ministers such as Stephen and his companions were also appointed to deal with administrative matters and leave the apostles free for preaching (Acts 6:1-6), although Stephen also preached. They have been taken as prototypes of Deacons, although not actually called by this name.

During the 2d century the peripatetic ministries of apostles, evangelists, and prophets gradually died out and were replaced by a settled ministry situated in various towns and cities. Early in the century, Ignatius of Antioch testified to the increasing power and influence of the bishops, who came to be regarded as the successors to the apostles. Especially in cities where the churches had been founded by apostles, chronological lists of bishops were drawn up, and their unbroken line of succession from an apostolic founder was claimed to be a guarantee of the authenticity of their teaching, as against heretical teachers lacking such pedigree (see Apostolic Succession).

Under the bishops, presbyters (who were now called priests) performed most of the duties of Christian ministry in the local churches--preaching, administering the sacraments, and providing pastoral care. The deacons formed an order somewhat apart, with some clerical and some lay characteristics, thus providing a bridge between clergy and laity. The diaconate eventually devolved into a stepping-stone to the presbyterate, until it began to be restored to its original function in recent times.

Even in New Testament times some women exercised a ministry similar to that of deacons, although not until the 4th century did they become known as deaconesses. To what extent the deaconess's office was recognized as an order of ministry comparable to the men's orders is disputable, and practice probably varied from place to place. The ancient office of deaconess died out, but it has been revived in modern times.

The threefold ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons has been maintained in the Catholic tradition of the church, but at the Reformation most Protestant churches abolished the order of bishops and called their presbyters ministers. These ministers might be assisted by elders or deacons.

Entry to the full-time ministry now entails a course of theological and practical training leading to ordination, the process by which the candidate is received into the ministerial order. In the Catholic tradition, ordination is by a bishop, signifying the unity and continuity of the church. In nonepiscopal Protestant churches, ordination is usually by a collective of ministers acting together.

The Catholic tradition emphasizes the priestly and sacramental aspects of ministry, whereas the Protestant churches stress preaching and teaching. In recent times many Protestant churches have admitted women to the ministry. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches reject women's ordination; Anglicans, or Episcopalians, are divided on this issue.

John Macquarrie

Kirk, K. E., ed., The Apostolic Ministry (1946); Niebuhr, H. Richard, and Williams, Daniel D., eds., The Ministry in Historical Perspective, rev. ed. (1983); Osborn, Ronald E., In Christ's Place: Christian Ministry in Today's World (1977); Schillebeeckx, Edward, Church with a Human Face: New and Expanded Theology of Ministry (1985); Steele, D. A., Images of Leadership and Authority for the Church (1987); Williams, Daniel D., The Minister and the Care of Souls (1961).


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The biblical concept of ministry is service rendered to God or to people. Ministry in the church has as its goal the edification of individuals with a view toward corporate maturity in Christ (Eph. 4:7-16).

The concept of ministry as service is seen in the words diakoneo ("serve") and douleuo ("serve as a slave") and their corresponding nouns. The word hyperetes indicates one who gives willing service to another, e.g., servants of the "word" (Luke 1:2), of Christ (John 18:36; Acts 26:16; I Cor. 4:1), and of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:5).

The word leitourgia and its corresponding verb, leitourgeo, often refer to the priestly service of the OT. They are used figuratively in the NT to indicate financial "ministry" (Rom. 15:27; II Cor. 9:12) and the pouring out of Paul's life sacrificially in his ministry (Phil. 2:17). This terminology describes Christian service in general, but in the postapostolic period it is increasingly applied to the distinctive service of clergy as the Christian counterpart to the OT Levitical ministers. This is seen in I Clement and in the Apostolic Constitutions.

Types of ministry seen in Scripture include the service of priests and Levites in the OT, of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers in the NT, along with the general ministry of elders and the individual mutual ministries of all believers. The term "ministry" therefore refers to the work both of those commissioned to leadership and of the whole body of believers.

The ideals of ministry are portrayed in the servant-leadership of Christ. Acts 6:3 provides guidelines as to the spiritual qualities sought in leaders, and I Tim. 3:1-13 (cf. Titus 1:6-9) specifies the necessary qualities in greater detail.

There is a considerable difference of opinion regarding the historical development of ministry in the NT and in the early church. Many have seen a development from a simple charismatic ministry, exercised by every Christian in an individual way, to an organized or "official" ministry restricted to a few, ultimately issuing in the monarchial episcopate in the postapostolic period. The Reformation reversed this trend to a degree. From time to time in the history of the church and again in recent times various groups have emphasized the charismatic aspect of ministry. Most recently, concepts of ministry have been modified by such diverse movements as the worker priests, the stress on lay leadership and ministries, the development of multiple church staffs, and the modern charismatic movement.

It is far from certain, however, that the NT church experienced a linear development from charismatic to institutional ministry, and even less plausible that there was an antithesis in the early church between these tow forms of ministry such as postulated by E. Kasemann and others. It is true that there is little indication in most of Paul's letters of an institutional ministry, and that elders and deacons are mentioned mainly in the Pastorals (often considered non-Pauline) and Acts (often considered an "early catholic" work). However, the mention in Phil. 1:1 of elders and deacons accords with the picture in Acts of Paul ordaining elders in every church. Also the passages in the Pastorals concerning elders and deacons stress their character and function, not their "office." Further, the specific function exercised by elders, deacons, apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers is never set over against, or intended to eclipse, the mutual ("one another") ministries of the individual Spirit-gifted believers.

There are a number of additional issues surrounding the theology of ministry. These include (1) whether the NT ever described a prerequisite "call" to ministry other than the general commands of Christ and the recognition of the local church; (2) whether women were admitted to ministry in the NT (and consequently should be today); (3) whether life style (e.g., homosexuality) or prior experiences such as divorce should preclude ministry; and (4) what honor and authority should accrue to "full-time" ministers of Christ above those which belong to any faithful follower of the Lord. Some of these questions revolve around the institutional aspect of ministry. A further question is whether there is a sacramental aspect to ministry which is restricted to those ordained as priests by the church.

A dual view of ministry, i.e., that all believers were to exercise a ministry in accordance with their spiritual gift, but that authoritative teaching, leadership, and discipline were limited to a recognized body of elders, paves the way for an answer to the above questions. Paul restricted women from authoritative teaching positions, for example (I Tim. 2:12), but the universal testimony of both the OT and NT is that they exercised a variety of significant ministries. There are some significant instances also of women leaders in the early centuries of the church. Whether Paul's restrictions were intended to apply beyond the time when the NT was completed and when all ministries were more regulated is open to question. Ministry, by whatever persons and in whatever form, is essentially a continuation of the servant ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Protestant evangelicalism it is also largely a ministry of the Word of God. The purpose of ministry extends, of course, even beyond the edification of the church. It is, as in all Christian activity, the glory of God.

W L Liefeld
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

P. Achtemeier, "The Ministry of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels," Int 35:157-69; H. W. Beyer, TDNT, II, 81-93; F. J. A. Hort, The Christian Ecclesia; J. B. Lightfoot, "The Christian Ministry," in Saint Paul's Epistle to the Philippians; T. M. Lindsay, The Church and the Ministry in the Early Centuries; T. W. Manson, The Church's Ministry; J. K. S. Reid, The Biblical Doctrine of the Ministry; E. Schillebeeckx, Ministry; E. Schweizer, Church Order in the NT; E. E. Shelp and A. Sunderland, eds., A Biblical Basis for Ministry; H. Strathmann, TDNT, IV, 215-31; H. B. Swete, ed., Essays on the Early History of the Church and the Ministry.


General Information

The office of a priest is essentially that of a mediator; he interprets God (or the gods or other supernatural forces) to the adherents of a religion and represents them before God, usually as the one who offers sacrifice on their behalf. All ancient religions had their priests, and these priests exercised great influence, not only as custodians of the sacred mysteries but often as the only literate members of society. Many present-day religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Shinto have priests, but others, notably Islam, do not. Judaism had priests until the destruction of the Temple.

In Christianity the word priest comes from two distinct Greek terms, one meaning elder or presbyter and the other meaning priest in the traditional sense of mediator. Roman Catholics, Anglicans (Episcopalians), and Eastern Orthodox commonly refer to as priests those who have been ordained; they correspond roughly to those whom Protestants call ministers or sometimes presbyters. The word priest in its traditional hieratical sense is used in the New Testament to refer to Jesus Christ, the mediator of the new Covenant and also of the whole Church, which exercises a collective priesthood. Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Eastern Orthodox recognize also a special hieratical priesthood of bishops and presbyters, expressed in their sacramental ministry and especially in the offering of the eucharistic sacrifice.

John Macquarrie

Fischer, James A., Priests: Images, Ideals and Changing Roles (1987); James, Edwin O., The Nature and Function of Priesthood Kung, Hans, Why Priests?, trans. by John Cumming (1972); Power, David N., Minister of Christ and His Church: The Theology of Priesthood (1969); Rahner, Karl, The Priesthood, trans. by Edward Quinn (1970; repr. 1973).


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The term "priest" is identical in origin with the word "presbyter," which literally means "elder"; but in the English language it has become associated for the most part with the religious official whose main function is the offering up of sacrifices, though the English Reformers of the sixteenth century hoped that the retention of the term "priest" in the Book of Common Prayer would effect the restoration of its proper meaning of elder.

This confusion was occasioned by the strange fact that the English language has not kept in common usage any term corresponding to the Latin sacerdos, which precisely designates one who offers up sacrifices (hence "sacerdotal"). In the English of the OT and NT "priest" denotes a sacerdos and "priesthood" his sacerdotal ministry. Thus the duty belonging to priesthood is defined in Heb. 5:1 as follows: "Every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins"; and on the basis of this principle it is argued concerning the priesthood of Christ that "therefore it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer" (Heb. 8:3). The Christian doctrine of priesthood and of the relationship between the priesthood of the OT and that of the NT is most fully expounded in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which has been called "the Epistle of Priesthood."

The Necessity of Priesthood

It is the universal sinfulness of man which makes a sacrificing priesthood a necessity. The sacrifices offered up effect, or symbolize the means of effecting, reconciliation between sinful man and his holy Creator. The function of priesthood, accordingly, is a mediatorial function. The giving of the law through Moses and the institution of the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood belong together. Law and priesthood are simultaneous in origin and inseparable in operation (Heb. 7:11ff.). The reason for this is that the Israelites, like the rest of mankind, were sinners and therefore when confronted with the law, which is God's standard of righteousness, lawbreakers.

Certainly the Godgiven law is holy and just and good and spiritual (Rom. 7:12, 14) and as such marks out the way of life: by faithfully keeping its precepts a man shall live (Lev. 18:5; Neh. 9:29; Matt. 19:16-17; Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:12). But man's radical problem is that he is a sinner. The law shows him up for what he is, a lawbreaker, and "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23; cf. Ezek. 18:4, 20; Gen. 2:17). Consequently Paul writes, "The very commandment which promised life proved to be death to me" (Rom. 7:10), not that there is anything wrong with the law; the fault is in man who breaks the law (Rom. 7:13). Hence the necessity for the formulation of the law to be accompanied by the institution of a priesthood to mediate redemptively between God and the sinner who has broken his law, and who needs to be restored from death to life.

OT Priesthood

The priesthood of the old covenant could not effect the reality of reconciliation portended by its sacrificial function. Its character was preparatory; it portrayed the principle of propitiatory sacrifice but not the fulfillment of that principle. Its imperfection, which aroused the longing for and the expectation of the provision of the perfect priesthood, was apparent for the following reasons.

Christ as Priest

The purpose of the old order of priesthood was to teach the people that atonement for sins requires the provision of an innocent victim in the sinner's place and the shedding of blood as that victim dies the death due to the sinner. The Levitical order could not accomplish this atonement, but it kept alive the expectation of the coming of the prefect priest and the offering of the perfect sacrifice in fulfillment of the gospel promises contained in the Scriptures of the OT. The new order of priesthood is that of Melchizedek, and it is comprehended in the single person of our Redeemer Jesus Christ (Heb. 7).

The perfection of his priesthood is confirmed by the fact that it is forever (Ps. 110:4), that the sacrifice he offered is once for all (Heb. 7:27), and that, his work of atonement completed, he is now enthroned in celestial glory (Heb. 1:3; 10:12; 12:2). The perfection of his priesthood is established by the sinlessness of his earthly life as the incarnate Son, our fellow human being. This means that in contrast to the first Adam, who suffered defeat and dragged down the human race in his fall, Jesus, "the last Adam, (I Cor. 15:45, 47), took our humanity to himself in order to redeem it and to raise it in himself to the glorious destiney for which it was always intended.

It means that in going to the cross he who was without sin took our sins upon himself and suffered the rejection and the death due us sinners, "the righteous for the unrighteous" (I Pet. 2:22-24; 3:18; Heb. 4:15; 7:26-27), as the innocent victim provided by God's grace and mercy (I Pet. 1:18-19). And it means, further, that he is not only our sacrificing priest but also the sacrifice itself, for it was himself that he offered up for us, and thus in him we have the provision of the perfect substitute, a genuine equivalent, our fellow man (Heb. 2:14-15), who truly takes our place. Accordingly we are assured that by the will of God "we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all," who "by a single offering...has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (Heb. 10:10, 14).

The new order of priesthood fulfilled in the single person of Christ has, of course, completely superseded the old order. With Christ as our one great high priest who lives forever there is now no place or need for any succession of sacrificing priests. Now that he has offered up the one perfect sacrifice of himself there is room for no other sacrifice nor for any repetition of sacrifices. In Christ both priesthood and sacrifice have been brought to fulfillment and to finality.


The Priesthood of Believers

There remains, however, a priesthood which belongs to those who through faith have been united to Christ. This has commonly been designated "the priesthood of all believers." Thus Peter describes Christians as "a holy priesthood" whose function is "to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (I Pet. 2:5; cf. vs. 9). These spiritual sacrifices are not in any sense redemptive sacrifices but sacrifices of gratitude to God for the one all-sufficient redemptive sacrifice of Christ's self-offering at Calvary for us sinners. Thus we are exhorted to "present our bodies," i.e., ourselves, "as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God" (Rom. 12:1); and as we willingly offer ourselves we express our spiritual priesthood in acts of praise and thanksgiving and in the selfless service of our fellow men as we minister to their needs. The exercise of this priesthood is summed up in the words of Heb. 13:15-16: "Through him [Christ] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice or praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God."

In his celebrated essay "The Christian Ministry," J. B. Lightfoot not only insists that "as individuals, all Christians are priests alike," he also draws attention to the fact that in the ministerial offices enumerated in I Cor. 12:28 and Eph. 4:11 "there is an entire silence about priestly functions: for the most exalted office in the Church, the highest gift of the Spirit, conveyed no sacerdotal right which was not enjoyed by the humblest member of the Christian community." His affirmation concerning the kingdom of Christ in the opening paragraph of the essay is no less emphatic: "Above all it has no sacerdotal system. It interposes no sacrificial tribe or class between God and man, by whose intervention alone God is reconciled and man forgiven. Each individual member holds personal communion with the Divine Head. To him immediately he is responsible, and from him directly he obtains pardon and draws strength." These words of a great churchman and NT scholar admirably present the position of the apostolic church on the subject of priesthood.

P E Hughes
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)


Advanced Information

It is the consistent NT teaching that the work of ministers is "for the perfecting of the saints, ... for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12). The minister is called of God to a position of responsibility rather than privilege, as the words for "minister" show (diakonos, "table waiter"; hyperetes, "under-rower" in a large ship; leitourgos, "servant," usually of the state or a temple).

There are two passages in the NT which are of especial importance in this connection, I Cor. 12:28 and Eph. 4:11-12. From the former we gather that included in the ministries exercised in the early church were those of apostleship, prophecy, teaching, miracles, gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues (possibly also interpretations, vs. 30). The latter adds evangelists and pastors. In every case these appear to be the direct gift of God to the church. Both passages seem to say this, and this is confirmed elsewhere in the case of some of the people mentioned. Thus in Gal. 1:1 Paul insists that his apostolate was in no sense from man. He entirely excludes the possibility of his receiving it by ordination. We are to think, then, of a group of men directly inspired by the Holy Spirit to perform various functions within the church by way of building up the saints in the body of Christ.

But there are others also. Thus from early days the apostles made it a habit to appoint elders. Some hold that the seven of Acts 6 were the first elders. This seems very unlikely, but there were certainly elders at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). It is very striking that even on their first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas appointed elders "in every church" (Acts 14:23). There is every reason for thinking that these men were ordained with the laying on of hands, as in the case of the elders of the Jewish synagogue. Then there were the deacons of whom we read in Phil. 1:1 and I Tim. 3:8ff. We know nothing of their method of appointment, but it is likely that it also included the laying on of hands, as it certainly did somewhat later in the history of the church.

It is sometimes said that the first group of ministers is opposed to the second in that they possessed a direct gift from God. This, however, cannot be sustained. In Acts 20:28 we read, "the Holy Ghost has made you bishops," and in I Tim. 4:14 of "the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery." It is clear that the act of ordination was not thought of as in opposition to a gift from God, but as itself the means of the gift from God. Indeed the only reason that a man might minister adequately was that God had given him the gift of ministering. The picture we get then is of a group of ministers who had been ordained, men like bishops and deacons, and side by side with them (at times no doubt the same people) those who had a special gift of God in the way of prophecy, apostleship, or the like. The meaning of some of those gifts has long since perished (e.g., prophecy, apostleship). But they witness to the gifts that God gave his church in the time of its infancy.

There are some who think of the ministry as constitutive of the church. They emphasize that Christ is the head of the body, and that he gives it apostles, prophets, etc., that it may be built up. They infer that the ministry is the channel through which life flows from the head. This does, however, seem to be reading something into the passage. It is better to take realistically the NT picture of the church as the body of Christ, as a body, moreover, with a diversity of functions. The life of Christ is in it, and the divine power puts forth whatever is needed. In the Spirit-filled body there will emerge such ministerial and other organs as are necessary. On this view the ministry is essential, but no more essential than any other function of the body. And it preserves the important truth that the body is that of Christ, who does what he wills within it. His blessing is not confined to any particular channel.

L Morris
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

H. B. Swete, Early History of the Church and Ministry; J. B. Lightfoot, Commentary on Philippians; K. E. Kirk, ed., The Apostolic Ministry; T. W. Manson, The Church's Ministry; S. Neil, ed., The Ministry of the Church; L. Morris, Ministers of God; D. T. Jenkins, The Gift of Ministry; M. Green, Called to Serve; J. K. S. Reid, The Biblical Doctrine of the Ministry; E. Schweizer, Church Order in the NT.


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A Minister is one who serves, as distinguished from the master. (1.) Heb. meshereth, applied to an attendant on one of superior rank, as to Joshua, the servant of Moses (Ex. 33:11), and to the servant of Elisha (2 Kings 4:43). This name is also given to attendants at court (2 Chr. 22:8), and to the priests and Levites (Jer. 33:21; Ezek. 44:11). (2.) Heb. pelah (Ezra 7:24), a "minister" of religion. Here used of that class of sanctuary servants called "Solomon's servants" in Ezra 2:55-58 and Neh. 7:57-60. (3.) Greek leitourgos, a subordinate public administrator, and in this sense applied to magistrates (Rom. 13:6). It is applied also to our Lord (Heb. 8:2), and to Paul in relation to Christ (Rom. 15:16). (4.) Greek hyperetes (literally, "under-rower"), a personal attendant on a superior, thus of the person who waited on the officiating priest in the synagogue (Luke 4:20). It is applied also to John Mark, the attendant on Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:5). (5.) Greek diaconos, usually a subordinate officer or assistant employed in relation to the ministry of the gospel, as to Paul and Apollos (1 Cor.3:5), Tychicus (Eph. 6:21), Epaphras (Col. 1:7), Timothy (1 Thess. 3:2), and also to Christ (Rom. 15:8).

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)


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The word derives from the Greek kleros, "a lot," which points to a method of selection like that in Acts 1:26 (in Acts 1:17 "part" [AV] translates kleros). As early as Jerome it was pointed out that the term is ambiguous. It may denote those chosen to be God's, the Lord's "lot" (as in Deut. 32:9). Or it may signify those whose lot or portion is the Lord (cf. Ps. 16:5). In the NT the word is not used of a restricted group among the believers, and in I Pet. 5:3 the plural is used of God's people as a whole (God's heritage," AV). But by the time of Tertullian it was used of the ordained office-bearers in the church, viz., bishops, priests, and deacons. Later the word came to include the minor orders, and sometimes, it seems, members of religious orders or even educated people generally. But this use did not last, and the term now denotes regular members of the ordained ministry of the church (without respect to denomination) as distinct from lay people generally.

L Morris
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

Clergy, Ministry

Editor's Comment

This is a rare contribution to BELIEVE where personal commentary is involved. For that reason, these comments may be ignored, if only because they are only provided by a Pastor and not a lifelong Christian scholar like the thousands of other articles in BELIEVE.

There seems to be an enormous recent effect, where Christian Ministers seem to believe that they are "absolute authorities" on every possible subject related to Christianity. They attended Divinity School or Bible College or some other educational facility where they received a hopefully good education regarding Christianity. However, many seem to have morphed into believing that they "know it all!".

Many modern Ministers will tolerate zero disagreement with anything they ever say. More, they often become truly vicious in attacking anyone who disagrees with them. Sadly, that often involves Ministers of other Churches. Do they not realize what Jesus mist think of their viciously attacking other Christian Clergy? How can they think that they can be justified in such attacks? Whether or not they happen to actually be correct or not?

Didn't Jesus Teach us to be Tolerant and Compassionate and Patient? Didn't He Teach is to be Humble rather than Arrogant?

The SOURCE of this sort of Arrogance seems to be equally troubling. IF a Minister had spent a lifetime (say, 30 years) deeply studying some concept such as whether tattoos is sinful or acceptable, it might be appropriate for him to express personal openions. But the reality is that, once out of Bible School, most Ministry do very little additional study. They have weekly responsibilities of giving Sermons and composing those Sermons, of preparing and giving mid-week Services, and of dealing with the many daily issues regarding operating a Church, attendance, utility bills, snow removal, scheduling Baptisms, etc. Therefore, in general, the basis for his opinions on any subject such as tattoos is from some OTHER Minister who has either written a book or given speeches expressing HIS personal opinions!

Once he hears several different Ministers each express similar opinions, they tend to get absorbed and recorded as "rock solid beliefs". Nearly always, there is also some specific Scripture that has gotten attached as the supposed Biblical basis for such beliefs.

This situation has resulted in intensely passionate Ministers insisting that abortion is absolutely a sin, but a careful examination of the Scripture cited rarely says anything resembling that! Many personal assumptions regarding the interpretation are necessary to arrive at the conclusions that he expresses as absolute fact. Indeed, there are other Ministers (rather few) who cite Scripture to passionately insist that (some) abortions are not sinful at all, and interestingly, they sometimes cite the exact same Scripture as alleged basis!

This all really makes Protestant Christianity look really bad, as a basic claim has always been that all beliefs are "sola Scriptura", by the Bible alone. This is clearly not what is being done regarding such subjects, on either side of the argument.

It seems clear to me that ALL Clergy need to remember that Jesus Taught Humility and Tolerance. It is therefore inappropriate to demand that others agree with you, even if you are certain that you are correct! Yes, it is good to have Passion and Devotion to Christianity. But we are also required (or supposed) to BEHAVE like Christians, or like Christ might have. It is unimaginable that Jesus would have berated or insulted Christians or anyone else for having incorrect or incomplete beliefs. There is no doubt that He would instead have Patiently attempted to calmly explain important facts. Why isn't that obvious in today's Churches? Instead, there is such a ferocious insistence on claiming absolute knowledge of all of God's Plan, a claim that should actually be seen as very foolish. We are all merely humans.


Catholic Information

The term minister has long been appropriated in a distinctive way to the clergy. The language of I Cor., iv, 1-2; Heb., viii, 2; Matt., xx, 26, etc. must have helped to familiarize the thought that those charged with spiritual functions in the Christian Church were called upon to be the servants (ministri) of their brethren. Even before the Reformation the word minister was occasionally used in English to describe those of the clergy actually taking part in a function, or the celebrant as distinguished from the assistants, but it was not then used sine addito to designate an ecclesiastic. This employment of the term dates from Calvin, who objected to the name priest etc. as involving an erroneous conception of the nature of the sacred office. These Calvinistic views had some influence in England. In the Boo of Common Prayer the word minister occurs frequently in the sense of the officiant at a service, and in the thirty-second of the Canons Ecclesiastical (1603) we read "no bishop shall make a person deacon and minister both upon one day", where clearly minister stands as the equivalent of priest. As regards modern usage the Hist. Eng. Dictionary says: "The use of minister as the designation of an Anglican clergyman (formerly extensively current, sometimes with more specific application to a beneficed clergyman) has latterly become rare, and is now chiefly associated with Low Church views; but it is still the ordinary appellation of one appointed to spiritual office in any non-Episcopal communion, especially of one having a pastoral charge".

As regards Catholic use, minister is the title of certain superiors in various religious orders. The head of the Franciscan Order is known as the minister general, and the superior of the different provinces of the various branches is called minister provincial. The same is true of the Order of the Trinitarians for the Redemption of Captives and of some other orders. In the Society of Jesus the second in command in each house, who is usually charged with the internal discipline, the commissariat, etc., is called minister. The statement made in Addis and Arnold's "Catholic Dictionary" and thence incorporated into the great Hist. Eng. Dictionary that each of the five assistants of the General of the Jesuits is called minister is without foundation.

Publication information Written by Herbert Thurston. Transcribed by Bruce C. Berger. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


Catholic Information

This term denotes a priest who has the cure of souls (cura animarum), that is, who is bound in virtue of his office to promote the spiritual welfare of the faithful by preaching, administering the sacraments, and exercising certain powers of external government, e.g., the right of supervision, giving precepts, imposing light corrections -- powers rather paternal in their nature, and differing from those of a bishop, which are legislative, judicial, and coactive. A pastor is properly called a parish-priest (parochus) when he exercises the cure of souls in his own name with regard to a determined number of subjects who are obliged to apply to him for the reception of certain sacraments specified in the law. In this article "parish-priest" is always taken in this strict sense. Pastors (whether parish-priests or not) are either irremovable (inamovibiles) or movable (amovibiles ad nutum). An irremovable pastor or rector is one whose office gives him the right of perpetuity of tenure; that is, he cannot be removed or transferred except for a canonical reason, viz., a reason laid down in the law and, in the case of a criminal charge, only after trial. (See IRREMOVABILITY.) A movable pastor or rector is one whose office does not give him this right; but the bishop must have some just and proportionate reason for dismissing or transferring him against his will, and, should the priest believe himself wronged in the matter, he may have recourse to the Holy See, or to its representative where there is one having power in such cases. Moreover, according to some canonists, even movable pastors in case of a criminal charge cannot be absolutely removed from their office without a trial (cf. Pierantonelli, "Praxis Fori Ecclesiastici," tit. iv; Smith, "Elements of Ecclesiastical Law", n. 418.) This, certainly, is the case in the United States of America (Decrees of Propaganda, 28 March, and 20 May, 1887).

The Council of Trent (Sess. XXIV, cap. xiii, de Ref.) shows it to be the mind of the Church; that dioceses should, wherever it is possible, be divided into canonical parishes (See PARISH), to be governed by irremovable parish-priests. In places, therefore, where the Tridentine law cannot be fully carried out, bishops adopt measures which fulfil this requirement as nearly as circumstances allow. One such measure was the erection of quasi-parishes, districts with defined limits, ordered for the United States in 1868 (Second Plenary Council of Baltimore, n. 124). Another such was the institution of irremovable rectors (pastors with the right of perpetuity of tenure), ordered for England in 1852 (First Provincial Council of Westminster Decr. xiii), and for the United States in 1886 (Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, n. 33).

The power to appoint pastors is ordinarily vested in the bishop. Among the candidates possessed of the necessary qualifications the appointment should fall on the one who is best fitted for the office. Moreover, according to the Council of Trent (Sess. XXIV, cap. xviii, de Ref) candidates for the office of parish-priest should (a few cases excepted) pass a competitive examination (concursus). This provision of the Council of Trent is sometimes by particular enactments applied in the selection of candidates for the office of irremovable rectors, as happens in the United States (Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, tit. ii, cap. vi).

With regard to the faculties and powers of pastors, those of parish-priests are sufficiently defined by the law, and hence are ordinary, not delegated. Of these faculties some are called rights strictly parochial, because in a parish they belong exclusively to the parish-priest, so that their subjects cannot with regard to them have recourse to another priest, except with his or the bishop's consent. These rights are the following: the right of administering baptism, holy viaticum, and extreme unction in all cases where there is no urgent necessity; the right of administering paschal communion, of proclaiming the banns of marriage, and of blessing marriages. To the parish-priest are also reserved the celebration of funerals (except in certain cases specified in the law), and the imparting of certain blessings, the chief one being blessing of the baptismal font. To pastors, who are not parish-priests, the right of assisting at marriages is given by the law as to parish-priests. The other rights usually are granted to them by the bishops and are defined in the particular laws; such is very commonly the case in the United States England, and Scotland, with regard to baptism, holy viaticum, extreme unction, and funerals. Mention should be made here of the custom which exists in certain dioceses of the United States, whereby the faithful of one district are permitted to receive such sacraments from the pastor of another district if they rent a pew in his church (Second Plenary Council of Baltimore, nn. 117, 124, 227, and the statutes of several diocesan synods). Rights not strictly parochial are those which belong by law to parish-priests, but not exclusively. Such are the faculties of preaching celebrating Mass, low or solemn, hearing confessions, administering Holy Communion. Pastors who are not parish-priests receive these faculties from their bishop.

Pastors are naturally entitled to a salary. This is furnished by the revenues of the parochial benefice, should there be one; otherwise, it is taken from the revenues of the church or from the offerings. Such offerings as the faithful contribute of their own accord, without specifying the purpose of their donation, belong to the pastor. This assertion is based on the presumption that these gifts are meant to show the gratitude of the faithful towards the priests who spend their lives in caring for the souls committed to their charge. This presumption, however, ceases wherever custom or law provides that at least a certain portion of these offerings should belong to the church. This is generally the case where churches, not possessing other sources of income, depend entirely on the offerings. An illustration of such laws is to be found in the eighth decree of the Second Provincial Council of Westminster, approved by Leo XIII in the Constitution "Romanos Pontifices" of 8 May, 1881. Accordingly, in countries where this is in force, the usual collections taken up in the churches belong to each mission, in addition to the pew-rents, and it is from these revenues that the salaries of pastors and assistants are ordinarily drawn.

Pastors, besides having rights, have also obligations. They must preach and take care of the religious instruction of the faithful, especially of the young, supply their spiritual needs by the administration of the sacraments, reside in their parish or mission, administer diligently the property entrusted to their care, watch over the moral conduct of their parishioners, and remove, as far as possible, all hindrances to their salvation. Moreover, parish-priests must make a profession of faith and take the oath prescribed by Pius X in his "Motu Proprio", 1 Sept., 1910; they must also offer the Holy Sacrifice on behalf of their flock on Sundays and certain holydays set down in the law. When the number of the faithful entrusted to the care of the pastor is so large that he alone cannot fulfil all the duties incumbent on his office, the bishop has the right to order him to take as many priests to help him as may be necessary. These are called assistants or auxiliary priests, and differ both from coadjutors who are given to pastors for other reasons determined by the law, and from administrators who take charge of a parish during its vacancy, or the absence of its pastor.

Positive law (Council of Trent, Sess. XXI, cap. iv, de Ref.), modified in some countries by custom, reserves to the parish-priest the right to choose his assistants, a choice, however, which is subject to the approval of the bishop, and it is also from the bishop that assistants receive their faculties. The amount of their salary is likewise to be determined by the bishop, and, as to its source, the same rules hold as those already mentioned with regard to pastors. As to their removal, (a) when their nomination belongs by law to the parish-priest, they can be removed either by him or by the bishop, (b) when their nomination belongs to the bishop, he alone can remove them; in any case a reasonable cause is necessary, at least for the lawfulness of the act, and the assistant who believes that he has been wronged may have recourse to higher authorities, as mentioned above with regard to movable pastors. Their office, however, does not cease with the death of the priest or bishop who appointed them, unless this was clearly expressed in the letters of appointment. For the recent legislation regarding the removal of parish-priests, see PARISH, section II, 2.

Publication information Written by Hector Papi. Transcribed by Bobie Jo M. Bilz. Dedicated to Reverend J. Ronald Knott, Pastor of the Cathedral of the Assumption, Louisville, Kentucky, 1983-1997. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


BAART, Legal Formulary (4th ed., New York), nn. 86-113; BOUIX, De Parocho (3rd ed., Paris, 1889); FERRARIS, Bibliotheca Canonica etc. (Rome, 1885-99); NARDI, Dei Parrochi (Pesaro, 1829-60); SANTI, Pr£lectiones juris canonici (New York, 1905); SCHERER, Handbuch des Kirchenrechts (Graz, 1886), xcii-iii; SMITH, Elements of Ecclesiastical Law, I (9th ed., New York, 1893), nn. 639-70; WERNZ, Jus Decretalium (Rome, 1899), tit. xxxix; RAYMUNDI ANTONII EPISCOPI, Instructio Pastoralis (5th ed., Freiburg, 1902); AICHNER, Compendium juris eccl. (6th ed., Brixon, 1887), 426-41; CRONIN, The New Matrimonial Legislation (Rome, 1908).

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