Gottesblog Revision2.jpg


A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Once a pastor always a pastor?

The brothers over at the Brothers of St. John the Steadfast were discussing a recent article here at Gottesdienst wherein I mentioned that Rev. Matt Harrison was by virtue of his ordination "ontologically a bishop." The brothers wondered at my choice of words. I agree that they were perhaps not the best and I posted this in reply:

"Thanks for the kind words, fellas.

I didn’t mean “ontologically” to imply Rome’s theory of the indelible character. We don’t go for that. But I do think that ordination is the final step in God’s calling a man to be a minister through the Church (according to Chemnitz’ Enchiridion, this begins with education, call, testing, and then ordination). Once God does that, I believe the man is a pastor, a minister, until he dies, or until the Church defrocks him for just reason. I think our practice proves that this is what the Missouri Synod really believes: retired pastors are still pastors; as are men who serve as DP’s and so forth. How do I know? Because every time they are called to fill in for somebody on vacation they are not “installed” or “re-ordained.” If “ontologically a pastor” is not a good way of speaking – then help me out with another. “Once a pastor always a pastor”? I’m open to suggestions to get across the truth that one is a minister by the Call of the whole church, which is no revoked just because he’s serving as a professor, editor, or on CRM status.

Some say that Walther taught something different: that if you are not actually serving a parish, you are a layman. If that’s what Walther meant, I think he was wrong. If any would defend that doctrine (I’m looking at you Vehse) I’m going to want a prooftext, from, like, you know: the Bible.

So what do you think? Am I Romanist for saying that the guys who have been pastors of congregations and are now on CRM status should still be referred to as Ministers of the Gospel? Is that unLutheran? That retired pastors are still pastors and when they fill in for vacationing pastors that this is not lay ministry?

If I'm right - then what is the best way to speak of this reality?

Pr. H. R.37 Comments