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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

What to call the "elders"

It is obviously problematic to call laymen who are assigned various duties to assist the ordained presbyter "elders." That's the Bible term for clergy. Likewise with calling them "deacons" as some other parishes do. For whatever deacons were in NT times (arguments persist), it is clear that they were set apart from the laity and even clearer that in Reformation times the term was synonymous with the lower ranks of clergy. A good first step in relieving the modern day confusion over the Ministry would be to use words the way the Bible uses them. Hells bells, even the Mormons use the term elder correctly! (For further reading on how we got in this mess with "elder" see Dr. Al Collver's "Lay Elders: A Brief Overview of Their Origin in the Missouri Synod."

And yet, the proper functions of a board of "elders" is vital to parish ministry - at least in the kind of parishes in which I have served. I need a sounding board of intelligent, faithful men of the parish to teach me about the parish and personalities, to warn me of pitfalls, to be my sounding board, to be the first to learn the Word of God and serve as examples to their families and fellow parishioners.

I propose calling them the Board of Counselors, or Pastor's Council. That actually describes what they do.

So, if your constitution is coming up for revision, consider that. Ours here probably won't come up for many years - oh, the pain of putting in a new constitution! - so for now, it's "elders" and all the confusion that brings when we turn to I Tim 3 in Bible Class...

Pr. H. R.16 Comments