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The Distinction between Lay and Ordained Ministries

Introduction

Church Ministry is derived from Christ’s ministry that calls people to receive salvation. The church community consists of individuals with gifts that are affirmed as the evidence of God’s grace. The church responds to the God’s call by taking up leadership in the church. All Christian ministries require a dying of self for others since they are charged by the inner love of Christ for his people. A ministry will be useful as long as the ministers are at the spirits disposal.

The Christian doctrine has two distinct forms of ministers who serve in the church. The first is an ordained minister who is a person that has responded to the call of serving the church, has tested the call, undergone training for ministerial duties, and has been ordained to the position he or she holds.  Some of the areas taken up by the ordained individuals include Diocesan, Bishop, and Archdeacon Posts. The second is the Lay minister who is not ordained but can perform some of the duties designated for an appointed minister. The ministry, however, focuses it works outside the church by sharing the word of God in extraordinary circumstances and through activities in the society.

This paper examines the difference between the lay and ordained ministries in the Catholic Church. In the first section, the study covers the general characterisation of ordained and lay ministries. The second part explores the special status of the ordained ministers. The third section, discuss the argument of people who are of the opinion the lay ministers have the same status as those who are ordained. The fourth part examines the arguments in support of the ordained ministers having a special spiritual status.

General Characterisation of the Ordained and Lay Ministries

Ordained Ministry

Ordained ministry is an apostolic ministry in which a person is ordained with prayer and the laying of hands. The tradition can be traced back from the time when Apostle Paul and Barnabas were appointed to missionary by laying-on of hands, and thus they became ordained missionaries (Sansom, n.d). In Acts 14:23GNB, Paul and Barnabas are appointed as the elders of the church and are committed to God through fasting and prayer. Ordination means that a person has been elevated to a higher level and the actions taken in the process are significant such as prayer and fasting. In ordained ministry, there is affirmation and continuation of the apostolic ministry through people empowered by the Holy Spirit.

It is a universal ministry because ordination marks admission to the broader ministry of the church, which crosses the boundaries of denominations and congregations and focusing on the unity of the church. The ordained individuals have to exercise their ministries in covenant with all Christians particularly those they lead and serve (Sansom n.d). Apostle Paul writes his letters to the church at Corinth and not the elders at Corinth such that even if the elders were to take any disciplinary action, it would be in the representation of the entire congregation. Paul argues the church leaders to watch over themselves and the flock given to them by the Holy Spirit, and he asks them to be shepherds of the church of God in Acts 20: 28 GNB. Therefore, Ordination is a ministry of the church of God and not limited to one particular denomination.

Ordination is a representative ministry because it is not only about authorisation, but also about praying to be equipped by the Holy Spirit for the task ahead. It signifies God’s calling, an individual’s obedience, and the church’s response (Sansom, n.d). In Titus 1:9 GNB, Paul tells Titus, ‘hold firm to the trustworthy message as it has been taught so that you can encourage others by sound doctrine, and refute those who oppose it.’ Therefore, Ordination is fulfilled through leadership, the word, order, and service of the ministry.

Rowling and Gooder (2009) contend that an ordained minister must have the critical components of calling, training, testing, and ordination. The calling to serve is a common characteristic of the ministry and candidates have to meet with a vicar, Chaplin, or other relevant authority so that it can be determined if they qualify to begin the process. If they are eligible, they are recommended for testing. The ministry does not believe in calling without examining because it is part of the principles and rules of ordained ministry. The testing verifies if candidates for the trials and tribulations they will experience while serving God (Rowling & Gooder, 2009). The Bible argues Christians to keep their heads in all situations, endure hardships, do evangelical works, and discharge all the duties of their ministries (2 Timothy 4:5 NIV). The training then follows and imparts Christians values together with church principles such as worshipping one God and living a moral life. Ordination is the last part, which allows a candidate to carry out ministerial duties such as presiding over sacraments and weddings (Rowling & Gooder 2009). The process teaches a person to love one God unconditionally and service him with all that they have.

In the Catholic Church, the ordained ministry is characterised by the sacrament of holy orders, which entails directing people to salvation and building them up. The sacred orders are threefold and include priests, deacons, and bishops. Priest and bishops share the ministerial priesthood because they are co-workers while the deacon assists the priest (Sloun, 2012). The ordained ministers give the holy orders to the church.

The Lay Ministry

Hubbard (2011) states that the general characterisation of the lay ministries is the authorisation for them to serve publicly in the local church. The lay ministry does not allow anyone to perform church duties without the approval of the relevant authority. The ministers must be leaders in specific areas to enable them to serve in a particular position (Doohan, 2016). The lay ministry is secular because it is based on a life led in the midst of world affairs. The individuals are called to God to become apostles through the vigour of their Christian spirit. The degree of their apostolate focus on worldly laity activates as contrasted with ordained person works within the ecclesiastical structure (Central Commission for the Revision of the Statutes of Regnum Christi, 2014). The secular character is a reality that is destined to find Christ in its fullest meaning.

In the Catholic Church, the mutual collaboration of lay ministers with the ordained ones characterises the lay ministry because the ministries are not separate there is no chasm between them, and a considerable overlap exists between them. The ordained exist for the laity so that they can build them up and bring them to the real participation in Christ’s ministry. On the other hand, lay ministers depend on the ordained for direction, training, productive work, sustenance, and validation (Mannion, 2011). The collaboration is essentials for the efficient running of the church. The Catholic Church requires a person serving as a lay minister to exhibit leadership features in their area of ministry, have the authorisation to serve as leaders publicly, and have a close collaboration with the ordained individuals like bishops, priest, and deacons (Cahoy 2012).

Do ordained ministers have a special status?

Spiritual Status

Spirituality is the act of submitting oneself to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and having a relationship with them. Therefore, spirituality is attained when born-again believers choose to surrender to the Holy Spirit’s ministry (McGrath, 2013). Ordained ministers have a special spiritual status because they assume their positions after a thorough vetting of their spirituality and the wisdom to serve the church. The Bible states, “Brothers and sisters choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them” (Acts 6:3 KJV). The process that ordained ministers passed through proves their high spirituality status.

In the Catholic Church, the ordained clergy, which includes priests, bishops, and deacons, have different roles and status from the lay ministers. The priests preach the gospel, celebrate mass and sacrament, are responsible for pastoral care in their communities, and administer their parishes or branches.  In the Catholic Church, the clergy members are celibate, dress differently, and live in rectories (Mannion, 2011). The ordained ministers in the Catholic Church receive holy orders structured and tied with increasing responsibility levels. For example, a deacon can baptise and preach but are not allowed to hear confessions or offer mass. The priest listens to confessions and conducts mass. Ordination is reserved for the bishops, who possess the holy orders fullness and can perform every priestly order (Sloan, 2012). The reception of sacred orders is an indication that the ordained have a special spiritual status.

Ordained ministers are commissioned at a public ceremony, which highlights the community dimension of all ministry requiring qualification, support, and accountability. The celebrations provide the ministers with a special spiritual status because they celebrate the gift of the spirit that an individual has (Rademacher, 2002). Therefore, ordained ministers have unique status following in Jesus example who was ordained by God. In Luke 4:17 KJV, Jesus reads Isaiah’s scroll that states, ‘the spirit of the lord is upon me because he anointed me to preach the good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the bound, sight for the blind and release the oppressed.’ The ordination of Christ happened in Luke 3:21-22 KJV, His baptism took place, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him. The Biblical texts provide that ordination comes from God.

The Difference in functional roles between Ordained and Lay Ministers

All Christians are called by God to proclaim his works and serve others, but only some are specially called and gifted. The calling is recognised through ordination, and the ordained ministers have unique functional roles, which include physical and spiritual service to the poor, and other people. The parts serve to facilitate the church’s ministry because it is one function among many (Tie, 2012). In Ephesians, the text reveals that God provided different roles to different individuals. It states, ‘It was God who gave some to be prophets, some to be apostles, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers’ (Ephesians 4:11-12 GNB). Consequently, the ministers are supposed to equip all believers to participate in the ministry of the church.

In contrast, lay ministers fundamental vocation is in their personal, social, and family lives through the proclamation and sharing of the gospel in every situation that they may find themselves. The task and services allocated to them include making Christ present in the world through community activates, working for church institutions and organisation, and performing functions usually reserved for ordained individuals in exceptional circumstances but temporarily when the person is not available (Central Commission for the Revision of the Statutes of Regnum Christi, 2014). The lay ministry focuses on specific talents that enabled the lay individuals to enrich people in a particular way.

The lay ministry is based on the baptism of the individual lay ministers, and they are specific for most parts. The activities involve serving mass, distributing communion, providing religious education, and doing works of charity. Many of them have other secular jobs, are married with families, and dress in lay clothes (Mannion, 2011). The observation indicates that the two groups are different in their status and roles.

How would someone who thinks lay ministers have the same status as ordained ministers respond to this?

The people who think that the lay and ordained ministers have the same spiritual status see no real difference between the two especially, where lay ministers step in for the ordained ministers. Lay ministers and their capability to conducting the duties of ordained ministers as good as the ordained individuals whenever required, blur their different status, prompting some people to say that the difference is only in the title. In the letters of Paul, the Bible states, ‘There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them; there are different kinds of service, but the same Lord’ (1 Corinthians 12: 4-5 NIV). The verse is the one used to back the argument that both ministers have the same status.

Doe (2013) avers that the majority of Christians believe that there are essential interconnectedness and equality of ordained and lay ministers who together constitute the work of God. According to the Catholic Church canon law, Christians are incorporated into the church through baptism. The Christians represent of the people of God each participating in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly office of Christ. It is by baptism that all Christians (lay and ordained) enjoy genuine equality and dignity of actions to contribute in the building of the church through the office or gift (Doe, 2013).  The clergy and lay ministers both partake on the same spirit because all people are equal in dignity before God. The primary responsibility of Christians is to serve God, and there should be no boundaries to the administering of the Gospel.

Cahoy (2012) states that lay ministers are called by the spirit and have a genuine vocation to ministry. The ministers also witness to the communion of divine life seeking to foster communication with other ministers and with all people of God. Lay ministers also serve in the name of the church because they receive further call to work formally and publicly on behalf of the church increasing its ability to carry out its missions (Cahoy, 2012). In this case, there is no distinction among ordained and lay ministers because they are meant to serve all people of God regardless of denomination. In the first century, all Christians shared the responsibility of preaching the good news because they were all anointed to become ministers of the new covenant. In 1 Corinthians 12:27 KJV, Paul tells Corinthians that they are the body of Christ and each of them is part of it. Before his ascension, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘go and make disciples of people of all nations through baptism in the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 28:19, 20 KJV). Therefore, Jesus disciples became ministers and the new disciples that they made, were to learn how to observe God’s commandments and the true disciples of Christ would become ministers (Joel 2:28-29 GNB).

The ministry model of Jesus reveals how people are supposed to answer the call of ministry. Christ’s mission required only power that could come from God such that no well-educated scribe had the equipment He had for ministry. Only a person chosen by God could have done the works he did. The disciples also understood the requirement for the supernatural empowerment. For them, the missionary work of Christ needed a divine partnership with God. The power and anointing of Jesus were not just for him but also for all believers who desired to do his works, and the believers will receive it because of humble prayers (DeCenso, n.d). In the book of Acts, the bible says ‘Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus’ (Acts 4:29-30 KJV). Therefore, God’s word does not discriminate on who is to perform what function. Instead, it bestows upon every disciple made into a believer the ministerial title, and it does not distinguish between ordained and lay ministers.

How might someone defending the view that ordained ministers have a special spiritual status respond?

Those who support the concept of a unique spiritual status for ordained minister believe that setting people apart for the sacred work of God is regarded as a vital concern for the church because God’s people spiritual growth is closely linked in many respects to the spirituality of the minister in Christ. God’s mind concerning Christianity is revealed in the scripture, as ancient ministers were known as ‘Gods men’ or the ‘man of the spirit.’ The picture is evident in the New Testament where Apostle Paul speaks of himself as ‘a servant of Christ, called to be an apostle and separated from God’ (Rom. 1:1). The separation was experienced the Apostle Paul on his way to Damascus. The Lord said, “I have appeared unto thee to make thee a minister; delivering thee from the people, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26:16-18 GNB). The evidence support that Paul was separated from others and was anointed to be God’s representative.

The different grades of communication with God that support ordained ministry special spirituality can be found in the book of John. The Bible says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” John (15:16 ESV). In this case, Jesus confirms that He supports the choice of the ordained ministers, and anything they ask for will be provided. The individuals receive the favour of both God and man. The scripture provides a ground for the supporters of special spiritual status for ordained ministers for claiming that lay ministers do not have the same preferential treatment because they are not officially appointed to act in the same capacity as ordained priests. The evidence of special position can also be found in the book of Peter, which states, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5 NIV).

Before considering a religious leadership, an individual must discern God’s call, which comes in various ways. The first is a personal initiative in which a person is led by God to explore whether he or she may be called to ministry so that he or she can begin the process of discernment through dialogue with ministers in the denomination. The second is the congregative initiative in which leaders observe the commitment and spiritual maturity of congregants in the anticipation that some will answer God’s ministerial call. The third is church initiative in which leaders throughout a denomination observe the spiritual maturity of potential individuals who can serve as ministers (Church of the Brethren n.d). The requirement of discernment for a person to become an ordained minister signifies that the position has a unique spiritual status.

Before ordination of a person, there must have proof of experience in different ministerial responsibility, the consecration of soul, body, and spirit, social maturity, and spiritual stability. An understanding of God’s work, the ability to lead sinful souls to holiness, and a cooperative attitude towards the church’s functioning are also essential (Church of the Brethren n.d). Therefore, the ministry is not just a profession, but also a life’s work calling. An ordained minister has authority to perform all ministerial services at a denomination and preside at ordinances. The individual is a representative of the church in both deed and words because he or she symbolises the spirit that the brethren believe in the ecumenical and denominational setting. The minister belief for God’s people in the ministry and serves among other people even those called to ministry through baptism (Church of the Brethren n.d). 

Conclusion

Spiritual Status

Spirituality status of the ordained ministers is higher because they adhere to Biblical procedures concerning the appointment of God’s servants. However, this does not mean that the lay ministers are insignificant. The transformation of the followers of the Gospel into discipleship is determined by spirituality. Spirituality involves baptism first and then sacramental ordination, and for lay ministers, the route to spirituality is baptism while for the ordained ministers, it is much complex. The lay minister is essential for spirituality in the church because they are deemed part of the congregation more than the ordained ministers are. Consequently, they give hope to church members and enable them to recognise their Spirituality gifts. Church members view ordained ministers as almost saintly, which may limit the believer’s influence in understanding their gifts. The lay minister is the link between individuals who understand their calling and gifts faster and those who do not because people realise they are called at different times. The lay minister provides a familiar reality to the majority of the congregation, which is not possible with the ordained minister. Through it, dormant church members are encouraged to engage in the activities they can handle by the lay ministers.

References

Cahoy, W. J. (2012). In the Name of the Church: Vocation and Authorization of Lay Ecclesial Ministry. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

Central Commission for the Revision of the Statutes of Regnum Christi. (2014, September). The Identity and Mission of the Laity in the Church and the World: The Ecclesial Identity of the Laity. Retrieved from http://www.regnumchristi.org/rcstatutes/wp-content/uploads/2017/[32]%20Study%201-%201Identity%20of%20the%20Laity.pdf

Church of the Brethren. (n.d.). Ministerial Leadership. Retrieved from http://www.brethren.org/ministryoffice/documents/ministerial-leadership-paper.pdf

DeCenso, F. A. (n.d.). The Ministry Model of Jesus: How We Are to Minister. Retrieved from http://www1.cbn.com/ministry-model-jesus-how-we-are-minister

Doe, N. (2013). Christian Law: Contemporary Principles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Doohan, L. (2016). The lay-centred church: Theology and spirituality. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Gibson, P. (2001). Anglican Ordination Rites.  Retrieved from https://www.anglicancommunion.org/media/120992/berkeley.pdf

Hubbard, B. (2011). Lay Ministries and the Challenges Facing the Church. Reflections on Renewal: lay ecclesial ministry and the church, 73-84.

Mannion, M. F. (2011, November 9). Role of lay ministers. Retrieved from https://www.osv.com/OSVNewsweekly/Story/TabId/2672/ArtMID/13567/ArticleID/6644/Role-of-lay-ministers.aspx

McGrath, A. (2013). Christian spirituality: An introduction. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.

Rademacher, W. (2002). Lay Ministry: A Theological, Spiritual, and Pastoral Handbook. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Rowling, C., & Gooder, P. (2009). Reader Ministry Explored. Retrieved  from https://glasgow.anglican.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Reader_Ministry_reveiwed.pdf

Sansom, M. C. (n.d.). The Doctrine of Ordination and the Ordained Ministry. Retrieved from https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/churchman/096-01_009.pdf

Sloun, M. (2012). Holy orders: The sacrament of ordained ministry. The Catholic Spirit. Retrieved from http://thecatholicspirit.com/special-sections/ordinations/holy-orders-the-sacrament-of-ordained-ministry/

Tie, P. L. (2012). Restore Unity, Recover Identity, and Refine Orthopraxy: The Believers Priesthood in the Ecclesiology of James Leo Garrett Jr. Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers

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