no mitre for us

posted by Kaihsu Tai on May 24th, 2006

Kaihsu being elderly I was ordained to be an elder in the United Reformed Church this weekend. Our esteemed editor Mike B. wants me to write a bit about how I understand the ministry, so here is my preliminary treatise.

By clever use of transitivity, biblical prooftext, and etymological analyses, one can identify “elders” with “bishops”. But there is no mitre for us, and there is no authority in individual elders. This is because we in the Reformed tradition do not have a hierarchical view of the Church, but a conciliar view: the authority in polity and governance, if any, is in the meetings of the church (including such ones as synods and general assemblies).

Though I think it is correct to say that the eldership (both “ruling” elders and “teaching” elders = ministers of the Word and Sacrament) is one (or maybe two?) of the Holy Orders as much as those in the sister churches, it is not a secret “club” into which the Order decide to admit new members. As the Faith and Order paper number 111 of the World Council of Churches Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry points out: “… the intimate relationship between the ordained ministry and the community should find expression in a communal dimension where the exercise of the ordained ministry is rooted in the life of the community and requires the community’s effective participation in the discovery of God’s will and the guidance of the Spirit.” (M26). During the proceedings, I was left in no question that it was the Church as a whole that ordained me.

Personally, the ordination as a set of formal proceedings did not change much of what I already do, except it made the ministry more formal and there is more of a pastoral role (which I plan to learn a bit more about). And that is why I think it is appropriate for me to accept it. On one hand, I feel that I am exactly the same, doing the same sort of thing in/for the community and the Church; but on the other hand, I feel that this is another stage of my journey … which I think is not far from exactly the right thing to feel.

It is sometimes said that the Reformed tradition had abolished priesthood in its churches, but it is probably more accurate to say that it was the laity that got abolished.

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  1. On May 24, 2006 at 11:43 Mike (Worcester) said:

    I just want to say how proud I am of P&C that 116 seconds before you posted something beginning “I was ordained to be an elder in the United Reformed Church this weekend,” I posted something beginning “Totally topless.”

  2. On May 24, 2006 at 11:47 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    … in much the same way that I am proud of my church St Columba’s that at Facebook, its related groups are “Catholics”, “LGB Society”, and “Anglo-Saxon gimps of the world unite!”.

  3. On May 29, 2006 at 05:40 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    I am now reading my friend the Revd Tony Tucker’s book Reformed Ministry (ISBN 0853462178; ISBN 9780853462170). I find some of my understandings challenged and refined, and others confirmed and comforted.