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17 March 2012

A Foray into Troubled Waters

This week's question in a class of mine:

  •  For ordination candidates: What are the major theological questions that arise with regard to lay ecclesial ministry?
  •  For lay ecclesial ministry candidates: What are the major theological questions that arise with regard to ordained ministry?
My response, in full:

The theological questions surrounding ecclesial lay ministry (for this, despite Galliadetz’s protests, is the best term we have) possess a tendency to be clouded by practical concerns. Indeed for many of those tasked with ministerial leadership, the question of “how shall lay people be compensated, insured, hired, terminated, mentored and promoted in the context of ministry?” is a constant concern. Nevertheless, as indicated poignantly by Kasper and others, one is left with the sense that a failure to grapple with the theological issues regarding our developing ecclesial reality will have notable effects upon attempts at evangelization (Kasper, esp. 72f).
            There are several important theological inquiries that must be undertaken here.  What is the charism of lay ministry?  Relatedly, what are the charisms that a lay minister should possess for one job or another (Gailardetz, 36f; Cahalan 120)?  What, if any, is the particular difference between a lay person employed by the Church from a person who volunteers for this same Church, or even one who lives as a Christian “in the world” (Coffey, 229)?  Finally, how may one articulate the difference between lay ministers and ordained ministers in a manner that respects the universal call to holiness and priesthood, yet accurately recognizes an ontological particularly (but not superiority!) for those who are ordained (Kasper)?
            While Conciliar documents such as Lumen Gentium provide a starting point for these questions, more work must be done.  Coffey’s pneumatological perspective, as well as George’s recognition of the necessity of the ordained priesthood as a particular vocation, is necessary (Coffey 216f; George, 205).  The Holy Spirit is undoubtedly pouring out new charisms of ministry and leadership upon the Church.  Yet, the Spirit also continues to call men to the ordained priesthood.  To acknowledge a difference is necessary, but not discriminatory, because it is an acknowledgment of God’s enduring activity in human history.  Different ministerial relationships exist because of the Holy Spirit’s activity, not due to false stratification.

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