Frank C. Senn, STS

The theme of this colloquy is an appropriate one for Concordia Theological Seminary and the Society of the Holy Trinity to explore together. The Seminary exists to prepare men for the Holy Ministry of the Word and the Sacraments. The Society exists to support those who are ordained into this ministry in Lutheran Churches in their desire to fulfill their ordination vows. Both the Seminary and the Society are committed to the practice of ordained ministry within the great tradition; neither are us are interested in forming and styling a ministry according to "what's happening now." We can't ignore "what's happening now." Especially on the front lines of ministry in parish pastorates, we daily confront the changing needs of society and congregations. We need to respond to new cultural contexts. But we want to do so with a sense of continuity with the great tradition. We may even believe that continuity with the great tradition is a viable way of addressing the crises caused by changing cultural contexts, and that in some cases aspects of the great tradition need to be retrieved. It is precisely this approach that defines the evangelical catholic strategy for the life and mission of the Church.

The Holy Ministry is not just a theory, it is a praxis. It cannot be exercised without a context. That context is not just the current culture of secular society; it is also the whole life of the Church. It is simply not possible to consider the practice of ordained ministry apart from the context of the Church. The Church is no more an abstraction than the Holy Ministry is; it is a community of actual people who are called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace to create or awaken faith, people who regularly assemble in faith around these means of grace--the word and the sacrament.

The baptized people of God find their unity in Christ in this assembly for word and sacrament. They receive their call to holiness of life through these means. They seek ways of being connected with other assemblies of word and sacrament in a wider expression of Christian fellowship and to engage in a wider witness to the gospel. They are served by a ministry of the word and the sacraments that is sent by God through the wider church as well as called to pastoral office in a local church. It is a ministry that therefore stands over against as well as with the assembly.

All of these arrangements require structure. There may indeed be a true "invisible church" known to God, and a separation of sheep and goats at the last judgment. But we are not God and we cannot make God's judgments for him. We don't know the composition of the invisible church. So we have no option but to deal with the "visible" Church, the Church that assembles in unity for the word and the sacraments, that lives from these means of grace, that has ways of establishing and maintaining ties with other local assemblies, and that is served by a ministry ordained by God to provide these means, that is, to preach the word of God as law and gospel and to administer the sacraments instituted by Christ.

In what I have said so far you have already heard allusions to the four notes that describe the church in the Nicene Creed. According to this most fundamental ecumenical confession of fath, Christians believe in four realities: "We believe in one God, the Father almighty." "We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God." "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life." "We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church." Belief in the Church is an article of faith. The consequence of God the Holy Trinity's creating, redeeming, and sanctifying work is the creation of the Church as the first fruits of a new creation.

The characteristics of this Church are oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity. When people look for signs of the church's unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity, they tend to see broken structures. This see disunity among Christians and lack of fellowship among churches. They see fitful examples of holiness among Christians who continue to be sinners as well as saints. They see local assemblies turned in on themselves rather than acting in concert with other local assemblies for the life of the world. They see either broken successions of ministry or ministries in supposed succession whose incumbents are not faithful to "the faith once delivered to the saints." Not surprisingly, contemporary theologians have spoken of eschatological tension in the notes of the church. They say that these characteristics of the church are enjoyed by the historical church only in an imperfect way. They say that these notes belong fully to the church only in an ideal way. The Church, like all human realities, awaits eschatological fulfillment. (1)

But the Church is not just a human reality; it is a creation of God the Holy Spirit. It is the actual, visible Church that is created by the Holy Spirit through the means of grace, not just the invisible Church. I find it difficult to believe that the bishops of the church, assembled at the invitation of the Emperor Constantine in his winter palace in Nicea with the assignment to work out unity in doctrine and practice so that he could use Christianity to renovate the Roman Empire, regarded these notes of the church as imperfect or partial. I think they saw a church gathered in each locality around the word and the sacraments in unity with itself as a baptized eucharistic fellowship. They saw Christians living in fear and love of God in their daily lives in family and work, and some forsaking family and work to devote themselves more completely to God by combating the world, the flesh, and the devil through fasting, prayer, and celibacy. They saw structures of fellowship intact by which the church was prepared to embrace the whole world (the oekumene). They were participating in such a structure in the ecumenical council in which they were convened. They saw their ministries, together with those of their presbyters and deacons, serving in succession from and in fidelity to the apostles in their teaching and service. Indeed, there were among the bishops at Nicea confessors who had suffered for their faith in the recent persecutions and bishops who were extending the fellowship of the Church beyond the cities and boundaries of the Roman Empire. This was no ideal church; it was a real church, and unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity were its characteristics.

Since the notes of oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity were inserted into a conciliar document, I would say that the fathers at Nicea regarded these characteristics as essential qualities of the Church. And they asserted them even in the face of existing and potential schisms that had and would rupture the unity of the Church.

It is noteworthy that the adjective "true" is not included among the Nicene notes of the Church, even though the orthodox Church had to assert its claims over against communities of Novatians, Montanists, and Donatists who claimed to be true churches. The Church is true if it is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. If an ecclesial entity lacks these qualities, it is simply not the Church. Prophets and teachers within the Church can be false; the Church created by the Spirit of the crucified and risen Christ cannot be false.

In this connection, the relationship between catholic and schismatic churches is noteworthy. Those who went into schism, creating rival congregations, ceased to demonstrate catholicity. Hence, the catholic Church did not recognize Montanist, Novatian, or Donatist congregations as "Church" and therefore did not recognize the baptisms performed in them. Those who held heretical views within the catholic Church were excommunicated. This excommunication was not for penitential purposes (the amendment of life), but because participation in the holy things required unity in faith. Catholics who joined a heretical sect had to serve ten years as penitents before they could be readmitted to the Catholic eucharistic fellowship. But former heretics who had never been in the catholic Church were simply admitted to membership by baptismal profession of faith, like pagans.

Given this practice, it is interesting that Christians with what we might call "differing confessional convictions" could still worshiped together within the same local church, as we see in the case of the so-called "Arian moratorium." In the aftermath of the Council of Nicea, Arians and Nicene or Orthodox Christians worshiped together in the same congregation but refrained from receiving Holy Communion together because they were not in doctrinal agreement. If the local bishop were Arian (as often happened in Constantinople or Alexandria), the Nicene Christians refrained from receiving Communion. If the local bishop was Nicene (as happened when Orthodox bishops like Athanasius or Basil the Great were restored or installed into office), the Arians ceased to receive Communion. This is because all sides recognized that the Eucharist is a celebration of unity in faith and life, not a means of achieving unity. But as far as possible Arians and Orthodox stayed together in one worshiping community and sometimes even tried to work out their differences. Werner Elert suggests that the reason for this "moratorium" on full mutual excommunication was because there was not a final and authoritative decision by an ecumenical council about the exclusion of one party or the other. Until those decisions were made local Churches were willing to live with the differences while also recognizing the differences. (2)

Whatever clarity the Nicene fathers may have had about the notes of the Church and how these characteristics were manifested in church structures, they could not foresee the political and social corruption of these structures in the Western Middle Ages.

In terms of experiencing unity in the local assembly for word and sacrament, Christians might attend mass or have baptisms performed or listen to sermons at the cathedral, or the monastery chapel, or the oratory on their lord's estate rather than in their parish church.

In terms of living a holy life on the basis of one's baptismal calling, ordinary Christians were relegated to second class status, eclipsed by those who practiced the monastic vocation. But even the monasteries grew rich and powerful, despite their efforts to renounce wealth and power, and they were constantly being reformed, with new houses being established by monks who left the older houses in order to observe their Rule more strictly.

In terms of ensuring structures of catholicity to connect local churches, schisms (e.g after Chalcedon in 451 and between Greeks and Latins in 1054) precluded the possibility of convening truly ecumenical councils, and there was no one to reconcile patriarchs who mutually excommunicated each other (e.g. the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Pope of Rome). By the later Middle Ages in the West there were even rival popes. Councils composed of rival papal factions were not able to sew together the torn fabric of Christendom.

In terms of securing a succession in apostolic ministry and oversight of mission by the bishops, many bishops who were elected were not consecrated before they died and yet they ordained priests. Temporal rulers not only interfered in the selection of bishops but also in the placement of pastors. Landlords were given the right to erect chapels or oratories on their property as a way of covering the countryside with places of Christian worship. With the right to build churches came the right to appoint priests to serve in them, since the church buildings legally belonged to the landlord (called in German Eigenkirchenrecht). Within the feudal economic system, benefices (i.e. parish pastorates) could be given to scholars and canonists as a way of supporting them in their work and they, in turn, appointed curates to exercise a ministry in their place. These situations undermined the traditional role of the bishop as the chief pastor in his diocese. In place of strong dioceses there emerged independent territorial churches (Eigenkirchenwesen) which conceded only a vague supervisory role to the bishop. In this context, the popes fought kings and emperors for the right to appoint bishops in order to preserve the independence of the Church (the Investiture Controversy) and bishops sought to become temporary lords as a way of assigning the clergy in their dioceses.

Church structure was clearly in need of reform. This was recognized well before the sixteenth century by conciliarists such as Jean Gerson, Rector of the University of Paris, and Cardinal Nicholas von Cusa in Germany, whom John Dolan called "two reformers who failed." (3)

In all fairness, we should grant that while late medieval councils failed in their efforts to reform the Church, the Council of Trent was actually able to enact massive reform legislation in all of these areas. The parish was made the basic place for the proclamation of the word and the administration of the sacraments. People and pastors were to be in their parishes and bishops were to stay in their dioceses. In Counter-Reformation Catholicism there was a surge of new, mission-oriented religious orders. The Church under the papacy embarked on the long road toward the centralization of authority in Rome and the absolutizing of papal jurisdiction that produced Roman Catholicism as we know it. There was a surge in worldwide missionary activity such as had not been seen since the evangelization of Europe in the early Middle Ages. (4)

The Protestant reformers also, in their own ways, sought church reform on the basis of the Nicene notes of the Church. The unity of the Church, they said, is to be found where the Gospel is taught in its purity and the sacraments are administered according to the institution of Christ. Christians are to live out the call to holiness in their daily lives and vocations, especially in the raising of God-fearing children and in service to the neighbor. They recognized the need for church structures that ensured catholicity. Lutherans found this in Germany with the decision, proposed at the Diet of Speyer in 1526 and ratified at Augsburg in 1555, that each prince or free city would establish the confession of that territory or city (ejus regio ejus religio), which granted the Lutheran Church equal canonical status with the Papal Church within the Holy Roman Empire. In other places national churches arose as expressions of catholicity. But wider conciliar structures eluded Protestanism. In terms of apostolicity, Protestants emphasized continuity with the apostolic doctrine as taught in the canonical scriptures. While the historic succession of bishops could not be retained except in the Churches of Sweden and England, ministers continued to be ordained by those who had been ordained before them in the Reformation Churches.

The Reformation created an unprecedented situation of multiple Churches (although this seldom meant the co-existence of Churches within the same territory, like our modern denominations). To the question of which Church was the true Church, each Church answered that this was determined by the truth of its confession. Since each Church regarded its confession as true, it did not regard any of the others as true Churches. So, in a sense, the question of unity never had to be posed. Each Church regarded itself as the true Church. The only unity that mattered was each Church's unity with itself and with those who shared a common confession. Even the Church of England did not unchurch the continental Protestants who lacked episcopacy. The Reformation teachers regarded division as necessary in order to prove true from false Churches. The Protestants did not think they had departed from the Church; they had departed from a false church. Roman Catholics responded that Protestants had departed from the true church and had become heretical sects. (5) Today we recognize that this affirmation of Christian division is an untenable stance, but we don't know how to resolve it. But it may be that one of our problems is that we think about church unity from the perspective of denominational bodies rather than from the perspective of the body in which both the Council of Nicea and the Reformation located the Church's oneness: the assembly for word and sacrament. The unity of the Church is a Spirit-given reality, not a human achievement, and the Holy Spirit works through the means of grace. Each local Church, each parish, each congregation in which the gospel is preached and the sacraments are administered is an expression of the one Church. As Hans Küng suggested, unity is discerned as each local assembly for word and sacrament recognizes what it shares in common with other local assemblies for word and sacrament. (6)

We see this already in the New Testament. There is a multiplicity of local Churches (Jerusalem, Damascus, Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Corinth, Rome and towns in between), each of which is united with the others in terms of what they share in common: "There is one body and one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all" (Ephesians 4:6). Each local Church has this unity. There is no overarching unifying structure or central authority, yet each Church recognizes what it shares in common with other Churches.

We see this also in the ecumenical councils. The assembled bishops are the pastors of the local Churches of Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, Constantinople, Caesarea, Carthage, and other places within and beyond the Roman Empire. Each local Church shares a common life and faith with all the other local Churches that is a gift of the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace.

The unity of the Church therefore is a Spiritual rather than a temporal reality. It is a unity in diversity since the Spirit apportions diverse gifts to the body of Christ. Unity presupposes a multiplicity of local Churches that do not need to deny their unique history, language, customs and traditions, or even their theological emphases in order to be one in Christ. That oneness exists wherever the gospel is preached and the sacraments are administered. The Reformation added modifiers like "purely" and "rightly" to indicate that there could be false preaching and bad practice (Augsburg Confession 7). So far as I am aware, however, Luther never said that the Church under the papacy, in which he had served as priest and pastor, lacked the gospel or the sacraments. The gospel simply needed to be rediscovered and unpacked in preaching and teaching, and corruptions in sacramental practice needed to be corrected so that the gospel could be clearly perceived and received in faith through these signs, as Christ intended. But wherever we hear the gospel preached in its purity and experience the sacraments celebrated in a way that also proclaims forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation in Christ, there we may affirm our unity.

This begs the question of wider expressions of Christian unity, so pardon me if I skip the note of holiness for a moment and discuss catholicity. Let me say straight out that German Lutherans in particular should be faulted for dropping the term "catholic" from the ecumenical creeds; in the Scandinavian Churches there was at least an attempt to translate "catholicae" with an equivalent vernacular word that meant "universal." It adds nothing of ecclesiologica significance to say that the Church is "Christian." What would an unchristian church be? What church would not claim to be Christian? But we know what a non-catholic church is; it is a sect, an entity unto itself. Catholicity has to do with the whole Church, from kata holos, "according to the whole." Catholicity also has to do with issues of identity--identity in space and time.

Again, however, if unity is found in the local church, so is catholicity. If the Church exists wherever the gospel is preached and the sacraments are administered, then the local Church, the parish, the congregation, is also the expression of the catholic Church. It is catholic by being such in intention and identity. This means that catholicity is more than a matter of spatial extensity, numerical quality, cultural variety, or historical continuity (although each of these has been proposed as an example of catholicity), since the local Church usually does not embrace a whole territory, a whole people, all cultures, or the whole of Christian history.

The issue, as far as space is concerned, is whether the local Church is self-consciously and structurally linked with other local Churches. These links may be established through dioceses, districts, synods, associations, councils of churches, etc. The local Church expresses its catholicity by receiving the gift of the wider Christian fellowship, which is a Spirit-engendered reality, and by participating in the support of the wider Christian mission, which is a Spirit-engendered activity. It will find many practical ways in which to express spatial catholicity, which include but are not limited to receiving Christians from throughout the global fellowship of the Gospel, sending the pastor and members of the congregation to visit other Churches throughout the world, and providing financial support of the wider mission of the Church at home and abroad. Music can be a tangible expression of catholicity. European-American congregations can enjoy the gift of African call-and-response songs just as, I'm happy to report, the Lutheran gift of J. S. Bach's church cantatas is being received in the Churches of Asia (and drawing Christians and non-Christians alike to Christian worship).

In terms of the temporal aspect of catholicity, congregations can identify with the whole tradition of the Church. This is expressed above all in a commitment to the historic liturgies of the Church, the use of the ecumenical creeds, the observance of the church year with its traditional festivals, seasons, days of devotion, and calendar of commemorations, and the historical and ecumenical breadth of Christian hymnody.

Finally, just as we pray "for the whole people of God in Christ Jesus, and for all people according to their needs" in the Prayer of the Church, so the local Church must make an effort to embrace in its fellowship all the people within its missionary jurisdiction (the parish community). The catholic congregation includes "all sorts and conditions" of humanity within its membership: professionals and blue collar workers, the employed and the unemployed, teachers and students, artists and scientists, trades people and technicians, old and young, and people of whatever ethnic and racial background who may live in the community. Catholicity eschews homogeneity.

I lift up in this connection the example of William Augustus Muhlenberg, the grandson of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, who was sent by his grandfather to the English Church because he wanted to worship in the English language. William A. Muhlenberg became an Episcopal priest and founded the Parish Church of the Holy Communion in New York City in the 1830s. This church straddled the richest and the poorest of New York's neighborhoods, and brought together a diversity of people in one eucharistic fellowship. Muhlenberg was in touch with the Church Extension Society work in Germany, replicated it in urban ministry in New York City, and styled himself an evangelical catholic before Anglo-Catholicism became a possibility for U.S. Episcopalians. He instituted weekly celebrations of Holy Communion and daily prayer. He founded the St. Luke's Infirmary. New York City's famed Easter Parade down Fifth Avenue originated in the procession from Holy Communion Church to St. Luke's Infirmary as fashionable members of the congregation carried Easter plants and treats to the indigent patients in the hospital. Later on in his career, Muhlenberg moved to Long Island where he tried to establish a utopian community, an ideal that was popular in nineteenth century America.

This is a segue to "holiness." As we know from the Old Testament, "holiness" (kabad) implies a separation and a cutting off: a separation for God's service which entails at the same time a removal of those persons or things from profane use. This sense of separation is also implies in the Greek New Testament word hagios and the Latin word sanctus, which comes from sancire, to imit, to enclose, to sanctify. It is the opposite of profanus, which means that which is outside the holy area, the fanum. Holy things and holy people are those things and people which God sets apart for his own use. In the New Testament as well as in Luther's Catechisms, sanctification is no more a human work than justification is. "You were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11). The Spirit is the "Spirit of holiness" (Romans 1:4); the Spirit's work is to make holy that which God wills to use. People set apart by God the Holy Spirit for God's use are saints, the sanctified. There are no self-made saints. Nor does the Church make or grow itself. The holy Church is the community set apart by God the Holy Spirit for the service of God.

The Church cannot be other than holy because it belongs to God. Members of the Church who are washed in baptism and sealed by the Holy Spirit cannot be other than holy because they are called and claimed by God. But they can be sinners as well as saints since they resist the God who sanctifies them. Luther realistically took into account the unholy trinity that works against the Holy Spirit: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Christians living under spiritual assault cannot be other than "saints and sinners at the same time" (simul iustus et peccator). Collectively, therefore, the Church is holy yet sinful. Yet in the Church there is the forgiveness of sin. The whole life of the Christian, and the whole life of the Church, must be one of repentance, a life of turning from sin to holiness. Repentance, too, is a gift of the Holy Spirit, brought about through the preaching of the word of God as law and gospel. Repentance should not be thought of only as performing certain acts of restitution or reconciliation, although these should not be avoided (as we see in Matthew 18). But we must also think of repentance in its original, all-embracing biblical sense of metanoia, the turning of the whole person and the whole community toward God, which has to be performed anew every day.

As Luther taught in his Catechism, the Christian lives out baptism by daily sorrow and repentance, and many kinds of absolution are needed in the church. Among these forms are: general absolution proclaimed to the assembled congregation, individual absolution by Christian brothers and sisters to one another, individual absolution by the ministers of the Church, and the absolution one receives from God himself as a promised response to a humble and contrite heart (although Luther emphasized the assurance of forgiveness that comes from hearing it proclaimed from outside of oneself).

But it is not only in the Church that repentance is necessary; the Church itself must be capable of repentance. Not only in the sense that it must be prepared to confess its errors and failures (and ask forgiveness of those whom it has wronged, where that is appropriate, as Pope John Paul II has demonstrated), but more particularly in the sense that it must always be committed to reform and renewal. It was not just a slogan of the Protestant Reformation that "the church must always be reformed" (ecclesia semper reformanda).

As Heiko Oberman pointed out, reformation was a medieval idea. (7) It came from the constant reform of the monasteries and renewal in living the monastic Rule. Religious orders are nothing if they are not communities living common lives of repentance, of metanoia. In the seventeenth century Roman Catholicism experienced an emergence of religious orders and lay confraternities that devoted themselves to repentance and acts of reparation on behalf of the sins of the whole Church, including the lukewarm faith of fellow believers. Lutheranism also had a resurgence of communities of repentance in the seventeenth century in the collegia pietatis promoted by Philip Jacob Spener and other pietist leaders. Dietrich Bonhoeffer formed the Seminary of the Confessing Church also as a community of confession and forgiveness. After World War II the Taizé Community in France modeled a life of repentance and renewal. I dare say that the Society of the Holy Trinity sees its own vocation as one of repentance on behalf of the Church, whose faith and life may not always reflect the holiness to which we are called.

Finally, the Church is apostolic. To say this is to say that the Church is grounded in God's mission to reconcile the world to himself. An apostolos is a messenger, an envoy sent from someone else. Christ is the envoy or apostle of God the Father and he in turn sends his envoys or apostles (John 20:21). So the "apostolate" or "mission" of the apostles has its model and source in the "aposolate" or "mission" of the Son, and as the Father is present in the Son so Christ is present in his apostles through his Spirit. As Louis Bouyer points out, the background of this understanding is the Jewish idea of the shaliach, that the sender is present in the one who is sent (as, for example, Yahweh was present in Moses). (8) Christ was therefore present in his apostles. "Whoever hears you hears me, whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me" (Luke 10:16).

The apostles are eyewitnesses of the risen Lord Jesus. They are to proclaim the good news of repentance and forgiveness in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:47). The Twelve exercised a special apostolic ministry to Israel; other apostles, most especially Paul, served as apostles to the Gentiles. But the original apostles died out before Christ returned. How would the apostolic message and mission continue? Would Christ work outside of history through an outpouring of the Spirit on new apostles or ministers? Or would Christ work within history by maintaining a historic connection between the original apostles and new ministers who are raised up to continue the apostolic mission?

The second century Church answered this by affirming that the apostolic mission continues through an historic succession of ministers. It made this decision against Gnostics and Montanists who would have posited definitive teaching authority, even new revelations, in charismatic prophets and teachers. Now, to be sure, there were charismatic prophets and teachers who exercised ministry along with the apostles in the early church (1 Corinthians 12:28). They seem to have been itinerant and did not provide leadership in local Churches (Didache 15). But by the beginning of the second century, the Church was deciding in favor of an institutional ministry. Even here two systems of leadership had emerged: a council of elders (presbyters) in the Jewish congregations (Acts 11:30) and overseers and servants (bishops and deacons) in the Gentile congregations (Philippians 1:1). The pastoral role of presbyters is described in Acts 20:28-35, 1 Timothy 5:17, 1 Peter 5:1-4, James 5:14, and presbyters are mentioned throughout the Revelation to St. John the Seer. The pastoral role of bishops is described in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (and deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-13). The fact that both bishops and presbyters are seen as having a pastoral role in 1 Timothy and 1 Peter is evidence of the merger of two different systems. By the time of Ignatius of Antioch (115 A.D.) a three-fold ministry has developed that was to become the norm thereafter: one bishop ruling over the local Church (like God the Father), with the counsel of the presbyters (who serve as an apostolic band), and assisted by deacons (in the role of Jesus Christ) (Magnesians 6:1). The idea of the monarchical bishop is well-developed in Ignatius: "One eucharist, one body of the Lord, one cup, one table, and therefore one bishop together with the presbyterium and the deacons, my fellow servants" (Philadelphians 4:1).

How is this ministerial office to be transmitted? Ordination to office is not explicitly mentioned in the New Testament, but there are several references to the laying on of hands and prayer in Acts and the Pastoral Epistles. Who presided at the Eucharist is not mentioned in the New Testament, but by the time we get to the Didache and the Letters of Ignatius it is clearly the bishop's responsibility to do so (or the presbyters whom he appoints to preside in his stead). There is no reference to bishops or presbyters as successors of the apostles in the New Testament, but in 1 Timothy it is clear that the presbyters are to guard the apostolic tradition. Local Churches began to keep lists of bishops who succeeded from the apostles who founded their Church, and Irenaeus of Lyons appealed to these lists in Against the Heresies as if to say: we know where we got our teaching from. Our teachers are not teaching something other than what the original apostles taught. And we know what they taught because we have a list or canon of apostolic writings. We have texts to which we can appeal and an apostolic rule of faith to guide the laity.

Clearly the whole church is apostolic. It s "built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles" (Ephesians 2:20). Each and every baptized Christians receives the gospel and has a responsibility to transmit, interpret, and apply the message to his or her own circumstances. Indeed, 1 Peter 2:9 tells the newly baptized, who are called "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people," that they are "to proclaim the mighty deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." These mighty deeds are the acts of God in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, whom the apostles proclaimed as Messiah and Lord, and who announced repentance and forgiveness of sins in Christ's name as the means by which God accomplishes his mission of reconciling the world to himself. The ministry of reconciliation and forgiveness is performed in the Church by those ministers who have been chosen by the local Church but ordained by the Church catholic to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. (9) Word and sacrament are not incidental to the mission of God; they are the means of grace by which God accomplishes his mission of reconciling the world to himself. (10)

This apostolic ministry is exercised within and for the local Church. The ordained minister of word and sacrament serves the unity of the Church precisely by preaching the gospel, performing baptisms, celebrating the Eucharist, and declaring absolution. The ordained minister promotes the holiness of the Church by helping each member of the Church to discern his or her God-given vocation, and by calling the whole congregation to repentance and faith. The ordained minister represents the whole Church to the local Church by, among other things, leading the congregation in the performance of the historic liturgy and by promoting structures of fellowship with other Churches. The ordained minister continues the apostolic ministry and mission by proclaiming the gospel of the crucified and risen Christ, by teaching the doctrines that are inherent in this kerygma, and by extending the kingdom of Christ through evangelism, initiation, and formation in the faith: in other words, by exercising the ministry of word and sacrament. It is enough for the pastor to do.


1. Thus Geoffrey Wainwright, Doxology. The Praise of God in Worship, Doctrine, and Life. A Systematic Theology (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), pp. 118ff.

2. Werner Elert, Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries, trans. N. E. Nagel (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1966), pp. 177ff.

3. John P. Dolan, History of the Reformation. Introduction by Jaroslav Pelikan (New York and Toronto: A Mentor-Omega Book, 1965), pp. 139ff.

4. See R. Po-Chia Hsia, The World of Catholic Renewal 1540-1770. New Approaches to European History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

5. See the copious evidence in Ephraim Radner, The End of the Church. A Pneumatology of Christian Division in the West (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998).

6. Hans Küng, The Church, English trans. (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1967), PP. 285ff.

7. Heiko Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, trans. Eileen Walliser-Schwarzbar (New York: Doubleday Image Books, 1992), pp. 50ff.

8. See Louis Bouyer, The Church of God, rans. Charles Underhill Quinn (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1982), pp. 316ff.

9. In the treatise on The Apostolic Tradition attributed to Hippolytus of Rome (ca. 215) the bishop is elected by the local Church but is ordained by at least three bishops from other Churches.

10. See Frank C. Senn, The Witness of the Worshiping Community. Liturgy and the Practice of Evangelism (New York and Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1993), pp. 61ff.