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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Jerome on the Tri-fold Ministry

This is from the Well of Questions blog.

"In this post I will attempt to address texts in St. Jerome which are alleged to challenge the view of the tri-fold ministry’s origin, structure, and necessity held by Roman, Orthodox, and Anglican Cathlics. I will argue that Jerome agrees with their view of the ministry.

Charles Gore’s The Church in the Ministry is an excellent piece of apologetic for the tri-fold ministry. Though his biblical arguments are helpful, they are not as great as those of Cirlot’s Apostolic Succession: is it True?. Where Gore really shines is his treatment of the patristic texts that are used against the view of the tri-fold ministry held by Orthodox, Roman, and some Anglican Catholics. On our view, the tri-fold ministry of bishop, presbyter, and deacon is three distinct offices. These offices are Apostolic institutions, and intended to be permanently distinct. Only bishops can actually confer the gift of ministry through the laying-on of hands in ordination. Call this the first view of the tri-fold ministry.

There is a second view of the tri-fold ministry that claims to have patristic precedent and Apostolic institution. According to this view, there are only two essentially distinct offices passed on through the succession of the laying-on of hands. Deacons are the lower tier, and bishop and presbyter are both names for the second tier. The New Testament teaches the identity of presbyters and bishops, and there is no transferable tri-fold ministry in Scripture that has Apostolic sanction. Members of the second tier of ministry can ordain. However, the Church can and should have a tri-fold ministry. It is advantageous to Church order to do this, even if it is not necessary for the existence of the Church. There can be a distinction between two levels of the second tier of ministry, and we can use the title bishop for the top level, and presbyter for the bottom, so long as we understand that we aren’t endorsing an essential, Apostolicly-instituted distinction between the two."

To read the rest, please visit the wellofquestions.



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