In my last National Catholic Reporter column, I suggested the churches rethink the processes they have created to ordain people to be pastors.
There are lots of reasons to reconsider ordination, including the current danger that pastors who don't know how to delegate responsibility or who fall in love with being the center of power can cause all kinds of damage to their institutions.
So I was intrigued last week when the co-moderator of the General Assembly (national governing body) of my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), seemed to warn against pastors being in charge of everything.
The folks in the pews, she suggested, are ministers, too, and must understand that "if you've been baptized you no longer are a lay person." I like that way of putting it.
The duty of pastors, she said, is to follow the task outlined in the New Testament book of Ephesians: ". . .equip God's people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ."
In other words, pastors are to train others how to minister to the needs of those in the congregation, not rely on someone ordained as a "Reverend" to do all the work.
In the Reformed Tradition of Christianity we have a term for this. It's called the "priesthood of all believers," though that idea is taken more or less seriously in various congregations.
Individual churches that are functioning well teach that concept and then find ways to carry it out.
That doesn't mean there is no purpose in setting aside certain leaders with specific theological training to be what might be called "professional Christians," but it does mean that ministry -- meeting the needs of others -- is the task of everyone.
* * *
A POST-MODERN POPE WITH AN OLD MESSAGE
Speaking of people called to ministry, Pope Francis gave a surprising video TED talk the other day, urging scientists and others to focus on "equality and social inclusion." Good for the pope for using today's technology to challenge people to live by ancient and godly standards.