Priesthood in a ministering community: Towards an ecclesiology for the Third Millennium
Date of Award
Master of Arts
School of International, Cultural and Community Studies
Faculty of Education and Arts
Within the Anglican Communion a Ministering Community is where all the people of God, the baptised in a community of faith that gathers for worship each week, are the ministers. The people are the ministers by virtue of their baptism; each one being gifted by the Holy Spirit for the mission and ministry of the church in that place at that time. God will provide sufficient giftedness for that community at that time. There is no need to look outside of that community for ministry as the entire ministry that is required is present within that community. Some people within the community will be gifted to lead people in worship and prayer, some in pastoral care, some in outreach and mission, some in education and teaching, and others to lead people in whatever other ministry that is required for that community at that time. There are various out-workings of what is a Ministering Community around the Anglican Communion; however, one of the common difficulties is the vexed question of the Theology of Priesthood in a Ministering Community. All the other roles of ministry leadership within a Ministering Community are often supported and encouraged amongst a wide range of theological viewpoints; however, the theology of Priesthood in a Ministering Community opens up a wide range of views and theological beliefs. I believe that the differences in theology stems from a misunderstanding of what priesthood is and how the theology of priesthood has developed over time since the New Testament. It is my contention that the Theology of Priesthood in a Ministering Community is ontologically the same as priesthood in a Christendom model of ministry, gathering, consecrating, breaking, blessing and absolving. There is, however, a difference of function between Ministering Community Priesthood and Christendom Priesthood. Functionally a priest in a Ministering Community is not in charge, unlike a Rector or Vicar of a parish that is in charge of a cure. This thesis will endeavour to show that the difference between Christendom Priesthood and Ministering Community Priesthood is one of function and being in charge, the question of authority plays a large part in the theology of priesthood. Authority within the structures of the Anglican Communion has been under review and question for a number of years, therefore there are still outstanding questions with regard to exactly what are the authorities within an Anglican Church. Authority is not however, merely limited to outside influences; people are also subject to their own internal authorities. Fowler's Stages of Faith (1981) helps crystallise the issues of internal authority for a person in leadership in a Ministering Community. If people have not progressed beyond Stage Three on Fowler's Stages of faith then the best that they can be is a helper as she will always need to defer to a higher external authority, whereas a person who is in stage Four or beyond on Fowler's Stages of Faith will have sufficient internal authority to be involved in leadership. Priesthood in a Ministering Community should never be seen in isolation, but always in the context of their community of faith. Communities of faith who become Ministering Communities do so as a whole, with the community commissioned for their work together which includes all the positions of leadership. The leadership is then not hierarchical in nature but rather dispersed and collegial in style. This thesis will show that the Theology of Priesthood in a Ministering Community is very different from Priesthood in a Christendom model of ministry. It will show that Priesthood in a Ministering Community is closer to the presbyters that we find in the pages of the New Testament than the inherited theology of Christendom Priesthood.
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Lord, D. J. (2008). Priesthood in a ministering community: Towards an ecclesiology for the Third Millennium. Retrieved from http://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/214