Ministry -- II. The church and the Ordained Ministry
M7. Differences in terminology are part of the matter under debate. In order
to avoid confusion in the discussions on the ordained ministry in the Church,
it is necessary to delineate clearly how various terms are used in the following
- The word charism denotes the gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit on any
member of the body of Christ for the building up of the community and the
fulfilment of its calling.
- The word ministry in its broadest sense denotes service to which the
whole people of God is called, whether as individuals, as a local community,
or as the universal Church. Ministry or ministries can also denote the particular
institutional forms which this service may take.
- The term ordained ministry refers to persons who have received a charism
and whom the church appoints for service by ordination through the invocation
of the Spirit and the laying on of hands.
- Many churches use the word priest to denote certain ordained ministers.
Because this usage is not universal, this document will discuss the substantive
questions in paragraph 17.
A. The Ordained Ministry
M8. In order to fulfil its mission, the Church needs persons who are publicly
and continually responsible for pointing to its fundamental dependence on Jesus
Christ, and thereby provide, within a multiplicity of gifts, a focus of its
unity. The ministry of such persons, who since very early times have been ordained,
is constitutive for the life and witness of the Church.
M9. The Church has never been without persons holding specific authority and
responsibility. Jesus chose and sent the disciples to be witnesses of the Kingdom
(Matt. 10:1-8). The Twelve were promised that they would "sit on thrones Judging
the tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:30). A particular role is attributed to the Twelve
within the communities of the first generation. They are witnesses of the Lord's
life and resurrection (Acts 1:21-26). They lead the community in prayer, teaching,
the breaking of bread, proclamation and service (Acts 2:42 -47; 6:2-6, etc.).
The very existence of the Twelve and other apostles shows that, from the beginning,
there were differentiated roles in the community.
In the New Testament the term "apostle" is variously employed. It is used
for the Twelve but also for a wider circle of disciples. It is applied to
Paul and to others as they are sent out by the risen Christ to proclaim the
Gospel. The roles of the apostles cover both foundation and mission.
M10. Jesus called the Twelve to be representatives of the renewed Israel. At
that moment they represent the whole people of God and at the same time exercise
a special role in the midst of that community. After the resurrection they are
among the leaders of the community. It can be said that the apostles prefigure
both the Church as a whole and the persons within it who are entrusted with
the specific authority and responsibility. The role of the apostles as witnesses
to the resurrection of Christ is unique and unrepeatable. There is therefore
a difference between the apostles and the ordained ministers whose ministries
are founded on theirs.
M11. As Christ chose and sent the apostles, Christ continues through the Holy
Spirit to choose and call persons into the ordained ministry. As heralds and
ambassadors, ordained ministers are representatives of Jesus Christ to the community,
and proclaim his message of reconciliation. As leaders and teachers they call
the community to submit to the authority of Jesus Christ, the teacher and prophet,
in whom law and prophets were fulfilled. As pastors, under Jesus Christ the
chief shepherd, they assemble and guide the dispersed people of God, in anticipation
of the coming Kingdom.
The basic reality of an ordained ministry was present from the beginning (cf.
para. 8). The actual forms of ordination and of the ordained ministry, however,
have evolved in complex historical developments (cf. para. 19). The churches,
therefore, need to avoid attributing their particular forms of the ordained
ministry directly to the will and institution of Jesus Christ.
M12. All members of the believing community, ordained and lay, are interrelated.
On the one hand, the community needs ordained ministers. Their presence reminds
the community of the divine initiative, and of the dependence of the Church
on Jesus Christ, who is the source of its mission and the foundation of its
unity. They serve to build up the community in Christ and to strengthen its
witness. In them the Church seeks an example of holiness and loving concern.
On the other hand, the ordained ministry has no existence apart from the community.
Ordained ministers can fulfil their calling only in and for the community. They
cannot dispense with the recognition, the support and the encouragement of the
M13. The chief responsibility of the ordained ministry is to assemble and build
up the body of Christ by proclaiming and teaching the Word of God, by celebrating
the sacraments, and by guiding the life of the community in its worship, its
mission and its caring ministry.
These tasks are not exercised by the ordained ministry in an exclusive way.
Since the ordained ministry and the community are inextricably related, all
members participate in fulfilling these functions. In fact, every charism
serves to 'assemble and build up the body of Christ. Any member of the body
may share in proclaiming and teaching the Word of God, may contribute to the
sacramental life of that body. The ordained ministry fulfils these functions
in a representative way, providing the focus for the unity of the life and
witness of the community.
M14. It is especially in the eucharistic celebration that the ordained ministry
is the visible focus of the deep and all-embracing communion between Christ
and the members of his body. In the celebration of the eucharist, Christ gathers,
teaches and nourishes the Church. It is Christ who invites to the meal and who
presides at it. In most churches this presidency is signified and represented
by an ordained minister.
The New Testament says very little about the ordering of the eucharist. There
is no explicit evidence about who presided at the eucharist. Very soon however
it is clear that an ordained ministry presides over the celebration. If the
ordained ministry is to provide a focus for the unity of the life and witness
of the Church, it is appropriate that an ordained minister should be given
this task. It is intimately related to the task of guiding the community,
i.e. supervising its life (episkopé) and strengthening its vigilance
in relation to the truth of the apostolic message and the coming of the Kingdom.
B. Ordained Ministry and Authority
M15. The authority of the ordained minister is rooted in Jesus Christ, who
has received it from the Father (Matt. 28:18), and who confers it by the Holy
Spirit through the act of ordination. This act takes place within a community
which accords public recognition to a particular person. Because Jesus came
as one who serves (Mark 10:45; Luke 22:27), to be set apart means to be consecrated
to service. Since ordination is essentially a setting apart with prayer for
the gift of the Holy Spirit, the authority of the ordained ministry is not to
be understood as the possession of the ordained person but as a gift for the
continuing edification of the body in and for which the minister has been ordained.
Authority has the character of responsibility before God and is exercised with
the cooperation of the whole community.
M16. Therefore, ordained ministers must not be autocrats or impersonal functionaries.
Although called to exercise wise and loving leadership on the basis of the Word
of God, they are bound to the faithful in interdependence and reciprocity. Only
when they seek the response and acknowledgment of the community can their authority
be protected from the distortions of isolation and domination. They manifest
and exercise the authority of Christ in the way Christ himself revealed God's
authority to the world, by committing their life to the community. Christ's
authority is unique. "He spoke as one who has authority (exousia), not as the
scribes" (Matt. 7:29). This authority is an authority governed by love for the
"sheep who have no shepherd" (Matt. 9:36). It is confirmed by his life of service
and, supremely, by his death and resurrection. Authority in the Church can only
be authentic as it seeks to conform to this model.
Here two dangers must be avoided. Authority cannot be exercised without regard
for the community. The apostles paid heed to the experience and the judgment
of the faithful. On the other hand, the authority of ordained ministers must
not be so reduced as to make them dependent on the common opinion of the community.
Their authority lies in their responsibility to express the will of God in
C. Ordained Ministry and Priesthood
M17. Jesus Christ is the unique priest of the new covenant. Christ's life was
given as a sacrifice for all. Derivatively, the Church as a whole can be described
as a priesthood. All members are called to offer their being "as a living sacrifice"
and to intercede for the Church and the salvation of the world. Ordained ministers
are related, as are all Christians, both to the priesthood of Christ, and to
the priesthood of the Church. But they may appropriately be called priests because
they fulfil a particular priestly service by strengthening and building up the
royal and prophetic priesthood of the faithful through word and sacraments,
through their prayers of intercession, and through their pastoral guidance of
The New Testament never uses the term "priesthood" or "priest" (hiereus) to
designate the ordained ministry or the ordained minister. In the New Testament,
the term is reserved, on the one hand, for the unique priesthood of Jesus
Christ and, on the other hand, for the royal and prophetic priesthood of all
baptized. The priesthood of Christ and the priesthood of the baptized have
in their respective ways the function Of sacrifice and intercession. As Christ
has offered himself, Christians offer their whole being "as a living sacrifice".
As Christ intercedes before the Father, Christians intercede for the Church
and the salvation of the world. Nevertheless, the differences between these
two kinds of priesthood cannot be overlooked. While Christ offered himself
as a unique sacrifice once and for all for the salvation of the world, believers
need to receive continually as a gift of God that which Christ has done for
In the early Church the terms "priesthood" and "priest" came to be used to
designate the ordained ministry and minister as presiding at the eucharist.
They underline the fact that the ordained ministry is related to the priestly
reality of Jesus Christ and the whole community. When the terms are used in
connection with the ordained ministry, their meaning differs in appropriate
ways from the sacrificial priesthood of the Old Testament, _from the unique
redemptive priesthood of Christ and from the corporate priesthood of the people
of God. St Paul could call his ministry "a priestly service of the gospel
of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable by the Holy
Spirit" (Rom. 15:16).
D. The Ministry of Men and Women in the Church
M18. Where Christ is present, human barriers are being broken. The Church is
called to convey to the world the image of a new humanity. There is in Christ
no male or female (Gal. 3:28). Both women and men must discover together their
contributions to the service of Christ in the Church. The Church must discover
the ministry which can be provided by women as well as that which can be provided
by men. A deeper understanding of the comprehensiveness of ministry which reflects
the interdependence of men and women needs to be more widely manifested in the
life of the Church.
Though they agree on this need, the churches draw
different conclusions as to the admission of women to the ordained ministry. An
increasing number of churches have decided that there is no biblical or
theological reason against ordaining women, and many of them have subsequently
proceeded to do so. Yet many churches hold that the tradition of the Church in
this regard must not be changed.