Chapter XLII.—The order of ministers in the Church.

The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labors], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture in a certain place, “I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.”

—Clement, First Epistle to the Corinthians


From the earliest generations of Christian community, the way in which authority should be structured within the community (also known as the church) has been a matter of reflection, discussion, and disagreement. The apostles, those followers of Jesus who became the founders of the first Christian communities, were generally seen as the source of authority in shaping the status, direction, and future of the church. As the theologian Harvey Cox has observed, “ . . . it did not take long for succeeding generations . . . in the Christian movement to devise the idea of an inherited ‘apostolic authority,’ even though the apostles themselves had never claimed to hand on any such authority.” Cox offers a view both straightforward and sad as to why this authority was both devised and claimed by those who came after: “The reason has to do with the all too human obsession with acquiring and holding on to power.”[1]

Harsh though that assessment may be, it is difficult to disagree with. Indeed, what Cox is pointing out is only one expression among many of another theological claim that lies at the foundation of our faith—the notion of our fallenness. There are few more predictable ways in which our unruly wills go off the rails than in seeking, securing, and protecting power, whatever form it might take. As Immanuel Kant famously wrote, “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made”—not a political order, not an economic order, and not, as it turns out, a church.

There are really two questions, separate but intertwined, that we must address if we take up the question of how the church itself, and more specifically how our theological reasoning about the meaning and purpose of ministry in the church, contends with the idea of bivocational ministry. Universally and across traditions we speak of a “vocation” to ministry, a sense of being called into the specific roles and responsibilities reserved to those who are set “in an orderly way”—to quote Clement, an early bishop of Rome to whom authorship of the Epistle to the Corinthians was ascribed—in the life of the church. But can that vocation coexist with another? Can it be lived out alongside the claims and responsibilities of other work in a different sphere? And even more deeply, what is the purpose of the church—and how is that purpose reflected in the way we understand, structure, and teach about what ordained ministry is?

•   •   •

The first Christian communities had more by way of example than just the disciples who emerged as the church-building apostles. They knew two very different, and very influential, forms of leadership in religious community that shaped their thinking about how such leaders functioned.

The first, especially influential among the first Jewish Christians who found in Jesus the clear and compelling manifestation of the promised Messiah, was the model of the priestly class who devoted themselves to the service of the temple in Jerusalem. These men, identified for the role by lineage rather than a particular sense of vocation, offered the sacrifices appointed by the Hebrew scriptures within the temple precincts on a rotating basis, leaving behind home and family in order to take up a period of residence there. In addition to their own assigned times, all of the priestly families came to the temple to serve on major festivals in the Jewish liturgical year.

The priestly class in ancient Israel was “set apart” for this function in very specific and hard-edged ways. Their role was inherited; that is to say, only the members (and specifically the men) of certain families were called upon to perform this role. Within the covenant community this separation aligned the necessary functions of the work and rituals of the temple with the essentially clan-based divisions of the people. When the priests served in the temple, their service was (or at least was intended to be) wholly devoted to the temple itself, without the distractions of home, family, or other occupations.

Within the early Gentile Christian communities, groups that were not significantly shaped by the inheritance of Jewish traditions and ritual customs, a different model emerged, albeit one first fashioned by “a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee,”[2] namely, Saul of Tarsus. When Paul bursts on the scene filled with zeal as a planter of churches (and strenuously defending his claim to authority as an apostle despite never having seen Jesus), he does so as a person fully aware of the temple traditions—yet also determined that the reconciling message of Christ is a message not only for the Jewish people; it is for all people.

As we all learned in Sunday school, Paul sets himself apart from the concentration of apostles in Jerusalem and sets out to preach the message of the gospel in ports of call along the Mediterranean. He plants churches in places in which he finds his message welcome, whether or not the community there is significantly Jewish. In some cases, particularly in Galatia, after planting these churches he adjudicates disputes between members of the church who came from Jewish backgrounds and those who did not. As he does he announces a radically new and equal order, in which those coming into the Jesus movement from the Jewish tradition have no special claim or preferred status.

Significantly for our purposes, Paul makes no effort to identify anything like a priestly class, or to identify families who would exert dynastic control over the leadership roles in the new communities. This seems notable if only because such a model would have been both familiar, and very meaningful, to Paul, and we may at least imagine that his reasons for departing from it must have been meaningful as well.

It doesn’t seem too much of a reach to suggest that central among those reasons might have been a core theme in Paul’s theology—the radical equality of all people in the new dispensation opened through the cross and Resurrection. This idea, arguably the single greatest departure in Christian moral reasoning from all that had preceded it, accounts for Paul’s insistence on the full and equal participation of Gentiles in the life of the first churches. It accounts as well for his critique of the distinctions that arose among the faithful in the Corinthian church along lines of wealth. It may even account for the clear evidence we have that leadership roles in the churches Paul founded were occupied by both men and women—something that sharply distinguished these communities in the cultural context of the first-century Roman Empire.

So we cannot be surprised that Paul himself lived out a pattern of ministry that did not create sharp distinctions between different ministries, other than distinctions of function:

. . . to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy . . . . (1 Corinthians 12:8–10)

Rather than set himself apart in a role exclusively centered on the worshiping community and maintained by their offerings—as had been the model of the priestly class in the temple—he worked among them as a laborer (as we saw earlier, as a tentmaker), earning his living in much the same way they did.

Yet that all-too-human obsession with power quickly shaped in the first Christian communities a different understanding of how ministry should work in the church. In Clement’s Epistle to the Corinthians, written decades after Paul’s own correspondence with that church, the argument is advanced that a godly purpose could be discerned in the ordering of different ranks of ministers, and the distribution of authority among them—an understanding itself bound up with the structuring and distribution of power. In the excerpt quoted at the beginning of this chapter, Clement buttresses his vision of a church shaped by different levels of authority with a curiously construed quote of the Septuagint rendition[3] of a verse from prophet Isaiah; from “I will make your princes peaceable, and your overseers righteous” (Isaiah 60:17, LXX), Clement delivers “I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.” It may have been convenient to his purposes, but it was hardly a faithful rendering of the text.

Harvey Cox makes an interesting point about Clement’s epistle. Noting that those who find themselves drawn to a hierarchical structure of ministries in the church, culminating in the Bishop of Rome, have historically pointed to this document in support of their views, Cox draws our attention to the reason why the epistle was likely written in the first place: “If the Christians in Rome needed to persuade their Corinthian brothers and sisters about the prerogatives of those who considered themselves the successors of the apostles, clearly the Corinthians, at least the younger ones, did not adhere to this concept of authority at the time.”[4] Exactly right. And perhaps they don’t today, either.

•   •   •

These two contending visions of the authority of the ordained members of the church, and by extension the authority of the church itself, have remained in tension throughout the entire history of the church. That this is the case is perhaps only to be expected, in view of the competing desires we have in our lives of faith—intimacy in our relationship with God, and a sense of security from the permanence and authority of the church itself.

As a general observation, however, the human reflex for institution building and the arranging and ranking of authority has won out through the history of the church. By the third century the church had spread around the Mediterranean to North Africa, where emerged some of the most influential voices shaping the trajectory of the church’s path toward the future. One of these was Cyprian (c. 200–258), an early bishop of Carthage, who late in his life learned of a priest in his diocese who had been made the executor of a wealthy man’s estate. Writing to the church in Furni, where these events had taken place, Cyprian offers a view of the role of the presbyter—the priest—that is the clear inheritor of the temple priesthood in Jerusalem:

Cyprian to the presbyters, and deacons, and people abiding at Furni, greeting. I and my colleagues who were present with me were greatly disturbed, dearest brethren, as were also our fellow-presbyters who sat with us, when we were made aware that Geminius Victor, our brother, when departing this life, had named Geminius Faustinus the presbyter executor to his will, although long since it was decreed, in a council of the bishops, that no one should appoint any of the clergy and the ministers of God executor or guardian by his will, since every one honored by the divine priesthood, and ordained in the clerical service, ought to serve only the altar and sacrifices, and to have leisure for prayers and supplications. For it is written: “No man that warreth for God entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please Him to whom he has pledged himself. . . .” The form of [this] ordination and engagement the Levites formerly observed under the law, so that when the eleven tribes divided the land and shared the possessions, the Levitical tribe, which was left free for the temple and the altar, and for the divine ministries, received nothing from that portion of the division. . . . [Instead,] that portion only cultivated the favor of God, and received tithes from the eleven tribes, for their food and maintenance, from the fruits which grew.[5]

Paul’s companioning, tentmaker pastorate seems far removed indeed from this vision of ministry. The rapid growth of the church seems to have tipped the scales in its early centuries toward a hierarchical shaping and distribution of authority, and an understanding of ordained ministry as something somehow separate from, and in some respects disconnected from, the rest of the faithful—that is to say, the other ministers.

Doing full justice to the unfolding of authority and the enduring tension between visions of the role and purpose of ordained ministry would require a book in itself (at least), and is not within the scope of my purpose here. It’s enough to say, first, that authority itself—as a concept, not as a structure—has been understood, somewhat paradoxically to early twenty-first century Western views, as a gift of God in the life of the church; and that this gift has been expressed throughout the history of the church by a pattern of development, resistance to, and restructuring of structures of authority throughout the church’s long journey.

Within the churches that emerged from the tumult of the Reformation, the working out of the exercise of authority has been a matter of considerable reflection, dissension, and occasional rebellion. This is the ineluctable result of ideas central to the Reformation that live in tension with each other: The emphasis on a personal, unmediated relationship between the individual believer and the risen Christ; the notion of the radical spiritual equality of all people before God, and the profound consequences of that idea for the emergence of modern democracies and the arrangement of political authority; and the effort on the part of Reformers to insist that the church still retained some degree of claim to authority in the life of the faithful.[6] Richard Hooker, Anglicanism’s first great systematic theologian, labors in his foundational work Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Polity to make a case to England’s Calvinistic Puritans that the institution of the church has both the duty and the warrant of scripture to exercise considerable authority over the governance of the spiritual lives of the faithful.  The Puritans, unconvinced, were not reconciled to the Church of England.

A later reformer, John Wesley, struggles in a sermon “On Obedience to Pastors” to articulate just what is the nature of the authority of the ordained over the souls of the faithful; he ends up making a careful distinction between the claims of scripture (“things enjoined of God”) and “indifferent things”:

6. It may be of use yet again to consider, in what instances it is the duty of Christians to obey and submit themselves to those that watch over their souls. Now the things which they enjoin, must be either enjoined of God, or forbidden by him, or indifferent. In things forbidden of God, we dare not obey them; for we are to obey God rather than man. In things enjoined of God, we do not properly obey them, but our common Father. Therefore, if we are to obey them at all, it must be in things indifferent. The sum is, it is the duty of every private Christian, to obey his spiritual Pastor, by either doing or leaving undone anything of an indifferent nature; any thing that is in no way determined in the word of God.[7]

More recently, efforts to articulate a shared vision of authority have been at the center of conversations in the Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), established by Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey and Pope Paul VI in 1967. The product of more hopeful days in the pursuit of ecumenism, the documents issued by this continuing conversation over the course of fifty years have touched on the nature of authority (in three separate documents), as well as on the church’s authority in the work of salvation.

Taken together, these documents illuminate a nuanced and supple understanding of how authority works in and through the church, and how that authority is expressed by those who are its ministers. At first glance, they seem to be in keeping with the idea of “apostolic authority” seen in the section above; “The churches today are committed to receiving the one living apostolic [t]radition, to ordering their life according to it, and to transmitting it in such a way that the Christ who comes in glory will find the people of God confessing and living the faith once for all entrusted to the saints. . . .”[8]

Yet at the same time, in other places they suggest a more open and less rigid understanding of authority. Elsewhere in “The Gift of Authority,” the commission notes that “The exercise of teaching authority in the church, especially in situations of challenge, requires the participation, in their distinctive ways, of the whole body of believers, not only those changed with the ministry of memory.”[9] And when it comes to the question of the purpose and role of the church in the work of salvation—a topic to which we now turn—the commission has offered language that would surely have set the Council of Trent in an uproar: “The Church is . . . an instrument for the realization of God’s eternal design, the salvation of humanity. While we recognize that the Holy Spirit acts outside the community of Christians, nevertheless it is within the [ch]urch, where the Holy gives and nurtures the new life of the Kingdom, that the [g]ospel becomes a manifest reality.”[10] The question for us to consider is how best to accomplish the realization and unleashing of that new life, and whether the structures of authority we have received best serves that holy purpose.

•   •   •

Reflecting on the unsettled place of authority in ministry throughout the history of Christian community-building, we’re brought up short by a fundamental question: What is the purpose of the church? This seems a strange question to ask, even, perhaps, one we are not permitted to pose. Most of us, products of the late-twentieth-century church, were raised to think of the church as having existed in the way we came to know it for years and years. But of course the church has taken many different forms and has had many different structures throughout its history. Each of those structures has suited a particular set of needs and expectations, and each has had to adapt as these needs and expectations changed.

Yet, just as with models of ministry, the purpose of the church itself has been understood—at a much higher level—in (at least) two different ways. We rarely speak of these ideas in any explicit way, yet even within small parishes there can be people who hold quite different views on the question.

Let’s call the first idea the “Empire Church.” It’s the idea the church should have as its purpose the creation of its own realm, separate and apart from—not to say over and against—the secular world. It should have its own rules, its own structures of authority, its own ways of being. Oriented by the argument that the kingdom of heaven is a very different place from any secular regime on earth, the Empire Church regards itself as a separate and set-apart microcosm of God’s kingdom on earth. It’s something like an embassy: a small piece of the sovereign territory of another country, set within and fenced off from the territory of a foreign regime—in this case, the foreign territory that is the secular realm of the material world of human affairs.

The Empire Church is the church of massive campuses and grand institutions. It’s the church of denominational hierarchies and national headquarters. It’s the church that builds its own institutions to parallel those in the secular world—schools, hospitals, colleges, pension funds, publishing houses—providing, as much as possible, a separate path through the vale of earthly life for its members. It is, to use the terms of the introduction to this book, the “church of the firm”—the church structured along lines that paralleled, and ran contemporaneously with, the emergence of modern industrial management practices in the nineteenth century. And it waits for the day in which the triumphant return of Christ in victory vindicates its claims to sovereignty, revealing it as the true source of authority and order in what the Revelation to John speaks of as the “new earth” (Rev. 21:1).

At a theological level, the Empire Church asserts sovereign authority over all realms of human knowledge and discovery. It makes the claim—as more fully developed in works of the “radical orthodoxy” movement—that all human scientific exploration must be reconciled with, and ultimately subject to, theology, the “queen of the sciences.”[11]

The Empire Church has deep and meaningful attractions to twenty-first century Christians. It seems to offer a refuge from the disorder and seeming abandonment of God that surrounds us. Perhaps forgetting Harvey Cox’s warning against the conflation of faith and belief, we see in it the assurance that our faith is true, that God’s transforming love will be revealed as the most powerful force on earth, and that the God we confess in the risen Christ will somehow protect us from what feels like the bewildering onslaught of social and cultural change.

The second idea, very different from the first, we’ll call the “Incarnated Church.” This church takes as its central purpose not the creation of a separate realm but a radically open engagement with the world at its doorstep. Placing at the center of its identity its claim to be the risen body of Christ in the world, it engages the world as Christ did—not by sitting at a safe remove in the temple precincts, but by seeking constantly to collapse all the barriers and all the invented distinctions that separate God’s children from each other and from God.

If the metaphor for the Empire Church is an embassy of God, that of the Incarnated Church is, perhaps not surprisingly, a breathing organism. Drawing in its breath, it gathers the faithful around word and sacrament to share the reconciling message of the gospel, teach the disciplines of discipleship, and strengthen all of its members for the work of ministry beyond its walls. Exhaling, it sends these ministers, lay and ordained, out into a hostile, secular world, to share by word and example the message of God’s offer of redemption and reconciliation in Christ.

The Incarnated Church does not seek to create for itself a protected space, remembering that the Christ it proclaims wins victory over evil and death not through separation and strength but through radical vulnerability—ultimately, the stark vulnerability of Jesus nailed to the cross.[12] Seeing its purpose through this theological lens, and patterning itself after that understanding of the Incarnation, it seeks to do the work of carrying out the work of discipleship through direct—and vulnerable—engagement with the world. It works to meet the culture on its own ground and on its own terms, in order to bring it to accept the gift of faith and the offer of reconciliation made in Christ.

The Incarnated Church leaves behind the safety of institutions and structures to follow the example of the earthly ministry of Jesus. It is the church of Catholic Worker houses and street ministries to the homeless. It is the church of worship incorporating contemporary culture and music, the church that eagerly incorporates new technology and media, the church that seeks to be present in the world rather than set apart from the world. To use the terms of the introduction, it is the “church of the commons”—a work of peers united in a common purpose and governed by collective accountability to a set of standards and practices. The Incarnated Church inspires us by its zeal, its radical openness, its vulnerability, its willingness to embrace risk in living out discipleship. And because of that risk, it frightens us a little, too.

•   •   •

Of course, these models are broadly drawn generalizations. They characterize, rather than categorize, different ways in which the church—theologians, leaders, and people—have understood its purpose down through the generations. Each of them has strengths and weakness. It’s not central to my purpose to explore these in detail; rather, I offer a sketch of these models not so much as critiques but as ways for understanding different (even sometimes seemingly contradictory) expressions of an entity we call “the church,” and to focus our thinking as we seek to plot a path for the church into a future being shaped by new and unprecedented economic, cultural, and social shifts.

With these two very different visions of the church’s purpose and place in the world, we have a frame of reference with which to assess which models of ministry might be best aligned with God’s call of discipleship amidst the challenges we face in the future. Many, many individual parishes struggling with survival today were conceived as expressions of the Empire Church—large physical structures, staffed by a team of professional clergy, creating a separate realm of authority within the communities they served. No longer able to support the costs of maintaining those physical and institutional structures, they are facing the difficult challenge of giving up the assumptions on which they were built and embracing a new understanding of what the church is—an understanding more closely patterned on the ideas at the heart of the Incarnated Church. That shift can be disorienting; it can feel like a loss. But it may instead be a time of renewal, and vitality—a return to the roots of ministry.

I want to offer the thought that the two models of ministry we sketched out at the beginning of this book—the Standard Model and an alternative, bivocational model of ministry—have their parallels in these two visions of what the church’s purpose is and how it lives in the world. And—not surprisingly—as we increasingly find ourselves shifting away from the days of the Empire Church and toward (or perhaps back to) an Incarnated Church, we will also find ourselves shifting increasingly away from what we have come to regard as the “Standard Model” for ministry and toward a “bivocational model”—which will have implications, as we have seen throughout this book, not just for the ordained ministers of the church but for all people of faith, for the congregations in which they gather, and for the ultimately contingent denominational structures we have shaped. To see what I mean somewhat more graphically, let’s set the two models of both church and ministry in a 2-by-2 matrix.

Table 1: Alternative models of church and ministry

Idea of church

Idea of Ministry

Empire Church

  • A separate realm; establishing the “City of God” in the midst of the secular
  • Interlocking set of institutions create an alternative path through the world for the faithful
  • Authority is shaped and distributed by institutional structure
  • High claim of sovereignty over human discovery and inquiry
  • The “church of the firm”



Standard Model

  • Hierarchically arranged structures of power expressed by means of a professionalized ordained ministry
  • Authority of those in ordered ministries derives from credentialing (degrees, sacramental ordination, “certificates on the wall”), shaped in turn by institutions of the church
  • Clear distinction between role of ordained minister and place of the laity
  • Life of the community has a sacramental focus, centered on what distinguishes the ordained and lay members.


Incarnated Church

  • No (or limited) separation from world outside the church
  • Institutions are flatter, less hierarchical, shaped by purpose in view
  • Authority arises from charism more than from office or order of ministry
  • Engagement with the discoveries of human inquiry
  • The “church of the commons”
Bivocational Ministry

  • Ordination disconnected from conferral of professional status
  • Authority in Christian community flows from the endowment of spiritual gifts
  • Authority and responsibility in the community more equitably shared, along lines of gifts and skills
  •  Life of the community has a missiological focus, centered on the shared tasks of discipleship

The Upshot: Implications of the Shifting Models of Church and Ministry

In chapter 2 we revisited the categories of congregation size suggested by Arlin Rothauge, recalling the different systems associated with each; and we noted Alice Mann’s observations about the tendency for congregations to plateau as they try to grow from one size to another. Rothauge’s insight was that differently sized congregations comprise systems that work in different ways; Mann’s insight was that relationship between size and system is a key reason that congregations generally experience difficulty in trying to grow to such an extent that they cross the border from one size to another, because those systems become inscribed in the culture and ethos of a community. What we have tried to add to this set of ideas is the notion that the same holds true of congregations that are contracting. In their case, however, crossing the boundary from one congregational size to another may not be the result of effort and design on the part of the community, but of the cultural and economic forces that are bringing change upon congregations regardless of any choice on their part. And the result of that forced change, “downshifting” from the systems associated with one size to those associated with another, can be bewildering and confusing.

The models of church I’ve described above turn out not to be implicated with the size-driven categories of congregational type suggested by Rothauge and Mann. How a congregation understands the overall purpose and vision of the universal church is more a function of its culture, its narrative history, and its traditions. If at some point—likely in the 1950s or 1960s—a church built a large campus with classrooms and gathering spaces, the members of that church now confront a physical manifestation of the claims of the Empire Church every time they come to worship, no matter how many (or how few) others will be joining them.

The challenge of shifting from the systems associated with one size of congregational life to the systems associated with another is a challenge associated with numerical growth—specifically, growth in Sunday attendance. But when it comes to shifting between the two different models of how the church understands its purpose—the shift from empire church to incarnational church—the challenge is associated instead with spiritual growth. It’s a qualitative rather than a quantitative change. It’s bound up in the challenge set before all members of the community to take more seriously in their daily lives the claims of the call to discipleship, to understand themselves as ministers of the church in the world no matter where they spend most of their time in the world, and to renew and deepen their shared commitment to each other and to God as sharers in the responsibility of the church’s mission in the world.

That growth involves new ways of thinking about and living out the roles of ordained and lay people in the world. A bivocational understanding of ministry, imbued as it is with the ethos of the incarnated church, understands that just as the church must be the open and accessible point of conversation and connection between God’s purposes and the world’s needs, so all those who share in the ministry of the church must reflect on how the gifts with which the Spirit has uniquely equipped them have prepared them to be ministers of the church in the world—the ordained, no less (and no differently) from the lay folks.

To grow into this church, a church of greater openness, greater engagement, greater vulnerability—and, perhaps it should be said, less pretension—is not easy. It will mean setting aside some of the comforts and assurances that came with the understanding of the church’s importance in the social and cultural scales of the secular world. It will mean, for the ordained members of our communities, setting aside the expectations of preferment and distinction that the old model of church raised us to believe were ours by right—the fruit of the idea that ordination somehow signaled and rewarded one’s superior spiritual qualities. And it will mean, for the lay ministers of our congregations, an end to the comforting and transactional notion that the work of ministry was something we delegate to the minister of the community—the “hired Christian”—and embracing an understanding of ministry shared much more fully, and much more equally, on all those gifted in baptism by the Spirit.

[1] Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith (New York: HarperOne, 2009), 88.

[2] Philippians 3:5.

[3] The translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek.

[4] Cox, The Future of Faith, 90; emphasis original.

[5] Cyprian, Epistle 65 (“To the clergy and people abiding at Furni, about Victor, who had made the presbyter Faustinus a guardian”), in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, vol. 5 (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, reprint 1990), 367.

[6] For an excellent scholarly summary of these ideas and their working out in both ecclesial and political spheres after the Reformation, see Alec Ryrie, Protestants: The Radicals Who Made the Modern World (London: William Collins, 2017), published in the United States under the curiously edited title Protestants: The Faith that Made the Modern World (New York: Viking, 2017).

[7] John Wesley, “On Obedience to Pastors,” preached March 18, 1785; Wesley Center Online,

[8] Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission, “The Gift of Authority (Authority in the Church III),” September 3, 1997, para. 17.,

[9] Ibid., at para. 43.

[10]Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission, “Salvation and the Church,” March 3, 1982, para. 28; emphasis added. This document also goes on to take note of the woeful impact of the abuse of authority in the history of the church: “. . . the credibility of the Church’s witness is undermined by the sins of its members, the shortcomings of its human institutions, and not least by the scandal of division. The Church is in constant need of repentance and renewal so that it can be more clearly seen for what it is: the one, holy body of Christ.” Ibid. at para. 29.

[11] “Radical orthodoxy” is an umbrella term for a range of works by a number of theologians. The key text is generally regarded as Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology, eds. John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock, and Graham Ward (London: Routledge, 1999). Others have included Milbank’s Theology and Social Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 2d ed. 2006). Milbank and Pickstock, Truth in Aquinas (London: Routledge, 2000); Graham Ward, Cities of God (London: Routledge, 2000); and Philip Blond, Post-Secular Philosophy (London: Routledge, 1997). A more recent example of this strain of thinking, taking a somewhat more popularizing tack, is Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian World (New York: Sentinel, 2017).

[12] A central text for this idea of the church is the late William Placher’s Narratives of a Vulnerable God: Christ, Theology, and Scripture (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 1994).