Ecclesiastical Memes – V

Darryl is the Mission Coach for Alpine Presbytery and Minister of Kiwi Church, a new-ish congregation in Christchurch.  This is the fifth and final part of his series on the names we call ourselves by.

We need new words to help us imagine the future church.  This episode continues from Memes IV, where I suggested we replace clergy with other words (like Player Coach), and I promised this blog would attend to the word ‘lay.’

It is really hard to come up with another word. I’ve been tempted to avoid this blog as I’m not sure it will add value, but I made a promise.

The Elders Handbook, 2011 says ‘The title of ‘lay preacher’ is unfortunate insofar as it perpetuates a distinction between ‘clergy’ and ‘laity’ that is both unbiblical and unhelpful. Properly understood, the New Testament word ‘laos’ refers to the whole people of God, including, not apart from the clergy. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet come up with a better designation for those whom the church authorises to share in the task of preaching and administering the sacraments.” (p13).

I have been promised a Knighthood if I can suggest a better word than ‘lay’ (see Memes I).

I cannot.

So the word is unhelpful and unbiblical. And we can’t come up with a better word.

What is wrong with this picture?  It seems to me the institution trying to hold onto something that was helpful because it served a purpose in the past, but is now unhelpful and could be argued the distinction has contributed to people leaving the church.

What if we ditched the word altogether? What if we had no word to distinguish between clergy and laity?  We could all be “team members” with some taking a leadership or a coaching role within the team.

I searched the PCANZ website for the use of the word, and explored the possibility of dropping the word altogether.  The examples I found all reinforced the distinction to clergy, which I argue is unnecessary.  Someone more enlightened than me in this area may give me a good reason what we need a word to make the distinction.

Organisations and movements may need a name change.  Take ‘Lay Preachers Association’ for example.  It seems to me they do a great job – so why only focus on lay people?  What not, ‘Preachers Association’ and that way ministers can be a part of it, which in my experience sometimes wouldn’t be such a bad thing! (Ministers being resourced to be better preachers that is).

I am going through my minister’s review at the moment, and one of the people kindly shared his responses with me. He highlights some shortcomings in our review process, one quote struck me which reinforces our need to be on the same team:

“I think the formulation and communication of vision has been owned by us collectively and is gradually being worked out in an organic type of way. . . We regularly, by way of intention or breakdown, reflect on what we are about and as an output our vision is gradually defined/refined. I (possibly we) don’t look to Darryl as ‘the Minister’ who has to have a vision and be the principle leader for everything.  I don’t see Darryl as ‘The Minister’, I think we all are, and I personally don’t expect him to ‘enable change and make sure it is implemented and accepted by others.’ Because we collectively own and have responsibility for our group the enabling of change is a slightly more chaotic and beautiful process and experience. The idea that the Minister is to ‘lead and influence’ our efforts and keep me ‘enthusiastic’ seems a little weird to me or at least a top down type of business model where you have a vision carrier, then mission formulation, enrollment of the troops and implementation strategies etc. From my perspective this just isn’t how our community is. . .”

Help me out here people.  Why do we need a word that means ‘non-clergy?’


One thought on “Ecclesiastical Memes – V

  1. I agree. We don’t. From my perspective it is unhelpful and unbiblicial….. and therefore works against us instead of for us. I see it as life-depleting instead of life-giving. Let’s delete it from our vocabulary!!

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