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Congregational Leadership

Ministry is something that we all do. Ministry is our ministry because we were baptized. "All Christians are set apart by Baptism to carry out their calling to a lifelong ministry in the world. This ministry of the baptized is fundamental to all ministries in Christ's church." This is the way ministry in the ELCIC was explained in one ELCIC report.

However there are specialized kinds of ministry as well. If you are a layperson, one of the vast majority of members of the church who is not a member of the clergy, you have a ministry, a calling, that is uniquely yours. At the same time I, as a member of the clergy, have a ministry, a calling, that is uniquely mine. Sometimes there is a problem sorting out what is yours, mine and ours because the lines between the various ministries are sometimes blurred.

Technically, no one except an ordained pastor may preach or administer the sacraments. Exceptions are sometimes allowed to that rule. For example, it may be broken for baptism in an emergency.

Ordination is not just a matter of ability or training. Some laypeople may be better trained in theology than their pastor. Some might be better public speakers. However, we recognize that some people are specially gifted and called by God to be pastors. When we as a church recognize these gifts and that calling in people, we ask them to devote themselves to this ministry. We provide the necessary training for them and ordain them as pastors.

In some congregations you will find a person called a diaconal minister. According to the guidelines our church uses to describe this role, these lay church workers are called by God, and affirmed and recognized by the church, to witness to the gospel through a public ministry that both exemplifies the servant life, and enables and equips the people of God in their ministries. They serve as agents of the church in interpreting and responding to needs, hopes and concerns within church and society.

Diaconal ministers usually help where a congregation wants to focus on a particular ministry need that requires special leadership. Because of their specialized knowledge and skills, you might find them serving in such roles as congregational outreach coordinators, music directors, youth workers, parish workers, Christian education directors, parish nurses, and congregational administrators. This is a growing ministry in our church and we are only beginning to discover the wealth of ministry that diaconal ministers have to offer.

We have another group of ministers we call bishops. The national bishop is elected by a convention of the ELCIC and the synodical bishops by their particular synod to a four-year term. While we've identified the ministry of the bishops as unique, we still haven't worked out the details of exactly what we expect our bishops to be doing. You will find them presiding at special events in the life of the church. They often chair conventions and have legal responsibilities as chief executive officers. They become especially important to a congregation that is looking for a minister because the congregation is supposed to work with the bishop to find a minister.

We Lutherans usually call our ordained ministers "pastor." At least this holds true for those who have been ordained to a ministry of Word and Sacrament. We prefer that you don't call one of our ministers "the reverend." We only use "Rev." when we are putting something down in writing.

Those of us who serve in the church as pastors each have our particular strengths and our unique peculiarities but the thing that most of us have in common is a real love of God and a strong love of people. That's why we put in long hours and get out of bed in the middle of the night to rush to a dying person's bedside and attend all those meetings and preach and teach and visit. We care. We really do.

In full communion with The Anglican Church of Canada
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