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Baptism, Ecclesiology and Vocation

Presentation: Baptism, Ecclesiology and Vocation by Werner Schwartz at the May 1997 international consultation on the theme: "Towards a Common Understanding of the Theological Concepts of Laity/Laos: The People of God."

10 May 1997

Le Cénacle, Geneva, 7-10 May 1997

Baptism, Ecclesiology and Vocation

by Werner Schwartz

1. Living in a situation of pluralism
Things are different in different parts of the world. People seem to live in different worlds shaped by the traditions which are alive among them, by the time they live in, by political, cultural and economic conditions which they find to be their situation, by the ways of their everyday life and by a the huge number of other factors which create the distinctiveness of their situation, factors which determine their attitudes to life, their basic orientation, their way of thinking and living including their moral orientation and action.

(1.1.) As things are different in different parts of the world, we might expect that theological matters are different, too. This is not a new insight. Different views and opinions about what to believe and how to behave occur throughout the history of human beings in this world. Religious concepts vary, they grow and develop, they are altered and are replaced, they diminish and disappear. There is a development of religions and within religions, which can at least in some parts be explained by pointing out the circumstances which make people shift the focus on different traits of their respective sets of religious beliefs. They adopt old parts of their traditions anew by adapting them to their specific needs. Or they abandon those parts of previous convictions which they don't think any longer to be of any help in perceiving their reality and getting an appropriate orientation in life.

This is what the history of religion tells us. It is true of the Jewish-Christian traditions, too. Parts of this process of diversification and development of religious traditions are to be recognized within the basic document of our faith, within the books of the Bible itself. It is not a single and monolithic tradition that we find there. It is a whole set of traditions of various kinds. There are narrative parts with a lot of stories telling what was going on in the old days. They form a tradition of what is told about the way God revealed himself to humans and about the way the people of God lived their lives responding to what they were experiencing with their God. There are poetic parts, cultic hymns, addresses by prophets, sayings of wisdom. They call those who listen to them back to the roots of their religion, they inspire their thoughts and orientations and help them to lead their everyday lives.

(1.2.) So, as things are different in different parts of the world, we may be right in expecting that baptism, ecclesiology and vocation are seen differently within the respective traditions of Christianity, too. It is not hard to realize that at the very first glance at the traditions of the various confessional families within Christianity.

The role of ministry is seen differently. It has been one of the focal questions of ecumenical discourse since it started at the beginning of this century. More than half a century of discussion has hardly led to a point where the differences are worked out clear enough in order to enable theologians and churches to find a way to overcome the difficulty of having different opinions. We seem to stick to the viewpoints we have inherited from our traditions and seem not to be able to open them up into a productive and creative dialogue of distinctive sets of belief. I suppose we are anxious, and we do not want to be open-minded enough to understand other Christians in what they think to be relevant to them and how it is connected with what they believe. Correspondingly, the role of laity is seen differently among Christians of various denominational families. I need simply to hint to the predominant function of the coherence of ecclesiology and ministry among the orthodox and catholic over against protestant traditions. There are remarkable differences in perceiving the role lay people play within the churches and in the world they live in.

(1.3.) Just to illustrate it by some cross-cultural remarks

(1.3.1.) The Protestant churches in Germany have a strong tradition of lay activity in church, at least in theory, in theology. The reformation started with the axiom of the priesthood of the faithful. It diminished the status of the ordained ministry and it proclaimed the right of every Christian to have direct access to God and to matters of faith. It stressed how important the justification of the impious is and thereby weakened the functions of priests and strengthened the position of lay people. In some strands of the reformation movement, churches have installed governing bodies which are dominated by lay people.

In spite of this, there is a strong tradition of ministerial work linked with the tradition of a state church. Ministers had been state officials for centuries. They had been expected to take care of the moral behaviour of the members of their congregations, and they had been supervising even the schools and the work of the teachers up to the beginning of this century. They had been part of the governmental structure of the country, and of course they had been paid by the government.

Even if the structures have changed and state and church have been separated at the end of World War I, parts of the structure seem to have survived. It still forms a part of our church. The ministers are those who are responsible for everything in the church. They have to manage their congregations, look after the buildings, organize meetings and special events, do the administrational work and represent the congregation in official matters.

The Christians living in a Protestant congregation, about 40 percent of the population plus another 40 percent Catholics, belong to their church by infant baptism. They are a member of the church as they are a member of their local communities. There is no strong commitment to be a Christian among most of the members of a congregation. They just want to have the church work done, which does not influence them very much. They want to marry at church, to have their children baptized, to have them educated in the basic terms of Christian belief, and they want to be buried by a minister. The church should look after the poor and weak and should help those who have difficulties in organizing their lives. The church -- that means the minister and the staff in the kindergarten, the youth work and the social work and the few people among the members of the congregation who are densely affiliated to the church.

The priesthood of the faithful is strong in theory while in practice the ministers are expected to do most of the work in the congregations. It is just the last few decades that have made a slight start to develop and alter this structure. Lay people have begun to join in the congregational work, in doing educational work among children and adults, visiting church members, conducting meetings of groups within the church, helping in the administration etc. Slowly they take over responsibility for the tasks they have adopted. Things are beginning to change. Lay people feel encouraged to take part in the discussions in the elders' meetings. Synods, which have been dominated by the clergy even if they have only about one third of the seats, are beginning to develop the participation of all their members, ordained ministers and lay people.

(1.3.2.) A few weeks ago, I came back from a visit to our twin church in England, a congregation of the United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom. It has its roots in one of the independent churches, Presbyterian or Congregationalist. The congregation consists of about 150 people, most of them middle class. They have a strong commitment to their church. Being at church is part of their social life.

So the role and influence of lay people is very strong. Quite a number of people in the congregation feel responsible for their church. They organize the church life, groups meeting at the church, the church newsletter, festivities all around the year and the maintenance of the buildings. The elders' meeting is used to discuss theological matters as well as practical questions, and it is not just the ministers who dominate the theological debates in the district assembly or the general assembly.

It may be similar in the major American churches. Christians have a high emotional and practical commitment to the church. They are used to attend the worship regularly. They are educated in being Christians and they are well trained by attending the Sunday school. They know that they have to share in the church's work because it is the task of all Christians meeting there.

(1.3.3.) You may find a different scenario if you have a look at churches in the Two-Thirds-World, say, in the jungle of Indonesia or in the slums of Latin America. Maybe there is a basic form of Christianity. People are not very well educated in a formal sense. They know what they need, and they try to help each other to understand Christian belief and to live their lives. There are only few ministers visiting the congregations every now and then. They are not used to give highly elaborated sermons. They just celebrate the loving and redeeming power of God and they help people to survive.

As they live surrounded by people with other faiths, e.g. Muslims or adherents of native religions, they have to know at least roughly what it is to be a Christian in a very basic way. They are not very learned in sophistically discussing the specialities of their faith, but they know that it helps them to live because it gives them endurance and hope and strength for the struggle of their lives.

(1.4.) So situations are different for contemporary churches living in different parts of our world because they are in different surroundings and have to face their peculiar needs. It influences their perception of some of the main strands of Christian life.

They may conceive baptism differently depending on whether it is the ritual initiation at the beginning of the life of a person which is shared by the vast majority of the population with only little implication on how people shape their beliefs and lives or whether it is an initiation which alters life totally because it brings oneself into a total commitment to Jesus Christ and the church.

The image of the church is different corresponding with the social role it plays in the respective society. Either the church is one of the traditional institutions of a society and sharing in a process which shows that its influence is going to decrease, or it is a group of people who are convinced that they need to cling to their faith and to help others to find eternal life in being a member of the church. And I am sure there are more images of the church to be described in order to show the map of ecclesiology of our days.

There are differences, again, in describing the vocation of each individual Christian within these contexts. Sharing the life of the church is strenuous in all societies you live in. But it may have its particular profile in a wealthy secular society of the west, which is different from that in a poor surrounding of a Third World country. And, again, there are a number of differences which might be added.

To get along with these differences it might be helpful to have a look at the central images of baptism, ecclesiology and vocation by going back to some of their roots, which lie in the biblical traditions upon which the church and the Christian life are founded.

2. Baptism with water and with the spirit -- exegetical and pneumatological reflections
According to the biblical scriptures and the practice of the church throughout its history, Christians become Christians by baptism. Churches which do not baptize are a minority among the churches. They urge other churches to argue on the necessity of baptism for becoming a Christian. But as they are a very small minority, churches which baptize do not feel pressed to take up the question.

By baptism Christians, men, women or children, become part of the church, i.e. of the people of God.

(2.1.) The Lima Document on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, 1982, convincingly unfolds the complex structure of baptism in pointing to the dimensions of its understanding. As a gift of God baptism is the incorporation into Christ and the entry into the new covenant.1 It immerses the baptized in the liberating death of Christ, it washes away their sins, it raises them to a new life in the power of the resurrection of Christ, and it gives them a new ethical orientation.2 Baptism is accompanied by the gift of the Holy Spirit so that the baptized find themselves fostered and guided by the Spirit.3 Baptism is a sign of common discipleship. As it unites all Christians of different denominations, it is a basic bond of unity witnessing the reconciling love of God. It initiates the reality of the new life, and so it is a sign of the kingdom of God in the midst of the present world.4

Stress is laid on the transforming power of God, which is connected with the sign of baptism. It transforms human beings into a part of the people of God. They join into God's activity to call the world to be his, to redeem it from evil and death and to bring it to life abundant.

(2.2.) If Christians in being baptized join the new covenant, we will have to widen the perspective to include the whole story of God's encounter with humankind beginning with creation, including the people of Israel and the church and leading to the eschatological completion of creation. We will have to clarify the distinctive relationship between the old and the new covenant, between Israel and the church. We will have to draw out the lines through the centuries and the strata of tradition, leading from the promises given to Noah and Abraham and Jacob and Moses, from the rescuing experiences of the daughter of the Pharaoh, of Miriam and Deborah to kings like David and Solomon and to the prophets, say, Amos and Hosea, Isaiah and Micah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Deutero-Isaiah, Zechariah and Joel. We will have to go on to John the Baptist, to Jesus and to his disciples, to the church throughout the centuries.

It might be too much to do just in order to get a view of baptism. So I will concentrate on the one aspect of the coherence of baptism and spirit. It connects New Testament traditions of baptism (and Pentecost) with a long series of traditions in the Hebrew Bible.

(2.3.) Two stories in the New Testament may help us to understand the connection of baptism and the gift of the spirit.

(2.3.1.) The story of the baptism of Jesus.5 Jesus is baptized by John in a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.6 After he is baptized, the heaven is opened and the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus in a bodily form.7(2.3.2.) The story of Philip in Samaria meeting Simon the magician. After Philip has preached the good news about the kingdom of God and of the name of Jesus Christ in Samaria men and women come to be baptized. They wait for the Holy Spirit, who has not yet fallen on any of them. They have only be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Peter and John pray for them and lay their hands on them. So they receive the Holy Spirit.

In the story on Jesus, the baptism clearly is a sign for repentance and the forgiveness of sins, whatsoever the dogmatic implications may be in relating this idea to Jesus the son of God. The coming down of the spirit is added to it as a distinct act of God. It shows that Jesus is part of the series of persons bearing the spirit of God. Consequently he is declared to be the beloved son of God, with whom God is well pleased.The story of Samaria explicitly states a difference between baptism and the coming down of the spirit. There is the outward sign of being baptized with water and being declared to belong to Jesus as lord. The Holy Spirit is expected to be given to everyone who is baptized. The coming down of the spirit is not identical with the procedure of baptizing with water, but baptism is not complete without the gift of the spirit. Baptism is differentiated from the process of receiving the Holy Spirit. In receiving the spirit, Christians are endowed with the power of God which makes them enter the realm of the spirit of God. They step into a movement which has its beginning in creation, which is moved and changed by his love and which aims to the fulfilment in the eschaton when heaven and earth pass away and a new heaven and a new earth are seen. By the gift of the spirit, Christians become part not only of the Christian community, but of the kingdom to come. They are endowed with the spirit, they bear it and they are expected to do his work in the world they live in.(2.4.) Both stories have to be seen in the line of predictions on pouring out the spirit, these predictions coming from Hebrew traditions. I will sketch some of the lines pointed out by recent theological work on God's spirit.God reveals himself to be present among human beings and in the midst of his creation. The areas of nature and culture are brought into a specified connection. Unshaped nature will be transformed into a cultivated form. Complex and elaborated structures of reality, e.g. the realms of right, justice and peace, are developing from rough material in nature given from the beginning of the world. Forms of culture emerge within a world that is in a process of development.9 People are called to define themselves. They formulate their position in the process of transforming the world. They identify themselves as co-workers of God,10 provoked to do so by realizing that God himself reveals his face, symbolizing his presence, all of the centre and essence of his person that can be grasped by human beings.11 Humans realize that they belong to God and take part in God's process of revealing his future for all his world.

Central to this process is the insight that God pours out his spirit on all flesh, men and women, old and young, menservants and maidservants. It comes to all persons present and past and coming into being, strong and weak. It enables them to get an idea of the future lying ahead of them, and it makes them join the community walking towards that future which is to come. They take part in the prophetic task which is given to humankind.12

So God is present among them. He doesn't hide his face. While facing his face in adoration and worship in community, people are confronted with the presence of God in his spirit and they realize the gifts. They are given to everyone of them in plenitude and pluriformity. All of them are endowed with special gifts, each of them individually, in order to be able to share in the common task of working out and celebrating the richness of life in God's creation. They can realize tendencies which are counter-productive to God's endeavour to bring the world to a good end. They notice sin and misorientation in their behaviour, injustice and their own inclination to death. The light of God's presence makes them confess and turn away from their godlessness and orientate themselves towards God's way of showing his life in this world.

(2.5.) This is the wider biblical background of what it means in the stories of the New Testament that God's spirit is poured out on the baptized. Being baptized is part of a comprehensive process. People will be given the Holy Spirit. Those who are baptized are taken into the coherence of the whole story of the Bible, the story of God which he has with his world.

So baptism can be regarded as the primary ordination for the people of God. In the end, it transcends the borders of denominations and confessional families.

Baptism aims to make persons Christians, i.e. members of the church, of the people of God. So it is a differentiated pluralistic image rather than a monolithic one of a simple structure. It gathers whole groups of different persons with different insights and commitments, all of them centred around the commitment to Jesus Christ. They are formed by their specific traditions, by the nations and classes and surroundings they come from, by the families and peer groups in which they have grown up, by the churches and congregations which have formed their beliefs and the patterns of their behaviour.

They are different from each other. The spirit has fallen upon them. But they still are different persons with their specific formation. It is these specific persons and groups and denominations and churches the church is built from.13

The spirit even surmounts the boundaries of Christianity. Christianity is opened to the experiences of the Jewish community and in the end to the whole story of God with humankind. So the context of baptism may be wider and broader than we usually imagine, as we are bound to the narrow world of our perception, which makes us feel at home where we live.

>3. The church - ecclesiology in a pneumatological perspective
The church is formed by those who are baptized. By baptism they become part of the church. The spirit endows them with particular gifts, which they can use in order to proclaim the gospel in words and deeds in their particular surroundings. They are given different gifts. They are put in their particular places. All of them are baptized in Christ. They are members of the body of Christ, the church, in a theological sense, and members of a particular church, in a sociological sense.

(3.1.) But the church, though being one, is not a homogeneous body. It consists of different members with their particular character. The unity of the people of God is constituted by the one God calling human beings to come into the realm of his spirit. But the spirit works as a differentiating force, not as a homogenizing one. It is a living spirit, who enables persons to discover and to develop their gifts and to experience and realize God in his manifold activities. The church, to which the spirit is given, is a body of productive complexity rather than of uniformity. Its members are marked by a pluriformity which cannot be pushed away by strengthening the uniformous aspect of the church.

(3.2.) It is just the other way round. The church's pluralism is not a sign of its weakness. It rather proves the church's strength because it is the effect and the image of the pluralism of the spirit which sets free the pluralism of the church and its confessions and denominations and members.14

St. Paul, in talking about charisms15, underlines that the congregation is built up by different gifts of the spirit which stresses the individuality of those who have got them. The body of Christ is one, and the spirit shows an order in the plenitude of gifts and charisms. Similar to the prophecy of Joel 3,16 the story of Pentecost17 clearly shows that the differences among those who are endowed with the spirit are maintained. They do not vanish. Christians of different background, in respect to culture, race, age and gender, remain in their national, cultural and language community. But it is clear, too, that new common identities are formed and put into specified relationships towards each other. The spirit enables everyone of them to be the person they are and to interact on the basis of their own identity. They come together on a platform which enables them to share their respective insights and experiences. They become open to face God, who meets them in his spirit. They are brought into contact with the traditions of Israel telling the hopeful story of God, who comes to redeem the world in love and justice.18

In the story of Pentecost, the spirit is given to the disciples and those who are with them. It encourages them to proclaim the mighty works of God19 and it makes them a new community of different people coming from different nations, religions and backgrounds. They are able to understand each other. It is a miracle because they were strangers to each other. They speak in their own tongues and, at the same time, they understand each other. That means, they preserve their identity and individuality and they have a new experience of community. What happens does not aim at uniformity without any contrast. Nor does it lead to a variety of differences without any coherence. It forms a creative pluralism of different persons with their particular profiles and perspectives. They are interactive and discover a form of communion which enriches and transcends their individual lives. The community rather than each of the individuals reflects the comprehensiveness of God's action in our world. The community of believers represents the power of God's presence in the world, redeeming, justifying, liberating and encouraging to follow his way.20

The church and the churches have to take the fact that God's aim is covering a wide range seriously. All his people are needed to share in the process of praying and working for it. So all are given their specific gifts to pursue their specific task in that process. Their common task is preaching the gospel to all the world and witnessing for the loving and redeeming God, who has come to show his love and to rescue the world.

4. The vocation of the faithful - the ministry among the ministries
The church and each individual member (as well as Israel and the Jews and maybe human beings of other faiths, too) are taking part in God's work to rescue the world. By baptism Christians are ordained to be members of the church and to take over the ministry which is given to them. They do their jobs in their place. They use the gifts which are given to them.

(4.1.) In giving these gifts or charisms God's spirit makes human beings enter the realm of God's power.21 The power of the spirit proves to be real in them. They use the gifts and charisms to reveal the presence of God's power within the world around them. So the effectiveness of the power of God's spirit is publicly shown. In realizing the effects of God's spirit in those who are endowed with his gifts, the world can experience the reality of its transforming power. The spirit is seen to be working in them individually and as the church, and the individuals are seen to be members of the church, related to the church and to each other by the power of the spirit.

The effects of the spirit are shown in the way Christians live whenever they let the gifts and charisms flourish among them. The effects are described differently but there is a common trend which can be identified, namely, a tendency towards withdrawing the own interests and giving oneself up in favour of others. This seems to be the underlying structure of the catalogues of virtues in the New Testament letters.22 These images take up the structure of mercy and compassion which underlies the ethos of the Hebrew Bible. They culminate in the image of love which is central to the New Testament ethos. So the spirit shows the power of love to be God's power which is his way to reveal his impact upon the world.23

God's spirit, of course, endows people with particular gifts and specific charisms. They are not all alike. The biblical image of the body24 is the most prominent image to illustrate the divergence of gifts given by the same spirit. It is closely linked with baptism. In being baptized Christians become members of the body of Christ, which is the work of God's spirit.25

(4.2.) Again, the Lima Document on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry unfolds what are the consequences of what has started with conversion and baptism.

God calls the whole of humanity to become his people. Being part of this process, the church is the body which, by the activity of the Holy Spirit, unites Christians to follow Jesus. They are sent into the world to be his witnesses.26 The liberating and renewing power of God's spirit is active among them.27 It calls them to proclaim and prefigure the kingdom of God, to confess their faith, to give account of their hope, to witness in caring love, and to struggle with the oppressed.28

The spirit bestows on the community diverse and complementary gifts, which are to be used for the building up of the church and for the service of the world which the church is sent out to.29 It is seen to be part of the order of the church to have an ordained ministry, which is established differently in various churches. To clarify the differences, charism is defined to name "the gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit to any member of the body of Christ for the building up of the community and the fulfilment of its calling", ministry "denotes the service to which the whole people of God is called", or it denotes "the institutional forms which this service may take" 30, whereas ordained ministry refers to persons who by ordination are appointed for service in publicly and continuously being responsible for pointing to the church's fundamental dependence on Jesus Christ, following the Apostles.31

Though ordained ministry is ordered differently among churches of different confessions it is constitutive of most of the churches. Having established ordained ministry makes all the churches look to lay people in a particular manner. By definition, lay people are not ordained ministers. If the whole people of God is participating in the ministry of Christ for the world,32 there must be specific tasks of ordained and lay people in the church. It is necessary to specify them, because it is necessary to see what they are for and what they should concentrate on. It will help both of them not to be anxious about their particular task in the church. Defining the tasks of the ministers will clarify the particular tasks of lay people and clerics, even if it were in the Protestant traditionof seeing ministers to be responsible for assisting and backing up lay people for their service in the world.

(4.3.) The pneumatological approach to seeing the church and its members, ordained or not ordained, leads to an understanding of the church as a body with a pluriformity of different members with a lot of particular tasks they fulfil and a lot of different charisms they use. The church is pluralistic in this perspective. The people of God consists of a large number of churches, groups, congregations, and local churches and of an even larger variety of different persons with their peculiarities and their particular way of thinking, acting and believing. All of them are members of the body of Christ but they have to fulfil their particular function. They are put together in an order which makes them play their specific role. They are to fit into the coherence of the whole body.

By baptism they are called in the ministry of the church, which is the ministry of all believers and a function of the whole church.33 All those who believe in Christ will have to prove their conviction and their commitment by living according to their vocation. So theology will have to elaborate a concept of baptism as "the ordination of the laity which authorizes them to participate in Christ's ministry in and for the world". 34 It will have to see them in some sense in apostolic succession. And it will have to include responsible stewardship in using the gifts of grace which have been given to the believers. "These charismata have to be used both for the upbuilding of the church and for Christian service in and through the secular jobs of the church members." 35

(4.4.) The discussion on the ministry of the church has too long been centered on the special ministry of the ordained ministers. They are given a predominant function. Dependent on what tradition one adopts, one either sees the church being founded on a ministry of ordained persons who represent the holiness of the church being ordained to their special service, which takes them in some sense out of this world. Or the ministry of the ordained is described as having its function in assisting, helping and backing up the believers to do their job in their field of life. In this respect, the orthodox-catholic traditions are different from the protestant one. But they meet in underlining the necessity and prevalence of the ordained ministry.

Theology has to take seriously what comes out of pneumatological deliberations as I tried to sketch them before. Alike, if we would start from the triplex munus Christi, the threefold ministry of Christ, i.e. as the king, as the priest, and as the prophet, fulfilling the will of God and healing the world, in which the faithful take part in their everyday life, we would have to take another perspective on laity. God calls all his people to join into Christ's ministry. His ministry aims at the reconciliation and redemption of the world.

(4.5.) The spirit is poured out upon all Christians, not upon the clergy alone. All Christians have got a vocation. It is a single vocation for all, "God has called us to peace", 36 but it is a vocation of many and they are told to lead the life which the Lord has assigned to them. 37 "Every one should remain in the state in which he was called." Christ calls people in their specific lives. They should go on living their lives, and to live it as Christians. 39

Being called by God means that the real life is transformed to be a Christian life, but it still remains to be real life with all its social, political, professional, and physical spheres, which are part of people's lives. Christians are not taken out of the fields of their everyday lives. They will rather have to prove their Christian faith in the way they live in a worldly context. They are in their families, among their friends, in their professions and in the multitude of strata of a society they are members of. It is not correct to look at them as being nothing but church members. They are part of their society, and they are to witness God's kingdom where they happen to be.

So when they are called to be Christians, it is their task to live their faith in the surrounding they live in. It is not their task to escape from the world and to take refuge in a church which is separated from the world. Rather the church is the church in order to let the world know that God loves the world. Christians are called to be the light for the world40 which illuminates it and lets God's light shine upon it.

If we take serious that they are given the charisms they need in order to fulfil their mission in the world, we will have to approve that they are experts, specialists in what they do. God's spirit guides them and God's power helps them to do their missionary work. It is this variety and multitude of the charisms that show the vitality of the church.

We will have to realize and affirm the diversity if we want to meet God's plan for the world and the church. We will have to recognize that Christians are able to play their roles in the places they are sent to. They are ordained to be witnesses for God, who wants to heal the world. They live their Christian faith in their place. They do it differently. But whatever they do, it is part of God's work.

They assist and help each other to do their work properly. They experience the possibilities they have among them, and they are ready to account for the hope that is in them. So they form a network of witness and service which is the church living in the world.

(4.6.) Ministers will still be of great help in this process. They can refer to what they have learnt from listening to the Bible and to their own identities which have been shaped in this process. The ministers will help people in the Christian church to strengthen their competence in listening to the word of God and to realize the priesthood of all faithful within the church and in the world. People ordained for the ministry and people not ordained to it will help each other to discover what should be done in order to let God's light show the world the way to the future, which is God's future. 41 Both, ordained and non ordained persons, will have to get into a discourse on their respective insights. They need to be in discourse because no one will be able to perceive the truth without being in exchange with other Christians. 42 The church is pluralistic and so the truth can only be approached in acts of discourse among those who are expected to get hold of parts of it. They will have to learn from each other and to bring their views together to form a complex picture of the truth.

Of course, we will have to discuss, even in a confessionally controversial manner, the question of the role liturgy plays in this context. Is it through liturgical life that God rescues the world or is it through everyday life in a secular world? The ordained ministry, especially in Orthodox and Catholic traditions, is related to liturgical life in a strict sense, whereas the lay people live in their places doing their jobs. If they are committed Christians, they are witnessing to Christ to be the Lord and to God's kingdom to come.

Again, taking the viewpoint of a pneumatological approach lead us to the question whether any prevalence of liturgy and hence of ordained ministry is only a historical matter of the church which in its history developed an elaborate liturgical life and character. It will be worth preserving it to some extent, but it will be necessary to put it into the wider context of God's action and aim, namely, to rescue the world, to convert all humankind to follow him and to live and work towards his salvation.

So quite a number of ways to find an access to the question of how to relate the ministries of those who are ordained for liturgical and theological service to the church and the ministry of all faithful, who are by baptism ordained to be witnesses of God's redeeming spirit in the world, seem to fit together. There is a pluralism of different foci in theological attitudes in the Scripture, which enables and backs up a pluralism of theological orientations in the present. There is a strong tradition of seeing baptism as the ordination of all faithful to be members of the body of Christ and to take over their specific tasks. And there is a plausibility in seeing the ordained ministry as one among the multitude of charisms which God's spirit provides to enable believers to share in Christ's work of healing the world. All believers are given their gifts to fulfil their mission, clergy and lay people. They may be different in what is given to them and they may lay stress on their peculiar task they have to do, but they may help each other on their ways to do what God expects them to do, responsible for each other and working together to pursue God's will for the world. So they follow their vocation to live as members of the church, which is a sign and sacrament for God to come and to rescue the world.


  1. BEM, par. B 1, with reference to Mt 28:18-20.
  2. BEM, par. B 2-4, with reference to Mk 1:4; 10:38-40,45; Jn 3:5; Rm 6:3-1 1; I Cor 6:11; 10:1-2; 12:13; Gal 3:27-28; Eph 2:5-6; Col 2:12-13; Heb 10:22, et al.
  3. BEM, par. B 5, with reference to Acts 2; II Cor 1:21-22; Eph 1: 13-14.
  4. BEM, par. B 6-7, with reference to Eph 4:4-6.
  5. Mt 3:13-17; Mk 1:9-1 1; Lk 3:21-22; Jn 1:29-34.
  6. Lk 3:3.
  7. Lk 3:21-22.
  8. Acts 8:12-17.
  9. "The spirit is poured upon us from on high,/ and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,/ and the fruitful field is deemed a forest./ Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,/ and righteousness abide in the fruitful field./ And the effect of righteousness will be peace,/ and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust for ever./ My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,/ in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places." Is 32:15-18. -- Michael Welker has given a thorough study on the spirit of God and his power to bring humankind and the whole creation into a process of emergence towards a life which is God's life. Cf. Michael Welker, Gottes Geist, Theologie des Heiligen Geistes, Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Veriag 1992, esp. pp. 132-173, English God the Spirit, Minneapolis: Fortress Press 1994. Cf Jürgen Moltmann, Der Geist des Lebens. Eine ganzheitliche Pneumatologie, München: Chr. Kaiser 1991; J. Moltmann, Die Quelle des Lebens. Der Heilige Geist und die Theologie des Lebens, Gütersloh: Chr. Kaiser 1997.
  10. "But now hear, 0 Jacob my servant,/ Israel whom I have chosen!/ Thus says the Lord who made you,/ who formed you from the womb and will help you:/ Fear not, 0 Jacob my servant,/ Jeshrun whom I have chosen./ For I will pour water on the thirsty land,/ and streams on the dry ground;/ I will pour my Spirit upon your descendants,/ and my blessing on your offspring./ They shall spring up like grass amid waters,/ like willows by flowing streams./ This one will say, 'I am the Lord's,'/ another will call himself by the name of Jacob,/ and another will write on his hand, 'The Lord's,'/ and surname himself by the name of Israel." Is 44:1-5.
  11. "When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies' land, and through them have vindicated my holiness in the sight of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the Lord their God because I sent them into exile among the nations, and then gathered them into their own land. I will leave none of them remaining among the nations any more; and I will not hide my face any more from them, when I pour my Spirit upon the house of Israel, says the Lord God." Ez 39:27-29.
  12. "And it shall come to pass afterward,/that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;/ your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,/ your old men shall dream dreams,/ and your young men shall see visions./ Even upon the menservants and the maidservants/in those days, I will pour out my spirit./ And I will give portents in the heavens and on the earth,/ blood and fire and columns of smoke./ The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, / before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes./ And it shall come to pass that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered;/ for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said,/ and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls." Joel 3:1-5 resp. 2:28-32.
  13. For the discussion on pneumatological aspects of baptism and the charisms given to the baptized cf. Hans-Martin Barth, Einander Priester sein. Allgemeines Priestertum in ökumenischer Perspektive, Göttingen:Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1990, pp. 191-250, esp. 194-210.
  14. Cf. Michael Welker, Kirche im Pluralismus, Gütersloh: Chr. Kaiser 1995, pp. 28ff.
  15. I Cor 12-14; Rm 12:3-8; cf. 1:1; 5:15ff.; 6:23; I Cor 1:7; II Cor 1:11.
  16. See above.
  17. Acts 2.
  18. Cf. M. Welker, Kirche im Pluralismus, p. 30.
  19. Acts 2:11.
  20. Cf. M. Welker, Gottes Geist, pp. 214-223.
  21. Cf. M. Welker, Gottes Geist, pp. 224-231. Cf. J. Moltmann, Der Geist des Lebens, pp. 194-210; J. Moltmann, Die Quelle des Lebens, pp. 60-72.
  22. E.g. Gal 5:22. The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
  23. Cf. M. Welker, Gottes Geist, pp. 231-241.
  24. I Cor 12.
  25. I Cor 12:13. Cf. Hendrik Kraemer, A Theology of the Laity, 1958.
  26. BEM, par. M 1.
  27. BEM, par. M 3.
  28. BEM, par. M 4.
  29. BEM, par. M 6.
  30. BEM, par. M 7.
  31. BEM, par. M 8
  32. Cf. Barbara Schwahn, "A Profile of the Laity. Results of a Comparative Study," preparatory documents for this conference, No. 5, p. 10.
  33. Cf Barbara Schwahn "On the work of the Department of the Laity," in: "Towards an Ecumenical Theology of the 'People of God'. Report on a Historical and Theological Research," preparatory documents for this conference, No. 6, pp. 2-4.
  34. Hans-Ruedi Weber, "The Ministry of the Laity. Reconsidered from an Old Testament Perspective," in: Laity 25, 1968,pp. 21ff.
  35. Ibid. The focus on Old Testament conceptions of human stewardship including the stewardship for the poor seems to be central to any further work.
  36. I Cor 7:15.
  37. Cor 7:17.
  38. I Cor 7:20.
  39. Cf. J. Moltmann, Der Geist des Lebens, pp. 195-198; J. Moltmann, Die Quelle des Lebens, pp. 61-64.
  40. Mt 5:14.
  41. H.-M. Barth discusses the rivalry between ministry and the common priesthood of all faithful as it is to be found throughout church history. He tries to overcome the false alternative and to define the ministry as but a special form of the priesthood of all faithful. Cf. H.-M. Barth, Einander Priester sein, pp. 227-235.
  42. Cf. Konrad Raiser, "Towards a New Definition of the Profile of Laity in the Ecumenical Movement," Montreat 1993, preparatory documents to this conference, No. 2, pp. 7-9.