01 September 2007

Good advice for bishops

From our friends over at The Episcopal Majority comes this advice to the House of Bishops from Nigel Taber-Hamilton+:

1. Remember you are, first and foremost, members of "the Laos," a Greek word which is the original root for our contemporary word "laity" – a word best translated as "the whole and undivided People of God." Remember, therefore, that you are members of this "Laos" by virtue of your baptisms, for baptism is the foundational order of ministry and is much more important than any subsequent derivative Ordering for specific ministerial tasks.

2. Remember that your Ordered ministry is representative: your fundamental responsibility as bishops is to exercise your episcopal ministries on behalf of the baptized, who have called you out to fulfill specific tasks on behalf of the baptized and who have loaned you some of the authority of the baptized for you to do so. You are "stewards of God's mysteries" (1 Cor 4:1) on behalf of every baptized person, not just some of us.

3. Remember that primary among the specific tasks the baptized have given you at this time is "to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church" (BCP, p. 517). This surely means to guard the biblical vision of baptism as the marker of all Christians’ common identity and the source of every Christian’s authority to minister; and to guard the authentic vision of Eucharist as God's welcoming table where none are turned away, and where no discriminatory impediment is placed in the way of the baptized's authority to select whomever it chooses to represent it.

Seems about right. Too often those of us in orders forget that all ministry begins at the font. And too often, we all forget that the church belongs to God and God's whole people, not just to a few.

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