Thoughts on Ordination from Robert Jenson

The short Spring term has ended here at PTS, and commencement was held last weekend. While all those who I knew while an MDiv student here are long gone, I have enjoyed getting to know some of the students that have followed through my teaching responsibilities. A number of these have now graduated, and are taking up ecclesial responsibilities. When I cam across the below passage from Jenson, I felt compelled to post it for their benefit, and for the benefit of any others who might wander through.

Robert W. Jenson, Visible Words: The Interpretation and Practice of Christian Sacraments (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1978): 200.
Specifically ministerial freedom is freedom to speak and act upon God’s word not only as a member and servant of the community, entrusted like all members with the community’s mission, but also independently of the community, over against the community. The community’s own proper life necessarily draws it away from the gospel. The community is called to do works, and the gospel is a message of hope beyond our works; the community is called to live now, and Jesus was a long time ago. By very fidelity to its mission, the community is exposed to temptation to bowdlerize the gospel on both of its essential sides: to proclaim in Jesus’ name a hope less than eschatological, or to proclaim hope in some other name than Jesus. The ministerium is those God and the community set free to worry about this, to take the authenticity and vivacity of the gospel as their special responsibility against all comers. The ministry’s charism is the gospel’s freedom from the community for the community.
And then from the next page...
[E]very actual exercize of ministerial freedom proves its authenticity only by unanimity with the real apostles: the ordination promise to preach and teach in accord with the gospel is concretely and historically a promise to preach and teach in accord with apostolic Scripture.


Watcher said…
I am normally a hearty opponent of traditional concepts of 'ordination' and its modern day transmogification into its worldy counterpart 'leadership' (see:, but Jenson brings, I think an encouraging and prophetic tone to understanding the role of those who serve the church, honour our Lord in so doing, and turn us to him and away from the world.

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