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Role of Laity in the Church

Role of Laity in the Church

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Published by nwatts
A study of the doctrine of the church and the role and importance of the laity and their relationship to the role of the clergy.
A study of the doctrine of the church and the role and importance of the laity and their relationship to the role of the clergy.

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Published by: nwatts on May 04, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/15/2012

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Role and Importance of the Laity in the Church
The role and importance of the laity in the life of the church has been givenrenewed attention in recent years. Perhaps the reason for this is found in the fact thatChristians are experiencing a new awareness of the nature of the church as a body whichministers to the needs of the world through allof its members, not just the pastor. The pastor may function as an inspirational leader and administrator, but he cannot on his own, or evenwith a staff, carry on the service which is the whole church's vocation. Practical necessity, aswell as a re-evaluation of the theological and biblical foundations of the status and role of thelaity have both played their part in this renewed emphasis.Roles of Clergy and Laity – an IntroductionIt should be observed that the SDA Church, founded largely by non-clergy, has traditionally emphasized the key role of the laity in both its teaching and practice. For example, celebration of the Communion Service, ordination as elders,chairmanship of church boards, preaching and leading in worship, have all been open tothe laity (although mostly to male elders), as have training, encouragement andopportunities for faith-sharing, Bible teaching, group leadership and various other functions within and without the church.The church's view is epitomised by the following statements from Ellen G.White, one of the co-founders of the church:
 
The dissemination of the truth of God is not confined to a few ordained ministers.The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and womencomprising our church membership rally to the work, and unite their efforts withthose of ministers and church officers.Christian ministers . . .are not only to minister to the people, but to teach them tominister. . . . Every church member should be engaged in some line of service for theMaster.To everyone who becomes a partaker of His grace, the Lord appoints a work for others. . . .Upon the minister of the Word, the missionary nurse, the Christian physician, the individual Christian, whether he be merchant or farmer, professionalman or mechanic--the responsibility rests upon all.It is a fatal mistake to suppose that the work of soul-saving depends alone upon theministry. . . .Those who stand as leaders in the church of God are to realize that theSaviour'scommission is given to all who believe in His name. God will send . . .many who have not been dedicated to the ministry by the laying on of hands.(White 1946, 68; White 1948a, 352; White 1905, 148-49; White 1905, 148; White1911, 110)While it is true that this high view of the calling and role of the laity, with allits implications, has not always been translated into reality, at least the laity of the SDAChurch have not been "oppressed" in the manner of those spoken of by Anne Rowthorn inher Roman Catholic tradition:And they have believed the myths propagated by seventeen hundred years of clericalization: that laity go to church, but clergy are the Church; that professionalministers are more religious, more holy, and are the exclusive mediators between Godand the people; that clergy alone celebrate the Eucharist, whereas laity only receivecommunion; that presbyters (i.e., priests, professionally ordained ministers) presidingat Eucharist represent God; that clergy have special access to God; thatascetics, monastics, and mystics are the
 
models of Christian spirituality.

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