Augsburg Confession – Article 14 – Church Supervision

Articles 13, 14, 15 & 16 of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

(To read Article 13, click here.)

Regarding the supervision of the church, we teach that no one should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a call issued in a regular and orderly way.

(To continue to Article 15, click here.)

Notes

The eventual titles given to this article were “Vom Kirchenregiment” (German) and “De ordine ecclesiastico” (Latin). The former refers to the management and supervision of the church, i.e. who is responsible, humanly speaking, for directing and running the church. The latter refers to the structure and setup of the church, i.e. how its work should be carried out in an orderly way.

Many Roman theologians accused the Lutherans of rejecting the public ministry and all order and authority in the church because of works such as Luther’s Concerning the Ministry (1523; Luther’s Works [AE] 40:3ff), in which Luther taught the priesthood of all believers. Melanchthon could not have answered that false accusation more clearly or concisely than he does here.

For proof passages, see Jeremiah 23:21; Romans 10:13-15; Ephesians 4:10-15; 1 Corinthians 4:1; 14:29,36-40; Titus 1:5. Today such calls are issued by God through the church; see Matthew 18:19,20; Acts 1:15-26; 6:1-6; 14:23 (where “had elders elected” is the best translation; see Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, Part 2, Topic 9, Section 4, §12).

The modern practice that could probably use the most guidance from this article is the practice of so-called lay-led Bible studies (that are officially sanctioned and promoted by Christians congregations) – a concept which, taken at face value, this article explicitly rejects on the basis of Scripture. The only lay-led Bible studies should be those led by fathers in their homes (or mothers, in cases where the father is an unbeliever or grossly derelict in his duty) and those that Christians may find the opportunity to lead with non-Christians or false-believing Christians. In many cases, such church-sanctioned Bible studies do in fact meet the criteria of this article in substance; that is, the people leading the Bible studies have in fact been called by the congregation in a regular and orderly way. But in those cases the Bible studies should not be called “lay-led,” because that label is both false and misleading. Those leading the Bible studies in those cases are in fact doing so as public ministers of the gospel, albeit with a much narrower scope of ministry than the parish pastor. (Such ministers could be labeled, e.g., deacons, staff ministers, or Bible study teachers.) However, even before such a call is issued, it must be established that calling a layperson without any formal theological training to such a position is approved by both the congregation in question and the church body at large to which the congregation belongs – which is a significant part of “in a regular and orderly way.”

About redbrickparsonage
Red Brick Parsonage is operated by a confessional Lutheran pastor serving in the South of the U.S.A.

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