Functional Marcionism



The screen capture above comes from an excellent paper by David Gard in CTQ 74. You can watch part of the presentation on this paper he gave at a symposium (incomplete due to technical difficulties).

While the WELS does not formally subscribe to the idea of "everyone a minister," it certainly exists in practice when a "functional" view of ministry can take the Office of the Holy Ministry and perform a functional decomposition and delegate tasks to just about anyone in the congregation (subject to the headship principle) - (or is this just good old "Lutheran LeadershipTM"?) For instance:
  • Elders are instructed and encouraged to consecrate the sacrament for shut-ins in some congregations
  • Laymen and women serve as lectors
  • Laymen commune the Pastor
  • Laymen commune congregation in absence of Pastor in some congregations
  • Women communing other women
  • A seminary professor stating, "Scripture does not say that a woman should not be ordained or that she should not be pastor or elder" and a pastor, likewise "Actually, there is nothing in the Bible that prohibits a woman from being ordained or holding the office of pastor" - that is, subject to the headship rule.
As noted previously in a post on the Priesthood of All Believers in Luther on Worship, "The Holy Spirit in the New Testament carefully avoids applying the name of priest (Sacerdos or Pfaffe) to any of the apostles or any other office. It is solely the name of the baptized or Christians."

The author of the paper opines on two examples of Functional Marcionism in the Church, namely being enamored with statistics and numbers, and the Church seeking to be like the culture around her. 
Our forefathers in ancient Israel also were often fascinated by head-counting, as if they could measure their success through such things. Every time they elevated the importance of numbers over faithfulness to their calling as the people of God, they met disaster. The problem was not in taking a census, for example. Rather, it was in why they did So. Numbers are insignificant to the Lord of Israel, whose power and care go beyond comparative statistics. For Israel, both the ancient Hebrews and the modern church, the only statistic that matters is, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one" (Deut 6:4).
Certainly, the church on earth is given great freedom in how she structures herself, since the Old Testament monarchy continues in the final Son of David, who reigns forever. Israel is no longer a single kingdom but the spiritual kingdom existing alongside the temporal kingdom. Ancient Israel erred greatly when they tried to be like the nations around them. The modern church is just as endangered when she chooses to function by the rules of the surrounding culture.