Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ancient church government

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 4 of 4 - External Means by which God Invites Us into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein

Chapter 4 - Early Church life and government
1-4 - Development of the ministry
1. The ancient church did not wander far from Scripture. They didn't multiply offices as Rome later did.
2. The bishop presiding over the presbyters came about by human need for order, not divine mandate. He remained subject to the assembled presbyters.
3. The main job of bishops and presbyters was preaching and teaching the Word.
4. Archbishops and patriarchs were established for order and discipline, not as hierarchical principalities.

5-9 - Deacons
5. Deacons were in charge of caring for the poor under the bishop's supervision.
6. The church's possessions were considered the "patrimony of the poor." Ministers also could receive from the church - 1 Cor 9:14; Gal 6:6 - but not to excess, and not if their family could support them instead.
7. The church set up rules for disbursing church income, after it became abused. 4 parts were assigned: for the bishop to use in hospitality and his own house, for the clergy, for the poor, and for the repair of church buildings.
8. They quickly dispensed with church gold and silver to feed the poor.
9. Other offices arose - clerics, door-keepers, acolytes, sub-deacons - which were for recruits to the minister's office more than church offices themselves.

10-15 - History of relationship between people and clergy
10. The church would meet to choose pastors, with the consent of the people. There were remedies for evil elders, in the church canons (regulations).
11. The people had to ratify bishops appointed.
12. But the elders didn't need to follow the whim of the crowd, either.
13. This procedure lasted until Gregory, and for a while after. The emperor could veto, in Rome or Constantinople, which may also be a good thing, as long as the church didn't fall routinely to the emperor's whim and prejudice.
14. Ordination required a vote to confirm him, and an examination.
15. Gradually, bishops went to the major cities to seek ordination, rather than to the local assemblies. This was not a good move. Ordination was by laying on of hands. Bishops ordained presbyters and deacons in his jurisdiction; presbyters had the same authority as bishops, except the right to ordain.

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