I was avoiding my papers while chatting with a friend, who already has an M.Div. and is working as a hospital chaplain intern. The topic came up about lay versus ordained ministry, and the thought struck me how odd it is to call someone with an M.Div., who has been working in active ministry, a "lay minister". I am wondering, (not that I currently have the power to change things either way), if it might not be time to rethink the two categories, lay or ordained/religious.
The definition of the laity is that they are not ordained, and not a member of a religious congregation. But more and more of the laity are getting the same training and preparation, and with the exception of confecting the sacraments, (which most religious don't do either), their day to day jobs are identical. Are they still "lay" ministers, and if so, what does that mean when it includes both those with training and expertise in theological ministries, and those without this training?
To the other objection which could be raised, that ordination constitutes an ontological change, I wonder whether three years of theological training, (alongside future priests by the way!), and ongoing chaplaincy training can really be argued not to also create "an indelible mark on the soul"? More and more these "lay" ministers will be asked to fill the roles previously filled by the ordained or religious, yet there is the linguistic problem of their title. Rightly or wrongly, it is still the prevailing opinion that "lay" is the equivalent of the prefix "sub". That these ministers are less than the ordained ones.
So could we drop the "lay" distinction? I really think it is time! So long as we are not allowed to go about in roman collars and not given faculties for celebrating the Eucharist or hearing confessions, is there any real danger that we, (especially, unfortunately for now, us women!), will be mistaken for the clergy? My friend is a minister, not a "lay" minister. And one day, if I ever get these papers done, I hope I will be also.
What thinkest thou, gentle readers?
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