ABC book is well-prepared manifesto

Published April 1, 2002

ALL WHO MINISTER is certainly an unthreatening title. Even the sub-title, “New Ways of Serving God’s People,” sounds innocent. But the parts of this book are so cleverly arranged that it is not until the final chapters that an underlying thesis is nailed to the cathedral door of the Anglican Church of Canada calling for a radical reformation in how we understand and express ministry at every level of the church’s life. Edited by Rev. Maylanne Maybee, the book, published by the Anglican Book Centre, begins with stories about changes taking place in parishes across Canada and of how new ways of ministering are being developed. Some are a last option in the face of demographic or financial stress while others involve a vision of what the church might become as a conduit for the gospel. Rediscovery of mutual or total ministry involving all members in responsibility, development of lay leadership independent of clergy, and introduction of non-stipendiary ordained ministry are bringing new life to parishes in the dioceses of Kootenay, Qu’Appelle and Nova Scotia.[pullquote]Team ministries, parish clusters, community ministries have sprung up in urban centres. There are stories from Vancouver, Montreal, Weston, Cape Breton, Winnipeg and Ottawa. Indigenous ministry is important to Canada as the church faces a colonial past when, “the gospel was introduced as a force over and against indigenous culture.” We know now that this was wrong but the aftermath has created problems for the indigenous peoples as they recover their lost heritage. Reports from the Dr. Jesse Saulteaux Resource Centre, the Train An Indian Priest program in Keewatin, the Henry Budd College for Ministry and work being done through the Vancouver School of Theology are informative and encouraging. The final section presents “A Theology of Ministry” which critically reviews current practice and proposes bold initiatives. Ms. Maybee calls for the recognition of the full dimensions of baptismal ministry, for declericalizing the church, and for a laity, “who understand that their particular calling is to be ‘in the world.'” The diaconate has been mostly a shadowy ministry on the road to ordination as a priest. Ms. Maybee, herself a permanent deacon, envisions a recovery of the ministry of deacons to bridge “the chasm between the worshipping church and the church in mission.” Rev. Michael Thompson, an experienced priest, addresses what he sees as a crisis “both of persons in priestly ministry and of the structures, assumptions, worldviews, and contexts by which priesthood is what it is.” His critique of the present practice of priesthood is harsh but packs a realism that few would care to challenge. His vision is “that the gift of priesthood spills out of the life of God?It is not a gift for the clergy or even for the church, but for the world.” He offers touchstones for radically changing our perceptions about the role of the priesthood. Michael Ingham, Bishop of New Westminster, reflects with great clarity on the meaning of the episcopate and his experience of it. He begins: “Authority for ministry in the church originates in baptism?The laos – the people of God – constitutes the fundamental order of ministry in the church.” He continues, “We need to remind ourselves that ordained ministry is derivative of the laos, and not the other way around. This is particularly important in the case of bishops.” He then provides an historical Anglican perspective and with disarming honesty reports on his experience of episcopacy in practice. He proposes a complete reshaping of episcopal ministry to the end that, “Barriers of all sorts must come down. The reshaping of episcopal ministry requires a restoring of the apostolic nature of the office and the abandoning of historical accretions that have attached themselves to the role.” This book is a well prepared manifesto. The stories told reveal that creative change can happen. The final chapters suggest the path to a renewed church wherein all things old truly become new again.


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