The Layman in Christian History: A Project of the Department on the Laity of the World Council of Churches

The Layman in Christian History: A Project of the Department on the Laity of the World Council of Churches

The Layman in Christian History: A Project of the Department on the Laity of the World Council of Churches

The Layman in Christian History: A Project of the Department on the Laity of the World Council of Churches

Excerpt

Strictly speaking neither a history of the laity nor a theology of the laity can be written. The whole Church is the laos, the people of God. If its history is correctly written, the life of the Church will be displayed in all its manifold variety and in all the complexity of its relationships with the world outside itself. The whole body of the Church is priestly. A true theology of the Church will set it forth in its priestly relationship to its members, to society, and to the whole universe on the godward side of which it stands; each separate office or ministry will be seen, and its significance considered, only in relation to the priestly character of the whole.

Yet, when this has been said and taken seriously, there is a case for the separate study, both historical and theological, of the laity in the Church. The distinction between ordained and lay, between those whose sphere of service is primarily the Church and those whose sphere of service is primarily the world, is a real one. Nothing is gained by minimizing or overlooking it. A great deal of attention has been paid to the ordained ministry of the Church, its nature, its authority and its functions. The laity tend, by way of contrast, to be taken very much for granted, as though in their case no special problems arise. But such an attitude can hardly be justified. It is mainly through its laity that the Church enters into contact with the world which, though redeemed by Christ, stands to him in a relation different from that of the Church. It is at this meeting-point of the Christian and the non-Christian, the sacred and the profane, the religious and the secular, that the layman stands, and here that he encounters his problems. To say that to the Christian nothing is profane is simply to beg the question. It is true that all things are to be brought under the dominion of Christ, and that . . .

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