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Romanizing Ordination Rite?

April 28th, 2006
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ApostleshipI’m getting really tired of reading the accusation that those who ascribe to what Scripture and the Confessions have to say about the office of the holy ministry are "Romanizing." Have we all suddenly come down with collective amnesia? How quickly have we forgotten what the Sixth Chief Part of the Catechism teaches and what Augustana V, XIV and XXVII have to say about the preaching office. Well, get a load of this "Romanizing" ordination rite that doesn’t say a word about voters’ assemblies, congregation’s calls, the priesthood of all believers or any such thing. In fact, it quotes Matthew 28, John 20 and Ephesians 4 as our Lord’s words of institution for His office of ministry, given as His gift to the Church.

The Service of Ordination

The Ordinator proceeds to the altar with his assistants. Before the steps of the altar stands the Ordinand. At the conclusion of the hymn the Ordinator and his assistants turn to the Ordinand and the former says:

Our Lord Jesus Christ after his resurrection said to his disciples in John 20: Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you. And when he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit! To Whom you release the sin, they are released from them and to whom you retain them, they are to them retained.

And subsequently before his ascension he said to them in Matthew 28: To me has all authority been given in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and teach all people and baptize them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to hold to all that I have mandated to you. And look, I am with you all days until the end of the world.

And after He "had ascended above all heaven, so that he might fill all, he established  some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors and teachers, so that the saints are prepared for the work of the Office, through which the body of Christ is built." (Eph 4:11ff)

Thus the Office that preaches reconciliation is instituted by the Lord Himself, the Office of the Spirit, which makes righteous, living and blessed. And one would not be fit in himself to conduct the office of the New Testament, rather those who are fit are so through God. They are ambassadors in the stead of Christ, God appealing through them, and they bear God’s Office full of boundless charity (2 Cor. 3:5).

Therefore they also should adorn it in all pieces as St. Paul writes to Timothy and Titus. "For a bishop should be irreproachable, a man of one wife, who has believing, obedient children with all respectability, who governs his own house well, (but if someone does not govern his own house blamelessly, how will he care for the congregation of God?), not stubborn, not wrathful, sober, temperate, not a drunkard, not violent, not driven by dishonorable manipulation, modest, chaste, tactful, just, holy, hospitable, kind, not quarrelsome, not covetous, gentle, not a new convert, so that he does not become puffed up and fall into judgement with the deceiver, apt to teach, who holds to the Word, that it is certain and can teach it, so that he is able to exhort with the wholesome doctrine and to strive with those who deny it. He must also have a good reputation before those who are outside, so that he does not fall by the blasphemer into shame and a trap. He should be an example to the believers in word, in walk, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. He should attend to reading, exhorting, teaching and not neglect the gift which was given through prophecy with the laying on of hands of the elders. These should he practice, to them be devoted, so that his progress may be apparent in all things. He should pay attention to himself and to his doctrine and endure in these matters. For where he does this, he will make himself blessed and those who hear him.

As then all of these things the same holy apostle in his admonition to the called elders from Ephesus (Acts 20) briefly collects when he says : Take heed over yourselves and over the flock among whom the Holy Spirit has appointed you as bishops, to pasture the congregation of God, which he won through his own blood.

From all these, recognize what a high and holy Office it is, to which you have been called, and what the apostle said is certainly true: He who desires the Office of Bishop, desires a noble work.

At this point the Ordinand kneels.

Therefore I ask you now, beloved brother in the Lord Jesus Christ, before the eyes of God, our Lord Jesus Christ and his holy angels, also before the ears of this congregation, whether you stand prepared after careful reflection, to assume this holy Office, and according to the ability which God bestows, to accomplish and to exercise it for every pleasure of the Lord and Chief Shepherd of the congregation.


Yes, I am prepared, after earnest reflection, to assume this holy Office to which God has called me; I pledge and before God and his congregation, according to the ability which God grants, to accomplish and exercise it for every pleasure of the Lord, the Chief Shepherd and Bishop of souls.

The ordaining Pastor further says:

Do you also acknowledge that God’s Word and will, according to which you should conduct your Office, are explained and set forth purely and without adulteration in the three chief symbols of the church, the Apostolic, Nicene and Athanasian, also in the unaltered Augsburg Confession, its Apology, the Smalcald Articles, the two Catechisms of Luther and the Formula of Concord? And do you intend to execute and accomplish your Office according to these confessions of our holy church until your end?

Answer: Yes, I acknowledge the three chief symbols of the church, the unaltered Augsburg Confession and its Apology, the Smalcald Articles, the two Catechisms of Luther and the Formula of Concord as the pure, unadulterated explanation and exposition of the divine Word and will, I confess them as my own confession and intend to execute my Office faithfully and diligently according to them until my end. May God strengthen me for this through his Holy Spirit! Amen.

The ordaining minister thereupon says: Upon this your promise made before God and us, we pray God the Father of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ, the only Lord of the harvest, that He, who called you to His Office, would make you fit for it through His Holy Spirit. May He grant that you give no one offence through which the Office is defamed, rather in all things He shows you as a servant of God, in great endurance, in affliction, in needs, in fears, in beatings, in dangers, in turmoils, in work, in watching, in fasting, in purity, in knowledge, in forbearance, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in unfeigned love, in the Word of truth, in the power of God, through weapons of righteousness in the right and the left, through honor and disgrace, through bad reports and good reports, as an imposter and yet true, as a stranger and yet known, as one being killed, and look you live, as one punished and yet not killed, as one who mourns but is always joyful, as one who is poor, but yet makes many rich, as one who possesses nothing and yet has everything (2 Cor. 6). May the Lord grant you thus to bear and to do the work of an evangelical preacher, that you will be able to appear on the great Day before the judgement seat of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give answer to the universal, honorable and just Judge of the living and the dead, to receive praise and honor from his hand and to shine as the brightness of heaven and as the stars forever and eternally!

Then the assistant ministers lay on their hands and each one speaks a biblical blessing.

Then the ordaining pastor says:

We herewith give over to you, through the laying on of our hands the holy Office of the Word and the Sacraments of God, the Triune, ordain and consecrate you as a servant of the holy church in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit!

The other co-ordaining ministers answer:

Amen. Amen.

Then all the pastors pray together:

Our Father . . . Forever and ever! Amen.

The Ordinator further says:

Let us pray! Merciful God, heavenly Father, you have said to us through themouth of your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: "The harvest is great, but the workers are few: pray the Lord of the harvest, that he would send workers into his harvest." Upon this your divine mandate we pray heartily that you would richly bestow your Holy Spirit upon this your servant together with us and all who are called to your Office, so that we with the great company may be your evangelists, remain true and firm against the devil, world and flesh, that your Name may be hallowed, your kingdom increase, and your will brought to completion. Curb also all your enemies, those who defame your Name, destroy your kingdom, and strive against your will, set a goal and an end, and wherever your servants witness and work, promote their witness and the work of their hands to the praise of your all holy Name and to the salvation of souls. Amen.

The Ordinator speaks to the Ordained:

Now go forth and pasture the flock of Christ as you are mandated, and take care that it is not coerced but willing, not for shameful gain but from the depths of the heart, not as one who lords over the people, but be an example to the flock: thus you will receive the unfading crown of honor when the Chief Shepherd appears. The Lord bless you from the highest and establish you as a blessing for many, that you produce much fruit and that your fruit remains to eternal life!

Response of the Ordained: Amen.

Then is sung Luther’s German Te Deum, or "Now Thank We All Our God" after which one begins the Word of Institution of the Holy Supper. The pastors accompany the newly ordained to the table of the Lord.


If a minister already ordained is entering a new pastorate, the installation can proceed in exactly the same way, only that no conferral of the holy Office in general follows, but after the response to the questions, one of the following prayers is spoken with the laying of hands, followed by: "Now go forth . . ."


Two Prayers, to use after the response of the preliminary questions

Merciful God, heavenly Father, you have given us fatherly comfort through your holy apostle Paul and have said that it greatly pleases you, O heavenly Lord and Father, through the foolish preaching of the crucified Christ to bless all who believe it: We heartily pray you, that you would bestow your divine grace to this your servant, whom you have called to your holy office of preaching, and would give and impart to him you Holy Spirit. Likewise, strengthen him against every temptation of the devil and make him wise and fit to pasture your precious, purchased sheep with your wholesome and unadulterated Word according to your divine will and pleasure, to the praise and glory of your holy Name, through Jesus Christ! Amen.


O Lord Jesus Christ, eternal Son of God, you sit in the highest at the right hand of your heavenly Father, you give gifts to men upon earth and send pastors and teachers, that the saints would be prepared for the work of the office and your spiritual body be built up: We give you hearty praise, honor and thanks, that you again have sent a pastor to this congregation, and we pray that you would grant to him and to us all your divine grace, that we may do what pleases you, guard faith and a good conscience until the end, and receive eternal blessedness with all the elect. Amen.

Assistant pastors receive the same Ordination as pastors, in this case with reference to the congregation in which they should serve next, and where possible, in their midst.

The new pastor does not preach on the day of ordination or introduction, but his inaugural sermon is on the following Sunday.

* The Order of Ordination for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, 1856. From: Kirchen-Agenda fur Evangelisch-lutherische Germeinden ungeandereter Augsburgischer Confession. Zusammengestellt aus den alten rechtgaeubigen Saechsischen Kirchenagenden und herausgegeben von der Allgemeinen deutschen Evangel.-Lutherischen Synode von Missouri, Ohio und anderan Staaten. St. Louis: Der Deutschen Ev.-Luth. Synode v. Missouri, O. u.a. St., 1856.

Translated by William Cwirla
Advent 3, 1992

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Categories: Lutheranism
  1. April 29th, 2006 at 09:33 | #1

    I thank Pastor Cwirla for his efforts, restoring this rite for us who can’t read German. The translation of Ephesians 4:11ff is particularly interesting. It is very different from the modern translations that merely equip the saints for works of service. Instead it prepares the saints for the work of the Office. I would like to know the history behind this rendering. It goes to the heart of our discussions.
    McCain: My hunch is that it was understood that an essential aspect of any pastor’s work is preparing others to be pastors! This little comment, and its distortion and misuse has led to no end of mistakes among us about the office of the ministry and the laity.

  2. May 2nd, 2006 at 06:49 | #2

    Just so beautiful to read, sounds perfectly applicable to 2006, has God’s unchangeable Word changed so much since 1856? I’d love to read the Rite that is used now…

  3. Linards Jansons
    May 2nd, 2006 at 08:14 | #3

    In Vilmos Vajta’s book, “Luther on Worship”, chapter 5 (which deals with the Office of the Ministry), he discusses that if a pastor leaves the office he reverts to the common priesthood of believers. From memory, it did not imply that any kind of betrayal had taken place. So what do we make of the phrase “until your end” in this Ordination rite?
    McCain: This is entirely my opinion and off the top of my head, but my response to your question would be simply that a pledge to be a minister of God, a pastor of the flock of Christ, is not anything that one should take lightly, with any mental reservations, or in any sort of conditional thought in mind. Similarly to marriage. Similarly to the vow we take at confirmation. What may come in life by way of unforeseen circumstances that may result in a man leaving the office is no reason to take on the office of ministry in any sort of way other than as a life-long calling and vocation. “Until death do us part” is the only sort of commitment to the Office that Christ calls us to. If leaving the office is required through no sin, of course a man is no longer a pastor, and if it happens through betrayal, then confession and absolution are available. But there is nothing provisional, conditional or temporary about a man’s ordination, even as there is nothing of the sort with the other vows we take before God. O Lord, strengthen and support Thy servants that they may with confidence, boldness, strength and ferver proclaim Thy Holy Word and administer Thy Holy Sacraments, for the edification of Thy holy people. Amen and Amen!

  4. Mkeith
    May 6th, 2006 at 16:46 | #4

    This is great to read. The Office of the Holy Ministry is something that I have struggled to get a handle on. In the Brief Statement it seems to make the Office very functional. I struggle with the Brief Statement yet it is LC-MS teaching. How can we reconcile the Brief Statement with this rite?

  5. M Keith
    May 11th, 2006 at 12:52 | #5

    The trouble I see with the Brief Statement and this rite is they apply Matthew 28 and John 20 in different ways. How are we to understand this?
    McCain: Can we apply them in different ways? Must we say, “Either they speak to everyone, or only to pastors?” Or can we understand them to be speaking both to the ministry and to every Christian? I’m not convinced it is an either/or situation.

  6. MKeith
    May 11th, 2006 at 17:13 | #6

    Could you spell that out a little for me? I have struggled to understand this but still cannot. How is it that it could be spoken to both and not be an either/or? What are the ramifications and implications?
    McCain: The office of ministry is the chuch’s public office of preaching the Word and administering the Sacraments. All the baptized, in their various callings and stations in life, have the opportunity, and duty, to speak the Gospel thus making disciples, speaking the forgiving Word of Christ. Why do you wish to make it an either/or? When is the Gospel ever less than forgiveness? The distinction is not in the power, authority or certainty of the Gospel: that is always the same. The distinction is in office and calling. Why do you think it is either/or?

  7. May 12th, 2006 at 19:37 | #7

    Re: Eph 4:11ff
    This is a paraphrase of the passage and should not be in quotation marks.
    The original German reads:
    “Und nachdem er aufgefahren ist über alle Himmel, auf dass er alles erfüllete, hat er etliche gesetzt zu Aposteln, etliche zu Propheten, etliche zu Evangelisten, etliche zu Hirten und Lehrern, dass die Heiligen zugerichtet werden zum Werk des Amtes, dadurch der Leib Christi erbauet werde.” (pp. 169-179)
    Luther’s translation at the phrase in question reads: “damit die Heiligen zugerüstet werden zum Werk des Dienstes.”
    Intriguingly, the LCMS Kirchenagende equates Dienst (ministry or service) with Amt (office). This was before the days when everyone was a “minister.”

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