Questioning the “Validity” of Ministry

Believe it or not, there are people running around in this country who love to question the validity of ministries, most often in the independent Catholic and Anglican world, not on the basis of the ministry they do but rather by trying to pick apart the so-called “validity” of their ordination, the ritual used, or the “validity” of the bishop who ordained them. Some of this criticism comes from within other independent Sacramental Churches, and quite often originates in groups that don’t actually engage in any ministerial activity. They just sit around declaring everyone else invalid. These people can pretty much be ignored for the wind bags they are.

The other group is composed of Roman Catholic and Episcopal lay people who get all upset that someone is doing ministry in their town while not being officially approved by their Church authorities. In truth, they are probably also motivated by fear. They notice the attendance numbers at their churches shrinking, and in a desperate search for reasons they decided they should take it upon themselves to eliminate the competition. What they don’t realize is that the people who are attracted to these new forms of ministry are quite often long done with the traditional forms. They haven’t left the traditional Catholic and Episcopal settings because the independent Church arrived in town, rather there was an intervening time after they left when they searched for somewhere they felt they belonged. These new churches don’t do things the way the traditional churches do. They meet in different places, they engage in different activities, they fill a different need. There is nothing about your anxiety that the broader Church is in a period of transition that is at all impacted by these priests, deacons, and bishops ministering in your community. What’s more, when you question their credentials, all you do is reveal your own insecurity. Since you aren’t a part of their community, what does it matter to you? On the other hand, if you are considering a change, why not be honest about it? We would be happy to speak with you about making your faith home with us!

To those who minister in these settings, I offer this advice. The fact that people criticize you means that you are doing good work in your community. The fact that they are opposed to you doing good work in your community speaks much more about you than about them. In fact, it is precisely that attitude that is doing a great deal of damage to what is left of institutional Christianity. Keep the faith!

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