Welcome to a sample of week seven of the Masters of Religion program. Each week you will receive a discourse that talks about the Bible. This week we are going to cover Effective Bible Study. You will be receiving an email for this course approximately once a week. If for any reason you don’t receive one, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org so she can re-send your material. To order this course, go to RELIGION.
Master of Religion
Universal Life Church Seminary
Lesson 7 -- Priesthood & Missionary Duties
What is a Priest?
The word Priest translates to “Teacher”, “Servant”, or even "Apostle", depending on your personal preference and Christian denomination. Some newer Evangelical Churches don’t have a Priest; a member of the congregation handles the ceremonies. Every Church has its own set of titles and rank structure. The word Priest is used foremost in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches . Other Churches call their “servants” Reverend, Pastor, Clergy or simply Christian Minister.
Preparation for the Priesthood in one of the larger, well-established Churches generally requires 8 years of study beyond high school, usually 4 years of college followed by 4 or more years of theological study at a seminary. However, the exact length of study varies from denomination to denomination. Due to the extensive educational requirements, the shortage of priests in the larger churches is expected to continue.
The requirements for Christian Ministers in newly founded Evangelical Churches are not as rigorous but a fundamental educational background is a basic rule. Candidates for Priesthood in these churches should have at least several years of extensive Bible study as well as a master’s degree in Theology, Psychology or Theocentric Counseling.
Beyond education, a Priest needs to be of very strong character to meet the daily challenges of the Priesthood. He must exercise confidentiality in matters of the church and congregation and have a genuine love for people.
While all priests are similarly qualified through ordination by a bishop, differences lie in their way of life, type of work, and the Church authority to which they are responsible. Diocesan priests, for example, commit their lives to serving the people of a diocese (a church administrative region), generally working in parishes, schools, or other institutions. Diocesan priests take vows of celibacy and obedience and are under a bishop's jurisdiction. Religious priests belong to a religious order and take an additional vow of poverty.
Diocesan priests attend to the spiritual, pastoral, moral, and educational needs of their church members. Many priests direct and serve on church committees, work in civic and charitable organizations, and assist in community projects. Some counsel parishioners who are preparing for marriage or the birth of a child. A priest’s day usually begins with morning meditation and may include an individual counseling session or an evening visit to a hospital or home.
Religious priests receive work assignments from their superiors. Some specialize in teaching. Others serve as missionaries in foreign countries where they may live under difficult and/or primitive conditions. Fluency in that particular area's language is mandatory. To minister to the Hispanic community, for example, one must speak Spanish. Still other religious priests live a communal life, devoting their lives to prayer, study, and assigned work within a monastery. Understanding of Latin may be required of such priests.
A newly ordained priest usually works first as an assistant pastor. In response to the shortage of priests, permanent deacons and teams of clergy and laity are performing more and more traditional functions within the Church. Throughout most of the country, permanent deacons have been ordained to preach and perform liturgical functions, such as baptisms, marriages, and funerals, and to provide service to the community. They are not authorized to celebrate Mass nor are they allowed to administer the Sacraments of Reconciliation or the Anointing of the Sick or Holy Communion. The number of ordained deacons has increased 30 percent over the past 20 years and this trend should continue. Meanwhile, teams of clergy and laity undertake some liturgical and non-liturgical functions, such as hospital visits and religious education.
Regardless of the specific ministry to which a priest is assigned, they are people of great faith who are called up to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus and follow by example in their daily lives. As a representative of Jesus, the priest deserves our utmost respect and support.
Becoming an Ordained Priest – Gods Call
Has God called you to the Priesthood?
God is always calling good people to religious service regardless of their marital status or religious affiliation. Throughout history, many have been called and have responded to this calling in times of fear and grave hardship. They have lived heroic lives in their quest to spread the word of Jesus Christ around the world. As we enter the Third Millenium, so many of us are hungry to find greater meaning and purpose in life. Yet, today we live in an increasingly secular world so it seems harder than in the past to hear God's voice. So listen carefully. God may be calling you - if not for the Priesthood, then for service to Him in other valuable ways.
Contrary to Catholic belief, the restrictive lifestyle of the Catholic priest has no foundation in God’s orders. Per the Bible, a priest can be married with children. I personally believe that those priests who belong to an order that allows marriage and children have an advantage over their Catholic counterparts because they can better identify with their congregation's members and families due to more similar lifestyles.
Should you decide to pursue the Priesthood, you will need to meet with the Vocations Director or a Pastor of the Church who will discuss the priestly life and entrance requirements. In addition to a college degree, a certain measure of life experience is usually required for acceptance into a course of study for priesthood.
A good candidate for the Priesthood is one who:
Considers a personal relationship with God an important and vital part of life;
Has an ability and willingness to talk about his faith and experience of God in his life;
Has a desire to serve others and make a difference in people’s lives;
Is willing to sacrifice personal or material gain for the service of the Gospel and of the Church;
Is recognized as being approachable;
Enjoys life, people and has a sense of humor;
Has the ability to lead and work with people of all ages;
Recognizes the importance of the Church and the role of the Church as teacher;
Forms and maintains healthy relationships with both men and women;
Is secure in one's self, has average to above-average intelligence, and has good physical, mental and emotional health.
Salaries of priests vary. Low-end annual salaries averaged $26,291 in 2004; high-end salaries averaged $46,478. Admittedly, that's not a lot of money considering how much study, preparation and hard work is required for the Priesthood. However, priests also receive a benefits package that may include a car allowance, room and board or housing for their family, health insurance, and a retirement plan. Really, money is not important because God will always provide for you. Be humble and serve the Lord and your people. Life will be most rewarding!
Does the Church discriminate against women?
Partly due to persistent views regarding gender roles in society, Churches have left women confused about their identity and their rights as Christians. From the very earliest times, the attitude of the "Church Fathers" toward women could be described as negative at best. Women were viewed as the fundamentally evil sex due to their sexual power over men. The Church Fathers ordered Christian woman to wear somber clothes and to conduct herself as Eve did: "In pains and anxieties dost thou bear children, woman; and toward thine husband is thy inclination, and he lords it over thee." This passage continues with a scathing indictment of Eve and all women:
You are the Devil's gateways; you are the unsealer of that forbidden tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law. You are she who persuaded him whom the Devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God's image, man. On account of your desert - that is, death - even the Son of God had to die. (NO SOURCE)
Consider too the words of one of the early church fathers, Origen (A.D. 185-224):
What is seen with the eyes of the Creator is masculine, and not feminine, for God does not stop to look upon what is feminine and of the flesh"
Through these and other passages, we see just how early and how strongly negative attitudes toward women were inculcated into the church's theology. (Fortunately, the Protestant churches, founded over a thousand years after the birth of the Catholic Church, were from the beginning far more progressive on their views of women).
Still the question remains. Where did these beliefs about women - so shocking to the modern day ear - originate? Are they promoted in the Bible or are they purely society based?
Certainly, the Judeo-Christian tradition is not alone in its early prejudice against women. Most human societies and religions are rife with ideas regarding women's inferiority to men and their innate evilness. In the orthodox Hindu religion, it is believed that women cannot obtain salvation as women; they must be reborn as men first. In first century Jewish society, an adult male Jew thanked God three times a day for not having made him a Gentile, a woman or a slave. Did this idea originate from the Bible? Certainly not! It's probably rooted in a similar tenet found in Hellenist or early Greek society. There is ample evidence that the traditions of the Jews and even the later Christian societies regarding women might well have been derived from pagan cultures versus the Bible. Biblical references to the depraved and inferior nature of women seem to be merely invented, constructed and promoted in a manner that oppresses women with God's blessing. This is certainly nonsense.
In the beginning, God had a grand plan for man and woman. This intent is evident in several ways. For one, the physical and biochemical functions of men and women differ in important ways. As someone aptly pointed out, the fact that the human species is mammalian has far-reaching and inescapable sociological consequences. The female, obviously, is designed for bearing and nurturing children. The male, on the other hand, is designed for protecting and providing for his family. Consequently, the male is generally larger and stronger than the female. It's not difficult to reach the conclusion then that it was within the scope of God's original plan and intent that the larger, stronger and more mobile male would tend to be dominant in male-female relationships. It's a simple matter of biology.
The other way we discern God's intent is in the Creation itself. Jesus Himself recognized in that account an "original intent." It came to pass one day when the Pharisees came to Him, attempting to lay a snare, and asked, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" Jesus' answer is simple and direct: "Have you not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19:3-6).
It is important to note that Jesus did not say "they twain shall be master and servant." Nor did He describe them as lord and slave. Rather, He describes an entirely different relationship: "They twain shall be one flesh."
Is such a relationship implied in the earliest accounts of the creation of woman? Let's consider it beginning in Genesis 2:18: "And the Lord God said it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him." The expression "help meet" has often been taken to mean helper in the sense of servant, menial, apprentice or, in the extreme, a slave.
The Hebrew, however, does not condone such a meaning. In fact, the word help is often used of God Himself. In Psalm 46:1, for example, God is called "a very present help" in time of trouble. Many examples could be given, but it is clear that the word does not mean "help" in a subservient sense. What the scripture does imply is that man alone is incomplete and inadequate to God's purpose. Returning to Genesis 2:19, 20, we find the very curious account of the naming of the animals. The account almost sounds as though God expected He might find a helper for Adam among the animals and would not need to create woman at all! It's almost as though woman was sort of a "divine afterthought," a solution to a problem that had not otherwise been found. Such a suggestion is totally absurd. As James put it, "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning" (Acts 15:18).
The physical designs of man and animals show clearly that God never expected to find Adam's mate among the animal kingdom. The end of verse 20 is merely a simple statement of this fact. Another misconception arises from Genesis 2:21: "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof, And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said: this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. " Some of the early church fathers suggested Eve's creation from Adam's rib confirms her inferiority to man. The apostle Paul makes an interesting refutation of this theory in the 11th chapter of I Corinthians. He is in the process of discussing a rather obscure practice of the time having to do with head coverings, long and short hair, the shaving of heads, etc. In the process, he appeals to a pattern of leadership descending from the Father to Christ, to the husband, to the wife. However, lest someone assume that the woman is inferior to the man or less important in this relationship, Paul cautions: "Nevertheless neither is the man without woman, neither is the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man (Eve was taken from Adam's rib), even so is the man also by the woman [every man since Adam has come from the womb of a woman]; but all things of God" (I Corinthians 11:11, 12). This means clearly that we originate from other another and on equal terms.
Paul seems to be championing God's statement that man did not thrive as an island and points out that both man and woman are incomplete without the other. Interestingly enough, the fact that all men since Adam are born of women and that we all tend to revere our mothers conceivably could lead to matriarchy. Perhaps God's purpose in taking our first mother from Adam was to create equality between men and women.
Final arguments persist that a woman was not made in God's image like a man, and yet we are told clearly in the original creation account: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (Genesis 1:27). Man in this verse is used in the generic sense. Man was created male and female. Woman, like man, is created in the image of God. Later, in commenting on the work that he had done that day, "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (verse 31) - including the woman.
So man and woman were both perfect in their creation. Woman, indeed, was created for man, but a simple study of male anatomy will show that man also was created for woman. There is nothing in the creation account to imply female inferiority, male superiority, or to justify a man is lord of his wife.
Returning to Jesus' encounter with the Pharisees: After He had cited the Genesis account and made His oft-quoted statement, "What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder," the Pharisees replied, "Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?" - An important question is asked, and a vital answer is given: "He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your heart suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so”.
Jesus clearly states that God had an original intent for man and woman which was lost through human weakness. The permission of divorce under Moses was not an expression of the original intent of God. It was a concession to human weakness, a merciful response to human sin, if you will.
Man went astray almost immediately following his creation. The very first man and woman sinned and changed the course of history for all of us. The account of this sin is found in the third chapter of Genesis, and it is from this account that most of the understanding (and misunderstanding) of the nature of the woman is derived.
How about the oldest story of Adam and Eve? Was Eve the bad seed when she gave Adam an apple? Let us confirm in Genesis 3:1: Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" There is nothing in the Genesis account to indicate any such thing.
Some of the same interpreters who tell us that Satan will strike the family at its weakest link will also tell us that Satan likes to strike a religious organization at the very top. The story of Eve's deception is familiar. She responds to the serpent with an accurate accounting of God's commandment. The serpent questions God's motives and lies to the woman about the tree's true purpose. When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and purported to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
This account bears out the assertion, "You are the Devil's gateways; you are the unsealer of that forbidden tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the Devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God's image, man. On account of your desert - that is death - even the Son of God had to die." But wait. It is true that the woman was first in transgression, but she did not act alone. Her husband was a willing party to her heinous act!
So few have noticed the argument that Satan struck at the family through its weakest link is self-defeating. If Adam was morally the stronger of the two, why did he not speak? Why did he not argue with Satan? Why did he not assume the role of leadership in this situation? We are presented with an image of Eve carrying on a dialogue with the serpent while Adam stands meekly by. Eve turns and hands the forbidden fruit to her husband and he eats, no questions asked! Eve was first in the transgression to be sure, but why do we assume she was worse?
It's an old, old story. Jesus, Paul and the other apostles had indeed been champions of women in their society. Paul had written: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). The women in the church had come to appreciate fully their "liberty in Christ."
Returning to the third chapter of Genesis, we find Adam and Eve so smitten with guilt that they hide themselves from the presence of God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8). After God inquired about what happened, He immediately cursed the serpent:
And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
It's important to notice in this account that God curses only the ground and the serpent. He does not curse the man or the woman.
It is not God's will for man to "lord it over" his wife. For a Christian to use this verse to justify the oppression of his wife is not righteous. The Christian man and wife should be one flesh as it was from the beginning.
Can a Woman Lead?
If indeed it was God's intent that women be subordinate to men throughout history, we should expect God to assiduously avoid circumstances where women dominate. However, this is not the case! Has God ever used a woman in a position of leadership over men? Yes!! Perhaps the most notable example in Scripture is a woman named Deborah, a prophetess and a judge in Israel in the years following Joshua. She was introduced to us in the fourth chapter of Judges.
The Hebrew word for prophet is nabi, and its feminine form is nebiah. There are many different types of prophets to be found in the Bible, but essentially a prophet or a prophetess is one through whom God speaks. There are two other prophetesses mentioned in the Bible. The first is Miriam, Moses' sister. In Exodus the 15th chapter we find "Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron," leading all the women in a song of triumph. Her words have found their way into Scripture as the song of Miriam, and she said unto them, thus saith the Lord God of Israel, tell the man that sent you to me, thus saith the Lord ... It is a simple account, but it underlines once more that occasionally, for reasons of His own, God decides to speak to man through a woman.
It is not that God wanted to establish feminine dominance, or even to erode the principles of male leadership, but it may have been necessary for him to make a statement that women were not to be treated lower as man.
Per the Bible, it is clear that a woman shares equality to a man. God did never make a never specified differently nor should we. It's time to reconsider women's treatment by the Church over the years! It is time to make a change!
Okay, women will always be different and let us thank God for it. Some men might still look for specific differences and try to use them against a woman – the way to dress maybe, or the way to wear her hair. I agree that clothing should be tasteful, but this applies to both genders. How about make up? Let’s be serious! Relatively few Christian denominations prohibit women from wearing makeup. Most of those that do seem to be holdovers from another era when "respectable" women in society did not wear makeup. Some of these groups still try to find biblical support for their position and quite forcefully forbid women to wear makeup in church. Some even forbid the wearing of it at any time.
It is of singular importance to note that nowhere does the Bible specifically forbid women to wear makeup. It is not mentioned at all in the law of God or in the Bible. However, in the matter of drawing inferences from prophetic writings, read the judgment of God in Isaiah 3:18 :
In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; the pendants, the bracelets, the scarf’s; the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; the signet rings and nose rings; the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; the garments of gauze, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils. Instead of perfume there will be rottenness; instead of the girdle, a rope; instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a rich robe, a girding of sackcloth; instead of beauty, shame. Your men shall fall by the sword and your mighty men in battle. And her gates shall lament and mourn; ravaged, she shall sit upon the ground.
Some preachers have interpreted this verse to mean that God does not approve of women wearing beauty enhancing adornments, perfume or elaborate hairstyles. In making such a conclusion, however, one would entirely miss the point. None of these scriptures indicate that wearing makeup is a sin!
We have already noted that neither the law nor the Bible say anything at all about what women put on their faces. Interestingly enough, however, there are some specific instructions in the law dealing with the faces of men. The Bible says: "You must not trim off your hair on your temples or clip the edges of your beard, as the heathen do." What is condemned here is not beard trimming, but the shaping of the beard to convey pagan images. If makeup is not mentioned in the law of God, and trimming the beard is, how can we condemn the wearing of makeup while we allow men to shave their beards? If we rationalize the trimming of the beard based upon the attitude and intent of the man who does it, why can't we do the same thing for a woman wearing makeup?
The result of our study underscores the need to give higher respect towomen in our Churches and treat them on equal footing. This we owe to our women and, as good Christians, to God.
Women and Priesthood
Women in the Priesthood is a difficult theme to talk about. Opinions vary from church to church but the majority deny women the priesthood. Actually, the more strict the church doctrine and it's interpretation of the Bible, the less likely women will be accepted to the Priesthood.
Let's consider the Catholic Church. Less than a month after the Vatican called the ordination of women to priesthood "an affront to the dignity of women, whose specific role in the Church and society is distinctive and irreplaceable," seven women priests were excommunicated for failing to repent by the Church-issued July 22 deadline. Last month, the Vatican reasserted its policy banning women from the priesthood, insisting that Romulu Braschi — the Argentine bishop who ordained the women from Austria , Germany , and the US — found a schismatic community. The statement today, signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, suggested that “[women] may rediscover the path of conversion in order to return to the unity of the faith and to communion with the Church, which they have wounded by their actions.” However, Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger, a spokeswoman for the female priests, criticized the move as “a further act of discrimination against women in the Catholic Church.” She told the Austria Press Agency: “We stand single-mindedly, unwaveringly by our vocation.” The seven women priests intend to appeal the decision.
Should women be ordained to the priesthood? This is a question which provokes much debate in our modern world, but it is one to which the Church has always answered "No." The basis for the Church’s teaching on ordination is found in the New Testament as well as in the writings of the Church Fathers. While women could publicly pray and prophesy in church (1 Cor. 11:1–16), they could not teach or have authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:11–14), since these were two essential functions of the clergy. Nor could women publicly question or challenge the teaching of the clergy (1 Cor. 14:34–38).
The following quotations from Church Leaders indicate that women do play an active role in the Church and that in the age of the “Fathers” there were orders of virgins, widows, and deaconesses, but that these women were not ordained. The Fathers rejected women’s ordination, not because it was incompatible with Christian culture, but because it was incompatible with Christian faith. Thus, together with biblical declarations, the teaching of the Fathers on this issue formed the tradition of the Church that taught that priestly ordination was reserved for men. This teaching has remained intact through medieval times and even up until the present day.
Furthermore, in 1994, Pope John Paul II formally declared that the Church does not have the power to ordain women. He stated, “Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force. Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful”, and in 1995 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in conjunction with the pope, ruled that this teaching “requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium 25:2)” (Response of Oct. 25, 1995).
With such a hard line taken again female ordination to the priesthood, it's hard to overlook the well established, male focus of the Catholic Church.
In all objectivity, I was unable at first to find any solid argument for priesthood for women, no matter how hard I tried. Nevertheless, I was also unable to absolutely exclude the possibility of a woman's right to ordination. I did find some evidence in favor of our women, however, not enough to solidly prove my point. Interestingly, there is also not much more proof for a man to be Priest than for a woman.
Jesus spoke several times about women acting as teachers and He speaks many times of the priest being a teacher. Jesus called himself a teacher and asked for us to follow him and continue his work – the work we call ministry today and which is done by a priest. We even go so far (including the Catholic Church) to say that Jesus meant the position of priest when he ordered us to be teachers. If all this is true, I find no possible reason to deny a woman to be a Christian Minister or Priest. Jesus did recommend in various parts of the Bible that women were good teachers. In addition, several women were Prophets as confirmed by the Bible. These Women-Priests were fully accepted by God, society and Church.
If there is a woman who says that she has received God's Calling and fulfills all human and Christian requirements, I would personally support and assist in her ordination. Administering a church of my own, and taking Gods commandments very seriously, I'm sure sooner or later I will be in the company of a woman priest.
This will not happen just because greater parity for women is maybe fashionable in today’s modern world. It will happen because of God's Will and my obedience to him. Women are equal to men. Yes, a woman can be a Priest!
If you have any questions, please post them on the forum. I would like to see some participation in this topic. Talk to you next week!