Reading and Interpreting the PMW

Quite a while ago, I published an explanation of the new ELS doctrinal statement on the ministry (the PMW). The explanation is rather long, going through each sentence and evaluating its possible meanings in the larger context of Lutheran theology. Some disagree with this interpretation, but for me, it’s the most acceptable alternative. Many other alternative explanations would make the PMW entirely unacceptable to me, because then it would either contradict the Bible and our confessions, or it would be stating as doctrine things that are not supported by holy scripture. As it is, I have given it the most charitable interpretation that I can manage. Some disagree with that approach, saying that we should not hesitate to be critical and demanding of our doctrinal statements. They have a point, because we and those who follow may be dealing with the PMW for a long time. On the other hand, human expressions of doctrine are a messy business. We all have our own preferred way to say things. For this reason, I think we should say as little as possible, and use the proven expressions of our confessions instead. But here we are now, with a doctrinal statement that is creating division between those who formerly were acknowledged to be in fellowship. Oh well. Wisdom is justified by her children.

Anyway, I summarized my explanation of the PMW into 14 points. The first point says:

When the statement speaks of a “narrow” and a “wider” sense of Public Ministry, it is not speaking of two things that exist concretely, but rather two ways of using the term “Public Ministry” that have been prevalent in recent years.

I know that some disagree with me on this, but I am right. The word “sense” means “meaning.” Hence, “wider sense” is equivalent to “wider meaning,” and “narrow sense” is equivalent to “narrow meaning.” These meanings are not from God, but from our own usage. They are two ways that we have become accustomed to using the term “Public Ministry.” So my second point says:

Neither usage is, in itself, required by holy scripture.

In subsequent posts, I’ll describe that to which each sense of “Public Ministry” refers.

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