Friday, November 14, 2008

Christian Church Organization: Bishop, Elders and Deacons

The LDS 6th Article of Faith reads: "We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth."

LDS General Church leadership

(1) 1 Chief Apostle (Peter with keys of presidency) Matt. 16: 19
(2) 3 Apostles of the First Presidency (Peter, James, John) Mark 9: 2
(3) 12 Apostles (includes Matthias, Paul, Barnabas, and James, not Junia) Luke 6: 13
(4) 7 Presidents (Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas) Acts 6: 3
(5) Multiple Quorems of Seventy ("other seventy") Luke 10: 1

Matthias (Acts 1:26) and other men such as Barnabas, Paul (Acts 14: 14), and James (Gal. 1: 19) who are referred to as Apostles were called and ordained to fill vacancies in the quorem. The Quorem of 12 Apostles was ment to be a standing governing body in the Christian Church.

What about Junia who was female? Paul writes that "Andronicus and Junia, . . . are of note among the apostles" (Rom. 16: 7) Some interpret this to mean the term "apostle" had a generic meaning for any missionary because the verse seems to call Junia an apostle. However, this is not what this verse means. Paul is simply saying that the names and good works of Andronicus and Junia have been recognized by the apostles."

LDS Local Leadership

(6) Bishop (Episkopate or Pastor) 1 Tim. 3: 1-2, Titus 1: 7
(7) Elder (Presbyter or any sub-office in the Melchisedek Priesthood) Acts 20: 17,28
(8) Deacon (Any sub-office in the Aaronic Priesthood) 1 Tim. 3: 8-13
(9) Patriarch (Evangelist Philip, Timothy) 2 Tim. 4: 5, Acts 21: 8

The overall structure of the church with Aaronic or Preparatory Priesthood of the Deacons and a Melchizedek Priesthood of the Elders is still in place. But the church is a living church and the some of the organizational aspects can change to meet the needs of the church.

What do I mean? I mean that when the Christian Church was first organized, no one had been Bishop, administered the Lord's Supper, or done anything in the church before. But today, some LDS churches have male membership where a majority of it's Melchizedek Priesthood holders have at one time or another been a member of a Bishopric. And with young men growing up in the church, the responsibilities of the Aaronic Priesthood was delegated to younger men. Remember that it is the blessing of the everlasting covenant that all members be given the Melchizedek Priesthood and be ordained an Elder. Being a Deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood is preparatory.

And it is very inspired to involve young men in the priesthood early and was a wonderful blessing to me to administer the emblems of Christs body and blood each week, to collect offerings, and to administer the sacrament at homes of members too sick to attend church.

Also, although there are different sub-offices in the Melchizedek and Aaronic Priesthood such as High Priest and Elder, and Priest, Teacher, Deacon; in reality LDS consider all Melchizedek Priesthood holders to be Elders (we even call the Apostles Elder so-and-so), and all Aaronic Priesthood holders can be considered Deacons.


Get it straight said...

You said, "But today, some LDS churches have male membership where nearly all its Elders have at one time or another been a Bishop."

I doubt that since one must be a High Priest to serve as bishop.

David Larsen said...

Good analysis, BRoz. The only difficulty in understanding these offices is the ambiguity of the word "presbyter." While presbuteros is often translated as elder, many early Christians took it to mean "priest." Thus, we have the Catholic priesthood offices of Bishop, priest, and deacon (corresponding to our Aaronic priesthood offices). These correspond to the Old Testament offices of high priest, priest, and levite. It is quite clear that after the apostles died, the Church was left with only the main offices of the Aaronic priesthood--bishop, priest, and deacon. If we translate presbuteros as "elder," that makes it complicated--how do we explain a Melchizedek priesthood office that would seem to have remained in the apostate church? And where did the office of priest go in your reconstruction?
David L.

BRoz said...

#1 I apologize, I made the correction. However, a point I was making is that Elder can be used to define any Melchizedek Preisthood holder.

#2 The LDS are not the only ones who do this. The Presbyterian chruch also interprets it this way. The specifice offices of the Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods are not mentioned in the NT. But I wonder if Elder or Presbyter referred to someone who held the Melchezidek priesthood and Deacon referred to the Aaronic priesthood.