“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.” – Proverbs 4:1
“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” – Hebrews 13:7
Let me tell you about a facebook experience I had:
Now all those who are familiar with “Cardinal Fratelli” are going to laugh.
I went into a group simply called “The Bible”, under the name and profile picture of “Cardinal Fratelli” and posted something about how we must obey God instead of the modern age. Immediately, several people responded accusing poor Fratelli of wanting to control people and one even praised Martin Luther for breaking away from the “tyranny” of the Catholic Church. The next week, I posted the same exact thing as myself with my own picture and several other people responded, congratulating me for my godly insight! They hated Cardinal Fratelli not because of what I had him say but because of what he looked like: A Catholic priest.
The priestly hierarchy of Catholicism is often subject to attack. Opponents believe the church should be egalitarian, congregational and individualistic. They despise any vestige of power in the church, dislike priests – especially bishops, and tend to struggle with authority.
However, the New Testament itself speaks of ministerial offices in God’s church; elders who teach, deacons who serve and bishops who rule. In fact, the bishop’s office is usually described as not only magisterial but governmental. They are called “guardians of the flock.”
Certainly, the Apostle Peter advises church elders not to “Lord over the flock”. Indeed, a bishop who belittles or subordinates others abuses his authority and doesn’t please God. However, the existence of ecclesiastical hierarchy isn’t based on subjection. It’s not there to enslave or demean anyone but rather is for edification, unified teaching and doctrinal preservation.
Under bishops, the Church defined a majority of Christian doctrines which are taken for granted. The human and divine nature of Christ, His deity, the Trinity and the New Testament Canon itself are gifts from this conciliar, hierarchal church. Without such a foundation, Christian teaching becomes flimsy sinking back into the past.
Why the objection?
People who have anti-clerical tendencies usually misjudge the clergy’s role, struggle with obeying authority-figures or perhaps suffered past-mistreatment by a priest. Many scowl at ministries being off-limits to others, elaborate priestly vestments or respect shown towards a bishop. Some fail to realize that in God’s eyes, they are just as important and loved. The Bible is correct when describing all people’s equality before Christ. When misinterpreted, this teaching means something entirely different; a church-society without defined roles.
Samewise, Scripture teaches that not all share the same ministries or gifts. Being in the Body of Christ does not mean everybody gets elected bishop, no, rather everyone has unique offerings. When these gifts are used properly, Christ’s mission is fully realized.