views updated May 18 2018


Rock band

For the Record

Developed Signature Techno-Punk Sound

Jourgensen Compared to Phil Spector

Psalm 69 and Lollapalooza

Selected discography


We have people who think Ministry is a skinhead Nazi band, guitarist-singer-writer-producer Al Jourgensen told Seconds magazine. We have people who think Ministry is a disco homosexual band; we have people that think ... I dont even know what they think! Given Ministrys development from an Anglophile synth-pop group in the early 1980s to a titan of so-called industrial discoa furious amalgam of noise, metallic guitar, screaming, samples, and dance beatssome confusion among listeners is understandable. Yet, ironically, as the groups sound has become more uncompromising, its following has ballooned. By 1992 Ministry would be featured on the successful Lollapalooza II tour and would see its release of that year debut in the Billboard Top 30. Los Angeles Times critic Robert Hilburn noted that young fans in the early 1990s appeared drawn to bands that expressed their anger and alienation, attesting, No band dips into the well of discontent more powerfully than this Chicago-based group.

Alain Jourgensen was born in the late 1950s in Cuba; his family moved to the U.S. when he was a child, settling for a while in Denver before moving to Chicago. Electrified by the sounds of punk rock in the late 1970s, Jourgensen formed his own group, Special Effect. He created Ministry with bassist Paul Barker a short time thereafter, and the group released its first single, Cold Life, on Chicagos Wax Trax label in 1981. Jourgensen, Barker, and assorted cronies would continue to work with Wax Trax despite various involvements with major labels.

The morbid synth-funk sound of early Ministry, evocative of such gloomy English post-punk bands as Joy Division and A Certain Ratio, attracted the attention of Arista Records, which signed the group and exercised considerable influence on the recording of the 1983 album With Sympathy. Universally pannednever more so than by Jourgensen himselfthe album set an early negative example for the group. Jourgensen called the record an abortion, a piece of complete corporate shit in an interview with Pulse! and told Seconds that it looms over our head like some kind of vulture or some kind of bird of prey reminding us that we have to really institute quality control in what we do. Jourgensen provided some background on the fiasco, explaining, We were immediately swamped with record company pressures and we were broke and starving at the time, we wouldve done anything. In retrospect, its really good that that happened because it wont happen again. Weve already seen the grass is not greener on the other side.

For the Record

Members include Paul Barker, bass; Al (Alain) Jourgensen (born in Cuba, late 1950s; married; one child), guitar, vocals; William Rieflin, drums; Mike Scaccia, guitar; and various session and touring musicians.

Group has recorded as the Revolting Cocks and 1000 Homo DJs; formed in Chicago, c. 1981; released single Cold Life, Wax Trax, 1981; signed with Arista records c. 1982 and released single Work for Love, 1982; released album With Sympathy, 1983; signed with Sire Records c. 1985; released single Over the Shoulder, 1985, and album Twitch, 1986.

Addresses: Record company Sire Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, 21st Floor, New York, NY 10019-6989.

Developed Signature Techno-Punk Sound

After releasing a few singles on Wax Trax and Arista, Ministry went back to the drawing board. Moving to Sire Records, they released the single Over the Shoulder in 1985 and, the following year, the album Twitch. That record was the beginning of the new, hard-edged Ministry sound, which was even more powerfully delivered on 1988s The Land of Rape and Honey. MTV regularly aired the disturbing video for the grinding, relentless single Stigmata, reminding alternative rock fans that Ministrys weepy dance-pop era was long past. The new power was derived in part from the groups refusal to compromise; as Jourgensen noted in Seconds, We were never allowed to be ourselves until we finally put our foot down with Rape and Honey and had no external producers and no external influences. Id say Ministry has been Ministry since Rape and Honey, and Ive been allowed to be Al Jourgensen since then.

Ministrys next record was a real breakthroughcritically and commercially. Released in 1989, The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste met enthusiastic reviews and sold impressively, especially in light of Ministrys harsh, anti-commercial sound. The Chicago Tribune, quoted in a Sire press profile of the group, called the album a techno-punk masterpiece. David Fricke of Rolling Stone described the song So What as a serial killers soliloquy set to a throbbing funk beat and migraine riff ing. Ministry followed up with a live album and video in 1990, both entitled In Case You Didnt Feel Like Showing Up; Fricke called the record an aural depth charge.

Jourgensens output was prolific during this period simply by virtue of his work with Ministry. But along with these efforts, he was masterminding a plethora of other projects, both as performer and producer. Ministrys alter-ego, the Revolting Cocks, for example, was a fun-loving punk band described by Jourgensen in Seconds as the lampshade and limbo-line party.

Jourgensen Compared to Phil Spector

The Cocks released two studio albums, a live offering, and several singles on Wax Trax between 1986 and 1990. Among other Ministry/Wax Trax offshoots were 1000 Homo DJs, Pailhead (featuring Fugazi vocalist Ian MacKaye), Lead into Gold, PTP, and Acid Horse. Jourgensen also worked with Lard, fronted by former Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra, on two records for Biafras Alternative Tentacles label. Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times ventured that Jourgensen exhibits an independence and vision reminiscent of Phil Spector, arguably the most imaginative producer of the modern pop era. Despite his obvious influence on the industrial scene, however, Jourgensen disclaims both glory and responsibility and shuns the genre label. I dont think Ive created anything, he told Seconds. I had nothing to do with this. People sought me out, I did what I know how to do in my own little corner of the world.

Amid his creative outpourings, Jourgensen gained a measure of notoriety as an unapologetic user of LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs as well as a hard drinker; stories about his excessive behavior onstage and in the studiomany of them untruecirculated in the American and British press. Although he acknowledged his propensity for drug use, he remained a private person, with a wife and child, unwilling to fuel the tempestuous legend that had formed around him. In any case, he weaned himself off of hard drugs. I finally found out [that drug use] isnt where the [creative] power comes from, Jourgensen told Hilburn in a 1992 interview. The power comes from within, and it just took me a long time... maybe longer than others to tap into this.... Ive learned how to ... mix a record sober now and go on stage sober, which Ive never been able to do.

Psalm 69 and Lollapalooza

1992 was a watershed year for Ministry; the band released the album Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs and appeared on the bill of the traveling alternative rock fair Lollapalooza II. Of the album, Spin noted that the band has stripped its speedcore instincts to the barest steel and chrome chassis, adding, Ministry manages its genre-bending with all the assurance of a covert CIA strike. The Detroit Metro Times declared, Ministrys sound has evolved into sinister, chaotic, steroid-pumped industrial thrash that makes them the only group around that makes [heavy metal superstars] Metallica sound like wimps. The album features the single Jesus Built My Hotrod, released the previous year. That songs psychotic hillbilly-style vocals were provided by Gibby Haynes, lead wildman of the infamous Butthole Surfers.

The first new song released from Psalm 69 was the eerie N.W.O., featuring soundbites of President George Bush talking about a new world order sampled over a furious sonic backdrop. Initially Ministry resisted appearing at Lollapalooza, largely due to Jourgensens misgivings; I didnt want to be part of this whole picniccircus, he told the Los Angeles Times, but he was outvoted by the band, which by now included guitarist Mike Scaccia and drummer Bill Rieslin as well as assorted musicians recruited for live shows. The band convinced its leader that the proceeds from the tour would allow Ministry to furnish its own studio, further freeing Jourgensen and company from label interference. During the tour, Jello Biafra told a crowdaccording to the Metro Times that Ministry is the perfect music to lock [wife of Vice President Al Gore and record-labeling advocate] Tipper Gore in a padded cell with. Naked Lunch author and noted heroin enthusiast William S. Burroughs asked to do a spoken-word piece on a remix of the song Just One Fix, which Jourgensen had been dedicating to him at concerts. Later in the year Ministry went on tour with alternative metal bands Helmet and Sepultura.

Jourgensen has been reluctant in interviews to acknowledge Ministrys success in the music business. But he and his accomplices in aural mayhem have attracted fans and adoring critics by not courting them. Sales of albums and concert tickets testify to the groups heavy-hitter status in the industry. Their stylistic influence has also been profound; as Hilburn commented on his inclusion of N.W.O. in his year-end Los Angeles Times round-up of important pop songs, The sonic assault of [this] industrial rock band may help shape the rock of the 90s.

Selected discography

On Wax Trax

Cold Life/Im Falling (single), 1981.

Nature of Sympathy (single), 1985.

Ministry 12 Singles 1981-1984, 1985.

On Arista

Work for Love (single), 1982.

With Sympathy, 1983.

On Sire

Over the Shoulder (single), 1985.

Twitch, 1986.

The Land of Rape and Honey (includes Stigmata), 1988.

A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste (includes So What), 1989.

In Case You Didnt Feel Like Showing Up, 1990.

Jesus Built My Hotrod (single), 1991.

Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs (includes Jesus Built My Hotrod, N.W.O., and Just One Fix), 1992.

Just One Fix (single; remix with William S. Burroughs), 1992.


Detroit Free Press, November 25, 1992.

Entertainment Weekly, August 21, 1992.

Guitar Player, November 1992.

Los Angeles Times, August 2, 1992; December 28, 1992; December 31, 1992.

L.A. Weekly, December 25, 1992.

Metro Times (Detroit), November 25, 1992.

Pulse!, October 1992.

Rolling Stone, April 18, 1991; September 17, 1992; January 21, 1993.

Seconds, November 1992.

Spin, March 1992; September 1992; December 1992.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from Sire Records promotional material, 1992.

Simon Glickman


views updated May 18 2018


MINISTRY . The term ministry traditionally refers to offices of leadership in the Christian church, but there has been a growing recognition that it also describes the way the mission of the whole church is conducted. Both in terms of specific offices (ministers) and in terms of the work of the church in general, ministry has biblical roots. In Hebrew, sheret ("to serve") applies to temple officers and was normally translated leitourgein in the Septuagint. This use was carried over into the New Testament, where the various linguistic forms of leitourgein are used not only for general acts of service to others (Rom. 15:27, 2 Cor. 9:12, Phil. 2:30) but also for worship (Acts 13:3) and particularly for priestly and Levitical functions under the Old Covenant (Lk. 1:23; Heb. 8:2, 8:6, 9:21, 10:11). But the New Testament introduced the words diakonia ("service") and diakonein ("to serve"), referring to the menial work done by a diakonos ("servant") or doulos ("slave") to indicate the quality of ministry in the church. These words represent not status but the serving relationship of the minister to the one served: following the example of Christ (and, subsequently, the example of the apostle Paul) is at the heart of the Christian understanding of ministry (Jn. 13:120; 1 Cor. 4:16, 11:1; Phil. 3:17).

Scholars dispute how far the New Testament reflects a uniform and obligatory pattern of ministerial orders. Roman Catholic scholars generally hold that it does, but most Protestant scholars believe that the New Testament offers several patterns of ministry (Eph. 4:1112; 1 Cor. 12:2731; 1 Tm. 3:113, 4:1116, 5:310, 5:1722). The former view maintains that the orders of ministry are fixed by tradition and that their authority is transmitted by historical succession from the apostles through bishops or the pope as the vicar of Christ (apostolic succession). The latter view regards ministerial orders as essentially functional and focused on faithful transmission of the apostolic testimony.

There is, however, agreement that all ministry traces its authority to Jesus Christ and to the apostles who testified to his saving work and resurrection (Mt. 16:1324, 18:18, 28:1820; Jn. 20:23). Although the apostle Paul could not claim personal connection with the Galilean ministry, he did claim commission from Jesus Christ as the heart of his own call to apostleship (Gal. 1:1, 1:1124, 2:121). Churches also generally agree that officers in the church's ministry (i.e., the clergy) have particular responsibility for preaching, for administration of the sacraments (or ordinances), and for the oversight and nurture of their congregations.

By the beginning of the second century, three principal orders of ministrybishop or pastor (episcopos, "overseer"), presbyter or priest (presbuteros, "elder"), and deacon (diakonos, "servant")had become widely accepted, and although various confessional groups may not agree how far or when these orders became dependent on the Roman pontiff, the primacy of the pope seems to have been widely acknowledged by the time of Leo I (d. 461) and continued in the West until the Reformation. In the Eastern church the break with Rome, the Great Schism, is often given the date 1054, but scholars recognize that this was the end of a process of estrangement over centuries. However, the threefold ministry remained unchanged in both halves of Christendom through a millennium of Christian history.

Catholic branches of the church claim unbroken succession with this earlier history and believe that these offices are prescribed (i.e., iure divino ) and guaranteed by apostolic succession. Ordination is a sacrament whereby the Holy Spirit is transmitted through the bishop's imposition of hands, which imparts special grace to administer the sacraments and to exercise authority in the church. In the Roman Catholic Church these powers derive ultimately from the pope, while among the Orthodox it is exercised by the bishop within the corporate authority of the Orthodox community. Old Catholics and Anglo-Catholics hold a position on apostolic succession close to that of Rome but do not acknowledge the infallible authority of the papacy.

The sixteenth-century Reformation challenged the absolute authority of ecclesiastical tradition and its priesthood. Protestants turned from papal authority to the authority of the Bible, which led to revisions in their understanding of the church and its ministry. In the main, they claimed to restore the New Testament pattern, and in reaction to ecclesiastical legalism they tended to appeal to the Bible as a divine law book. New Testament "restorationism" appears in the early Luther, based on a primary appeal to scripture and on scripture exegeted by "the priesthood of all believers." Luther may be described as advocating a form of "evangelical pragmatism," since he accepted any pattern consistent with scripture that served the effective preaching of the word and the proper administration of the sacraments. Lutheranism has therefore adopted episcopal, consistorial, and congregational forms of churchmanship.

Attempts to restore a more biblical pattern of church and ministry are to be found in almost every form of Reformation church, and not least the Reformed church. Differences between Ulrich Zwingli (14841531) and the Anabaptists (Swiss Brethren) were not over the primacy of scripture but over its interpretation. John Calvin (15091564) systematized the Reformed position, claiming that church and ministry are of divine institution (Institutes 4.1, 4.3). Like many in his day, he regarded apostles, prophets, and evangelists as peculiar to the apostolic age, although he recognized that they might be revived "as the need of the times demands." Pastors and teachers, he argued, were indispensable. Pastors exercised general oversight discipline and preached and administered the sacraments; teachers were responsible for doctrine. Calvin also recognized the New Testament office of deacon in care of the poor (within which he included the office of the "widow"). He insisted on both the inward call of a minister and the recognition by the church of that call. In matters of discipline the pastor was to share power with a consistory of elders so that power would not be exclusively in the hands of a single person.

Calvin's fourfold ordering of ministry was taken over by the Reformed church and the Puritans in the British Isles and colonial America in the Presbyterian and Congregational churches. Similar forms of ministry arose out of English Separatism (e.g., Baptist churches) and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) movement of the American frontier. Differences between the classic Reformation positions and later restoration movements turned not so much on the appeal to the Bible as on other matters affecting scriptural interpretation: the relationship of the church to civil authorities, insistence on the church's purity, ministerial training, and how far literal appeal to scripture may be modified by the Holy Spirit revealed in scripture. Extreme restorationists reject any deviation from the New Testament pattern; at the other extreme, the Society of Friends (Quakers) claims that the spirit of the scriptures requires no specially ordained ministers.

A different modification of the church's ministry is seen in the Anglican settlement. In the sixteenth century, Henry VIII sought to separate from Rome without changing the shape of the national church, and his daughter, Elizabeth I, followed his lead. She wooed English Catholics by maintaining traditional vestments, liturgy, and forms of church government (episcopal). From the first the Church of England tried to reconcile appeal to scripture and to church tradition. Originally the settlement was based on the authority of the crown (the divine right of kings), but at the turn of the seventeenth century appeals to the divine right of the episcopacy began to appear. Differences concerning the role of the episcopacy are reflected in the so-called high church (Anglo-Catholic), broad church (Latitudinarian), and low church (Evangelical) traditions within Anglicanism.

In the eighteenth century, John Wesley, founder of Methodism, refused to separate from the Church of England. He finally became convinced that priests and bishops were of the same order in the New Testament and that he had the right to ordain ministers for America, but he refused to designate bishops and instead appointed superintendents. The decision to employ the term bishop in American Methodism probably arose from the determination to assert independence from Anglicanism. But although Wesley believed that the threefold order of ministry is scriptural, he offered an essentially pragmatic interpretation of these offices. His position was fundamentally the evangelical pragmatism seen in Luther.

By the mid-1980s there was no acceptance of the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox branches of the church, but a growing acceptance of women into the ordained ministry of Protestant denominations and in some provinces of Anglicanism was evident. Protestant and Anglican practices stem from the theological belief that the call to ministry is open to all God's people. The ecumenical movement has also prompted many churches to reexamine earlier claims and to recognize that they have much to learn from each other. Statements on ministry prepared for the Consultation on Church Union (1984), which reflected the views of ten American Protestant denominations, and by the World Council of Churches (1982) indicate a significant and growing consensus. This consensus reveals an emphasis on the servanthood of ministry as evidenced in the ministry of Jesus; an awareness that the whole church is the proper context in which the ordained ministry should be considered; an awareness that the doctrines of church and ministry cannot be separated; and a recognition that the traditional threefold ordering of ministry should not be lightly discarded. This growing consensus shows that many Christian churches seek to manifest their essential unity and to arrive at a point where their ministries may be mutually recognized.

See Also

Anglicanism; Apostles; Church; Discipleship; Ecumenical Movement; Leadership; Methodist Churches; Ordination; Papacy; Priesthood, article on Christian Priesthood; Reformation.


The tendency today is to consider the doctrines of church and ministry holistically, and in any reading list on ministry, books about the doctrine of the church should find a place. Among the older books considering ministry, The Apostolic Ministry, edited by Kenneth E. Kirk (London, 1946), and T. W. Manson's The Church's Ministry (Philadelphia, 1948) must be mentioned because they illustrate a classic debate on apostolic succession in relation to episcopacy. For a general account of where the churches stand on the issues, The Nature of the Unity We Seek, edited by Paul Minear (Saint Louis, 1958), may be consulted, and also the relevant documents in The Documents of Vatican II, edited by Walter M. Abbott (New York, 1966), for the Roman Catholic position.

One of the most thorough historical studies to be conducted in the United States is The Ministry in Historical Perspectives, edited by H. Richard Niebuhr and Daniel D. Williams (New York, 1956), and H. Richard Niebuhr's theological interpretation of that evidence, The Purpose of the Church and Its Ministry (New York, 1956), underscores the recognition that church and ministry cannot be separated. The Pioneer Ministry, by Anthony Tyrrell Hanson (London, 1961), an important biblical study of ministerial leadership in the Pauline churches, responds to assumptions made earlier in Kirk's book, while my own book Ministry (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1965) places this Anglo-Saxon debate within its ecumenical context. Ronald E. Osborn's In Christ's Place: Christian Ministry in Today's World (Saint Louis, 1967) arrives at similar conclusions on the basis of New Testament evidence.

The most important recent documents on ministry are those coming out of bilateral conversations, such as The Ministry in the Church (Geneva, 1982), published by the Roman Catholic/Lutheran Joint Commission; the documents produced by the Consultation on Church Union, such as the Digest of the Plenary Meetings (Princeton, 1979) and The COCU Consensus: In Quest of a Church of Christ Uniting (Princeton, 1985); and the documents published by the World Council of Churches, particularly the "Lima Document," in Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, "Faith and Order Paper no. 111" (Geneva, 1982).

New Sources

Barrett, C. K. Church, Ministry, and Sacraments in the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1985.

Best, Thomas F., and Dagmar C. Heller. Eucharistic Worship in Ecumenical Contexts: The Lima Liturgyand Beyond. Geneva, 1998.

Fahey, Michael A., ed. Catholic Perspectives on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry. Lanham, Md., 1986.

Limouris, Gennadios, and N. M. Vaporis, eds. Orthodox Perspectives on Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry. Brookline, Mass., 1985.

Oden, Thomas C. Ministry through Word and Sacrament. New York, 1989.

Wood, Susan K. Sacramental Orders. Collegeville, Minn., 2000.

Robert S. Paul (1987)

Revised Bibliography


views updated May 21 2018


Ministry in most U.S. religious traditions refers primarily to religious leadership and acts of service offered for or on behalf of faith communities. The word "ministry" has been used specifically by Christian (particularly Protestant) religious groups, but its meaning and use also include the work of Jewish and other faith traditions. Ministry encompasses at least three levels of meaning: (1) professional religious leadership; (2) acts offered by individual members or groups in service to others; and (3) the relationship of faith communities to the larger world, expressed in acts of service. Ministry describes a broad range of activities of care for those in need, including persons who belong to congregations and persons and groups outside organized religious groups. Such caring has addressed spiritual, emotional, physical, financial, political, and ecological concerns.

During the twentieth century the word "ministry" has most commonly been used to refer to the career or vocation of church or synagogue leaders. Religious traditions have historically identified and prepared individuals for particular leadership roles in congregations and other faith communities. These leaders are variously designated as ministers, pastors, preachers, priests, sisters (nuns), brothers, or rabbis in certain religious groups. The word "clergy" is sometimes used to encompass all religious professionals. Depending on the particular religious community, ministers are ordained, consecrated, or licensed before they are permitted to practice the full range of ministerial duties. In most traditions persons are selected for ministry on the basis of personal qualities of emotional and spiritual maturity, educational ability, and leadership skill. In many religious traditions, persons report experiences of a "call to ministry," either through self-examination of their personal qualities and the needs of ministry or through a deeply personal religious experience.

Many organized religious groups require substantial educational preparation for ministry. U.S. Protestant denominations (e.g., United Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal) require a college degree plus three or more years of academic seminary or theological school training before an individual may assume leadership in a congregation or other ministerial setting. Some traditions have few or no academic requirements for professional ministry, relying instead on the candidate's personal and spiritual qualities and experienced sense of call. In virtually all religious traditions, however, persons expecting to enter ministry explore their vocational choices with representatives of the religious community they will represent and serve. Roman Catholic priests, brothers, and sisters are generally required to remain celibate (unmarried), but most other Christian, Jewish, and other religious groups permit or encourage marriage and family life for their ministers.

Functions of Ministry

The functions of ministry vary considerably across religious traditions. However, those functions can be categorized into eight primary areas. Some religious groups will expect all of these functions from ministers, while others will emphasize only one or two. Preaching involves study of the Bible or other sacred texts and the delivery of sermons, usually as part of a worship service. The sermon or homily is usually expected to relate the sacred texts to issues in contemporary living. The worship function includes the preparation and leadership of religious services, including performing the rites and sacraments of the church. Weddings and marriage preparation, funerals, and rituals such as Baptism and Communion are important dimensions of ministry. Through teaching the minister explains the religious beliefs of a particular tradition and helps congregational members apply those teachings to their own experiences.

As a congregational leader the minister oversees the administrative responsibilities for a church or a synagogue. In addition to managing the details of congregational life, the minister often assists congregations in planning for the future. When providing pastoral care, the minister offers the church or synagogue's resources to person at crisis points in life, such as death or other losses, marriage and birth of children, and personal or family difficulty. Care activities include home or hospital visitation, informal conversation, and counseling. Evangelism includes those activities in which persons outside the community are contacted, and often invited into membership or participation in the community of faith. Prophetic witness requires the minister to engage in critical analysis of the society and other institutions. He or she works for justice or advocates on behalf of persons who have been oppressed by those institutions. Mission involves religious communities in specific service to disadvantaged persons outside the congregation, such as the poor, children, victims of violence, and prison inmates. The balance among these functions will depend on the particular emphases of a given religious tradition.

Ministers are often employed by congregations where they serve. In smaller or underprivileged congregations, clergy may serve more than one congregation at the same time or hold an additional full- or part-time job to support themselves. Ministry may occur outside of traditional congregational settings as well. Ministers often serve in community agencies such as counseling centers or advocacy organizations. Others work in larger institutions, such as hospitals, university campuses, or correctional facilities, where they are often designated as chaplains.

In many religious traditions, ministry is not the sole responsibility of professional clergy, but rather it is the work of the whole religious community, including the activities of nonclergy, or laity (from the Greek word for people, laos). Clergy perform critical functions for congregations, but ministry is the responsibility of all members of a congregation according to their various gifts and abilities. Professional clergy are often expected to prepare and encourage members for service to God and the world rather than to practice ministry on behalf of the congregation. In this context, all congregational members are understood as the ministers who embody their religious commitments in the world. In these settings members report a stronger sense of ownership of, and responsibility for, the mission of the church or synagogue. Second, the sharp distinctions between clergy and laity have diminished, and a stronger sense of shared service to God and the world has developed.

Twentieth-Century Developments in Ministry

In addition to emphasizing the role of laity in ministry, several other important developments have affected the shape and practice of ministry in the twentieth century. The increasing role of women in professional ministry has resulted in increased opportunities for women and has provided a larger pool of candidates for ministry. Women in ministry have influenced the ways in which ministry is practiced, resulting in more collegial professional relationships and a reduction in hierarchical structures. In some traditions that do not permit full endorsement of women for ministry, such as the Roman Catholic Church and some conservative Protestant denominations, alternative avenues for service have been provided in lieu of ordination, including worship leadership and spiritual care.

For approximately four centuries ministry has been viewed as a profession along with medicine, the law, and teaching. More recently this understanding of ministry has competed with demands for personal spiritual leadership in congregations and in the culture. Many religious traditions continue to expect ministers to master a significant body of knowledge, submit to review by church governing bodies, and follow established professional ethical principles. Other traditions have focused more on the unique spiritual, personal and leadership qualities of ministers and have rejected the notion of professional ministry.

An expanding awareness of cultural and religious differences in the United States and around the world has led most religious leaders to dialogue with persons of other faith traditions to deepen understanding and find ways to work together in ministry. Some congregations have intentionally hired ministers of different cultural backgrounds to sharpen their awareness of the theological issues that a diverse world demands. Some denominations have reached formal agreements so that ministers and congregations can work together more effectively and in some cases even serve each other's congregations.

Technological advances, particularly television and computers, have profoundly affected ministry. In addition to offering new ways to communicate, these media have exposed the public to a variety of images of ministry and have changed congregants' expectations of worship.

The historic exclusion of persons of different sexual orientations from candidacy for ordination has prompted a reexamination of criteria for ministry in some denominations.

Increasing concerns about the environment and its effect on the welfare of persons around the world has prompted many clergy to study, teach, and lead congregations in attempts to understand and respond to the intricate relationship of humanity and the environment as central to ministry.

The word "ministry" describes both the vocation of professional spiritual leadership and the central work of congregations and faith groups, involving all members. The particular tasks of ministry vary from one religious group to another, but the central meaning of ministry is expressed in the notion of service to neighbor and to God.

See alsoCelibacy; Clergy; Liturgy and Worship; Ordination; Ordination of Women; Parish; Pastoral Counseling; Prayer; Preaching; Priesthood; Rabbinate; Rites of Passage; Ritual.


Cobb, John B. LayTheology. 1994.

Messer, Donald E. ContemporaryImagesofChristianMinistry. 1989.

Niebuhr, H. Richard, and Daniel Day Williams, eds. The Ministry in Historical Perspectives. 1956, 1983.

Schneider, Carl J., and Dorothy Schneider. In TheirOwn Right: The History of American Clergywomen. 1997.

Schuller, David S., Merton P. Strommen, and Milo L. Brekke, eds. Ministry in America. 1980.

World Council of Churches. Baptism, Eucharist andMinistry. 1982.

David Hogue


views updated May 29 2018



Old World Connections. Almost all of the denominations in America looked to their Old World mother churches for ministers and models for ecclesiastical structure. Puritan Congregationalists were the exception because each congregation was autonomous and felt no obligation to imitate anyones ecclesiastical practices. Colonial Anglicans were placed under the supervision of the bishop of London, who ignored them until the eighteenth century when he appointed a commissary to personally represent his authority, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel was founded and sent missionaries. The Lutheran and Reformed Churches, whose adherents flooded into the colonies in the eighteenth century, were governed by ecclesiastical bodies in their country of origin that retained the exclusive right to ordain clergy. Presbyterians were not formally tied to a European church, but they attempted to replicate the structure and practices they had experienced in their homelands. Their problem arose from the variations that existed in Scotland, Ireland, and England which had to be blended together. Even the Quakers looked to England for acceptable practices, which they tried to implement in the middle colonies. By the mid eighteenth century most denominations had developed some level of institutional and psychological autonomy from their mother churches, forming governing bodies to oversee the laity and clergy and developing practices that suited New World conditions.

Shortage of Clergy. The combination of control by Old World churches, small and scattered congregations, and primitive, frontier conditions all but insured that most religions that demanded an educated and ordained clergy would suffer from a chronic shortage of ministers. This problem reached crisis proportions in the eighteenth century among those denominations associated with the German and Irish immigrants who flooded into

the backcountry of the middle and southern colonies. Congregationalists did not face this problem, for they could ordain their own ministers and founded colleges to educate their sons. Quakers, some Baptists, and the pietistic sects (Mennonites, Amish, Dunkers, and Moravians) also encountered no difficulty because they did not require a specially trained ministry and demanded no formal ordination. The Anglican Church required a university degree and ordination by an English bishop, and few of their clergy wished to travel to the colonial wilderness. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel did offer some relief after 1702 by supplementing the salaries of settled ministers and fully funding itinerant missionaries who could officiate in several parishes on a regular basis. As the Anglican Church grew in prestige, it attracted educated ministers from other denominations. Anglicans supported the establishment of nondenominational colleges, which educated those native sons who were willing to accept the dangerous and expensive undertaking of traveling to England for ordination. In the more sparsely settled backcountry, however, most Anglicans remained unchurched and ignored. Presbyterians ordained any educated Calvinist and managed to keep their pulpits supplied until the 1730s when the scattered frontier congregations of Irish depleted the supply of qualified ministers. Settled clergymen organized small academies to educate potential ministers, while the synod allowed those candidates without a university degree to pass an examination on their learning. The synod then adopted one academy as its official seminary and finally supported three nondenominational colleges with a curriculum that would meet its stringent requirements. Lutheran and German Reformed churches suffered the most, for they required both an educated ministry and one that had been ordained by the official bodies in Europe. This situation offered fertile ground for immoral, unqualified, and/or fraudulent men who foisted themselves upon congregations who were unwilling to dismiss them even if they were exposed. Most denominations responded to shortages by encouraging ministers to divide their time among several churches, designating settled ministers to officiate in vacant pulpits every few months, and calling some clergy to be itinerants who traveled from congregation to congregation and settled nowhere. Such sporadic attention, however, left believers open to the attraction of pietistic sects that emphasized an ecumenical spirituality that transcended denominational affiliation and the need for a specialized ministry.

Power of the Laity. The lack of clergy also reinforced the increased power of the laity, which distinguished American religions from their European counterparts. Most ministers depended on the voluntary support of their congregations, supplemented by a sideline occupation. Thus they followed the wishes of laymen, who could simply withhold their contribution or move to another church or sect if they became displeased. Even where churches were established in New England, the South, and parts of New York, the congregation exercised considerable control over its minister. In the middle colonies Pietists taunted congregations for their hireling priests, engendering an anticlerical feeling that further undercut the authority of a clergy already denied the supportive mechanism of an ecclesiastical organization capable of enforcing deference. Congregations became accustomed to running their own affairs and even conducting services in the absence of ministers. They were reluctant to relinquish their power to a new minister or to an ecclesiastical body external to their community. Some historians have attributed the clergys support of the Great Awakening to their desire to revitalize their authority by creating a personal allegiance among the laity for their charismatic preachers.


Jon Butler, Power, Authority, and the Origins of American Denominational Order: The English Churches in the Delaware Valley, 16801730 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1978);

Elwyn Allen Smith, The Presbyterian Ministry in American Culture: A Study in Changing Concepts, 17001900 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962);

Marilyn J. Westerkamp, Triumph of the Laity: Scots-Irish Piety and the Great Awakening, 16251760 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988);

J. William T. Youngs Jr., Gods Messengers: Religious Leadership in Colonial New England, 17001750 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1970).


views updated Jun 11 2018

min·is·try / ˈminəstrē/ • n. (pl. -tries) 1. [usu. in sing.] the work or vocation of a minister of religion: he is training for the ministry. ∎  the period of tenure of a minister of religion. ∎  the spiritual work or service of any Christian or a group of Christians, esp. evangelism: a ministry of Christian healing.2. (in certain countries) a government department headed by a minister of state: the Ministry of Agriculture.3. (in certain countries) a period of government under one prime minister: Gladstone's first ministry was outstanding.4. rare the action of ministering to someone: the soldiers were no less in need of his ministry.


views updated May 09 2018


a group of ministers of state, 1710; the clergy, 1566.