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Healing Line

Healing Line

Thoughts From Francis

by Francis MacNutt
February 1991

Dear Friends,

Sometimes we just want to share with you something we have heard that is extraordinary significance. Such, I believe, is the address Bishop Frank Cerveny gave at 1991 convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida. I have summarized the 25 page talk in 2 pages, but I know that when you have finished reading it, you will be blessed!

First, Bishop Cerveny speaks about what he sees God doing these days in the lives of many of the clergy: he finds that some who used to be overburdened with ministry are now sharing their ministry with lay people; as a result their burdens have been lifted. These priests are learning to let lay people minister to lay people.

Furthermore, in these times, when clergy are more than ever in need of support, spiritual and emotional, some clergy have learned to rely upon small groups of lay people for encouragement and support — "Clergy ministering to laity and laity to clergy." Laity recognizing and using their God–given gifts in ministering which is their baptismal responsibility. "I knew it was happening in the Diocese of Florida, but I wasn't aware of how widespread it was until I took the time to listen to clergy in small groups." Bishop Cerveny calls this concept "Total Ministry" and says that we must recapture this vision because, frankly, the 20th century church has moved away from the early church's understanding of total ministry.

The problem, which we inherited but did not create, is that the church became clerically oriented; as a result ministry has been equated with the ordained, and the laity has abdicated their ministry. Too much responsibility falls upon the clergy person whose wife/husband begins to feel as if the institutional church is a rival. Consequently, there are a tragic number of clergy divorces; many clergy are seeking psychiatric counseling, while others are simply leaving the pastoral ministry.

The tragedy is that this doesn't have to happen, because many gifted lay people would like to respond if only the clergy would give them permission." There are laity who want to take their rightful place in overseeing the life of a congregation; who want to teach: who want to counsel; who want to be agents of healing and reconciliation; and who even want to preach, but we have not yet learned how to empower them."

Nevertheless, there are signs of hope, because things have been changing in recent years and lay people are fulfilling many tasks they never would have dreamed of performing 20 years ago.

He goes on to affirm the historic three–fold Orders of Bishop, Priest and Deacon, but adds, "I stay away from saying 'historic three–fold ministry' ... because Orders ought not to be equated with ministry."

Then he asks the all–important question: "How can each congregation become a ministering community, rather than a congregation which congregates around a minister?"

He cautions that it will be hard to change: old systems die hard. Many laypeople aren't interested in change, and some clergy "would probably resist any effort to change because the princely models of Bishops and Priests once held up before them meets their own psychological needs."

The good news is that total ministry is starting to happen in the Diocese of Florida.

Bishop Cerveny concludes by summarizing Morris West's recent novel Lazarus, the story of a rigorous Pope who undergoes a kind of conversion following heart surgery. He comes to see that, "I have been afraid to let the wind of the Spirit blow free," because he has tried to anchor the Church in the past. His Secretary of State argues with him: "You think that men and women want to be free ... The plain fact of life is that they don't... They want to be directed ... They want the Bishop in his miter proclaiming the good news with authority and certainty. That is why they get dictators."

Bishop Cerveny then summarizes the Gospel story of Lazarus, ending with Jesus' words, "Untie him. Let him go free."

He concludes:" We are not only Lazarus alive, but we are also the modern day community commissioned to move out into the world to peel off layers of burial linens from the Church that should not have been there in the first place.

"A truly renewed Church must also have a truly renewed ministry."

I believe that Bishop Cerveny's talk have the ring of the prophetic & and contains echoes of John Wimber's emphasis on equipping the laity.

We are happy to announce our own special contribution to this movement of empowering laypeople began on January 3rd when we commissioned 40 volunteers to take turns praying for the sick all during the day.

So, if you need prayer, pay them a visit in our chapel!

Love in Christ,
Francis & Judith
Rachel & David


Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. February 1991 Issue