Pastors And Acting Pastors In The Congregational Churches -- By: A. Hastings Ross

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 043:171 (Jul 1886)
Article: Pastors And Acting Pastors In The Congregational Churches
Author: A. Hastings Ross


Pastors And Acting Pastors In The Congregational Churches

A. Hastings Ross

When the Secretary of the National Council, Rev. Alonzo H. Quint, D. D. , in his triennial official report, given in 1880, raised the question whether the distinction between “pastors “and “acting pastors “ought not to be removed from the statistical tables of Congregationalists, he started an issue which has not yet been settled. It were well, if all Congregational churches and ministers would study the problem thoroughly before the meeting of the next National Council that the action there taken may be right.

In presenting the question the Secretary said: “It remains to consider whether the invidious distinction of ‘p.’ and ‘a. p.’ in our statistics should remain unamended and unqualified. Many a brother, as efficient, as permanently settled as any other, is called ‘acting pastor.’ … . . Is it not wise to consider whether there is not as safe a way in considering as pastor a minister called by a church, accepting the call, entering upon its duties,— not for a month, of course, but with a view to permanence,— as much as a formal installation by council, taking care that there be some suitable recognition by his neighbors?”1 His report was referred to a committee, which reported

at that session. The matter was then referred to a committee to report in 1883: This committee reported and presented a resolution obliterating “the invidious distinction. “but the committee to which this last report and resolution were referred opposed such action on the ground that “the churches at the East have depended entirely upon the action of councils for ordination and installation as the safeguards of the purity of the ministry.”2 The question and the reports were sent to a fourth committee, to report in 1886.

We will trace this distinction between pastors and acting pastors to its occult sources. It is not found, we believe, in any land but ours, and here only in churches of New England origin. It springs, therefore, from some peculiarities of early New England.

1. The union of church and state has indirect connection with its birth. It is not to the discredit of the early New England churches, that they did not at once emancipate themselves from all the errors of their day. Everywhere else church and state were united, and so naturally they were joined together in the leading colonies; and being united in one body, acting in the double capacity of church and state, it was also natural for the church to seek and find protection from h...

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