Pastoral Authority And The Doctrine Of The Priesthood Of Believers In The Life Of A Congregation -- By: Robert L. Phillips, Jr.

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 07:1 (Fall 1989)
Article: Pastoral Authority And The Doctrine Of The Priesthood Of Believers In The Life Of A Congregation
Author: Robert L. Phillips, Jr.


Pastoral Authority And The Doctrine Of The Priesthood
Of Believers In The Life Of A Congregation

Robert L. Phillips, Jr.

Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church
Durham, North Carolina

This article is based on the ministry project I submitted to the Faculty of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in March, 1989, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Doctor of Ministry. The title of the project thesis is Leading Church Members to Affirm Pastoral Authority in Light of the Doctrine of the Priesthood of Believers.

The catalyst behind my deciding to do this particular project was the adoption of “Resolution No. 5—On the Doctrine of the Priesthood of Believers,” by the majority of messengers present at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio, Texas, in June, 1988.1 Under the guise of affirming the doctrine of the priesthood of believers, the resolution actually denigrated the doctrine and affirmed rather the pastor’s scriptural authority over all the other priests in the local church.

M. Vernon Davis has written,

The doctrine of the priesthood of every believer took it on the chin in San Antonio, in the view of many Southern Baptists. Others are equally convinced that messengers in passing Resolution No. 5 clarified and corrected a doctrine that had come to be abused in Southern Baptist life.

One thing is clear in the aftermath of the action. Far from resolving the matter, it brought the issue front and center in current Baptist debate.

In addition, it focused upon the concept of “the authority of the pastor” in a way that will inject new controversy into the denomination.

The resolution on priesthood of the believer demonstrates both the difficulty and danger of doing theology by resolution in such a mass meeting.2

One could say that my project is a response to Resolution No. 5, and the effects, positive and negative, it can have on the local church. Since it is in the local church that the pastor exercises authority, I believe the issue should be decided in the local church, and not in such a mass meeting as the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. Also, Baptists’ belief in the autonomy of the local church demands that it be done so.

The end result of the project was the development of a counter Statement, or Resolution, which also affirmed the pastor’s authority,

but which interpreted that authority in the context of, or in light of, the more co...

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