Who chooses pastors? Submitted by Prof. Renihan

It seems strange to me that some churches have adopted a method of choosing pastors/elders which bypasses any direct involvement of the congregation. Such a notion is ahistorical in any but hierarchical churches, unbiblical and outside the whole tradition of interpretation, and theologically indefensible in so-called Free churches. And yet it has crept into common acceptance. Here is a small piece of evidence, supplemented by some more recent comments, addressing this problem.

Clement: 1st Letter to the Corinthians (Circa AD 94-95)



Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect foreknowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties.

Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them.  But we see that ye have removed some men of excellent behavior from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honor.

Cunningham says this: “The testimony of Clement is very brief, but altogether conclusive: it is that the apostles were accustomed to settle ministers—-with the cordial consent of the whole church. . . . There is no fair or even plausible method of explaining away this statement.  It unequivocally implies that, at the very least, the deliberate opposition of the congregation to the person, who might have been suggested or recommended as their pastor, was held by the apostles as of itself quite a sufficient reason why his appointment should not take place.  There is not the slightest ground to doubt that this practice of the apostles was uniformly observed, not only during the first three centuries, but for several centuries afterwards; and, on the contrary, there is a great deal that confirms it.”  Historical Theology 1:190.