22 June 2006


There are people who are offended by the title of "Father" given to the pastors of the Church. I am not one of them. It is definitely to me a "machts nichts" matter. It has the advantage of pulling in the the relationship of family to the whole congregational scene and that is a far, far better way of thinking of the parish than the pastor as CEO, dreaming dreams in his office - "visioning" is it called?

Some fear it is catholicizing, but since it is used widely outside the Roman Church (Orthodox and Episcopalians use it quite frequently), that argument has got holes.

One good thing about Father is that you can't call the women who presume to hold the pastoral office by that name.

BUT I do want to clarify: though many people call me Father Weedon, I have never once in my life asked a soul to call me Father Weedon nor do I use the title of myself. It doesn't bother me, but it isn't something that I think matters terribly much. My preferred title is Pastor and that for the utterly profound reason that that's what I am used to. From the time I became a Lutheran, pastor was the name of the man who baptized me, gave me Jesus' body and blood and preached to me the Gospel. Plain old pastor. And that's fine by me.


Anonymous said...

So, in the Episcopal Church, what do they call the woman who trespasses the pulpit?

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

Several years ago I served on a Synodical task force studying the issue of nomenclature our Synod uses for its servants. The present nomenclature is intended to satisfy IRS regulations about who gets to declare housing allowances, etc. It is, to me, incredibly wrong-headed. We can easily satisfy IRS requirements and get away from these odd ways of speaking: Commissioned Ministers, or Ordained Ministers, or whatever else.

In the process of study on nomenclature one of our committee members, Dr. James Voelz made an excellent presentation and did wonderful research for us on the predominant Biblical image/metaphor for the ministry. The overwhelming image/metaphor for ministry is: shepherding. It is all over the place, in Old and New Testaments. That's preciely why I believe "Pastor" is a much more preferable term to "Father."

I do believe "Father" lacks much by way of Biblical support, and Confessional support. I don't find the use of "Father" to have a whole lot of historical precedent in the Lutheran communion, with some exceptions, I grant you.

I think "Pastor" is just fine, and not only just fine, but quite a wonderful title to use for our....pastors, who pastor the flock of God, as the undershepherds of the Good Shepherd, etc. etc.

I think those who embrace the term "Father" for themselves as pastors are trying to distance themselves from something, or identify themselves with something, or make some kind of statement about themselves that in the end is not only not necessary but may well be quite needlessly confusing and in the end counter-productive.

Well, that's my pastoral concern, or if you prefer, my fatherly advice.

Anonymous said...

Father is a salutary term for a couple of other reason I can think of which are very pertinent in today's envrionment.

First, a father is one who guides his children, and a pastor is indeed a spiritual guide. He also is responsible for disciplining his children.

Secondly, one can't hire and fire one's father.

Anonymous said...

Johann Bugenhagen who, when he delivered the funeral sermon for Martin Luther, referred to him as Father 14 times!

William Weedon said...

Now, Trent, we all know what a foul Romanizer that Bugenhagen was! ;)

cheryl said...

In my mind, Father and Pastor have very similiar connotations. I'll usually call a "pastor" whatever he wants (within reason :) ), but Pastor or Father are what I personally prefer.

reader said...

Luther talks a little about the use of the term "Father" for "spiritual fathers" in the Large Catechism, in the Fourth Commandment (see Tappert 387:158f). Giving scriptural precedent, Luther cites the "boasting" of St Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:15.

William Weedon said...

Nathan! How are you? I've been praying for you. Let me know how things are faring!

Anonymous said...

"Now, Trent, we all know what a foul Romanizer that Bugenhagen was! ;)"

Father Weedon, you must be right because not only does Bugenhagen call him "father" he prays for Father Luther at the funeral and we all know that Lutherans don't pray for the dead ;)

"God himself now holds him precious and beloved and sustains him in his bosom who in this life dearly loved us and the churches of Christ. May God requite it to our dearly beloved Father Luther in the life to come, where we all also hope to join him."

Anonymous said...

I like your blog, which I found via Al Kimmel's patristics survey. While I was raised in the Broad Church territory of the Episcopal Church, part of my growth into Anglo-Catholicism involved the title Father. My first parish was a fading remnant of the Oxford Movement, bluecollar high church. 'Father' is a formal title that lets people know where you stand. It delineates a 'safe zone,'implicitly rejecting Docetism. One guy in a blackshirt is as good as another. In that milieu it also carries the weight of--in the military--never calling an NCO 'sir.' "Call me sergeant: I work for a living!"

William Weedon said...

Thanks for the kind comments. I like that: "A safe-zone, implicitly rejecting Docetism."