Luther’s Other Major Liturgical Reform

Bryan D Spinks

Luther’s ordination service was a radical departure from existing rites. The article reviews Western rites from the Apostolic Tradition onwards, Roman and Gallican. Luther’s view of ministry is outlined, that it derived from the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers and was distinguished by function. It brought order to the many ministries; its main task was the preaching of the Word. Deacons were to distribute aid to the poor. The oversight that was the bishop’s office is exercised by the elders. These three ministries were not seen as separate and were not given different rites of appointment. Ordination was not a sacrament; the church cannot promise grace, only God, and therefore cannot institute a sacrament. Luther is scathing about some of the secondary elements (tonsure, anointing, vestments) of the existing form and dismissed it entirely rather than edit and change. The ordination rite of 1539 is examined in detail and his use of the Lord’s Prayer as the ordination prayer is found to be curious but the rite itself is true to the theological argument, a single ministry of the Word which is a service and a commission, not an authority or office, and its task not the offering of sacrifice but continuation of the proclamation of the Gospel.

Volume 09, Number 01 May 1979, p20