The term ministry refers to the work of persons sanctioned by a religious community to administer its sacramental rites and spiritual functions, including preaching, pastoral work, teaching, and community discipline. Although the ministerial office is a part of every major religious tradition, there has been debate over its character and shape particularly in many Christian communities throughout the history of the United States. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the ministry was defined as a masculine calling in the book of Leviticus, where God commands Moses to consecrate “Aaron and his sons” as priests of the Levite tribe and makes this a “perpetual ordinance.” While this concept of the ministry assumed a hierarchical form in most of western European Christendom, a parallel notion of potentially transformative social ...

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