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Academic Periodical

The Quarterly Journal of St. Philaret’s Institute

ISSN: 2658-7599 (print)
2713-3141 (online)

What is the Role of the Laity in the Church? The Laity are the Church!

Archimandrite Robert Francis Taft, Professor at the Pontifical Oriental Institute (Rome)
pp. 43–73
DOI: 10.25803/SFI.2021.37.1.003
The question of the role of the laity in the Church, in and of itself, requires clarification insofar as the laity are the very essence of the people of God; they are not only in the Church – they are the Church. All divisions between clergy and laity in Church History are relatively late innovations, as this paper seeks to demonstrate. Neither New Testament texts nor early Christian sources show 
evidence of the separate category of “laity”, as a definition of non-clerics, who do not have a calling to the special liturgical ministries. All members of the church gathering are together the essence of the people of God (ὁ λαὸs τοῦ Θεοῦ) – a phrase used to describe all those in the gathering, whether or not they have been assigned a particular ministry in the Church. Even the word "laity” presents us with a terminological difficulty, insofar as it does not have a clear terminological equivalent in Russian (the term “laiki” only partially conveys the meaning and when we designate people within the Church who do not have a specific church or liturgical ministry as “miryanje”, we are specifically accenting their tendency to associate themselves only with “this world”, understanding them as “people who are concerned with the interests and needs of this world”). This author of this paper seeks to demonstrate that for any faithful member of the people of God, it is his or her service to the church – according to his or her spiritual gifting and related ministry, that bears witness to full membership. The genre of “Story 
Theology” is of particular significance here, alongside early Christian sources and modern church documents. The narrative of “Story Theology” allows us to reveal the path of faith and simple people’s desire to sanctify their lives before God, while retaining their faithfulness to their Christian calling. Their real life witness to the deep and transformative power of God’s action reveals to us, in the opinion of Archimandrite Robert Taft, the actual place that faithful members of the people of God who are designated as “lay” members hold in the history of Church sanctity 
and witness to Christ in the world.
Keywords: Liturgics, ecclesiology, laity, people of God, lay people, clerics, church fellowship, prayer, Eucharist, Story Theology.

Last IssueIssue 48 (autumn 2023)

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