John Calvin and Soft Candidates in Geneva

[Andrew Dionne] The Company of Pastors in Geneva during Calvin’s time had three requirements for men entering the pastorate: a sound knowledge of God’s Word, an ability to communicate, and a life that was above reproach. A man could be dismissed from pursuing the pastorate if any of those areas was deficient. Scott Manetsch in his book Calvin’s Company of Pastors, describes some of those rejections:

Candidates were routinely dismissed because they were poor preachers or unable to answer basic theological questions. Men of timid bearing or weak voice could also be disqualified. Occasionally, men were rejected because of concerns about their moral character, as seen in one candidate who was sent away when it was discovered that he had been party to a usurious business deal. Sometimes the Company of Pastors approved a candidate but with stated reservations. Though Leonard Constant was judged very knowledgeable in theology, he was “still not trained or fashioned in preaching” and was thus “not yet ready to step into the pulpit”; the ministers decided to give him a trial period of one month in the parish of Satigny before assigning him permanently to the church.

I’ve witnessed candidates being challenged or delayed for their theological knowledge, their Gospel-less preaching, but less so their moral character…and never for their “timid bearing or weak voice.” We could chalk up the necessity of strong voice to a lack of amplification, but what about that “timid bearing”? A man called to the ministry, thought the pastors of Geneva, had to bear himself in a particular manner, to represent the office of pastor with a manly presence. They were to heed the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to Pastor Timothy…

To read more click here.

[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Andrew Dionne. It originally appeared at dionneblog.com. The title was changed by P&P.]



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