The role of ordained clergy
T.F. sought to contribute...
"the Biblical and Patristic approach to the understanding of the evangelical and catholic ministry of the Church as a Royal Priesthood, participating by way of service in the Priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the one Mediator between God and mankind (1 Tim 2.5) (p ix).T.F. notes that, contrary to some doctrines of the priesthood, ordained clergy do not stand at the center of Christian worship - that role is reserved for Christ, "the real Celebrant - so that like John the Baptist the priest must retreat before the presence of Christ" 'He must increase, but I must decrease' (John 3.30)" (p xi).
T.F. laments what he refers to as the "sacerdotalising of the priesthood," which developed after the fifth century in the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, a teaching that denied "the completeness and finality of the unique mission of Christ" (p xii). Note T.F.'s explanation:
There took place a decided shift in the worship and theology of the Church in which Christ was identified with the majesty and power of Almighty God in such a way that the conception of his vicarious human priesthood tended to fade out of the worship and theology of the Church, with the result that the poor creature was confronted immediately with the overwhelming majesty of God inducing fear in the human heart. This was reflected in the change of language...away from Christ regarded as a bridge in his vicarious humanity between men and women and God to Christ as an omnipotent Mediator of divine gifts from God to them.... In that case there arose a demand for other functionaries exercising a mediatorial ministry, to make up for the human priesthood of Christ, a priesthood which could stand in for Christ, mediate between the sinner and Christ, and which was endowed with power from Christ to act on his behalf and in his place... to dispense the gifts of divine grace and blessing entrusted to the institutional Church. Along with this change came a grave misunderstanding of the saving mission of Christ and the evangelical mission of the Church, and therefore of the way in which ministry or priesthood in the Church is exercised (p xi-xii).Thankfully, in the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic Church made significant corrections, altering its view concerning the meaning of the Eucharist and the method of its celebration. In doing so it restored an understanding set forth in patristic teachings that upheld the continuing human priesthood of Christ expressed in these words: "Through whom, with whom and in whom." Unfortunately, this understanding has yet to be reflected in the Roman Catholic Church's doctrine of ordained ministry (priesthood) (p xiii).
T.F. notes that this sacerdotalising of the priesthood was introduced into the Church of England in the 1800s in a desire to make Anglican orders more acceptable to Rome. This was done under cover of a claim that the priesthood is "apostolic" and "catholic." Ironically this claim, "conflicts as sharply with the apostolic teaching of the ancient Catholic Church as it does with that of the Orthodox Church today" (p xiii).
T.F.'s point is that Jesus Christ, alone, it the one Priest of the one, holy, and catholic (universal) Church. Therefore, the ordained clergy do NOT stand in for him (as though he were absent) - they do not act in his place (as though he needs a substitute). The clergy do not displace Jesus in any manner!
...Rather [the ordained clergy] is one in which we serve his [i.e. Jesus'] vicarious Priesthood in accordance with the biblical principle "not I but Christ" (Gal. 2.20). What we do in Eucharistic thanksgiving is to hold up before God the Lord Jesus Christ in his atoning sacrifice and take refuge in his presentation of himself, and of us in him, before the Father, for he is both the one who offers and the one who is offered (pp xv-vxi).Jesus remains fully God (divine) and fully man (human). As such he serves as the one Priest of God in the service of humankind. He has not left us, but through the Holy Spirit continues to come to us and to intercede on our behalf. The One who washed the apostles feet at the Last Supper, continues as the Suffering Servant of humankind.
The ordained clergy are called and gifted by Jesus to assist him in serving God's people. In that service with Christ they are to point people to Christ - to his real presence and continuing activity both in the Church and in the world. The clergy are then to equip God's people for the role they have in the corporate priesthood of the church - a priesthood in which every believer has membership.