Over on the UCMPage discussion board there is a discussion that has been ongoing regarding who would we protestants consider to be the earthly leader of the Church, the body of Christ.

The discussion was started by a Catholic, a former Methodist. It’s his position that the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict, is the actual head of the Body. Of course we protestants would not accept him as our leader, as we are not Catholic. So who do we recognize as the earthly head of the Church?

Here is an excerpt from the original post:

The…question…has to do with earthly Kingdom leadership. In theory and in practice Catholics have the Pope in Rome and bishops in communion with him. I know there are tons of “cafeteria Catholics” but when push comes to shove when asked “Who’s the earthly, appointed by Christ, leader of the Church?” every Catholic knows who it is and why we have one. The Orthodox have a similar relationship to their patriarchs. Protestants, at least many of them, tend to see their bishop in terms of administrative leadership. But their real earthly spiritual pope seems to be a combination of their local pastor and their own conscience.

Since the Incarnation and the establishment of the Body of Christ on earth there has been God appointed and annointed leadership representing Christ Himself on the earth. Since Jesus prayed that we would all be one even as the Father in heaven is one, then it is thought by Catholics that the earthly representative of Christ ought to be singular. Is it any surprise that there are thousands of Protestant groups when none of them recognize a single representative of Christ? So, who is the earthly pope of the Church? Your conscience, your pastor, or the bishop of Rome?…

I had never thought about this question until it was brought up on that board. I never felt we needed any “head” of the Church outside of Christ Himself. And He manifests Himself here among us in the Person of the Holy Spirit, working in and through His Holy Word, the Bible.

I wouldn’t point to a Billy Graham or any other evangelist as our leader. I certainly wouldn’t point to the Council of Bishops of the UMC! I also hesitate to point to the local pastor of my church, though he may, if he is a good pastor faithfully following Christ, be a representative of the Lord working here among our congregation.

Do we not have the written Word of God in our own hands, under the Spirit’s guidance, to be our final authority? Indeed, the possibility of abuse of power and heretical teaching exists among us. But has not God ordained it this way, in His unfathomable wisdom? He knew all along that when He had ascended, and when His Apostles had also gone, that wolves would work their way in among the sheep, spreading false teaching and leading many astray. Yet He also promises that a remnant will remain, the Truth will be preached, and not one of those who belong to Him will be lost.

What do you think?