Head of the Church

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Head of the Church is a title given in the New Testament to Jesus. Roman Catholic theology will commonly distinguish between Visible Head and Invisible Head in order to allow the term to apply to human leadership in the Church.

New Testament[edit]

It is found for example in Colossians 1.18, Colossians 2.19, Ephesians 4.15 and Ephesians 5.23.

Roman Catholic theology[edit]

In Roman Catholic ecclesiology, Jesus is called the Invisible Head, while the Pope is called the Visible Head. Therefore, the Pope is often called the Vicar of Christ. Roman Catholic theology claims a close collaboration between christology and ecclesiology.

Church of England[edit]

At the time of the English Reformation, Henry VIII took for himself the title of Supreme Head of the Church of England, which was theologically problematic; his daughter Elizabeth I changed this to Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

Presbyterian and Reformed (Calvinist)[edit]

The Presbyterian system, codified in the Westminster Standards, outlines teaching elders (Ministers) and ruling elders, and courts presided over by Moderators sitting "primus inter pares", and gives practical effect to the concept of the equal status of all believers behind the one and only head of the church - Jesus Christ. This gives rise to the famous (or infamous) section of the Westminster Confession of Faith that says in its 25th Chapter entitled "The Church", article 6: "There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof: but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God."[1]

Evangelical literature[edit]

In Evangelical literature, this Roman Catholic distinction between Visible Head and Invisible Head is often attacked ferociously as being ideas not founded in scripture. Evangelical literature harmonizes christology and ecclesiology within a strictly scriptural context.

See also[edit]