Who Should Be Allowed in the Pulpit?

Who Should Be Allowed in the Pulpit?

pulpit
 
How many times do we witness deacons denying persons of other church denominations access to the main pulpit or podium especially at a funeral service? Before you blame deacons, it may be appropriate to conclude that they do so under instructions. And aren’t they being obedient to the Church Manual which discourages the practice of having unauthorized persons ascend the pulpit? Having watched this on several occasions, I thought to do a research, and therefore I share with you the following regarding the use of the pulpit.
 
A Look at Podium in the Bible
In the Bible, reference is made to the term “pulpit” in Nehemiah 8:4: “And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose” (KJV). This is probably the only place where the English word “pulpit” is used in the Bible. However, in looking at the Origins of the “Pulpit,” I discovered that the English term “pulpit” is derived from the Latin pulpitum (Sacred Desk or Sacred Cow? Perspective on the Pulpit January 31, 2013), which seems to be in keeping with what is found in Nehemiah.  It “referred to a raised platform on which a speaker would stand.”
Additionally, research has revealed that “the next extant reference to a ‘pulpit’ doesn’t occur again until the third century A.D. when Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, uses the term pulpitum to refer to a physical structure within a church building” (“The Social Origins of Christian Architecture,” Harvard Theological Studies 42, 1990, 2:23).
 
Purpose of the Pulpit
As for the use of the pulpit, the Wikipedia records, “the pulpit is generally reserved for clergy. This is mandated in the regulations of the Roman Catholic Church, and several others (though not always strictly observed).” Additional, it is noted that “Many churches have a second, smaller stand called the lectern, which can be used by lay persons, and is often used for all the readings and ordinary announcements. The traditional Catholic location of the pulpit to the side of the chancel or nave has been generally retained by Episcopalian and some other Protestant denominations, while in Presbyterian and Evangelical churches the pulpit has often replaced the altar at the centre” (Francis, Keith A., Gibson, William, et al., The Oxford Handbook of the British Sermon 1689-1901, 2012).
Could the above be the basis for the use of upper and lower pulpits in some of our churches? However, the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not have a hierarchy of bishops per se. All pastors, elders and other church officers use the same platform and pulpit. So is it necessary to discriminate between members and non-members when it comes to the use of the pulpit?
 
Counsel Regarding the Use of the Pulpit
While there is reference to deny unauthorized persons to conduct services, this applies to “strangers” and “individuals who have been removed from the ministry or who have been removed from membership in other places, or designing persons” (Church Manual 2015 p.120). As for those who are to speak, it is necessary that they produce “proper credentials” (Ibid).  However, “At times it is acceptable for government officials or civic leaders to address a congregation, but all others should be excluded from the pulpit unless permission is granted by the conference. Every pastor, elder, and conference president must enforce this rule” (Ibid pp. 120/1).
Given the counsels, should not greater attention be paid to pulpit dress and behavioral decorum? It is not a sin or sacrilegious to permit non-SDA religious leaders and government leaders to speak from the pulpit. While it is of concern as to what may be said and the time allotted, we could provide some guidelines as to address these. The purpose of the platform was and is for the proclamation of the word. To have others ascend the pulpit speaks to the fact that we respect their office. However, respect does not mean that we agree with their theology. Nevertheless, I am open to further input on this topic as it warrants more discussion.