Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ordination and responsibility

On Tuesday and Wednesday I attended a retreat (more like a sleep-over) with the Bishop. It was short and disappointing. I had hoped to get more time with Bishop Coyner, asking important questions. As I approach my ordination in just a couple of weeks, I am thinking much about what it means to be ordained.

Ordination is the appointment and recognition of an individual to perform special tasks given to him or her by a community which confirms the gifts, graces, and commitment of that individual. Ordination acts as a special blessing on certain individuals to fill a need within the Church – priestly leader. This priestly leader should be designated by the community to have authority in the Church.

William Willimon in his book Calling and Character: Virtues of the Ordained Life writes, “It is great grace to be able, in difficult times of ministry, to fall back upon the authorization, that empowerment that is beyond ourselves.” Ministry is not an easy profession. It has its blessings and its challenges. Serving the people of the local church and the greater world community offers a difficult and diverse set of tasks. Statistics regarding burnout for pastors are painful to read. At the same time, I can understand why some would leave this vocation, even with a calling.

Ordination plays an important role for the pastor because we can remember the authority and empowerment of the Church to be in such a position. As Willimon continues, “The authorization of God and the church, symbolized by the laying on of hands, is our strength in our weakness. Ordination makes us more than we could have been if we had been left to our good intentions and well-meaning devices.” When facing the challenges, as a pastor with that authority, one only has to remember the trust that has already been given. Doubt may be common but assurance comes in memory of that Ordination.

Ordination conveys authority to do specific tasks in the church that require a person set aside to do those duties. Being tapped by God for pastoral ministry is a special calling. To have the confirmation of the Church and the blessing to administer the sacraments, preach God’s Word, evangelize and engage individuals with pastoral care and counseling is an honor. People in the faith community trust the pastor because they trust the process.

The local church must have faith in the process of Ordination. The local church has to recognize the greater community’s decision to select certain individuals to perform these special duties. Expectations should be high for the process and for the ordained. The local church should expect that this person would have formal education. The pastor should be physically, emotionally, and spiritually ready for ordained ministry. The process should carefully observe, instruct, and examine each candidate. Ordination implies trust.

This trust should also be reciprocal. The local church has the responsibility to trust the judgements of the greater Church community and to support its decisions. The greater Church has the responsibility to designate and send. Yes, the local church should expect a qualified candidate, but the greater Church should expect the local church to accept the leadership appointed. Being part of the Annual Conference means that the Ordained pastors and each local church is dedicated to needs of the Conference. By designation, one is accepting the authority on the terms of God and of the Church upon Ordination. Commitment is to God and the church, not programs, buildings, or personal preferences. The commitment to ordination meaningful and effective only when the pastor, the local church and the greater Church body is working in a trusting and caring relationship. Ordination is an honor and a privilege for everyone involved.


Anonymous John Meunier said...

I just found your blog. I'm a lay member of the South Indiana Conference. Soon, we will share a conference.

I have found your honest and thoughtful reflections about your challenges as pastor inspiring and full of grace.

Thank you. May God's grace continue to be upon you and your ministry.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Rev JJ said...

I find it interesting you assume we'll be sharing the same conference soon. Can you share why you assume it will happen? Also, can you share why you think this is the best thing to help our conferences empower local churches to make disciples of Jesus Christ? As a pastor in NIC, I have not heard a compelling argument as to why this is the best for our conference.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous John Meunier said...

I was being a bit flippant there.

You are correct that I should not assume. I am not terribly well tied in with the politics of it all. I just know from watching organizations move in the past, that usually these things don't come to a vote if the people asking for the vote don't have a fair idea where it will end up.

I'd be pleasantly surprised to see real debate and conversation break out at Annual Conference. Other than lonely protests, I have not seen much of that in previous years.

I have not studied the reports yet or heard the sales pitch.

With that said - to flip your question around - I'm not sure how doing this will reduce the ability of our conferences to empower local churches either.

But maybe it will. You would have a better idea about that than I would.

1:32 PM  

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