Ordination: A ritual of the church as a discerning body to recognize, endorse and empower one for the service of Christian ministry. It is distinct because the one being ordained is touched, the hands of the elders are laid upon them, bestowing faith, love and spirit. It is a very intimate moment – but is it selling out to a denomination? Is it conforming to a narrow view of church, rooted in one vein of an entire body of believers? These are questions that I had to ask in my evolution of becoming an ordained elder of my particular tribe, the Nazarenes.
Scripturally, in Acts 8, as the church was scattered and persecuted, it was a unique privilege of Peter and John to lay hands on new believers so that they may receive the Holy Spirit. At first, my reaction in a post-______ culture is that the necessity of others telling us we’re “ready” seems unlikely to be received well. We are so self-sufficient, not wanting anyone to stifle our creativity nor our theology, so why would we need criticism or admonition?
This continual striving to make our mark will only cripple a structure built upon community. We need the ritual of ordination, not to create cookie-cutter denominationalist, not to further divide our worshipping communities and the Church, but to bestow the Spirit upon those prepared for ministry so that they might channel something fresh in the good Gospel. Not new, but fresh. Not individual, but collective.
I believe in ordination because one has to invest in the church as well as be invested in, a discipline of mutual vulnerability. It is a mutual relationship of grace and mercy, love and respect. For my tribe, one has to complete a course of study initially and then continue his or her education throughout their ministry, serve with real people, not simply in theory but in practice, and articulate personal as well as the community’s faith and ethics in front of a panel of elders. This is a lengthy process, but throughout my journey it was a community that many times I disagreed with or that challenged me, that held me in the balance. This process of accountability holds value today because as progressive as I want to be, I must stay tethered to a community that invests in me, just as I can invest and lend a fresh voice to it.
My service is to Jesus Christ and his Church, and our tribes give us tangible expressions for this reality.
May we understand that our calling and commission, amidst our distinctions and traditions, is to be sent, not stuck.