The Ordained Church

Written by Joel on July 12th, 2009

After sleeping on it for alittle bit, I believe I need to make some revisions to the previous post.

I think the question the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is facing in the resolution to remove an MDiv as a requirement for ordination is a issue of nomenclature.

It is not correct to reserve the term “ordained minister” to only those who are pastors of a church.

I believe an ordination occurs at every baptism. When an individual becomes baptized, he or she is set apart for Christian ministry. A similar ordination occurs when someone accepts a call as a licensed minister, and again as (what we call right now) an ordained minister.

Let us examine what we mean when we say “ordained minister.” I believe most of us assume it is something like “a person charged with oversight over a particular congregation.” Or, in the case of chaplaincy or missionary work “someone charge with oversight in a particular ministry area.” I’m not entirely certain the Disciple church agrees on what we mean when we say ordained minister.

As an example look at the Catholic or Episcopalian Churches. They have bishops (who oversea large geopgraphic regions to include the priests under them), priests (who over-see a local parish) and deacons (who are called to particular Christian service). Presybeterians have a similar structure with different names.

We need liturgies and rituals to recognize this ordering, and perhaps an ordination liturgy for licensed ministers is needed.

Perhaps we need to re-examine the nomenclature of our entire order of ministry. For all Christians are ordained for ministry, but we are ordered in different ways.

I stand by my previous post in my belief that an MDiv should be required for those who seek the particular ministry of overseeing a local congregation/chaplaincy/mission field. But I question whether we should call that Order of Ministry “ordained ministry.” As I said before, all the baptized are ordained for ministry in Christ’s church.

Following is the discussion text I left at the Disciples website concerning this issue:

“After sleeping on it for about an hour, I believe I need to revise my earlier comment.

I think this proposal raises questions about the names for the Order of Ministry in general. Lets examine our assumptions here. What do we mean by an “ordained minister?” And what does it mean to be “not ordained?”

I believe an ordination occurs at every baptism. That every Christian is ordered, commissioned, and ordained for ministry primarily through baptism. A similar ordination happens when one accepts a call as a licensed minister (though we don’t call it that now). And a similar call also occurs at (what we presently call) ordination.

Perhaps we need to consider changing the nomenclature of what we presently call “ordained minister” in order to better honor the very real ordering (ordination) for ministry of every believer. For example in the Catholic Church both priests and deacons are ordained. They are ordained to different functions and with different requirements, but both are considered ordinations. Or (I believe) our Presbyterian brothers and sisters call their clergy “presbyters.”
I believe the discussion here is a testimony to the need for a liturgy of ordination for licensed ministers, an affirmation of the ordination of every baptized believer, and need for a new label for what we presently call ordained ministers. I encourage your questions and responses.”


6 Comments so far ↓

  1. A lot of pastors these days are foregoing the official ‘ordination’ for various reasons. Some do it for some kind of tax reasons, others to promote the equality of everyone in the church. Personally, it doesn’t matter to me, but I agree with you, someone who decides to preach should be dedicated enough to the calling to learn a bit about the Bible in seminary. If one is mature, it won’t kill your faith. But not going to seminary proves one has an unteachable spirit and does not take handling the Bible seriously.

    • Joel says:

      Thanks for the comment. I especially liked your line “not going to seminary proves one has an unteachable spirit and does not take handling the Bible seriously.”

      I honestly wasn’t sure if you would be for or against this proposal.

  2. Gale says:

    I totally disagree with the comment, “Not going to seminary proves one has an unteachable spirit….” Come on now, Joel! I am called to ministry at the age of 41 with three children, a mortgage, and I live in the country. I’m taking the “licensed” route rather than going to seminary because it’s just not practical for me right now to get in debt, relocate my family, and force my husband to leave the job that he thankfully has! With the help of my pastor I’ve been learning everything I can about the Bible, the Scrolls, ancient history, interpretations, etc. Some call me obsessed; my goal being to rescue Jesus and his message from the abuses of history and the church. It was my pastor, in fact, who suggested that I go into actual ministry.
    So, before you make major assumptions, it’s important to know about the ministerial candidate involved. Making assumptions often means your mind is dictating to your spirit – not a good plan.

    • Joel says:

      Gale, looking back I believe the “unteachable spirit” comment was a bit rash and I deeply apologize for offending you.

      My position on this question is constantly evolving. I stand by the need for a seminary education (MDiv) for presbyters, that is those who pastor a church. However, I believe to reserve the term “ordained ministry” solely to presbyters is inaccurate. I believe that licensed ministers are ordained for the ministry, even though DoC doesn’t explicitly recognize this fact.

      In this particular post I argue for a more full understanding of ministry – that the entire church is ordained; ordination occurs at every baptism, ordination (as DoC now calls it), licensure, and call as regional minister. Among this wide range of ordinations, we cannot all be the same. Some are called to pastor churches, others to serve, others to oversight, and others to live faithful Christian lives along side their secular responsibilities. But of course, we can’t all be feet – we can’t all be presbyters. And we can’t lessen the qualifications for ministry simply to make it more accessible for more people.

      Again, please don’t interpret this reply as looking down on any of the other ordinations (License & Baptism) they are by all means equal in value, just not identical in function.

      Thank you for voicing your concerns here, and calling out my rash comment earlier.

  3. Dan Cline says:

    What seminary did Paul go to? Just curious.

  4. Dan Cline says:

    I suppose you could base an arguement on the 12 disciples. Right? Because they not only were choses by Jesus, but they followed and learned from him directly. Makes sense. Paul on the other hand is walking along the road to persecute Christians and is blinded. Upon taking on his personal ministry he was basically rejected by the 12. In fact, he didn’t ask permission to go out and start proclaiming the gospel. He just did it. It wasnt until sometime AFTER that he actually met with Peter. I guess my point is this….the work is great and the workers are FEW. My opinion is that we don’t have alot of time to mess around when we have hurting people. I feel most pastors that spend years of learning theology have missed the boat. They spend more time in their office writing a sermon and NOT building relationships to build and expand the kingdom. I don’t disvalue education, but most leaders from the seminary today are acting like the Christian church is on the INCLINE. We all know the case….its on the DECLINE. People don’t care HOW MUCH YOU KNOW, until they know HOW MUCH YOU CARE. So…I applaud the Disciples Church for thinking outside the box on this one.

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