Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Church - Part ll

Rolling right along now, I can’t seem to shake this matter called ordination. I have questioned its viability for some time but have never said a whole lot about it. The only other person I’ve ever heard really question it out loud was an old friend and mentor by the name of Frank Stagg. He believed it was unnecessary, even troublesome. Since the last blog regarding church leadership, I have had the subject on my mind and cannot shake it. So, I try to process it some by writing my thoughts.

Has not ordination been the symbolic gesture that leads to a major division in the body of Christ, namely, the separating of clergy and laity? The “ordained” clergy are the ones vested with certain rights, rites, and responsibilities. Such noted ones, and they alone, are to lead communion, baptize, marry and bury. Those within the laity group that also have the possibility of ordination, i.e. deacons; often see their new role as that of “running the church,” even though the meaning of the word is one who serves. I guess that means Jesus can be excluded from that responsibility even though he’s supposed to be the head of it.

Even Caesar gets in on this by stating that only those who are “official” can offer leadership in certain areas. In about two weeks I will be officiating at the wedding of our daughter Jordan and her fiancé, Russ, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Don’t even ask). But in order to do that I had to jump through all kinds of hoops. I had to request documents from the state of Nevada, complete an application, have a representative from the denomination of which I am a part sign off, as well as the signature of our own local church cabinet chairperson. Then it all had to be NOTARIZED!!! After submission of such I was notified that I was accepted and approved provided the wedding occurred within a certain span of time. Lord, have mercy! As in any state, I will have to sign a marriage license in order for the whole matter to be legitimate. I guess I understand the reason for such documents with states having to keep records and all. But I also realize that the only reason for a marriage license is that it gives the couple the right to sue each other should they ever desire to do so. Bless Caesar’s heart.

I know this arrangement is not going to change. It’s too entrenched and, besides, there are many who crave the attention and power that supposedly accompanies the ordination. But I have failed to see, both in my lifetime, and in my reading of Christian history how this one act has contributed to the development of servants in the overall body. It seems to me that, more times than not, it has just been a power trip.

Having stated all of the above, I will say that I believe that the “laying on of hands” is biblical and is important. But not just for the ordained. The laying on of hands means that a church recognizes a need, blesses it, and sends people forth in a commissioned way to do the work of the church. So let us commission new workers in the context of the church, youth when they go on a mission trip, those whose gifts compel them to begin something different in their life, teachers before they go into the classrooms, physicians and nurses before they enter their medical practice, attorneys before taking their first case, business people as they venture forth, students, upon graduation, as they move into a new dimension of life, and any others who give expression to their gifts in the work of ministry and the building up of the body of Christ.

Ordination isn’t all that it’s cranked up to be. The laying on of hands is.

1 comment:

  1. Women are finally able to be ordained and you men decide it's just a "power trip". What's that about?

    Seriously, lawyers are sworn in, doctors take oaths, tests are passed and certificates are issued for all kinds of professions ... It doesn't mean the holder of these certifications are moral, invincible, perfect, etc. ... It just means they meet a standard.

    Should there be a standard for those in ministry? Who should set that standard? If God calls someone into ministry, whose job is it to agree or disagree with God? (My Episcopal brothers and sisters have to go before committees that attempt to affirm or disaffirm a call and even then the local Bishop decides who goes to seminary.)

    If we give a minister a tax-exempt status, allow him/her to perform civil ceremonies and protect his/her conversations with others ... then there should be some accountability. Ordination? License? I don't know ...

    But please .... just make sure it's inclusive.