In the aftermath of my talk last week at Church House “When Women were Bishops, and before there were bishops” http://www.businessconnect.je/chow/item/when-women-were-bishops.html, I was challenged as being “anticlerical and having insufficient respect for ordination”.
Well I think I gave a loving and constructive response at the time, but the question has been nagging me a little since, so I thought I’d set out what I think about this in a little more detail.
First of all, I love the fact the people are ordained in the church. Love it. In fact I love it so much that I think we should be doing more of it. Lots more.
Now as the New Testament does not give us a model for ordination we will have to come up with something of a definition. Here’s a quick one:
Ordination is a collective act of the local church in which the body of Christ; (a) together discerns who the Holy Spirit is already equipping, gifting and calling into a work of service, and (b) together recognises, supports and authorises the person or people to continue in that gifting and calling in the context of our local church and the relationships with have with others and the mission field into which we are called.
OK so its quite a long definition, but the key points for me are that, firstly, our job is to spot what the Spirit is already doing and bless and follow that, and secondly that the ordination is as much about the local congregation undertaking to accept and support the ministry as it is about the person ordained accepting it.
So what should we ordain? Well I’d love to see more people ordained to lots of different ministries, some longer term and some pretty temporary. A member of the church is about to go into the local prison every Thursday to speak to the inmates – ordain him to it. Another is about to start volunteering at the hospice – ordain her. A couple are about to lead a Homegroup – ordain them. A team is about to go to Congo for a fortnight to build a HIV education centre and encourage the local church – ordain them. Someone seems to be increasingly used by the Holy Spirit to pray for healing – ordain them.
Obviously there are some “bigger” roles of Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Teacher and Pastor, and someone who has been ordained a few times into more specific roles might well be recognised as having one of these roles too, but lets not focus too much on that end of the telescope. Similarly if your church has an eldership, diaconate, PCC or other governing body, ordain them while they serve, but lets not see these as a hierarchical status.
What should we not ordain? Well don’t ordain people for just doing the normal stuff of church life – don’t ordain someone to be able to pronounce an absolution or benediction in Jesus’ name, don’t ordain someone to be able to baptise someone they have just led to faith, don’t ordain someone to break bread. Unless of course they were somehow “stuck” – perhaps a demon of traditionalism – or feeling inhibited in their exercise of the daily bread and butter of life in Christ, by the power of the Spirit. For someone in this state maybe a little ordination will minister release to them.
And of course in ordination there is no gender bar – whoever we see the Holy Spirit working in and through, we ordain to give our human recognition to the divine gift. Perhaps there is not even much of an age bar either – maybe we would be surprised just how much the Holy Spirit can use the youngest members of the congregation.
So ordination? I’m all for it. But as for the invention of the laity… don’t get me started.