This year at convention we are going to be asked about ordination. A proposal will be presented which states that every pastor will need to be ordained. Now I have some concerns about ordination and its relevance to our Anabaptist churches. One of the reasons why at this point I am not ordained. In expressing my concerns about ordination my goal is to initiate conversation.
Anabaptists have a strong sense of the priesthood of all believers (one of our very core beliefs). We believe that every believer is a minister and there is no need for a class of priests. I wonder if ordination works against this principal. Ordination seems to imply that in order to be a minister one has to receive a special blessing. This leads to the concept that only a few people are ministers. When discussing with people why a person should get ordained most people respond so that a person can marry, bury, baptize and administer communion. These are the things that priests do. However since we do not believe in a class of priests any believer can administer these things – a person does not need to be ordained.
In 1998 our conference adopted a statement which says "The laying on of hands evokes God's blessing upon the minister..." This sounds like a sacrament to me. The Roman Catholic Definition of ordination is “The Sacrament of Order [ordination] is the sacrament by which grace and spiritual power for the discharge of ecclesiastical offices are conferred." What they are saying is that in the very act ordination God's grace and power is given to a pastor. Our definition really states the same thing - we have just substituted grace and power for blessing. But it is clear that this definition states that in the act of ordination - specifically the laying on of hands - God's power is transferred. Therefore ordination has now become something more than a symbol and has become a sacrament. So it appears that as Anabaptists we are practicing a sacrament.
Ordination has also been used in church history as a way of keeping control and power. A person could only be ordained by some who was already ordained. This is apostolic succession. In other words a person only has the power to be a pastor if someone else with power has ordained him. And church has often been viewed as not being able to function without this power. This is opposed to the Anabaptist belief. Anabaptists believed that the church existed where the people worshipped God. Yet this has been lost through the fact that our church held on to ordination. Church began to be defined on whether or not there was someone with power to be a pastor. This fact was demonstrated within our history. The Saskatchewan churches were not regarded as churches until the bishop could find the time to travel and ordain some leaders.
These are some reasons why I believe that ordination is not in line with Anabaptist beliefs. And why I am struggling with being ordained.