Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Patrick Friesen has written an article for The EMMC Recorder called "the ordination of a servant" (page 11). In this short article Patrick tells about some his struggles regarding ordination and how he has overcome them. I have serious problems with ordination. So I read this article with some interest. 

Here some of the struggles that Patrick sees: 
Anabaptists have a strong view of the priesthood of all believers. He asks, "how can a church group who believes so strongly that everyone is a minister, single out one person to serve in that role? And if ordination is about the recognition of particular giftedness, why not have an ordination for other roles within the body of Christ?"
Another issue is that ordination is often "seen as placing the pastor on a pedestal". 
Further Patrick notes that historically ordination was "the process which appointed individuals, predominately male [always for EMMC], giving them the right and responsibility for leading the ordinances [communion, baptism, marriage and funerals]." Now Patrick says that within the church "virtually anyone" can lead these things. 

Patrick's solution to all of this? How did he overcome all of these objections? He redefines ordination:
ordination is best understood not as raising someone up to a "higher" role within the church, but rather it is a process of identifying, examining and commissioning a servant.

2 issues I have with this.
1) Patrick fails to address most of the problems that he raised. The only one that this actually addresses is that ordination places a pastor on a pedestal. In fact defining ordination as a call to serve simply makes the others issues more obvious. Everyone is called to serve. Why would we single out one person [male] as the servant?
2) Redefining words requires intentionality and time. One of the real issues with ordination is not what do the pastors and college professors believe but what does the average church goer believe. Redefining ordination will be a lot of work (something that will not just happen). This is especially true since many denominations will not have the same view of ordination as EMMC. Let me provide an example of how difficult this is. In 2007 EMMC worked through ordination. At the annual convention it was agreed that ordination was no longer viewed as a lifetime call on a person. Once a person would no longer be a pastor it is be likely that their ordination would be dropped. This was 7 years ago. Patrick writes that ordination "is a ceremony of identifying a lifetime demotion into servant-hood". Lifetime? But for 7 years we have been working at defining ordination as not lifetime. Guess this has not worked that well. (Now I should note that I am not sure what conference Patrick is actually in. However Patrick teaches at an EMMC bible school, this article is written for the EMMC, and the event that stimulates this article is the ordination of an EMMC pastor). 

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