If you were at the congregational meeting in November (or if you read the minutes, which I’m sure everyone does), you will remember hearing that I have decided to move forward with pursuing ordination. Many within the congregation either assume that I am already ordained, or they don’t have a clear sense about what that even means. Honestly, one of the reasons I have not started this process earlier is because I, too, have been trying to figure it all out.
What does it mean to be ordained in a tradition with a strong emphasis on the “priesthood of all believers?”
In the next few months there will be a lot of paperwork that I will have to do to help me figure out how to answer that question, but as part of that process, it is important to make sure the congregation also has a good understanding of what ordination means. Ultimately, ordination is a joint act between the congregation, the wider conference and denomination, and the person being ordained, so it is good for all involved to participate fully in the process.
There are many different ways to think about ordination, but one framework that has been helpful to me is thinking of it as an act of both affirmation and accountability.
On the one hand, ordination is an affirmation of the call of God to the person being ordained and of the unique leadership gifts that person brings to the congregation and the wider world. The period leading up to ordination is meant to be a testing of this call and these gifts, and the act of ordination affirms and blesses them. In this way, ordination looks to the past to discern the work of God in and through the person being ordained.
On the other hand, ordination is a covenant of mutual and ongoing accountability between the person being ordained, the congregation, and the wider denomination. Ordination is a recognition of the reality that a pastoral role carries with it much power, and thus much responsibility. To ordain someone means that there is a deep level of trust in that person to represent the Church and to use that power in life-giving ways. In this way, ordination looks toward the future to affirm a commitment between all the parties involved to remain accountable to one another in the ongoing work of God.
There will be opportunities for the congregation to continue this discernment about my ordination, but I hope this helps lay some groundwork for understanding the importance of that work.