Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ordination - Intro

It is a clear Fall Sunday afternoon in the parking lot of the facility for First Baptist Nowhere, several cars are pulling in. Distinguished men dressed in suits exit their cars, Bible in hand. One, two, three, ... it seems that most of the pastors of the local association have answered the invitation. After a couple of handshakes and a few greetings, they enter the building and all gather in a room. The door is shut swiftly. A few hours later, the door opens again and the pastors emerge through it, smiling and leading a young gentleman to the sanctuary. There, a service is soon to take place: an ordination service. After some songs and a commissioning sermon, the ordination council will present the young man as a candidate for ordination. They will proceed to lay their hands on this young man, and they will congratulate him. The excitement in the crowd will be mixed. Many will see this as a happy occasion, God has called yet another believer to “the ministry,” but several will not really understand what just happened before their very eyes.

Rarely explained, often controversial, the concept of ordination is one which, in this day and age, has resulted in much ink being spilt [1]. Yet, not withstanding all the books and articles which have been written, there still seems to be little cohesion among different traditions as to the purpose and meaning of ordination, and even in the Free Church tradition, different groups historically have understood ordination in different ways. Since the term ordination is not found in Scripture, our task cannot be to see how the term is used in Scripture, but has to be to answer the following question: does the New Testament support the concept of ordination? In light of the answer to this first question, a second question will also be addressed: what is ordination and what are its characteristics? To accomplish this, this series of posts will use the following approach: the data will be presented with a minimum of analysis; next, the data will be analyzed and the analysis summarized; finally, a proposal will be presented based on this summary.

[1] The number of volumes written on ordination is great and their approach and scope varied. As if the topic were not unsettled enough, recently the topic of ordaining women has caused many to examine the concept of ordination yet again, resulting in at least three entire journal issues dedicated to the topic in the last three decades: see Review and Expositor 78.4 (Fall 1981), Contents 23.3 (July 1988), and Perspective in Religious Studies 29.3 (Fall 2002); in addition to other articles in journals and books: see Paige Patterson, “The Meaning of Authority in the Local Church,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton: Crossway, 1991), 251-264, or Vera Sinton, “Called, Gifted, and Authorized – An Anglican Woman’s Perspective,” in Anyone for Ordination?, ed. Paul Beasley-Murray (Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England: MARC, 1993), 137-156, for just two examples among a plethora.

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