Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ordination - a Proposal - Part 2 of 2

So, if ordination is for all beleivers at baptism, what of special callings? Commissioning would then be the norm for those. The Scriptural record presents us with examples of believers who were ministering when the Spirit of God presented them with a special calling. To this, the response of the church was to commission said individuals. So, since it would seem that commissioning is the way they are recognized in Scripture, we should follow the same pattern.[1] Room does not suffice here to tackle the distinction between function and gifting, but one must understand that while some functions in the body of Christ require a certain gifting, being gifted does not require the individual to be in a certain function, only the call of God does that. It should also be noted that in the last excursus, while studying 1 Corinthians 12, a Scriptural tension was identified: all gifts are important and necessary, yet some seem to be more important. It is my belief that this view of ordination and commissioning best resolves that tension, because it honors all gifts, yet when necessary, commissioning allows some gifts to be specially recognized.

The argument could be made that this is just a changing of terminology and that it does not substantially change anything, but that misses two crucial points. First, baptism as ordination would not only continuously teach that all believers are supposed to minister, it also would create a basis of accountability and a marker in time to which brothers and sisters in Christ could point when exhorting a believer who has abdicated his responsibility to minister (à la Anabaptist).[2] Second, commissioning is a very focused approach to appointing people. If done well, it requires the involvement of God and of the community. Since commissioning is task centered, unlike ordination, it has limited scope and no transferability. Since it also does not implicitly impart authority, besides the representation of the commissioning body or the authority associated with a specific task or role, commissioning deals with some of the tensions with the issue of women’s ordination. Commissioning of elders would be limited to men, but commissioning of other sorts could be open to women. This would free NAMB to commission a called, qualified woman as a chaplain, for example, with no reservations, for, once her task is done, her commission expires, therefore not risking a blurring or categories.[3]

Now, lest I be accused of naïveté, I do realize that such a Copernican change would not come without its issues, but a theology of ordination / commissioning developed along these lines seems to be more faithful to the New Testament and to have the potential of alleviating some current problems. What do you think? Could this be implemented? How would churches react to such a change?

[1] White, in White, “So You Have Been Called to the Ministry,” 5, notes that “even Spurgeon, the most famous preacher never to be ordained agreed that confirmation of the church was a needed element for the call to ministry.” Commissioning would be such a confirmation.

[2] During church discipline, Anabaptists were known to remind the person being disciplined of their baptismal vows.

[3] In Ann Miller, “The Ordination of Women Among Texas Baptists,” Perspective in Religious Studies 29.3 (Fall 2002): 269-70, Miller expresses frustration with NAMB’s policy of endorsing, but not ordaining. While commissioning would not solve the heart of the issue, a theology of ordination and commissioning developed along these lines seems to have the potential of alleviating the current issues that surround ordination, or if nothing else, it would force people to deal with the real issue, instead of getting stuck on the side issue of ordination.


John S Wilson III said...

While I appreciate your research Mael, it done seem to be focused on only one form of church which is organized, a form of church not practiced in Scripture, and when described only in a negative light. In the context of organic church life I think this aspect of ordination (which is thrown out with the bath wash realizing all are called to function in the body) and now commissioning looks at it from the aspect of Jesus as Head and His eternal purpose described by Paul in his letters and seen in his church planting journeys. Commissioning is done by God, He commissions. Those in the body recognize the commissioning and see them as guides, those who have shown maturity in the things of Christ and those who care for the body (all relating to the same persons) (the proper terms that should be used instead of the titles or positions of leader, elder, pastor), those who help the body keep Jesus as the focus and Head of the Body and not some thing or someone. The problem is like so many times as has happened in history with Israel and in the church we want to have a king or leader, making a ceremony that focuses on the person and not on Jesus, installing this person into some official position or office, like the rest of the world around us with its devastating consequences both to the body of Christ and His expression of Himself to the world.

Maël said...

Dear John:

As always, I appreciate your interaction. I also appreciate your passion for the body of Christ under the headship of Jesus Himself, and the passion for the fact that "all are called to function in the body." I totally agree with you on those points. To be sure, I am not for an institutional church, for I fear that way too often it stifles the work of the Spirit of God.

But, as I set out on this journey to see if the concept of ordination was Biblical, I was confronted with the Scripture passages I presented in this series. It seems that you disagree with my interpretation of them, so can you tell me how you interpret them? Call it whatever you want, how do you interpret these actions of "setting aside" found in the NT (Acts 6, Acts 13, 1 Tim 4, 2 Tim 1)? What can we learn from those passages? Are you saying that the church was in sin when they performed the setting aside actions/ceremonies in the 4 Scripture references listed above? Do you think that at those times the church was focused on those persons rather than on Jesus?

Looking forward to reading your answer.

John S Wilson III said...

Hey brother because I had too many characters I posted my response on my blog at:

Great stuff brother!

Maël said...


I appreciate your honesty when you state that you are "coming from an organic perspective, Jesus headship perspective of His body." But, this leads me to my first question. Should we approach Scripture through the looking glass of our own perceptions? Should we not read Scripture with the intent of allowing it to form our perspective, being open to whatever God has to say, whether it fits into our system of ideas or not? BTW - I do agree that Jesus is the Head of His Church/His Body.

From your post, I'm assuming that you see Acts 6 as a description of something done by an erring church and therefore should not be used as a pattern for today's church. But, it seems that you do not have that same concern with the other three passages. Therefore, can we not use the Acts 13, 1 Tim 4, and 2 Tim 1 passages as patterns of how we, nowadays, should respond to and "[agree] with the Holy Spirit on what He [is] saying," to use your own words?

I don't agree with your evaluation of Acts 6; I think that their actions can also be used as a pattern, especially because of the fact that the pattern of commissioning is found elsewhere in Scripture.

Again, thanks for the interaction.

BTW - I do have another question about your 1st comment on this post. In it, you state: "the proper terms that should be used instead of the titles or positions of leader, elder, pastor." I'm confused. Do you see those three terms as not proper? Why?

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