Sunday, September 11, 2005

ordination paperwork: question #10

b) Vocation:
a) How do you conceive your vocation as an ordained minister?

I, like many others coming through ‘the process’, working toward ordination, have struggled with exactly what ordination means and why we practice it. We believe in the priesthood of all believers – we encourage people to embrace their gifts and be in ministry as God leads them, all sorts of ministries. What, then, is special about ordained ministry? Why is it set apart, and in what way is it set apart? I feel that the probationary period has enabled me to struggle with these questions, as I seek to be ordained for the practice of Service, Word, Sacrament, and Order.
Ordained ministry has a place in the story of the church as an office set apart in the community of faith. Throughout the scriptures, the role of priest has been set aside, with the community charged to raise up from within itself those who have been called to fill such a role. God, as a gift to the church, provides leadership for the church. Bishop William Willimon writes, “It is theologically impossible for there to be a shortage of priests or a paucity of vocations in the church, because of the conviction, so apparent in places like Acts, that God graciously and sometimes quite surprisingly, provides the leadership needed by the church.”[1] So, God calls leaders. We are asked to respond to God’s call and present ourselves to the community to be examined, confirmed, and validated in our calling. As ordination is a gift from God, it also, then, belongs to the church, the community of faith, who acts as its steward, caretakers of this gift. A calling to ordained ministry seeks confirmation and support from the Church.
Ordained ministry is a specialized ministry, and a representational ministry. Ordained ministers act as representatives of Christ both to the body of Christ and on behalf of the body of Christ. Ordained ministers are also representatives in the work and mission which they carry out. They represent to the whole Church the ministry that the Church needs to be about. Ordained ministers are also representatives of the gospel, carrying out the good news through proclaiming the Word and administering the sacraments. In these ways, ordained ministers are representative in their work not as “substitute[s] or displacement[s]of the ministry to which all Christians are called, but rather for the sake of focusing and ordering the ministry of the whole people of God . . . a primary representation of God’s love.”[2]
Ordained ministry is particularly tied up in the general ministry of the whole church because those who are called to ordained ministry come out of the community of believers and then work to serve the community of believers as well. In most Christian traditions, including in the United Methodist Church, persons do not ordain themselves. People are ordained within a context of a faith community that has examined the individual’s gifts and grace and affirmed the individual in her or his calling. Ordained ministry is a unique kind of ministry to which God calls people, as a part of the ministry of all Christian. Ordained ministry always works within the context of the ministry of all God’s people, serving as a special resource, a representation ministry that links people more deeply into their own ministry in the world. It is this ordained ministry, this vocation to which I feel called for service.
[1] Willimon, William. Pastor: A Theology for Ordained Ministry, 34.
[2] Discipline, page number??
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