Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Is Ordination a Crock?

You need to go and bother JohnM who just started blogging at Untitled. What kind of person names his blog, "untitled?" One who sees blog titles, honorary degrees, and ordinations as expressions of hubris. His latest post Discernment, Again? takes on the whole business of ordination that we prize so highly in the church. John writes:
I have an image in my mind of one group running around a track holding the institution of ordination aloft so as not to “lower the bar.” The other group of glbt folks chasing after it believing they need to be ordained to fulfill a calling of God. Has it occurred to anyone else that the problem is not with who should be ordained, but with the institution of ordination itself?
All right, John. You have my attention. Preach it:
I attended a presbytery worship service last year where the liturgy included a statement that ordination was a gift of Christ. Baloney! Jesus ordained no one. He simply said follow me. No laying on of hands. No vows. No standards. Just “Follow Me.” Ordination is a human construct. It is all about control. The first casualties of “who’s in charge” following the resurrection were the women who followed Jesus on the road. Then came the bishops and the elders, all men, who took charge of the church, its doctrines and sacraments.
I am with you. Now close with a vivid word-picture:
I’m beginning to believe that ordination, in the words of John Nance Garner on the office of Vice-President, “not worth a bucket of warm spit.’
But, John, without ordination who is going to bless those little cups of juice?

If you have an issue with Johnm, take it up with him over at his place. When you are there, tell him to get an RSS feed, so I can link to him on the sidebar.


  1. Sounds like a good argument - if we ignore Jesus sending out the Disciples to preach, teach, lay on hands and cast out demons, and if we ignore the huge amount of the Bible in which Jesus does not appear or speak, among other things. The OT is thick with ordination, and it is clearly part of the tradition from the oldest recorded times (i.e., as soon as the first generation of Jesus-followers got old and died and they had to figure out what to do now).

    I buy that it needs fixing, and I'm not concerned about people who want to go out and follow Jesus without being ordained, but I'm nowhere near willing to say there is no value in it whatsoever, or that it is not something that is valuable to do in one form or another.

    Jesus did a lot more than just say "follow me", and I think it is valuable to have some way of collectively agreeing that someone is called out of a community to serve it - which is what ordination is, its nuts and bolts so to speak.

    Its like telling someone who wants to be a leader to "just lead". It doesn't have any meaning or content until you talk about what the person is supposed to actually do and why they should do it and why anyone should care. That is also part of what ordination is about.

    As soon as someone says specifically what they mean by following Jesus as part of a community, and the different ways one might follow Jesus, you're back where you started, talking about ordination in some form.

  2. Off I go- sounds very interesting!

    Of course, as one of those pesky RC's, ordination is part of the apostolic succession and less a matter of JC. (cough cough)

    That said, I think I may have an issue or two around ordination, but I will save that for another day, I am off to John's!

  3. dammit John! Now I have another blog to read!!! (fran smiles - broadly!)

  4. While I disagree that ordination should be thrown out, I am becoming more concerned about many of the notions of Romish clericism that have crept into the noggins of our fundamentalist (ie. supposedly orthodox presbyterian) brothers and sisters, examples of which we've seen in comments on this blog, and even more clearly in the chastity vows required of LGBT ordinands via G-6.0106b.

  5. Nobody needs to bless cups of grape juice.

    Now a chalice full of wine, that's a different story... ;-)

    Doxy, the High Church Episcopalian

  6. While I disagree that ordination should be thrown out, I am becoming more concerned about many of the notions of Romish clericism that have crept into the noggins of our fundamentalist (ie. supposedly orthodox presbyterian) brothers and sisters,

    Now careful about Romish clericalism. Fran's visiting : )

    Johnm is talking about the Presbyterian form all right. Doug says:

    I think it is valuable to have some way of collectively agreeing that someone is called out of a community to serve it - which is what ordination is, its nuts and bolts so to speak.

    I think it has become quite a bit more than that. I won't argue Johnm's point. I am not sure what his plan is regarding selecting leaders for a church.

    I am on my own now. If it were simply a matter of selecting leaders (non paid and paid) that would be one thing.

    However, ordination includes:

    1) loads of superstition (esp. regarding rituals like baptism, communion)

    2) vows that stifle change and enforce control

    3) a vehicle for discrimination against minorities.

  7. "Baloney! Jesus ordained no one. He simply said follow me."

    This is truth. I love it.

    I don't oppose ordination if it is used in the context of expressing qualifications. I am still a firm believer that no one should be "ordained" unless they have completed study from an accredited seminary or University offering Religious study.

    The problem is places like Impact International Church. Ryan LeStrange's joke of a tax exemption.

    These so-called churches offer degrees for the buying that are unaccredited and available to anyone with the money regardless of intellectual qualifications.
    "Ordination" is available from on-line sources as well for which there are no standards of education or conduct.

    Sorry, but I just have a problem with uneducated people preaching from the Bible. This is the root cause of Christianity's problems. Other religions too.

    So basically, no problem with "ordination" as long as the bar is set high and the ordained is subject to the scrutiny of their peers and the public at large with at least some educational requirements.

  8. John -

    Thanks for your remarks!

    Doug –

    All of us are called to go out “preach, teach, lay on hands and cast out demons not just the twelve or the ordained. I’m not sure how I would replace ordination. Commissioning all of us to specific tasks? Discipleship of equals – whatever that is? I definitely want an educated clergy and it would be nice if our elders had a clue to what their responsibilities were, other than being gatekeepers.

    Carter Heywood, one of the women illegally ordained in the Episcopal Church in the 1970’s, wrote that the institution of ordination was riddled with political, social, economic and sexual abuses all in the name of god, who is not God, but one who satisfies men’s control needs.
    When I attend an ordination service and am asked whether I will be led, guided or whatever by person being ordained, my answer is always maybe.

    As a gay person who is ordained as an elder, I have not set the ordination aside. But I will once GLBT folks are fully included in the life of this church.

  9. I think ordination in the Presbyterian church is just a matter of order. It certainly is not a sacrament.

    I think our fundamentalist friends are very confused about the sacraments. They tend to act as if things like marriage and ordination really were sacraments when they are not - at least not in the orthodox Reformed tradition. But from listening to them you would thing they were.

    So I have a question. Was John Calvin ever ordained?

  10. So I have a question. Was John Calvin ever ordained?

    Good question. What he did do was set up his own system of church government.

    Which brings me to this next question: is it not time to rethink this whole ordination thing?

    I say yes. I may even make a post about it.

  11. Not quite. Jesus CHOSE a limited number of people and told them to follow him.

    But ordination is a contextual thing and is a gift of God to those of his people who require ordained priests for whatever reason. If you are not comfortable with the practice of an ordained priesthood then you should just join one of the many, fine denominations where God's people don't require them.

    At the end of the day, most scandals in the CHURCH and abuses of power seem to be attached to self-appointed pastors rather than beuracratically selected priests. Other than child molestation, which is obviously just a priestly task.

  12. Good point, MP.

    In our area self-selected preachers run rampant and do damage.

    So how, Johnm, do we ensure that our leaders go through some selection process where they are educated and receive oversight?

    How would that process differ from ordination?

    On the other hand, how do we keep this selection, education, and oversight process free from discrimination?

    As I am thinking about this I am realizing my beef isn't with ordination per se as much as the superstition tied to it (apostolic succession, please), control by outdated theological concepts, control by those already "in the club" toward minorities (ie. women & gays).

  13. I agree with your last paragraph. The institution of ordination needs reform, but to what I'm not sure. I guess I should just be thankful we don’t genuflect and kiss rings or address the ordained as eminence. I really don’t like titles; even Rev. I find it embarrassing to be listed as Elder John…