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An interview with Rev. Tom Gurnick on the Meaning of Ordination
(Rev. Gurnick is a Free Methodist minister presently serving the FMC on St. Joseph Island. He was ordained in 1984 and is a member of the Study Commission on Doctrine of the FMCiC.)

Q. It is possible that ordination will not substantially alter the ministerial duties of the person being ordained. In light of this, is ordination meaningful? If so, what is its value? 

SUBJECTIVE

The personal “sense” of the meaning or meaningfulness of ordination will vary from person to person. That “sense” will be affected by such things as one’s understanding of the purpose of ordination, one’s understanding and experience of “call,” and the level and kind of one’s present ministry involvement.

For example, one person may have a conviction that, “God has called me to this ministry. That is what really matters. The fact that other people are making some statement about this is nice, but all I/we really need is the call of God.”

Someone else may have a conviction that, “What matters is the call of God, but God does that, in significant part, through the church. So, what these others are affirming is very important. It is not ‘other’ than God’s call, but a very real part of it.” This is what I mean by people having a different “sense” of the meaningfulness of ordination.

So, it is understandable that, on a subjective level, a person might question the meaningfulness of ordination if it doesn’t significantly change any of the functions and responsibilities already being carried out (i.e. “My ‘on the ground’ ministry is the same the day after ordination as the day before. So, what real difference does it make?”).

OBJECTIVE

There is, however, something happening in ordination which is quite apart from the personal feelings of the ordinand. This something is very significant and touches all the parties involved:

1. The Ordinand – Here we are dealing with the affirmation of the church. What this might mean to any particular ordinand on a personal feeling level is not the only, or even, the most important issue. From a Biblical perspective it is very significant. Biblical examples and instructions regarding people given leadership responsibilities in the church can be found in such passages as Acts 6:1-7, 13:1-4, 14:21-23, and a number of places in the Pastoral Epistles written by the apostle Paul to Timothy and Titus. We see repeated cases of the discerning, affirming work of the church in all of this.

One would also hope that an ordinand today would find it meaningful that a group of fellow believers, spiritually mature, assigned and committed to this task, are prepared to make this strong statement of affirmation.

2. The Denomination – The Ministerial Candidate has been put in a place for which he/she has been thought capable and gifted. In that capacity he/she has benefited from ongoing observation, guidance and direction regarding ministry formation. After a significant period of observation, guidance, and development, the church is able to make an expression of confidence in the call, character and ability of the Ministerial Candidate—not only in the current ministry, but for a variety of possible ministry placements in the future. This is a kind of “signing off” that is common with a number of licensing bodies. Of course, this person will still need to learn and continue to grow and develop, but there is a strong statement being made of confidence that he/she has what it takes—confidence in the evidence of necessary “gifts and graces.” This is not a momentary affirmation, but a kind of life-long affirmation about leadership in the church.

This “testing” and “giving proof” is now accompanied by the “laying on of hands,” an act of the church with strong Biblical force and a kind of “sacramental” quality.
In all of this, ordination is meant to be an “anchoring” event.

3. Body of Ministry (for example, the local church). Again, this is a matter of confidence. While there is never a guarantee about the long-term steadfastness of the ordained person, nevertheless the local church and those charged with the call and placement of ministry leadership can have confidence that the denomination has done due diligence and that the development of pastoral leadership is taken very seriously. The church will have to do the work of matching by gift-strength to the local situation, but it should have confidence that all ordained persons have met a high standard regarding character, call, etc. This is not a small matter.

The local church and representatives of sister congregations recognize this as a significant step in the life of the person being ordained and gather to celebrate the call and work of God in his/her life. This is a meaningful expression of the unity and love of the Body of Christ. Congregations want to celebrate these kinds of moments with a pastor or leader who has been ministering faithfully in their midst.

Q. If you could speak with each ministerial candidate as he/she nears the end of the ordination process, what would you say to him/her?

I would say: “It would be good for you to take time for some “guided reflection.”  As you approach the celebration of your ordination take some time to reflect on:

1. Your “call.” No doubt this has already been a significant part of the process, but recall it again.

2. The process that you have gone through and the rite of passage that ordination is.

3. Those influences (the people and experiences) that have shaped you and prepared you as you have moved through the process.

4. The questions which you will be asked at the time of your ordination.

Questions for Ordained Ministers
1. Do you confidently believe that you are called, according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, to serve His church as an ordained minister?

Answer: I so believe.

2. Are you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain all doctrine necessary for eternal salvation; and out of these Scriptures are you determined to instruct the people committed to your care, teaching nothing as necessary to salvation except what can be concluded from and proved by the Scriptures?

Answer: I am.

3. Will you then faithfully give diligence always so to minister the doctrines and sacraments and discipline of Christ, as the Lord has commanded?

Answer: I will do so by the help of the Lord.

4. Will you be ready with faithful diligence, to banish all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s Word; and will you use both public and private warnings and exhortations both to the converted and unconverted, as need shall require and occasion be given?

Answer: I will, the Lord being my helper.

5. Will you be diligent in prayers, the reading of the Holy Scriptures and whatever study shall enrich your knowledge of the same?

Answer: I will do so, the Lord being my helper.

6. Will you diligently regulate and pattern your life (and that of your family) according to the model and teaching of Christ and make (both) yourself (and them), as far as you are able, (a) wholesome example(s) to the flock of Christ?

Answer: I will, the Lord being my helper.

7. Will you practice and encourage, as far as you are able, quietness, peace, and love among all Christian people and especially among those who are committed to your charge?

Answer: I will do so, the Lord being my helper.

8. As an ordained minister of the Free Methodist Church, and in keeping with the Holy Scriptures and The Manual of The Free Methodist Church in Canada, will you respect and be guided by those in authority over you?

Answer: I will do so, the Lord being my helper.

Q. Any concluding remarks to the ordinands reading this dialogue?

When the actual day of ordination comes, the Bishop will preside and will bring a message empowered by the Spirit. The Service will speak with weighty words of dedication and grace. Fellow pastors, respected men and women, will gather around to lay on hands and prayers will be said on your behalf as you offer your life to the service of God in this ministry. The church, local and surrounding, will be there to witness and pray and celebrate. We pray that you will find it a blessing to hear the church’s affirmation of your personal sense of call, the Spirit confirming through the church what you experience in your heart—and that you will delight in the Body of Christ at work in this way in your life and in the life of the church.

 

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