Church and Ordination

[Since this is the blog some people from my old seminary community read, and some who are ordained, please don't take my second comment as something against your call or the work you are doing. It's more about the institution, and the accoutrements of the position, not the legitimate ministry people do as pastors. And feel free to voice your disagreement. :)]

May as well come out with my new viewpoints. I can elaborate more later, if you like. But here are two newish thoughts:

1) The church as an institution is basically dying. A lot of people try to brainstorm ways to "save" the church, or to "breathe new life" into the church. I don't think I care about that anymore. As far as I'm concerned, I think maybe it's better if the church as we know it gets destroyed. We don't worship the church, after all, right? And, new wine needs to be put into new wineskins. In this case, the new wine is the Gospel, which always qualifies as new, and if the Gospel busts the old wineskins, then fine. It's about the wine, not the skin. And if the skin can't handle it, then sayonara. (Dislaimer: This is not to say I don't love the church I am a member of, or think God doesn't work there--but I think we are on the verge of some radical changing, in the Church Universal, and I don't care if the institutional church dies. As long as Jesus is proclaimed and people love each other.)

2) I don't think I believe in ordination anymore. This whole thing of lifting up this certain role in the body of Christ, it just doesn't sit well with me at all. We put this high bar for people in "full-time ministry" (which is what all followers of Jesus are called to be engaged in, I don't care what your "occupation" specifically is)--and really, all Christians need to have a high bar. We shouldn't expect more from people who are "pastors", we should be expecting a LOT from EVERY CHRISTIAN. Yes, certain people in the body have gifts to preach or teach or whatever, but that is not worth putting more stock in than the person who stacks chairs, organizes snacks, calls people to hang out, or whatever. Honestly. And I'm sick of pastors being raised up to this whole other level. Though I'm not currently looking for a call to be ordained, I am certified "ready for a call", and thus "ordainable." This does make me have to think about whether my new position means I cannot in good conscience ever think about being ordained. Something to be pondered.


Anonymous katie said...

very good thoughts. i second both of them, actually. i do think the institution is dying, and i think it's a good thing, because as long as we are building 8 million dollar buildings that are full maybe 2 times a week, we are missing something. jesus didn't build buildings. maybe we're supposed to stay small, which is where we are heading with this institutional death thing. perhaps small and subversive is where it's at. as for being ordained, i can say the magic words now, but is my job more important than anyone else's? no, primarily because i couldn't have had youth group yesterday without the man who sets up our tables for dinner and who helped me blow up a 4' beach ball for a game we played. a culture-shift is required, though, before north americans on the whole stop giving credence to offices rather than ordinary people. for now, i'm hoping to be a voice of dissent from within, because it takes both sides to work for change. thanks for your thoughts.

8:08 AM  
Blogger mishabomb said...

hey b ~ interesting thoughts! i do believe that every christian has a higher calling - however, i do believe that leaders also should be accountable to another level yet - i want to go to church and look up to my pastor and have some deeper admiration for him cos of certain giftings in some ways. i think that all christians are called to excellence but no christian should be called to a "lower standard" by virtue that they are not a leader. anyways, something for the fodder... :) re: #2, that's why you're not a catholic - "we" (and i put loosely in quotes cos i am no longer cath) put that up high!

1:36 PM  
Anonymous katie said...

re: mishabomb's comment and a general viewpoint: "i want to go to church and look up to my pastor and have some deeper admiration for him cos of certain giftings..." if a pastor's leadership is truly a gifting, why admire the pastor? the pastor merely received the gifts and used them appropriately, just like everyone should. why not instead give thanks to and glorify god for the gifts of the pastor and the janitor and the school teacher and the executive/lawyer/doctor/car salesman? if calling is something god does and we just respond, why is there a higher expectation of me as a pastor instead of my husband as a school teacher? (questions i've asked for 3 years of seminary...i know there's no easy answer/response)

3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(woops, i just typed up something and gone it went)
i agree, god should be glorified in all things - its important for the church janitor to be an elder just as important as it is for a pastor to be a janitor, etc.! god does gift us with whatever he chooses. i would admire the pastor for choosing to accept the gifting that god has given him, but yes, the ultimate glory does go to the lord for the gifting at all! as for teaching, i actually think all teachers are in a very visible light and will have a tendency to be scrutinized for their actions - whether or not they should be revered as a result of that, that's left for the jury!

10:41 AM  
Blogger KQ said...

Perhaps you seminary grads can enlighten me a bit as to what specifically leads up to ordination (at least in the denomonation/tradition of your experience). In our Bible study tonight (we still miss you , Bethany!), we were discussing abuse of power and how the church (and indeed the broad swath of "religion" in general) can be exploited by those who would seek to gain control over a body of people.
In light of the fallen nature of people, it comforts me somewhat to know that an institution would put thought and prayer into deciding who should take those positions which could easily be used to acheive personal gain.
Maybe that's a flawed way of looking at the situation, and it may be that ordination doesn't really serve that purpose. Can anyone explain the process, even if only briefly?

10:15 PM  
Blogger rachelerin said...

The ordination process in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) involves at least a two year process with your home church and presbytery, a three year Masters of Divinity degree (including Greek and Hebrew), passing 1 bible content and 4 ordination exams, and then being approved by the presbytery that is calling you. It is a long and involved process. The problem is the church sometimes smiles people through who are willing to say whatever they need to, while holding others back who are more honest.

I like what Katie. When we expect more from ordained people then we look to them instead of to God. We should be grateful for the ways God has gifted all people in our midst. Furthermore it is such a gift when a faith leader can hold up their own mistakes and show us that they are not perfect. When we try to hide our brokenness it comesout in even more powerfully destructive ways. If we are a church of grace we must learn to show grace to one another.

4:36 AM  

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