In exciting personal news, the time is fast approaching for my ordination here at Centre Street Baptist Church. Yes, at long last the “stars have aligned” and my Ordination Examination Council will occur January 13th (or at least that’s the plan- January in Southern Ontario can ruin our best laid plans). If this council goes as I hope it will, I will be affirmed as Rev. Graham Ware (scary thought, eh?) in service of worship January 20th.
I’ve struggled with the idea of ordination. The taking of titles seems to be discouraged by Jesus:
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Mt. 23:8-12)
But the Apostolic Church also clearly has appointing of leaders (who have titles; elder, pastor, apostle, deacon). But Reverend shows up nowhere in there. I don’t like the implication I am to be “revered”. It seems a tad discomforting. What does leadership within the church mean? Obviously the function is what matters, not the title.
I found encouragement in this from Stanley Grenz (Theology for the Community of God. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994. 566-7):
In short… we ordain persons to pastoral leadership in order that they may serve on behalf of the people. As Daniel Migliore noted “ordination is properly understood missiologically rather than onotologically.” (Faith Seeking Understanding. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991, p. 228) Ordination does not facilitate an ontological change in the clergy, elevating them above other Christians. Instead, the act commissions a person into leadership for the sake of the mission of the entire people of God.
With that in mind, I approach this pivotal moment in my ministry, and I do so humbly. I don’t pretend to be perfect, but I know I God is good, and he has done a good work in me and continues to pour out grace upon grace to me. He has made a new creation to proclaim his name.