Soon, I will be comissioned as a probationary elder/associate member of my Annual Conference. What this means, practically, is that in a few years with good behavior and successful interviews I may be fully ordained as an Elder with all the rights and privileges of conference membership.
But what does this mean theologically and ecclessiologically? I don’t know. No other system – really, none other – allows the non-ordained to celebrate the sacraments. Under the old system, ministry candidates were ordained Deacons and then Elders. But we changed all that.
So I’m honored, but when my non-Methodist (or even, really, Methodist) friends ask me, “What is commissioning?” I have to say, “Umm…” The best I can come up with is ‘ordination lite’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m humbled and honored. I’m also worried though, because ecumenically, I’m a problem. Perhaps, as some say, “It’s all about the mission, and the orders and structures really don’t matter otherwise.” But I want my church to, as much as possible, represent the norms and practices of the church catholic. In this respect, we are not.