Our Odd (Methodist) System…

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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.

Here are two divergent views on the matter.  One in favor of the current system, and one critical.  To God be the glory.

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