What does ordination mean?

United Methodist clergy are asked 19 historic questions at the beginning of their ordination. A good friend just asked me which of these are binding, and which are simply a nod to our history.

That’s a difficult question to answer when you look at them. I’ve just said that the biggest lie told at every UMC Annual Conference is when ordinands respond to the question, “Will you visit from house to house?” As I look at these other questions, I wonder how many of these we are telling the truth about.

How many pastors recommend fasting or abstinence by both precept and example? How many have avoided massive debt? How many actually approve our church polity and government?

Are any of these still standing but the first: “Have you faith in Christ?”

By winking and grinning at the other 18, are we compromising even the expectation of faith in Christ?

How do you think these historic questions should be used? Binding? Nod to history? Should we consistently evaluate whether clergy are adhering to any/all of these? Which ones?

The historic questions:

  1. Have you faith in Christ?
  2. Are you going on to perfection?
  3. Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?
  4. Are you earnestly striving after it?
  5. Are you resolved to devote yourself wholly to God and his work?
  6. Do you know the General Rules of our Church?
  7. Will you keep them?
  8. Have you studied the doctrines of The United Methodist Church?
  9. After full examination, do you believe that our doctrines are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures?
  10. Will you preach and maintain them?
  11. Have you studied our form of Church discipline and polity?
  12. Do you approve our Church government and polity?
  13. Will you support and maintain them?
  14. Will you diligently instruct the children in every place?
  15. Will you visit from house to house?
  16. Will you recommend fasting or abstinence, both by precept and example?
  17. Are you determined to employ all your time in the work of God?
  18. Are you in debt so as to embarrass you in your work?
  19. Will you observe the following directions? a) Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never trifle away time; neither spend any more time at any one place than is strictly necessary. b) Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time. And do not mend our rules, but keep them; not for wrath, but for conscience’ sake.

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10 thoughts on “What does ordination mean?

    1. Good question, Lauren. I’m using it to ask what is an obligation or requirement of clergy. So if someone does not have faith in Christ, they may not be a UMC clergy. What about the rest? Should someone at least show evidence of striving toward all of these? If someone hasn’t fasted in 20 years, what do we do with that? What with the person who acknowledges they haven’t had faith in 20 years?

      1. Wow. First instinct says they should all be binding if they are agreed to during ordination…but that’s easy for me to say! Not sure how you would go about evaluating someone’s adhering to/progress on each item, however.

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