May 11, 2009
Tony Jones: We Ordain Everyone
Has denominational ordination jumped the shark?
Do you believe in ordination? Or, more accurately stated, do you believe in denominational structures that regulate who is ordained for ministry based on prerequisites, credentials, and education?
Tony Jones, author and a leading voice of the emergent church, has started a ruckus on his blog about the legitimacy of denominational ordination after watching his friend, Adam Walker-Cleaveland, endure a slow and difficult ordination process. According to Jones, Adam has "suffered abuse" through the ordination process of his denomination. Jones wrote:
Few things piss me off as much as the sinful bureaucratic systems of denominational Christianity. When rules and regulations trump common sense, then the shark has officially been jumped.
But what gets to me even more is that bright, competent, and pastorally experienced persons like Adam continue to submit themselves to these sinful systems. They assure me that it's not for the health insurance or the pension. They do it cuz they feel "called." And if I hear another person tell me that they're sticking with their abusive denomination because, "They're my tribe," I'm gonna go postal.
Jones' frustration led him to launch an online petition calling Adam to circumvent his denomination and accept ordination by "the body of Christ."
The petition states:
Adam Walker-Cleaveland, having watched you be ritually abused by the ordination process?we beseech you to forsake ordination in said bureaucracy.And please accept the following: We, the body of Christ, hereby ordain you as a Minister of Word and Sacrament, and we grant you all of the rights and responsibilities thereto. May God bless your ministry.
In a follow up post, Jones outlines some of his own thinking about ordination. Referring to the practice in his church, Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis, he says:
We ordain everyone. If you want to be ordained to perform a wedding, or to be a lawnmower repairman, we'll ordain you to that ministry.
This is not to vaunt everyone to a high position, but to subvert and deconstruct the very notion of ordination. It is NOT like what John Wesley did (although there are some interesting parallels) or like what the fundamentalists did or the Lutherans or the Calvinists. We ordain everyone, and I started an online petition to ordain Adam, to be ironic. It's to point up what I consider to be the arbitrariness of the bureaucratic systems, and, to be honest, the tax benefits, of ordination. In other words, this is the opposite of a YoungLife leader who writes away to some dude to get ordained for the housing allowance write-off. This is, instead, to show how that entire system leads to such ridiculousness.
I realize that both Jones' style and theology is a lightning rod for some Urbanites. But he is opening the floodgates on a very relevant question. What is ordination? And what makes an ordination legitimate?