Ordination for Everyone?

Warning:  today’s blog might be considered blasphemous to some.  😉  Exploring ordination and asking the question “what is it for, who is it for and why?” 

Ordination as Most Know it

In the Christian tradition, ordination is the ceremony or sacrament (if you are Catholic) that designates a certain individual (usually male) to act “in persona Christi” (in the person of Christ) and empowers them to serve as minister, pastor, priest within their designated denomination and Church (notice I used “Big C” Church).  In the Catholic tradition in which I was raised, this designation is even more restricted and clearly defined- heterosexual male only (don’t ask don’t tell), the ONLY one who can act in the person of Christ, the ONLY one who can preach, perform the sacraments, preside over mass, lead a congregation, run the business of the congregation, heal, teach, evangelize, etc. etc. etc.

Pew Potatoes

Being raised in the Catholic Church, I had an opportunity to see the negative effects of this restrictive approach to ordination – most specifically prior to the Vatican II Council….but its effects still linger and I wonder what will happen under the rule of Benedict XVI and his “reform of the reform.”  When you have only ONE MAN who is empowered to perform the ministry of Christ in the world….you get ONE THING…..PEW POTATOES.  Pew Potatoes are dis-empowered Catholics (or any other denomination for that matter), who are never challenged, invited, formed or empowered to do anything other than show up to mass on Sunday.  They have fulfilled their “Sunday obligation” and are therefore done with their job of being Christian.  Now they can go back into the world and live as they normally live, perhaps somewhat inspired to be more loving and caring in the world, but in my humble (ok, maybe not so humble) opinion, Jesus wanted more from us.  Like our pastors, priests, ministers, etc. WE TOO are called to BE CHRIST in the world and to be vessels through which God’s healing love, compassion, mercy, peace, justice, joy can be known in the world.  We are called to do more than just show up and let the priest do all the work!  And in truth, I feel sorry for our poor priests who are expected to BE EVERYTHING and DO EVERYTHING. No wonder no one wants to join.  No wonder so many are burned out or acting out!  What would happen if the Institutions did something different with ordination and gave these guys a break!?

Crazy Ideas from a Mystical Madwoman!

So, I have a crazy idea….what would happen if ordination was available to EVERYONE?  Before you have a heart attack over this blasphemous idea…..Paul had a similar thought.  In his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12: 1-27). Paul reflects on how each and every one of us is uniquely gifted to serve God and to be a source of Divine revelation in the world and went so far as to say that in doing so, “WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST.” (ahem….”in persona Christi”).  Why don’t we take this reading seriously?  Why aren’t each and every one of us given the tools through which we can discern what our unique giftedness might be and to discern how God might be calling us to share these gifts in the world in service to love and recognize that in doing so, we are the Body of Christ?  Why not?

Ordination for all

So here’s my crazy thought in form…..which will mostly likely NOT show up in any institutional church anytime soon.  But, what if people were given the tools to come to know themselves more fully, to come to KNOW God in a very deeply and intimate way within their own hearts?  What if people were given the tools to discover, cultivate, nurture and claim their own unique gifteness and how they are called to reveal God in the world through the sharing of their gifts.  And WHAT IF…….when those individuals are ready to claim these gifts and step into the world to boldly share these gifts in service to God and God’s love….WHAT IF….THEY WERE ORDAINED?  GASP!  Then instead of having one man who is expected to fulfill all the gifts as healer, teacher, preacher, listener, confessor, counselor, administrator, accountant, evangelizer, etc. etc. we had individual people empowered and ordained as:

  • ministers of healing
  • ministers of teaching
  • ministers of administration
  • ministers of preaching
  • ministers of leading
  • ministers of discernment
  • ministers of service to the poor
  • ministers of hospitality
  • etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

Just a thought!

Where have you been invited to know God and in knowing God, knowing yourself in a very intimate and personal way?

Where have you been invited to name, claim, cultivate your gifts?

Where have you been empowered to share those gifts in the world in service to love/God? 

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

6 thoughts on “Ordination for Everyone?

  1. Lauri, I think you are spot on with your ideas about real ordination. If you want to call it ‘ordination’, the only real one is Baptism or any other act of union with LOVE. In my view, no need for any ritualistic ceremony to demonstrate what is in the heart of the believer. As we now have it in the RCC, because of its institutional ‘ordination’, the believers generally don’t understand that we are all ‘priests’ in the new order of Jesus. In other words, we are all called to be followers of the Christ in and through our daily lives. This is not something delegated to a certain few [the institutionally ordained]. Jesus never ‘ordained’ anyone, but rather called all believers to model his behavior. Thus, we are all ordained and are brothers and sisters of Jesus whether recognized by any institution or not. Thank you, Lauri, for getting us to think!

  2. You have written before about how liberally God’s gifts are spread in His Children. We are all called to this relationship, and to achieve all we can in it. Who has the power to grant these gifts, actually? Only God. No man know nor stop what God has given you, however hard he/they might try. They can put obstacles in your way, make your way harder, in some ways. But no one can keep your gifts from being evident and serving God, whether with or without church approval. The Church is not God, after all.

  3. Lauri, many churches actually do what you suggested. They go thru indepth study of the gifts of the Spirit and help people find their giftedness. Some actually do an ordination for those people. The Chrisitan church is way bigger than the Catholic Church. I know you know that, but it might be great for you to try out some of the other “flavors” out there….speaking as one who has done so…..Blessings!

  4. You raise an interesting question, but one that seems based off of a misunderstanding of the teachings of the Catholic Church in regards to ordained ministry versus lay ministry and who can perform what. Almost all of the list you have in the beginning and at the end can be performed by anyone who feels called to do so, and we are all called to do so by our baptism. There are some ministries that only an ordained minister, (a priest, deacon or bishop), can do such as presiding at the Mass and hearing confession, but as far as teaching, administration, discernment, hospitality, service to the poor, etc, these can all be performed by the laity that feel called to such ministry, all without the need to be ordained, and the Church embraces and encourages that. One man cannot do it all, you are absolutely right, but in reality, the priest does not do it all. We are all called through our baptism to these ministries as the body of Christ. Anyone who is a “Pew Potato” is so of their own volition, not because the Church makes it so. On the contrary, we are always appealing to those in the pews to help, to stand up and follow their baptismal promises and listen to God’s calling to use their talents for the good of all.

    • James, thank you for your thoughts on this question. As a woman who was formed in the Catholic Church and empowered as a Lay Minister, I could not agree more that the laity are called to step fully into our baptismal call to “be the Body of Christ” in the world. I came to this call and to the formation programs for both Lay Ministry and Spiritual Direction because I was “called” by God to do so, and heeded that call. God broke through the path I had been on (of corporate America) and invited me to a different path, one certainly more in line with what I was longing for. I feel fortunate and blessed to have heard and listened to that call and for the tools that helped me along the way. Sadly, most Catholic laity never have this opportunity. This is the piece with which I struggle. Specifically….few lay people are given the tools of sound spiritual formation (as opposed to religious formation, two very different, yet complementary paths of formation) that would empower them to not just know ABOUT God but to KNOW God deeply, intimately, personally and in coming to know God, coming to know themselves, including an opportunity to discern their unique charisms and how God is personally calling them to live those out. I had to go outside my parish to obtain the formation (which included on-going spiritual direction, ministerial supervision, adherence to daily spiritual practice) to live out my call and for many if not most Catholics, this would be a difficult if not impossible task. Not to mention, formation programs such as the one I completed are not available in every diocese. As such, formation is left to the parish to accomplish and most do not have the resources or the properly formed ministers to do so. Yes, we are called to be the Body of Christ in the world and do so as teachers of religious education, Eucharistic ministers, greeters, hospitality ministers, administrators, etc. and in my opinion there is still much more that could be done. (spoken like a “perfectionist” on the Enneagram. 🙂 )

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