At the heart of ordination is the response to God’s call on an individual's life. It is rooted and is a continuation of the gift of the sacrament of baptism. God’s grace is not limited to entering into our lives through the sacrament of baptism, but it is the human response to God’s initiation and incorporation into the Body of Christ. Each individual is therefore responsible for responding to the gift of baptism by participating in the life of the Church through their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. Like baptism, ordination is a gift from God and the human response to God’s gift of baptism. Ordination is the outward affirmation affirmation of an individual’s inward commitment to serving God within the context of a local church or an agreed upon extension ministry setting. Ordained elders are those who have been called and have responded to the role of servant leadership and who have been affirmed and been given authority by the church to preach the Word of God, provide care for the charge, to administer the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion, and to order the life of the church into ministry and service.
What is your understanding of the expectations and obligations of the open itinerant system?
Each year, the members of an Annual Conference are appointed to serve local churches and other assigned ministry settings by the Bishop. Appointments are discerned by evaluating the gifts and graces of each clergy member and a church to match the needs of a particular congregation through consultation with the congregation, the pastor, and the District Superintendent. An open system means that appointments are made without consideration to race, ethnicity, gender, marital status or age. This means that appointments are made based on gifts of the pastor and needs of the congregation. Itinerancy is the manifestation of the connectional system and serves as the overarching testament to the world about what we believe about the nature of Christ to the world.
Often times the itinerant system may seem like a temporary stop for clergy to deliver a message and quickly leave within a few years. However, the system provides local congregations the opportunity to experience the fullness of the human experience within God’s world. Congregations are not limited to the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures and understanding of our actions in the world through one person’s perspective. Particular congregations may be homogenous in their demography, but an itinerant clergy allows for the diverse experiences of God’s children to be shared. One of the perceived weaknesses congregations may believe is that the conference does not understand the needs of the local congregation. However, miscommunication about needed gifts tends to be the human weakness that perpetuates these sentiments. No system is ever perfect because they are ordered and maintained by imperfect humans, but when done well, the open, itinerant appointive system allows for the building of healthy and vital churches and ministry settings.