On August 8, 2013, I was ordained an elder in the Church of the Nazarene. Some would say that it was the culmination of a nine-year journey that began when I received my first district minister's license in 2004. I tend to think of it as the culmination of a 23-year journey, stemming all the way back to when I came home from kindergarten and informed my mother that I was going to be a priest someday. (To know why I used 'priest,' search for Father Dowling Mysteries.)
In the short time since my ordination, the question I've been asked by a few people, and have wondered about extensively, is if I feel any different now that I am ordained. Put another way, what exactly happened to me when I was ordained? One thing that I'm sure of is it was significant. As General Superintendent Jerry Porter placed his hands upon my head, a jolt went through me that I still cannot describe. As the ordained elders finished praying for me, I felt an overwhelming need to blurt out, 'Do you know what you have just done?'
My question sprang from my fear that I am not quite sure of our theology of ordination. The section labeled as our theology of ordination in the Nazarene Manual is limited to seven paragraphs, and most of those deal with the qualities necessary to be a minister.
Unique in the section is current paragraph 401, the beginning of the theology of ordination section, which in part reads, 'Ordination is the authenticating, authorizing act of the Church, which recognizes and confirms God's call to ministerial leadership as stewards and proclaimers of both the gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ.
Consequently, ordination bears witness to the Church universal and the world at large that this candidate evidences an exemplary life of holiness, possesses gifts and graces for public ministry, has a thirst for knowledge, especially for the Word of God, and has the capacity to communicate clearly sound doctrine.'
In other words, ordination is the response of the church to what God has already done.
Ordination is the church's way of saying, 'You believe that God has called you to vocational ministry, and we believe that too.' Ordination is not a right, but a privilege. The church could have said to me, in the words of Daniel 5:27, 'You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.' Instead, the church invited me to interview for ordination and then to be ordained.
Grace is imparted at an ordination service. We do not believe that ordination is a sacrament, but we most certainly should see it as sacramental. Ordination is a means of grace for both the ordinands and the church.
In ordination, the church gains a person called to give his or her life to that church in obedience and the ordinand gains the affirmation of the church. I expect that, in the future, when ministry is difficult, I will remember my ordination and be reminded that the church has said to me, 'We believe in you.'
August 8, 2013 was a defining moment for me. As I said, it was the culmination of a 23-year journey, but it was also a beginning. I am now on the journey of living life as one who has been ordained. By God's grace and help, it is a journey that will last the rest of my life.
Joe Foltz is the pastor of Drexel Church of the Nazarene in Drexel, Missouri, and also serves in the General Secretary's Office at the Nazarene Global Ministry Center.