|Final Study of Ministry report available online|
The Rev. Ken Diehm preaches at First United Methodist Church in
Grapevine, Texas. The Study of Ministry Commission has released its
final report that includes eight recommendations on the ordering of
ministry in The United Methodist Church.
A UMNS file photo by John Gordon.
By Vicki Brown*
Aug. 9, 2007 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
After more than two years of study, a commission has issued its final
report on its work to clarify the ordering of ministry within The United
Methodist Church and recommends four more years of study by the church.
The Rev. Mary Ann Moman
The Study of Ministry Commission report lays the groundwork for the
church to reflect further on the theological, ecclesial and practical
groundings of its system of lay, licensed and ordained ministry.
"We have proposed a new vision for the ordering of set-apart
ministry," said the Rev. Mary Ann Moman, a commission member and
associate general secretary of the Division of Ordained Ministry within
the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
"We have spelled this out in the report, but we believe conversations
are needed throughout the church to anticipate some of the consequences
of following the road map we have set out."
Created by the 2004 General Conference, the 28-member commission
sought to address ambiguity in the denomination’s understanding of lay,
licensed and ordained ministry. The panel is to bring its
recommendations to the 2008 General Conference, the denomination's top
legislative body, which convenes next April in Fort Worth, Texas.
The commission has submitted a resolution to the upcoming General
Conference asking that its report be referred to the church for ongoing
study and conversation through the 2009-2012 quadrennium "for the
purpose of clarifying the vision and building consensus." The resolution
also calls for the commission to develop comprehensive legislation
based on those conversations for consideration by the 2012 General
The 49-page report makes eight recommendations about the ordering of
ministry, including separation of ordination from full conference
membership. The final report is available at www.gbhem.org.
The commission also recommends doing away with the practice of
commissioning – which it describes as "poorly developed intermediate
steps" – and simply ordaining deacons and elders when candidates have
met basic requirements. In addition, the commission calls for all
current associate members to be eligible for ordination as elder and
conference membership in full connection. The category of associate
member would be discontinued.
"…We believe conversations are needed
throughout the church to anticipate some of the consequences of
following the road map we have set out."
- The Rev. Mary Ann Moman
Because nearly one-third of all pastors are presiding over the
sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion without ordination, the
commission proposes expanding the range of those who qualify for
ordination as elder.
Even with this expansion, the commission recognizes there may be
times when circumstances demand "extraordinary ministry" – a term
borrowed from Methodism founder John Wesley. Thus, the commission
proposes that bishops may grant local sacramental authority in the place
of appointments to those who are not ordained elder, but are approved
by the Board of Ordained Ministry and appointed by the bishop.
The commission has not approved any changes in voting rights or
General Conference representation of local pastors. "We believe the
church should wrestle with the possibilities of the proposed road map
before making such changes," the report says.
A complex task
Moman said the commission task was too complex to complete in four
years. "The sheer number, qualifications and procedures related to the
already existing offices of ministry in The United Methodist Church is
one factor in believing the church needs more time to look at this issue
before General Conference takes action," she said.
Another factor is the complexity of issues related to the theology of the church.
"…The theological foundations and the consequent practices of
ministry within The United Methodist Church reflect fundamental
differences in the ecclesiologies of our predecessor denominations that
are Anglican, Catholic, Reformed, Pietist and Evangelical in heritage,
and these differences have not been adequately addressed through the
process of merger and union," the resolution states in its case for
The commission plans to develop a study guide for use in local churches to further churchwide discussion, Moman said.
*Brown is an associate editor and writer in the Office of
Interpretation, United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and
News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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