28 June 2008

Methodist Ordination

On the 6th of July five Probationer Ministers (including yours truly) will be 'received into full connexion' (see the article below for what this means) at the Methodist Conference in Scarborough. Then, at 4:30, five of us who trained at Wesley House will be ordained at Toll Gavel United Church in Beverley. I am particularly pleased that we will be ordained at a church which has a united Methodist and URC congregation as my 'sending church' is a united Methodist/URC congregation.

The article below is one that I wrote for the church newsletter to try to explain a bit about the process of ordination. If I got anything wrong, I'm open to correction by more knowledgeable readers of this blog.


If you are reading this July edition of the newsletter during the first two weeks of July, chances are that I will be away; first on retreat in Durham, and then at the Methodist Conference in Scarborough.

Along with four other Probationer Ministers who studied with me at Wesley House, Cambridge, I will be ordained at Toll Gavel United Church in Beverley at 4:30 pm on Sunday the 6th of July. A dozen or so people from Kidderminster will be there at Beverley for the ordination.

A number of people have asked me why I have to go all the way to Beverley to be ordained. The answer is that every year The Methodist Church holds an annual Conference somewhere in the country and all the ordinations happen during that Conference. This year, Conference just happens to be in Scarborough. There will be about 50 new ministers being ordained and we can’t all fit into one place with our guests, so we are divided up into different church locations according to the college or course we attended during training: for us, the nearest available church was in Beverley!

So what is so special about Conference? If we were a company, it would be like our Annual General Meeting, except that Conference has more authority than that. Conference decides not only what our procedures will be but also what our doctrines and disciplines are. We are a ‘connexional’ church (‘connectional’ in today’s language): neither a dictatorship nor strictly a democracy, but a community of Christians who seek to govern their affairs nationally as a connected community of congregations. This is why local congregations are part of a circuit and circuits are part of a District and the Districts send representatives to Conference.

If you understand the Methodist Church in this way, you can begin to see why ministers are ordained at Conference. Ministers may be called by God, but we are called to serve others: to serve the Church community as well as the community at large. The Church helps ministers to recognise our call in the first stages and it trains us. By being ordained at Conference, it is the entire Methodist Church of Great Britain that ordains us and not just our local church or circuit.

On Sunday the 6th of July, two things will happen to those of us about to be ordained. First, we will be ‘received into full connexion’ when Conference holds its morning worship service at Scarborough Spa. This means that Conference recognises us as brother and sister ministers and it is only from this point forward that the Church is obliged to ordain us! Then, we will all travel to the locations where we will be ordained later that afternoon.

The ordination for those of us who trained at Wesley House will take place at Toll Gavel United Church in Beverley. The Revd Ian White will preside at communion and the preacher will be the Revd Inderjit Bhogal; they are both former Presidents of Conference. Each of us Ordinands will have hands laid upon him or her by the Revd White and by a representative of Methodism abroad; in our case, this is Bishop Carlos Poma from the Methodist Church in Bolivia. In addition, a minister who we have each invited to assist us will lay hands on us; I have invited my friend, the Revd Mark Wakelin, to be my ‘assisting minister’.

The journey to ordination is one that each individual takes with the support of the Church and of many Christian brothers and sisters. I am grateful to all of you for your support and your kindness and the tolerance that you have shown me when I have put a foot wrong or come up with some wacky idea! May I take this opportunity to thank everyone for your love and prayers; please be assured of my prayers in return.


Sandalstraps said...


Peter Kirk said...

Thanks for this explanation of Methodist ordination. It is quite unlike Anglican ordination in that it is not, by Anglican standards, episcopal or in the apostolic succession. Although there will be a bishop involved in yours, he is an optional extra, and anyway probably not in the apostolic succession by Anglican standards. But instead the true apostolic succession is seen in this:

it is the entire Methodist Church of Great Britain that ordains us

That is a great principle, and one which I find much easier to accept than the Anglican one that anyone ordained by a bishop is validly ordained even if there is no participation or even consent of the rest of the church.

I hope and pray that this day will be a great blessing for you, and in the longer run also for those you minister to.

dave perry said...

Hi Pam,
as one grumpy hypertensive blogger to another I simply want to wish you every blessing for your ordination. When things are tough, as they often are, and you are discouraged and fed up, remember the moment you were ordained and the church said "Yes!" On more than one occasion this remembering has carried me through the dark times.
love and peace

Paul Martin said...

Wishing you every blessing at this special time

Olive Morgan said...

Looking forward to being there to support you, Pam, even if there may be too many people round you for us to meet then. If we fail to link up at your ordination service, you may find me at the MET stall in the Sun Court Suite because I am responsible for this stall this year. Lots of love and prayers for that special day.

PamBG said...

Peter, Dave, Paul & Olive - thanks for your good wishes and, Dave, for your wisdom.

Peter, I happen to agree with you that it's better to be ordained by the whole church than by a bishop. Like many Methodists I really value our 'connexional' ecclesiology. Which is why it sticks in the craw a bit to say 'Our orders are invalid'. I'm not really against historic tactile succession; I just think our approach is equally valid. You are right, the Bolivian Methodist bishop would not be considered 'valid' by Anglicans and he is simply the 'World Church representative'; it could have easily been a lay person!

Olive, I'll certainly come see you at the MET stand. I am under the impression that tea is going to be laid on after the ordination service for everyone who attends, so I hope we can make contact there.

Rev Tony B said...

I pray every blessing on you for this landmark on your journey. I agree with Dave - it is the moment when the church as a whole says "Yes!" and that can often be a powerul support when local folk think you are there only for them and their (sometimes) limited vision.

As for episcopacy - I argue on linguistic terms that superintendents are our bishops (super-intendent being the Latin equivalent of episkope)and the representatives of Conference which is our Bishop. I believe John Wesley dismissed the apostolic succession through the historic episcopate as a "vain myth." So our orders are every bit as apostolic and valid as any other ecclesiological model - your ordination affirms your apostolic calling.

Go for it! :)

Anonymous said...

Pam, I pray every blessing for you this week, and will be praying for you all week. This was a special time for me last year, and I pray the same is true for you.

PamBG said...

As for episcopacy...our orders are every bit as apostolic and valid as any other ecclesiological model

Tony, I totally agree with you. I don't really mind having the Presidents of Conference ordained bishops by tactile succession; or rather, I'm willing to 'suck it up' for the sake of ecumenism. But I will certainly never agree that Methodist orders have been invalid.

Anonymous said...

Pam, blessings and joy for you as you take this step.

Have a joyful and sacred week.

Bene D

Methodist Preacher said...

Every blessing

PamBG said...

Thanks you, Bene D and Methodist Preacher.

PamBG said...

Sandalstraps - just saw your comment for some reason. Thanks for your good wishes.

Fat Prophet said...

Every Blessing for the weekend Pam - I was invited to attend for Samuel Uwimana's recognition service but was already committed to a three circuit pulpit swop which I foolishly volunteered to organise.
I will be thinking of you as you take this next important step in your ministry.

PamBG said...

Thanks, Ian. 'Enjoy' your three service Sunday! I'll see Samuel at conference.