July 26, 2010

United Methodist Ordination – Pt. 4

Posted in Ordination at 5:13 pm by billgepford

I haven’t been posting these simply to complain;
I really do want change.  However, naming a problem isn’t enough so here is my proposal…

We keep the current ordination classifications as they are.

(I know, not what could be expected after the earlier posts).

But we also need to add to the two ordained classes that currently exist.  Some people are called to itinerancy.  Some aren’t.  Paul was obviously itinerant; James the brother of Jesus was not.  Did the early Church value both itinerant and non-itinerant ministry?  Absolutely.

Why don’t we?

Really, I do understand some of the reasons for keeping elements of the current system, and they truly are compelling.  There is obvious value in a pastor being appointed wherever they can best serve the church – provided they are called to such service.  However, itinerant preachers are not the only servants of God present in the scriptures, nor are they they only ones called today.  James, the brother of Jesus, lived out his ministry in Jerusalem. Therefore, I propose that we add a third class of ordination.  Those who love the itinerant system can still maintain their itinerancy.  However, we should also ordain those who are called to full time pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church, but not itinerancy.  This would be different from the Deacons, who do not itinerant (they find their own jobs), but are also limited in what they do.  Deacons, for example, cannot administer the sacrament in the United Methodist Church.

I am advocating that we create a third class of ordination alongside the Deacon and the Elder – a non-itinerant, non-guaranteed position that is fully empowered to do all the work of the elder, yet with the responsibility of finding their own job.  This will appeal to those pastors who feel called to specific types of ministry (and thus need to seek their own position), yet also feel that the sacraments are part of the ministry that God has called them to.



  1. Matthew G said,

    Thank you for the research and insight. As a prospective seminary student who is discerning a call into pastoral ministry, this was a very helpful thread. Having just come from a Candidacy Summit for the Texas Annual Conference, I do have one question. Would you not consider the role of the ‘Local Pastor’ to meet the criteria of this ‘third class’ of ordination? They are licensed as opposed to ordained, but can fulfill all the roles of an ordained Minster, namely administering the sacraments, within the confines of their church appointment, which they are charged with finding. I am just trying to understand if there is another difference between ordination and licensed ministries that I am missing. Thanks again.

    Matthew G

    • billgepford said,

      @Matthew G

      Actually, I drew a lot of my ideas from the Licensed Local Pastor classification. I totally agree with you – the LLP has all the empowerment necessary. However, at least in my experience, the Local Pastor tract is reserved for second or third career folks in smaller churches. It seems to me that young pastors are forced to pursue the itinerant system if they want to perform the sacraments. If thats not true everywhere, then I’ve probably posted without purpose. What is your experience in this? How does that look in the Texas Conference? Sounds like you have done your research and are prepared for seminary!


  2. Maxine said,

    Thank you for your blog posts! It is nice to know that there are other kindred spirits out there! 🙂 It did, however, bring some questions to my mind, too.

    How does the UMC answer the question of pastoral divorce rates being equal, at least, to national averages? (Surely full itinerancy would be a factor in at least a few of those divorces, I would guess!?!)

    Also, what research has the church put into as far as seeing what the negative impact is on children of itinerant pastors? There will always be jokes about p.k.’s, but are we setting these UMC kiddos up for failure??

    I think the covenant vows that a husband and wife make to each other should be given equal importance to the covenant 1 spouse is called to with the UMC denomination. Also, if the other spouse has a professional career that is not easily “itinerant” and that family relies on the salary it provides, or if that career in itself is a “calling” to that spouse why should they have to sacrifice, or have their “calling” super-ceded by the calling of their spouse to the UMC? Ministry occurs outside of the walls of the church, and we are all called to make disciples for Jesus Christ. Should itinerancy make that impossible for a pastor’s spouse if they are someone bearing fruit in a career outside of the UMC ministry???

    Finally, the idea that full itinerancy “protects” a pastor to do “prophetic preaching” is an argument built on a house of cards. Thanks to being connected to multiple UMC pastors, I can attest to more than 1 staff parish that has been allowed to override the appointment system when they felt a pastor’s “prophetic words” were not what they wanted to hear. And, this action was supported, or at least not dismissed by the cabinets & bishops in question. Those pastors aren’t “fired” because of the guaranteed appointment system, but they might as well be. How is this any different than a call system…except that this can lead to hurt feelings and distrust of the very leadership that is supposed to be in place to support the pastors?

    I agree whole-heartedly to your option of limited itinerancy or some 3rd option for those called into being an elder in the UMC. However, I don’t think it should allow for any penalty to those that choose those options. Full itinerancy for many is not what they are called into, nor is a system above being antiquated. Sadly, my husband may end up being one of those younger pastors that opts for another denomination simply because of the affects he sees initerancy having on the emotional stability of his family, and the constraints it has put on his “prophetic preaching”. Thanks for the opportunity to share here.

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