Report of the Combined Committee to Make a Study on Ordination
[1965 Yearbook. Pages 63 - 67]
The Bible Fellowship Church has never carefully defined what we understand by ordination. The 1964 Annual Conference passed the following resolution (Yearbook, 1964, p. 29):
"Resolved, that the Committee on Credentials and the Ministerial Candidate Committee study together ordination and submit a report of their understanding to the next Annual Conference."
There are wide differences of opinion about the meaning of ordination among various churches. They may be summarized as follows:
1. Roman Catholic View - The Sacramental view - that in the laying on of hands by the duly qualified bishop power and grace are conferred. Apostolic succession is included.
The orders of the Roman Catholic church are: Bishop - priest, deacon, sub-deacon. Admittance to holy orders is by ordination,
2. The Anglican and Episcopal view - Ordination is not a sacramental act but authority is conferred upon the minister for the performance of sacred duties. The orders are: bishops, priests and deacons. Apostolic succession included.
3. The Reformed and Baptist view - ordination is basically a recognition of powers previously conferred by God and a consequential formal authorization, on the part of a church or ecclesiastical body to exercise the gifts bestowed.
4. The[r]e are others who do not recognize any ordination procedure.
There are several factors that make difficult the defining of ordination. One of them is the great emphasis on the difference between clergy and laity in most churches; this causes some to react to such a degree that they see no place for ordination as such. Another problem is that the New Testament does not provide explicit instructions for the qualifications, procedures and meaning of ordination. In attempting to gather the material from Scripture differences of opinion arise. The following is a summary of our understanding of the Biblical material that relates to ordination.
A STUDY OF THE BIBLICAL MATERIALS
In seeking to gather the material from the Scripture that pertains to ordination two types of texts were examined. First those which speak of "laying on of hands" and second those which speak of the gifts of the Spirit. Let us examine these first and then attempt to relate them to each other.
1. The texts that speak of the"laying on of hands" In the Old and New Testaments the practice of laying on of hands was used in several different ways. It was used to signify blessing, of identification with sacrifices, with healing, with receiving of the Holy Spirit and baptism and in connection with appointment to office or responsibility. We are here only concerned with last use of the term. The most clear illustrations of this in the New Testament are in Acts 6:1-6, Acts 13:l-3, I Tim. 4:14 and II Tim. 1:6.
In Acts 6:1-6, seven men were chosen by the congregation on the basis of their meeting certain qualifications to do certain things (6:3). The entrance of the seven to their responsibilities was preceded by prayer and the laying on of hands (6:6). It seems that this ceremony did not qualify or empower these men for this service, but simply recognized before the church that these men met the qualifications and were charged with responsibility.
In Acts 13:2, 3, we see Barnabas and Paul "separated" unto a work. This separation was the action of men on the basis of the call of God. Hands were laid on those two only after deep spiritual exercise. It is interesting to note that that which the Spirit said to the brethren at Antioch to do to Barnabas and Paul was the same thing which Paul says God did in him before his birth (Gal. 1:15). This recognition came to Paul only after a period of faithful service (Acts 11:25, 26).
I Tim. 4:14 and II Tim. 1:6 speak most directly about ordination as we find it in the church today. Apparently Timothy was set apart in an assembly of believers for the work of the ministry. Most interpreters feel that these two texts speak of the same experience in the life of Timothy. Paul emphasizes the relationship of Timothy to himself in the one account and his relationship to the whole church in the other.
2. Texts that speak of the gifts of the Spirit. Let us return to the idea of the origin of the gifts of ministering. Romans 12, I Cor. 12, and Eph. 4 all unite to indicate that the spirit gives to each man as He will the gifts (charismata) to equip him to serve. This corresponds with the evidence that the laying on of hands is only a recognition of what God has given. While all believers are given a gift of the Spirit of God to equip them to serve in the body of Christ, not: all were publicly installed into a place of service. Only those gifted in such a way as to enable them to be ministers of the Word and leaders were given this kind of recognition. This raises the
problem of the relationship of the gifts of the Spirit to the public ceremony.
3. The relationship between "laying on of the hands" and the gift of the Spirit. The texts that speak of the gifts of the Spirit are clear that these gifts are given of God and not of men. "He giveth to every man severally as He will." The very fact that they are called Spiritual - gifts (pneumatikos, charismata) also indicates this. The ability and authority to minister the Word of God in the church comes from the Lord only. Men cannot bestow this.
This is also supported by the fact that the texts that speak of the "laying on of hands" indicate that the church is thereby recognizing a previous gift of the Spirit of God. (Acts 6:1-6, Acts 13:1-3 and I Tim. 4:14.)
In I Tim. 4:14 Paul says this gift (charisma) was given to Timothy by prophecy. Prophecy is never of human origin although it comes through a human channel; this channel is also recognized by Paul when he says next that Timothy's gift was accompanied by the laying on of hands of a group of elders (presbuterion).
II Tim. 1:6 may at first appear to mean something else. Does Paul mean to say in II Tim. 1:6 that the imparted a gift to Timothy? Although Paul does say that this gift is Timothy's by "the laying on of hands," we must ask what he means by this. The expression used indicates that this was an outward ceremony but that the gift came from someone other than Paul. The grammar here is similar to Matthew's saying (l:22) that the man Isaiah predicted that a virgin would conceive and bear a son. Isaiah said it, but God said it through Isaiah. Without God speaking here, it would have been impossible for a man to predict this 700 years before it happened. The grammar is similar in II Timothy; in both cases intermediate, not direct agency, is implied. Also it appears that Paul's expression in II Tim.1:6 is like Peter's in Acts 2:38. Few evangelicals would seek to defend a view that equated baptism with remission of sins; however Peter here says: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins." We note that Peter in Acts 2:38 and Paul in II Tim. 1:6 use an expression that appears to identify the outward act with the inner reality of which it is a symbol.
The experience of Paul himself seems to confirm and illustrate the tenor of this study. In Galatians Paul states categorically that he was set apart, taught and empowered for his work by God and him alone - not men. However he also says (Gal. 2) that he did confer with the brethren in Jerusalem to secure their confirmation as a fellow-laborer.
Therefore the "laying on of hands" is an external sign; the prayer of the saints are the means whereby the enablement is obtained to perform the ministry of which the outward sign speaks. The sign is not the means of grace, nor is it meaningless. It is the recognition by the church of power previously conferred by God.
4. Summary of Biblical Evidence - Definition of Ordination: Ordination is the laying on of the hands of the elders of the church accompanied by prayer and is the public recognition by the church of gifts previously given by God to one called to the ministry of the Word of God.
THE PROCEDURE FOR ORDINATION
1. Ordination should be preceded by a period of training and probation for the individual in order that he may be properly equipped and demonstrate his call.
2. Ordination should involve the church in deep self-examination and prayer in order that outward conformity to standards may not be substituted for the presence of the Spirit.
3. Ordination should proceed from a group of brethren from more than one local church.
4. Ordination ˇshould be limited to those who are gifted and trained in the ministry of the Word of God although Scripture allows recognition of other gifts.
1. Who shall be candidates for ordination?
All those who meet the qualifications of our church for the ministry (1962 Yearbook pp. 41-42) and give evidence of a call to the ministry which is acknowledged by the church. This includes any men who meet these requirements including those who are pastors, administrative officers, teachers and missionaries. (See 1963 Yearbook p.27)
2. What shall our procedure for ordination be?
All men who seek to hold ordination credentials with the Bible Fellowship Church shall make initial application to the Ministerial Candidate Committee. They shall follow the procedures approved by Annual Conference for the Ministerial Candidates Committee and the Credentials Committee. All men who seek to serve our church in another capacity shall apply to the Board under which they desire to labor.
3. What shall our form for the ordination service be?
We recommend that a form for the service of ordination be devised which shall be in harmony with this study.
Carl C. Cassel, Chairman
W. B. Hottel, Secretary
Ministerial Candidate Committee
Carl C. Cassel, Chairman
Jansen E. Hartman, Secretary
William A. Heffner
John E. Golla
C. E. Kirkwood, Chairman
W. B. Hottel, Secretary
T. D. Gehret
A. L. Seifert
John H. Riggall