A Part of Something Greater
This post lays out the reasons I pursued ordination in the Church of the Nazarene as well as a brief foray into some of the more controversial subjects associated with ordination, such as apostolic succession and the ordination of women. It’s my hope that this post provides a bit of a corrective to the all-too-often underdeveloped ecclesiology of many Evangelicals. At the end, I also included my lineage of apostolic succession traced all the way back to Jesus. Enjoy!
This past weekend I loaded my family into the minivan and we made the three hour drive up to Denver, where I was ordained an elder in the Church of the Nazarene. During the long drive, I had time to reflect on just what all this meant, and how I had come to the place where I would soon be formally consecrated to a lifetime of service. If you had asked me in High School or even in College if I was going to be a pastor, I probably would have laughed at the idea. But God has the habit of making funny ideas stick, and as I was drawn more and more into ministry, I eventually experienced the call to full-time pastoral ministry while deployed with the Army to Afghanistan in 2013.
During this time, I also reflected on what ordination really means. In our individualistically American flavor of the Evangelical faith, community often takes a back seat and authority figures are mistrusted. After all, one of the central foundational beliefs of the Protestant Reformation was the affirmation of the priesthood of all believers (1); and with it, the belief that the Holy Spirit enables Christ followers everywhere, whether lay or ordained, to study and interpret scripture for themselves. Unfortunately for many, the individual becomes the highest authority for scriptural interpretation, with no regard for historical, cultural, or textual context or how the text was received through the tradition of the Church. Add to this juicy narratives of corrupt clergy in popular culture and it’s a wonder anyone would seek ordination at all.
The “Why?” of Ordination
So why do we need ordained elders and deacons? Well, frankly because it is biblical. Not only is communal fellowship, worship, and support extolled repeatedly in scripture as necessary to the Christian walk (2) with Paul even calling it “the law of Christ” in Gal. 6:2; but the two-fold ordination system is itself prefigured in the designation of Jesus’ closest twelve followers as Apostles (3), and his extended seventy-two followers who are likewise “sent" and who, along with the twelve, prefigure the spread of His Gospel, first to Israel and then to the whole World (4).
Those who are “sent” in this way find their model in the Apostle Paul himself, who is called by God and whose call is then confirmed through the work of the Holy Spirit in community (5). It is clear in Paul’s treatise on the uniquely different roles of members in Christ’s body, that not all are called in this way (6) but all are called to be ministers of the Gospel in their own unique way. For those called to be sent out as leaders in the Christian community, their call is to be recognized and initiated by the apostolic laying on of hands (7) an act which is itself understood to be a means of grace by which the recipient is enabled by the Holy Spirit to minister with special authority in the Church (8).
That this ordination initially consisted of a dual system (of presbyter-bishops and deacons) rather than a tripartite one (of deacons, presbyters, and bishops) is evident in Titus 1:5-8 and 1 Pet. 5:1-2, where both presbyteros (translated “elder” and transliterated “priest”) and episkopos (translated “overseer” or “superintendent” and transliterated “bishop”) are used interchangeably to refer to leaders of congregations. This is further confirmed by the fact that a council of elders ordained Timothy in 1 Tim. 4:14, rather than explicitly bishops. Additionally, in Phi. 1:1 overseers and deacons are greeted, but not elders, presumably because elders are the same as overseers. Finally, the qualifications for overseers and deacons outlined in 1 Tim. 3 clearly envision a system of dual ordination rather than tripartite ordination.
The Sacred Responsibility of Ordination
The sacred responsibility associated with the authority received through laying on hands is grave enough to warrant detailed instructions on the required character of those to be ordained (9), as well as a warning that the one ordaining another shares responsibility for their actions (10). This authority has been passed on through the laying on of hands from the original apostles to every elder-overseer since as a confirmation of the special calling by the Holy Spirit to certain women and men throughout the ages.
That’s right, I said women. That the call to the orders of elder and deacon are open to women as well as men is evidenced by Paul’s recognition of Junia as an apostle in Rom. 16:7, Phoebe as a deacon and Paul’s emissary to Rome in v. 1 of the same chapter, and the New Testament’s repeated references to the missionary team Priscilla and Aquila who also led a house church, where Prisca is often listed first in precedence (11). Jesus regularly pushed the cultural gender barriers of his time, and women formed an integral part of his ministry. The argument that Jesus had twelve male apostles (to the exclusion of women) ignores the limited scope of his ministry which was initially restricted only to Jews as well (12). But just as the Gospel message was opened to the Gentiles in the apostolic era, an act which was prefigured multiple times in Jesus’ ministry; so also was it opened to women. After all, the division between Jew and Gentile at the time was at least as large as that between men and women, and yet the Gospel message was to transcend all these divisions.
The argument that 1 Cor. 14:33-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-14 explicitly prohibit women from speaking in churches (13) ignores the great redefining statement of human relationships in Gal. 3:28 (ESV) that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female.” Additionally, the placement of the emphatic challenge in v. 36 of the 1 Cor. passage suggests that Paul may have been quoting (and correcting) a popular slogan among the Corinthians, as he does later in the same letter (14). As for the passage in 1 Tim., it may be that the writer is referring only to the churches over which Timothy is to take charge, as a concession to cultural expectation. From context, it is evident that Timothy was not being charged to lead the Church Universal, but rather was tasked with the leadership of a particular grouping of churches (likely around Ephesus, where tradition holds he was later martyred), and so it would make sense that instructions to him be contextualized as well (15). The fact that his reasoning includes the fallen submissive state of Eve seems to contradict the understanding set forth in Galatians and elsewhere that in Christ, the curse which afflicted human relationships with inequality is lifted. Finally, it is worth noting that the very Incarnate Word of God was brought into the World by a woman (16), and that it was women who first preached the risen Christ to the apostles (17). If the Apostles themselves received the Word from women, then who can say that women are unable to preach the Word today?
The Safeguard of Apostolic Succession
The term “apostolic succession” is one which most Protestants probably aren’t at all familiar with, even though it governs the theology of ordination for 72% of all Trinitarian Christians (18)(19). This means that almost ¾ of all Christians believe that it is essential that an ordained minister can trace their lineage back to the original apostles through the laying on of hands by bishops (or, as I argued above, elder-bishops) throughout the ages. It’s such a big deal for the majority of Christians, that one of the common arguments against churches with Congregational or Presbyterian polities (which includes the vast majority of Reformed, Baptist, Pentecostal and Non-Denominational congregations) is that they don’t have apostolic succession, and so their clergy have no authority. This objection to the authority of a significant number of Protestant elders (and the legitimacy of their preaching and sacraments) is a major stumbling block to Christian unity.
For some, this might not be a big deal. But I, like the vast majority of Christians, including the Church of the Nazarene, affirm the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed’s statement that there is only “One, Holy, Universal, and Apostolic Church” (20)(21). And I take seriously Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21 (ESV) that we “may all be one” just as Jesus and the Father are one (22). This means that there is only one Church and it must be Apostolic.
Many of the communions with an episcopal polity believe that their distinct communion is the only true Church. Other churches with valid apostolic succession, and therefore valid sacraments, are defined as “particular churches” by the Roman Catholic Church, while those without are defined as “ecclesial communities. They generally understand catholicity (universal character) and oneness to refer to practical polity as well as spiritual reality; and apostolicity as being defined by both a valid line of succession from apostles to bishops, and through them to priests and deacons, as well as orthodox belief (23).
However, since I believe there are only two orders of ordination (that of elder-bishop and deacon) as affirmed by the New Testament and by John Wesley (24)(25), with the order of bishop being a later development which essentially delegated the tasks of bishops to those who had already been ordained into the order of elder-bishop; that means that I also believe any elder can lay hands on another and ordain them (as long as they also maintain the stream of orthodox belief as affirmed by the scriptures and early creeds). For the sake of order, if a church has bishops, then its elders should refrain from ordaining; but if necessity arises, I believe any elder has the apostolic authority to ordain. I also believe that ordination within the Church of the Nazarene does not simply mean I am ordained into the Nazarene denomination, but that I am ordained through the Nazarene denomination into the Church Universal (26).
Essentially, I believe most ordinations within Trinitarian churches have valid apostolic succession, even if many in those churches don’t fully understand what that means. This paves the way for better inter-church relations between denominations. Though I don’t think it necessary for all churches to merge into one polity, I do think it is essential to the biblical mandate to Christian unity that we at least recognize the legitimacy of other orthodox denominations’ ordinations, sacraments, and right to exist. And to that end, a mutual understanding of apostolic succession among all the churches becomes necessary.
Why the Church of the Nazarene?
So, why did I get ordained in the Church of the Nazarene? Well, number one, because the Holy Spirit called me to a lifetime consecrated to full devotion to Christ and the service of His Church in Word and Sacrament. It’s true that I could have done that in a number of denominations, but after much study, I decided that Nazarene doctrines best reflect scriptural orthodoxy: especially in its Wesleyan-Holiness emphasis that God can free us from sin in this life by the consecrating, sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit (27); its affirmation of the early ecumenical creeds (28); its Arminian belief that God has restored the human will to be able to either receive or reject grace (29); that grace can be walked away from after having been received (30); that that the Sacraments are means of grace and not only symbols (31); its use of both infant and believer’s baptism (32); and its dual system of ordination for both women and men (33).
To address each of these (often contentious) theological assertions would require a bunch more posts, but they were instrumental in my move away from a more Reformed understanding of Scripture. And though the manual never explicitly mentions “apostolic succession”, I believe history demonstrates that our succession is valid along the theological lines I laid out in the paragraphs above.
My Spiritual Lineage
So without further ado, both to outline my claim to apostolic succession and for pure historical curiosity, I’ve included the line ordination from me going all the way back to the apostles below:
I was ordained June 16, 2018 through the laying on of hands at the Colorado District Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene by Dr. Gustavo A. Crocker, who used these words:
“Ian Devlin Leigh Hyde, I charge thee before God and before the Church, preach the Word, watch thou in all things, endure affliction, do the work of an evangelist, discharge the duties of your ministry, and take thou authority to administer the sacraments and to lead in the Church of Jesus Christ. And now, Ian Devlin Leigh Hyde, by the power vested in me as a General Superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene, I ordain thee elder in the Church of God, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Of the Nazarene General Superintendents…
Dr. Gustavo A. Crocker was ordained in 2003 by General Superintendent Paul G. Cunningham. Paul G. Cunningham in 1965 by Gen. Sup. Hugh C. Benner. Hugh C. Benner in 1923 by Gen. Sup. Roy T. Williams. Roy T. Williams in 1908 by Gen. Sup. Hiram F. Reynolds. Hiram F. Reynolds in 1886 by Bishop John Fletcher Hurst (Methodist Episcopal Church) (34).
Of the Methodist bishops…
John Fletcher Hurst in 1862 by Bishop Thomas Asbury Morris (35). Thomas Asbury Morris ca. 1820 by Bishop Robert Richford Roberts (36). Robert Richford Roberts in 1802 by Bishop Francis Asbury (37). Francis Asbury in 1784 by Superintendent Thomas Coke (38). Thomas Coke in 1784 by Rev. John Wesley (Church of England) (39)(40). John Wesley in 1728 by Bishop (of Oxford) John Potter (41)(42).
Of the Anglican bishops…
John Potter was consecrated bishop in 1715 (43)(44). Jonathan Trelawney in 1685. William Sancroft in 1678. Henry Compton in 1674. Gilbert Sheldon in 1660. Brian Duppa in 1638. William Laud in 1621. George Montaigne in 1617. George Abbot in 1609. Richard Bancroft in 1597. John Whitgift in 1577. Edmund Grindal in 1559. Matthew Parker in 1559. William Barlow in 1536. Thomas Cranmer in 1533.
Of the bishops before the English Reformation…
John Longland(s) in 1521 (Roman Catholic Church). William Warham in 1502. Richard Fitzjames in 1497. John Morton in 1479. Thomas Bourchier in 1435. Henry Beaufort in 1398. Roger Walden in 1398. Robert Braybrooke in 1382. Thomas Brentingham in 1370. Simon Sudbury in 1362. William Edendon in 1346. Ralph Stratford in 1340. Robert Wyvil in 1330. Roger Northborough in 1322. John of Halton in 1292. Anthony Beck in 1284. Henry in 1255. Walter Kirkham in 1249. Walter de Gray in 1214. William of S. Mere L’Eglise in 1199. Gilbert Glanville in 1185. Peter de Leia in 1176. Roger of Cloucester in 1164. Thomas Becket in 1162. Henry of Blois in 1129. William of Corbeuil in 1123. Richard de Belmeis in 1108. Anselm in 1074. Thomas in 1070. Lanfranc in 1070. Siward in 1058.
Of the English bishops before the Great Schism…
Stigand in 1043. Eadsige in 1035. Ethelnoth in 1020. Wulfstan in 1003. Elfric in 990. Aelphage in 984. Dunstan in 957. Odo in 927. Wulfhelm in 914. Althelm in 909. Plegmund in 891 (45).
Of the Roman Catholic Popes…
Formosus in 864 (46). Nicholas I in 858 (47)(48). Benedict III in 855. Leo IV in 847. Sergius II in 844. Gregory IV in 827. Valentine in 827. Eugene II in 824. Paschal I in 817. Stephen IV (V) in 816. Leo III in 795. Adrian I in 772. Stephen III (IV) in 767. Paul I in 757. Stephen II (III) in 752. Zachary in 741. Gregory III in 731. Gregory II in 715. Constantine in 708. Sisinnius in 708. John VII in 705. John VI in 701. Sergius I in 687. Conon in 686. John V in 685. Benedict II in 684. Leo II in 682. Agatho in 678. Donus in 676. Adeodatus (II) in 672. Vitalian in 657. Eugene I in 655. Martin I in 649. Theodore I in 642. John IV in 640. Severinus in 640. Honorius I in 625. Boniface V in 619. Deusdedit (Adeodatus I) in 615. Boniface IV in 608. Boniface III in 607. Sabinian in 604. Gregory I in 590. Pelagius II in 579. Benedict I in 575. John III in 561. Pelagius I in 556. Vigilus in 537. Silverius in 536. Agapetus I in 535. John II in 533. Boniface II in 530. Felix IV (III) in 526. John I in 523. Hormisdas in 514. Symmachus in 498. Anastasius II in 496. Gelasius I in 492. Felix III (II) in 483.
Of the Popes consecrated before the fall of the Western Roman Empire…
Simplicius in 468. Hilarius in 461. Leo I in 440. Sixtus III in 432. Celestine I in 422. Boniface I in 418. Zosimus in 417. Innocent I in 401. Anastasius I in 399. Siricius in 384. Damasus I in 366. Liberius in 352. Julius I in 337. Marcus in 336.
Of the Ante-Nicene Popes…
Sylvester I in 314. Miltiades in 311. Eusebius in 309. Marcellus I in 308. Marcellinus in 296. Caius in 283. Eutychian in 275. Felix I in 269. Dionysius in 260. Sixtus II in 257. Stephen I in 254. Lucius I in 253. Cornelius I in 251. Fabian in 236. Anterus in 235. Pontain in 230. Urban I in 222. Callistus I in 217. Zephyrinus in 199. Victor I in 189. Eleutherius in 175. Soter in 166. Anicetus in 155. Pius I in 140. Hyginus in 136. Telesphorus in 125. Sixtus I in 115. Alexander I in 105. Evaristus in 97.
Of the Apostolic Fathers to the Apostles…
Clement I in 88. Anacletus (Cletus) in 76. Linus in 67. Peter in 32. Jesus!
(1) Cf. Mat. 28:18-20; 1 Pet. 2:5; Rev. 5:9-10.
(2) Cf. Gen. 2:18; Ecc. 4:9-10; Eph. 4:2-3.
(3) The word “apostle” comes from the Greek apostolos used first in Mat. 10:2 in reference to the twelve closest followers of Jesus and is continually used throughout the New Testament, referring not only to the original twelve, but also specifically Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:1-3, where they are also consecrated (“set apart”) and ordained through the laying on of hands.
(4) Luk. 10:1-16.
(5) Acts 13:1-3.
(6) 1 Cor. 12:27-31.
(7) Referenced in Acts 6:1-6 when the first seven deacons are ordained by the apostles, and in Acts. 13:1-3 when Paul and Barnabas are ordained as apostles.
(8) 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6.
(9) 1 Tim. 3; Titus 1:5-8.
(10) 1 Tim. 5:22.
(11) Acts 18:18, Rom. 6:3, 2 Tim. 4:19; cf. Acts 18:2-3 and 1 Cor. 16:19 where Aquila is mentioned first.
(12) Mat. 10:5-6; 15:24.
(13) “Speaking in churches” or preaching is a fundamental task associated with the apostles. Cf. Acts 6:2.
(14) Cf. 1 Cor. 15:29-34.
(15) “Apostle Timothy of the Seventy.” Orthodox Church in America. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(16) Cf. Mat. 1:18-2:23; Luk. 2:1-20, John 1:14.
(17) Luk. 24:9.
(18) Out of 2.385 billion Trinitarian Christians, 1.726 billion belong to either the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, or Anglican Communions. The number of churches which adhere to apostolic succession is actually a little higher, as the Assyrian Church of the East, as well as some Lutheran and Methodist bodies emphasize its importance as well.
(19) “List of Christian Denominations by Number of Members.” Wikipedia. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(20) “Historical Statement.” Manual 2017-2021. Church of the Nazarene. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(21) “The Nicene Creed.” Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes, Vol. 1. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(22) Cf. John 10:30.
(23) I define “orthodox belief” as that which affirms the validity of scripture, the writings of the apostolic fathers, and the pre-schism creeds of the 4th century in ordering Christian belief and practice. After the schisms, beginning with the separation of the Assyrian Church of the East, and continuing through the schisms with the Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant churches, I believe no single polity can lay claim to full catholicity or oneness as laid out in the Nicene Creed.
(24) Through whom I also trace my apostolic succession. Wesley observed that for two centuries the Alexandrian Church (which all major communions agree still holds apostolic succession) ordained through presbyters alone.
(25) McClintock, John. Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. Vol. 6. P. 170. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(26) Para. 502. “Theology of Ordination.” Manual 2017-2021. Church of the Nazarene. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(27) Ibid. Para. 10.
(28) Particularly the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed and the Apostles’ Creed.
(29) Ibid. Para. 7.
(30) Ibid. Para. 8.
(31) Ibid. Para. 12-13.
(32) Ibid. Para. 12.
(33) Ibid. Para. 502.
(34) “General Superintendent (Church of the Nazarene).” Wikipedia. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(35) “John Fletcher Hurst.” Wikipedia. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(36) “Thomas Asbury Morris.” Wikipedia. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(37) “Robert Richford Roberts.” Wikipedia. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(38) “Francis Asbury.” Christian History. Christianity Today. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(39) Though ordained Superintendent in 1784 by John Wesley, Coke had already been ordained a presbyter in the Church of England in 1772. If one affirms that elders and bishops form a single order, then this should be the date recorded. But since he took on the role out of necessity, due to the lack of Anglican clergy available to administer the sacraments in the United States after the American Revolution, Wesley confirmed the call by consecrating him in 1784. It was this necessity which also prompted Wesley’s move to take on the role of bishop, which had lain dormant in his role as presbyter in the Church of England, but which was nonetheless valid by virtue of his ordination as presbyter-bishop.
(40) “Thomas Coke (Bishop).” Wikipedia. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(41) “John Potter (Bishop).” Wikipedia. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(42) There is hotly debated evidence that John Wesley may have been consecrated a bishop in 1763 during a private meeting with an Eastern Orthodox bishop named Erasmus of Arcadia. The validity of this evidence would require a whole other paper, but if it is true, then the rest of the lineage would be through the Eastern Orthodox bishops of Arcadia and the Patriarchs of Antioch (rather than through the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church); though they would still end at Peter just as the line through the Popes of Rome does.
(43) “Potter, John.” Encyclopaedia Brittanica. 1911 ed. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(44) Drews, Carl. “The Apostolic Succession of the Anglican Mission in America.” 2004. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018. Used as the source for John Potter through Nicholas I.
(45) The first Archbishop of Canterbury in this line of succession.
(46) The last Pope of Rome in this line of succession.
(47) The dates for Nicholas I to Peter correspond to their consecrations as Pope of Rome. Whether they were consecrated bishops before this date is unknown in many cases.
(48) “List of Popes.” New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018. Used as the source for Nicholas the 1 through Peter. Agrees with the list by Carl Drews, cited above.
Note: A special thanks to Jared K. Henry, whose own efforts to trace his lineage of apostolic succession in his post “My Ordination Means Something...” on his blog, Taking the High Road, inspired me to do the same.
Note: A special thanks to Jared K. Henry, whose own efforts to trace his lineage of apostolic succession in his post “My Ordination Means Something...” on his blog, Taking the High Road, inspired me to do the same.
#Apostles #Ordination #Women #OrdinationOfWomen #ApostolicSuccession #Nazarene #ChurchOfTheNazarene