In a recent BWA press release (8 January 2013) Neville Callam made these declarations when he gave a lecture at the 38th Annual Assembly of the Baptist Convention of South Africa four months ago.
Callam, described as "the BWA leader" offered an interpretation of the understanding of ordination among Baptists, from the formative years of Baptist life in the Netherlands and England until the end of the 17th century and suggested that, since that period, Baptist understandings of ordination have continued to evolve.
He proposed that each Baptist convention and union work out clearly its own understanding of the meaning and purpose of ordination and to express these in their ordination rites. Callam said the contemporary situation seems to suggest the need for churches to introduce particular forms of ordained ministry to further the church's faithfulness to God's mission and to assist those who serve the church in a ministerial capacity.
In other words
In other words, each faith community of Baptists, with the wisdom of the ages, in effect, works out their own Salvation (as it were) in the process and formula for Ordination. As a historian and having studied Baptist history at seminary (way back in the '70s) the initial Ordination process in the C17 was that congregations Ordained someone from within the congregation for whom they recognised had spiritual maturity and respect.
Once Baptist congregations began growing and got together, they initiated regional Associations of the like-minded, and inevitably seminaries began to emerge. In this Baptist formation period, ideas of Ordination slowly developed due to natural outcomes of expansion. New congregations sought the wisdom of other Baptists when seeking a 'Calling' to their congregation, a Pastor.
The Anglicans, for example, have a very formalised process for Ordination, and like everyone else, history is involved as, one example, is that the Rector has direct responsibility for church land and property. Ordination carries with it a significant fiscal and maintenance responsibility. The Australian Uniting Church Ordination process came out of the 1977 union of Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists. It's focus is not surprisingly not on theological purity, rather on 'Christian service' which acknowledges their joint histories.
The various Pentecostal groups have been slowly forging a community approach as a result of their agreed positions within the Australian Christian Church, the name they gave their united effort in relation to national affairs.
But even here its a bit of a dog's breakfast. There has never been a sense of Ordination in Australian Pentecostal Churches, rather a sense of people being recognised for Ministry and in many cases, initiating a church in a new area "out of nothing;' as it were. Their record in such endeavours is second to none, someone hangs out their shingle, 'Pastor' and off they go.
This is no more in evidence than between the Gold Coast Airport and Kingsliffe (NSW- Qld border region of Tweed Heads and Coolangatta) where there are 11 such Pentecostal congregations and moreover, name changes are the name of the game' (as it were). There is nothing wrong with any of this, rather it illustrates the nature of their concept of what might be termed, a calling to their form of 'holy orders', in other words, Ordination.
Difficulties with Ordination
Herein lies the great difficulty for international denominational leaders such as Neville Callam of the Baptist World Alliance, when multiplying what is in evidence on the local scene in one tiny section of Australia, to a world wide scene of confusion and difference.
Some time ago now, a congregation who, like many others, was considering a person to assist in pastoral duties. One common view at that time was that the word 'pastor' or 'pastoring' would be "seen to convey" a sense of 'Ordination', when in reality, it was a role associated with pastoral assistance. Confusion in the pew reigned supreme.
This is where the confusion lies and why the very concept of Ordination is under scrutiny. Denominations consistently seek their theologians and seminaries engage in clarifying work on such issues, and it may be helpful to get a fresh or a better understanding of Ordination 'across the denominational' spectrum.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html