Ministry -- V. Ordination
A. The Meaning of Ordination
M39. The Church ordains certain of its members for the ministry in the name
of Christ by the invocation of the Spirit and the laying on of hands (I Tim.
4:14; 11 Tim. 1:6); in so doing it seeks to continue the mission of the apostles
and to remain faithful to their teaching. The act of ordination by those who
are appointed for this ministry attests the bond of the Church with Jesus Christ
and the apostolic witness, recalling that it is the risen Lord who is the true
ordainer and bestows the gift. In ordaining, the Church, under the inspiration
of the Holy Spirit, provides for the faithful proclamation of the Gospel and
humble service in the name of Christ. The laying on of hands is the sign of
the gift of the Spirit, rendering visible the fact that the ministry was instituted
in the revelation accomplished in Christ, and reminding the Church to look to
him as the source of its commission. This ordination, however, can have different
intentions according to the specific tasks of bishops, presbyters and deacons
as indicated in the liturgies of ordination.
It is clear that churches have different practices of ordination, and that
it would be wrong to single out one of those as exclusively valid. On the
other hand, if churches are willing to recognize each other in the sign of
apostolic succession, as described above, it would follow that the old tradition,
according to which it is the bishop who ordains, with the participation of
the community, will be recognized and respected as well.
M40. Properly speaking, then, ordination denotes an action by God and the community
by which the ordained are strengthened by the Spirit for their task and are
upheld by the acknowledgment and prayers of the congregation.
The original New Testament terms for ordination tend to be simple and descriptive.
The fact of appointment is recorded. The laying on of hands is described.
Prayer is made for the Spirit. Different traditions have built different interpretations
on the basis of these data.
It is evident that there is a certain difference between the unspoken cultural
setting of the Creek cheirotonein and that of the Latin ordo or ordinare.
The New Testament use of the former term borrows its basic secular meaning
of "appointment" (Acts 14:23; II Cor. 8:19), which is, in turn, derived from
the original meaning of extending the hand, either to designate a person or
to cast a vote. Some scholars see in cheirotonein a reference to the act of
laying on of hands, in view of the literal description of the action in such
seemingly parallel instances as Acts 6:6, 8:1 7, 13:3, 19:6; I Tim. 4:14;
II Tim. 1:6. Ordo and ordinare, on the other hand, are terms derived from
Roman law where they convey the notion of the special status of a group distinct
from the plebs, as in the term ordo clarissimus for the Roman senate. The
starting point of any conceptual construction using these terms will strongly
influence what is taken for granted in both the thought and action which result.
B. The Act of Ordination
M41. A long and early Christian tradition places ordination in the context
of worship and especially of the eucharist. Such a place for the service of
ordination preserves the understanding of ordination as an act of the whole
community, and not of a certain order within it or of the individual ordained.
The act of ordination by the laying on of hands of those appointed to do so
is at one and the same time invocation of the Holy Spirit (epiklesis); sacramental
sign; acknowledgment of gifts and commitment.
M42. (a) Ordination is an invocation to God that the new minister be given
the power of the Holy Spirit in the new relation which is established between
this minister and the local Christian community and, by intention, the Church
universal. The otherness of God's initiative, of which the ordained ministry
is a sign, is here acknowledged in the act of ordination itself. "The Spirit
blows where it wills" John 3:3): the invocation of the Spirit implies the absolute
dependence on God for the outcome of the Church's prayer. This means that the
Spirit may set new forces ill motion and open new possibilities "far more abundantly
than all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20).
M43. (b) Ordination is a sign of the granting of this prayer by the Lord who
gives the gift of the ordained ministry. Although the outcome of the Church's
epiklesis depends on the freedom of God, the Church ordains in confidence that
God, being faithful to his promise in Christ, enters sacramentally into contingent,
historical forms of human relationship and uses them for his purpose. Ordination
is a sign performed in faith that the spiritual relationship signified is present
in, with and through the words spoken, the gestures made and the forms employed.
M44. (c) Ordination is an acknowledgment by the Church of the gifts of the
Spirit in the one ordained, and a commitment by both the Church and the ordinand
to the new relationship. By receiving the new minister in the act of ordination,
the congregation acknowledges the minister's gifts and commits itself to be
open towards these gifts. Likewise those ordained offer their gifts to the Church
and commit themselves to the burden and opportunity of new authority and responsibility.
At the same time, they enter into a collegial relationship with other ordained
C. The Conditions for Ordination
M45. People are called in differing ways to the ordained ministry. There is
a personal awareness of a call from the Lord to dedicate oneself to the ordained
ministry. This call may be discerned through personal prayer and reflection,
as well as through suggestion, example, encouragement, guidance coming from
family, friends, the congregation, teachers, and other church authorities. This
call must be authenticated by the Church's recognition of the gifts and graces
of the particular person, both natural and spiritually given, needed for the
ministry to be performed. God can use people both celibate and married for the
M46. Ordained persons may be professional ministers in the sense that they
receive their salaries from the church. The church may also ordain people who
remain in other occupations or employment.
M47. Candidates for the ordained ministry need appropriate preparation through
study of scripture and theology, prayer and spirituality, and through acquaintance
with the social and human realities of the contemporary world. In some situations,
this preparation may take a form other than that of prolonged academic study.
The period of training will be one in which the candidate's call is tested,
fostered and confirmed, or its understanding modified.
M48. Initial commitment to ordained ministry ought normally to be made without
reserve or time limit. Yet leave of absence from service is not incompatible
with ordination. Resumption of ordained ministry requires the assent of the
Church, but no re-ordination. In recognition of the God-given charism of ministry,
ordination to any one of the particular ordained ministries is never repeated.
M49. The discipline with regard to the conditions for ordination in one church
need not be seen as universally applicable and used as grounds for not recognizing
ministry in others.
M50. Churches which refuse to consider candidates for
the ordained ministry on the ground of handicap or because they belong, for
example, to one particular race or sociological group should re-evaluate their
practices. This re-evaluation is particularly important today in view of the
multitude of experiments in new forms of ministry with which the churches are
approaching the modern world.