A Statement of
Direction To Guide Congregations and Regional Conferences
General Conference Mennonite Church
The following statement
of direction was approved by the delegates at the General Conference
sessions in August 1974. It is circulated for study in
congregations. At this point it is a guide to conference leaders,
but is subject to further revision as new light is discerned from the
Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the life of the church.
I. THE BELIEVER'S CHURCH
A. Congregations standing within
the believer's church tradition hold to the concept of the priesthood
of all believers. For us this means that all members are priests
or ministers to each other and to those not yet in the church.
This belief has significant implications for the ways in which
leadership is viewed within the church.
B. All members are ministers of
God and called to discipleship through baptism. Holiness is the
attribute of righeousness that all members are to possess. It is
not a quality that is inherent in or derived from any particular ritual.
C. This belief in the pristhood
of every believer means that there are occasions when any Christian can
minister mercy and grace to another person (2 Cor. 5:18). Whether
one does minister depends more upon one's call and gifts than upon
authority derived from any hierarchy. We see God working through
the church to supply the necessary gifts to persons who will be able to
assist the whole church to fulfill its ministry (Eph. 4:11-14).
D. Our equality in Christ does
not conflict with the necessity of designating leadership roles.
Recognizing the importance of order, a congregation may identify gifts
for specific leadership functions.
A. The essential substance and
form of the ministry of both the congregation as a whole and of its
pastoral leader(s) in particular are derived from the person, the
ministry, and the work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
B. Ordination of pastoral
leadership is grounded in such biblical passages as Luke 9:1-6 (sending
out of the twelve), Acts 13:1-3 (the sending forth of Barnabas and
Saul), Acts 20:28-35, 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6 (the ordination
of Timothy). Functionally, ordination is grounded in the basic
need for order and leadership in the church, both of which are
recognized and sanctioned in Scripture (Acts 14:23; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 1
Per. 5:1-4; and 1 Cor. 14:40). Ordination recognizes that
authority under God which is necessary for the performance of the
designated leadership functions in the church.
C. Through ordination the
congregation recognizes and affirms the candidate's gifts for
leadership in the church, and confirms the person's sense of God's
call. It is not a sacrament that imparts of transfers a divine
gift or authroity. Ordination calls both minister and
congregation to mutual accountability under the lordship of
D. Ordination as understood in
the General Conference Mennonite Church is an act by which a person,
after appropriate examination, is formally and publicly appointed by
laying on of hands and prayer for a designated task of church
leadership. This applies to pastoral leadership in a local
congregation, but may also refer to allied ministries in the wider
church and conference fellowship.
E. Ordination is the
achkowledgement of a call to function as a pastor within a congregation
of the wider fellowship. Therefore, the call of God to which the
person is responding must be confirmed by the congregation or have come
through the larger church.
F. In viewing leadership
functions, ordination is understood as creating a relationship in
effect as long as a person serves a congregation, commission, or
institution in that designated leadership role. Ordained persons
exercising designated leadership roles at retirement will be identified
as "retired minister" by the General Conference.
G. Since each congregation is
seen as a manifestation of the ecclesia
of God, and since persons who serve as pastors generally serve more
than one congregation during their life, it is proper for
representatives of district and area conferences to be involved in the
examination and ordination of the person. This does not take away
responsibility from the local congregation for examining the candidate
and participating in the ordination or commissioning.
H. To be ordained, a person must
have skill interpreting the Bible, ability to preach and teach,
leadership qualities, love for people, and be full of the Holy Spirit
(Acts 6:3, 1 Cor. 4:1-2).
I. A dynamic and flexible
leading of the Holy Spriit according to local needs and gifts of
members means that sometimes several ministries and gifts will be
combined in one person. Ideally, leadership gifts will be shared
among various persons, who may of may not be ordained. Affirming
that in Christ there is neither male nor female and that God is no
respecter of persons, neither race for class nor sex should be
considered barriers in calling a minister (Matt. 28:7; Lk. 10:38-42;
Acts 18:26; Rom. 16:1; 1 Cor. 11:5; Gal. 3:28; Tim. 3:11).
J. Affirming also the
mercy and forgiveness of God, no sinful act should permanently
disqualify a person from serving a congregation. The local
congregation in cooperation with area conference representatives needs
to discern the spirit and examine the life of the person being
considered for leadership. When errors are confessed, they are
not remembered by God and should be forgiven by His church. An
ordained person should give ample evidence in life and attitude to
stand before the congregation as an example of God's redeeming love at
1. What does the priesthood of
all believers mean in the New Testament? in our congregation today?
2. What are the spiritual gifts
given to all Christians according to Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and
Ephesians 4? How are these gifts active in our congregation today?
3. What kinds of leaders are
named in the New Testament? What kinds of leaders are at work in
our congregation today? Which of these are ordained? Why?
4. What does ordination mean
according to the New Testament? What does ordination mean to
you? How do the two views compare and contrast?
5. What happens to ordination
when a person ceases to be a church leader? For instance, how
should such a person respond when asked to perform a marriage ceremony?
to preach? to baptize?
6. To whom is an ordained person
responsible? to himself? to God alone? to his local congregation? to
the district conference? the General Conference?
7. What moral offenses
disqualify a person from church leadership? Which do not?
How does restoration to full membership and eligibility for leadership
Adopted by the
Conference Mennonite Church, August 1974
to Resolutions Index