Lapsed Ordination: Should I Pursue Ordination as Bi-Vocational Pastor?

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Context: I was an ordained minister of the word for 14 years in the CRCNA. I then no longer felt a call to remain in full time ministry. I have, however, worked in worship ministry for the past 15 years, often receiving compensation for my work. In addition I have often volunteered in the teaching ministry of the Church including preaching, and have provided some level of pastoral leadership in the church during a 3-year vacancy.  

My first question is about re-establishing ordination. I never felt I was leaving my call to ministry in the CRCNA. After two years, my ordination was lapsed due to the church order's insistence that one could not be ordained as a minister of the word without being in full time ministry. Given the new emphasis on bi-vocational ministry, is it possible for me to once again be ordained in the CRCNA.  And if so, what would the suggested path be?

My second question is wether this would be beneficial to me and to the church? On this question, I am ambivalent. I don't feel like I have lost my sense of calling to the CRCNA. I am currently 62 years old and have been functioning in ministry regardless of office. I can and will continue to serve in any way God calls me until I breath my last breath, regardless of whether I am ordained or unordained.  

I know that ordination would give me a sense of affirmation and maybe a bit of emotional closure when it comes to my feelings about the CRCNA as an institution (but don't consider that to be a worthy reason for seeking ordination).  

The only real benefit I can think of is that it would open more opportunities for me to serve in the ministry of the church upon retirement. For example, being able to pastor/preach at a church in transition, or providing official leadership in a church that can only afford a part time minister. The bottom line is discernment. Would God have me pursue ordination or not?

I am interested in any insight into the first question as an academic exercise, and any insight into the later question as help in discernment.

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I am interested in any insight into the first question as an academic exercise, and any insight into the later question as help in discernment.

Hi Tim,

Here are my two cents on your questions. I will do my best to honor your comments about the first being an academic exercise and the second as a matter of discernment.

The part of your story that caught my eye was this: "After two years, my ordination was lapsed due to the church order's insistence that one could not be ordained as a minister of the word without being in full time ministry." This shouldn't have been the case as full-time vs. part-time ministry is not a reason for "a lapsed ordination." Ministers who lose their ordination are released by classis. It would be important to know why your ordination was released, as there are a number of possibilities and some are barriers to reordination. So in regards to your first question, reordination would be via the Church Order Article 14e and its supplements. You'd need to be "interviewed" in the classis where your ordination was released and then declared eligible for call. After successfully being declared eligible for call, a congregation would need to call you. Bivocational ministry does not change the need for a call by a congregation. 

As you noted your second question is one of discernment and in the end only you can answer it. Here's my two cents which I hope helps you on that journey: You will likely need a 'normal' call first, whether bivocational or full-time, before you can do any transitional ministry. Transitional ministers normally keep their 'papers' with a 'home' church while they are serving elsewhere as a transitional pastor. You would need to establish that 'home' church before doing any transitional work. 

An additional note: Retired pastors are technically not ordained. They "retain the title of minister of the Word and the authority, conferred by the church, to perform official acts of ministry." I point this out simply to note that you won't be able to go straight from reordination to ministry in retirement. Again, you'd need a 'normal' call first for a meaningful period of time before you could retire into the flexible ministry I sense you are thinking about.

I'd suggest you invite a number of people from your congregation to help you discern what would be best for you and the broader church. Whatever the answer, your ministry today and in the future is important to the church and CRC. Blessings! 

Mike Vander Laan