Why Must You Be Ordained in Order to Administer Communion/The Lord's Supper?

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I've been a pastor, with an education, for 9 years. In a different denomination.

Here in the CRC, I am not ordained and therefore not qualified to be a 'pastor', and not qualified to baptize individuals or lead the church in communion.

I just found this out, when our primary pastor was away for the monthly weekend that is designated to celebrate Communion. I was asked to not lead the Lords Supper because I am not ordained.

Respectfully, It bothers me.

Not because of my ego, or my desire for title and prestige. It bothers me because I can not for the life of me understand how this can be considered a biblical policy? In what ways does scripture teach that individuals have to go through years of Calvin or other reformed seminary, and become officially ordained, in order to lead a church in these celebrations? An individual is not qualified on account of their seminary training. There are plenty of terrible pastors with m.Divs. 

Obviously my bias is that it doesn't make sense. But I know that Reformed traditions generally value excellence and accuracy in their interpretation and application of scripture.

So is there anybody who could help me understand the reasoning for this?

Thanks!!

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Rob,

Thanks for the post and I appreciate your concern. I "hear" in your post that you feel disrespected by not being allowed to administer the sacraments, even though you have been ordained in another denomination.

I'd like to bring to your attention a couple things to think about. First, I think the issue you are identifying is not unique to the CRC or even the Reformed expression of faith. I would guess that you would not be allowed to administer the sacraments in most Presbyterian, Lutheran, or even Roman Catholic churches, for that matter. I am guessing the same would be for most churches from the Baptist or Methodist traditions. Only those ordained and authorized by those denominational bodies would permit someone to administer the sacraments. 

Secondly, and closely related, is the expectation and requirement that the person who administers the sacrament has an understanding of those sacraments that are consistent with the biblical understanding and theological teaching of the church and denomination. The CRC understanding of the covenantal promises of God in baptism and the true presence of the Holy Spirit in the Lord's Supper is significantly different than a Baptist, Lutheran, or Roman Catholic understanding of the same sacraments.  Therefore, according to our church order, the proper administration of the sacraments is done by one who is ordained, under the supervision of the council. The assumption is that this person understands and agrees with what the CRC believes that Scripture teaches about baptism and the Lord's Supper. 

Using this as a background, the Church Order of the CRC requires that the sacraments "shall be administered upon the authority of the the consistory in the public worship by a minister of the Word (CRC), a commissioned pastor, "or in case of need, an ordained person who has received the approval of classis..." In certain circumstances, a member of the council, ordinarily an elder, could administer the sacraments when an ordained minister is not available. (Reference Art. 53 & 55  and their supplements of the C.O.)

I provide this to you as information. Hopefully, you have a better understanding why the council asked that you not administer the Lord's Supper. You might not agree with these reasons, but the council acted consistently within the CRC's understanding of whom may offer the sacraments. 

Regards, Todd

Thanks for your response, Todd!

Community Builder

Your welcome, and thank you for being willing to assist your church in the bringing the Word!

Hi Rob:

There are various ways to be ordained in the CRC. See https://www.crcna.org/candidacy/journey-toward-ordination

It does take some time since the church and local Classis will be involved.  Even if a minister takes courses at Calvin Seminary, the local Classis gets involved before the person is officially ordained.  Hopefully  that is one way to avoid really bad ministers to get ordained, although there is no guarantee.  However it does take some time so the process should start about 6 months or more before the lead pastor goes on vacation!

August Guillaume

 

 

Participant

Rob, I'm sorry, I wrote all of the following paragraphs before I realized you had already received answers from my friend Todd Zuidema (who signed my certificate of ordination) and someone else.  I also thank you for your willingness to help your congregation.  You may have figured out from the other answers that you would need to become ordained under article 7 or 8 or be ordained as a "Ministry Associate" under Article 23-24 and in all of these you need to deal with Ministerial Candidacy Committee, which in my opinion has become far too complex and restrictive.  If you do not want or need my more detailed answer, you may want to stop reading here. 

I'll try, Rob.  In the "Manual of Christian Reformed Church Government" 2008 Revision by Peter Borgdorff, after Articles 6, 7, & 8 detail the three ways to become an ordained "Minister of the Word" in the CRC, Article 11 emphasizes that is the correct title to be used.  On page 64 it is explained "Synod 1965 did not accede to an overture requesting that the title be made "minister of the Word and sacraments," because the term "minister of the Word" is commonly accepted as including the administration of the sacraments (Acts of Synod 1965, p.58)."  That paragraph also informs us other Reformed churches, including RCA, use...'and sacraments.'

The next paragraph admits 'the title "pastor" is common... but is not a title but a function of the office of minister of the Word.

In Article 12, p. 67 explains "The Bible couples the preaching of the WOrd and the administration of the sacraments (Matt. 28:19-20 and the history in Acts).  The oral proclamation of the WOrd should be accompanied by the visible signs and seals of God's grace contained in the sacraments."  The paragraph goes on in quoting the Acts of Synod 1973, pp. 62-64.

I was 'Licensed to Exhort' in various Classes for about 28 years before becoming ordained under Article 7 (before they changed the rules - long story) but always knew I could not administer sacraments or perform marriages, etc. until I was ordained.

 

Hi Rob,

You will, I trust, pardon me for laughing at the question. I want to emphasize, laughing at the question and not at you nor at you for asking it. It is a good question. Here is my answer.

We have deviated significantly from the way Communion/Breaking iof Bread/Eucharist/The Kord’s Supper was first “celebrated.” Let me explain.

If we see its roots in Passover, then it would only be celebrated once a year. It would be, most likely, in a home. It would be part of a full meal. The “officiant” would be the head of the household, not a priest or a rabbi, or a pastor, unless they were also the head of the household. I we see the roots in a more simply communal meal or agape, then , it too, would be part of a full meal and the individual offering the blessing would be the host . So to think we are doing what the first believers did . . or even what Jesus did, is pure deception.

If you follow the early history of the church, all manner of acts became gradually transferred from the community as a whole to those who would become priests. Everything became sacramentalized and formalized, losing much of its original context and meaning. Anointing, as an example, was simply the application of a healing balm. It was rudimentary medicine. Then then oil became holy. Then it had to be blessed by the priest. Then only the priest could anoint. I hope to see the drift of this.

The Reformation challenged and corrected some things; but not all. Much of the evolution (or devolution) of practice still remained and is with us today. But, of course, because we cling to it, we must defend it. It is difficult for us to ask hard questions of a sacrament that dates back 500 years. And then, of course, if we simply allowed everyone to baptize, serve communion, and preach, people like me would be out of a job! J

(Largely off the top of my heard; but not totally without merit)

 

Ron VanAuken

Pastor for 45 years and now and Elder within the CRC

Participant

Thank You Ron,I have been house bound the last 5 yrs due to MS disease. I was once giving communion by a non approved Elder( My brother in law). I was told on the this Netwok that it was wrong. I have never experienced a more spirit filled communion than that one! We both cried after the experience! Both individuals I was in this discussion with later admitted it was real when I asked if were fake then if denomination criteria was not followed. Your post supports what I was trying to say!

Greetings to all,

Rob, I hear you and understand your concern. Let me answer you with respect and as a brother in Christ.

I, too, transferred denominations for a few reasons (none of which I desire to hide, but are not germane to this discussion). I was ordained an Elder in the United Methodist Church. "Elder" means different things in various denominations.

In the broader Methodist/Wesleyan tradition the Elder is ordained to Word, Sacrament, and Order. He or she is authorized to preach the Word, administer the Sacraments of baptism and communion, and administer the Order/Discipline of the Church/denomination. Elders Orders are normally lived as a local church pastor; but not always (e.g., chaplains). They are under the bishop's appointment and supervision; but do not need permission to exercise their ordination in the world.

I TRANSFERRED my Elders Orders to the Free Methodist Church. That was not a big theological leap for me. There is a similar view of ordination between the UMC and FMC. I will add that persons who are not ordained but appointed as pastors in the UMC and FMC are authorized by the appointment to administer the Sacraments within their appointment.

Others have addressed the theological and historical reasons for denominations to require persons to be ordained in order to administer the Sacraments. Allow me, again, to approach your dilemma from a different angle - still with a spirit that is in Christ.

First, in reading your question I am assuming that you left a previous denomination for whatever reason(s). In leaving that denomination it seems that you de facto surrendered your Orders (ordination) without transferring those Orders to your current denomination.

Second, you united with a specific denomination with a specific discipline (set of rules). I uniting with and transferring my orders to the Free Methodist Church I accepted the discipline of my new denomination and committed to that discipline.

I hope this helps you in your journey with Christ.

I Am Yours in Christ,

John

I think we have to adjust our thinking on this one during this epidemic where according to our 'rules' Lord's supper can only be celebrated by the pastor's family!  Any suggestions?

Admin

Good point, August. If you want, I can post this as a new question. I'd be interested in the feedback.

Rob, I'm sorry to hear you experienced this. I do not know of any scripture that indicates a person administering communion (or any other sacrament) has to be a church leader, much less ordained. I don't see biblical support for why any Christian can't do these things. "Ability to administer sacrements" is not a spiritual gift, not a "gift" required to be a presbuteros / episkopos / poimḗn, nor listed as one of their duties.  I could understand if you were new to your congregation and leadership wanted to know you better first, e.g. that time has demonstrated you to be a sincere believer showing fruits of the Spirit or perhaps meeting biblical standards for being an elder.  However, each denomination has created rules and procedures, some helpful, some not.  Unfortunately, it seems the issue here is the denominations' decisions, rules, and traditions, and whether or not you want to work within them, or try to effect change (perhaps a shorter route to ordination for those in your situation), or consider a denomination that is a better fit for you.  Thank you for volunteering to pitch in when your congregation was in need. That is true Christian behavior.

If there is a genius in our Reformed tradition it is found i the unofficial motto, "ecclesia reformata semper reformanda" (the reformed church (must) always be reformed). Perhaps this present crisis will cause us to look back at scripture and tradition and bring us into accord with the teaching of the former. My own historical take, not wholly divergent with the thinking of those of the "radical reformation" is that Luther, Calvin, Knox and others did not go far enough. It may have been a sensibility at the time as people can accept only so much change. To have rejected too much of developed tradition may well have brought the reformation to a standstill. So clergy/priestly prerogatives were still maintained.  

 

Of course, we could also be "sneaky" about the whole affair. What if we simply blessed the bread, broke it and shared it, and then blessed the cup and shared it, saying no more. After all, Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered together . . . " So just physically we would have communion with one another and with the Lord, and blessing each of the elements we would have Eucharist or the giving of thanks. What would be left out? 

Perhaps during this pandemic situation where churches can't all be in one place, rules for communion can be adjusted to stay biblical and stay to be a blessing.  What are the Catholic churches doing now?