I called to congratulate a friend and former student who was just ordained a full elder in the United Methodist Church at annual conference, and he said, tongue-in-cheek, “Yes, I feel much more powerful now!”
So since some of the comments here (from PamBG [her comment], Diane R. [her comment] and Peter Kirk [his comment]) have brought up the issue of ordination and impartation, and because it’s a topic on which I don’t have extremely set views, I decided to pick my newly ordained friend’s brain. (Note that each comment I linked is part of a thread, and it would be well to read the whole thread before concluding you have the commenter’s viewpoint.)
I went to it directly. “I know you were joking, but do you believe that there is some kind of impartation involved in ordination?” He said he did, and pointed out how the ordination certificate, on the back, shows the number of generations of laying on of hands back to John Wesley, and then back through church history. That’s the Methodist version of apostolic succession, which, according to the Catholic church, we do not actually have.
I thought I’d open this up to questions. I’m going to ask this young man who is very well versed in theology and especially interested in the early church, its practices, and traditions, just what he meant by that. What is imparted, and how? I’d like to see some comments. I’ll be meeting him the middle of next week.
In the meantime, I had a conversation with my wife, and we’re more comfortable with the notion that God imparts, and the particular person or place is a matter of obedience. Take Gehazi, for example. He goes to dip in the Jordan River. Was the river water particularly efficacious? I’d tend to think not. What was efficacious was obedience. God could heal at any place and in any way he chose, but he chose that way and that place. Similarly, I think God could make someone a fully called and empowered minister without external events. He just chooses to work through the church.
I’m not sure that’s actually different in substance. It’s just a bit different of a way of talking about it. I still have a great deal of question about just how important the way we talk about this is. I’ve been around someone who thinks that if you haven’t received prayer from someone with a particular anointing, say an anointed revival speaker, you will not have anointing. Another friend and pastor effectively denies that the laying on of hands is of any efficacy whatsoever. It’s just a symbol.
Included in this question would be the relationship between ordination and the type of impartation involved in some modern revival meetings. I haven’t seen it myself, but I think there’s a similarity in Lakeland and what we had here ate Brownsville in that hundreds of people are touched physically during the prayer time, and that is frequently regarded as a time of impartation. I’m not trying to challenge that idea, even though you can probably tell I’m not entirely comfortable with it. Yet there is scripture that seems to back that up to some extent.