People ask me all the time in which denomination I will be ordained. With seminary complete and full-time ministry on the horizon, it seems more urgent for everyone from my aunt to the lady at the grocery store to know what group I will belong to. Isn’t that just like humans, to need to categorize people into tidy little boxes? But I’ve been Christian long enough to know we are anything but tidy.
In churches around the globe people of all denominations profess that we believe in “one holy catholic and apostolic church.” But catholicity (or unity) does not require uniformity. An Episcopal church and a Pentecostal church, for example, look noticeably different in their Sunday worship but last I checked their Jesus is one and the same. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians that Christianity is one body made up of many parts. Many, MANY parts. Parts that are scattered from Tanzania to Tasmania to Texas. Yet the same Spirit moves in our worship whether to the beat of a tribal drum or the rhythm of a gospel choir. We read the same Bible, follow the same Jesus and profess the same Lord of all, do we not?
This is not to say that our denominational differences should be minimized at all costs; there are some things too difficult to agree upon, I know. Even still, I believe God is molding and shaping all things all the time. As theologian and writer Rachel Held Evans says about Christians, “We’re a family, after all, and so we fight like one.”
Which is why, rather than taking a stand firmly in one camp or the other, on the occasion of my ordination I think I shall call myself a Bapti-Christi-Metho-lic.
Raised Baptist, baptized Disciples of Christ, confirmed Roman Catholic, and graduate of a Methodist seminary, I get that my particular “brand” of Christianity can be hard to pin down. But I am the sum of all my parts: from my Baptist roots I learned all the books of the Bible, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and know John 3:16 is more than a football stadium slogan. The First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) gently anchored me through my parents’ divorce and the tumult of teen years. I was baptized in a pool there at age 13, my white robe clinging to a Speedo one-piece underneath, and the church will forever hold a special place in my heart. I then spent ten years in the Catholic Church, attending mass, teaching religious education, witnessing my brother-in law’s ordination to the priesthood, and baptizing my children there, until finally one day I decided I would rather focus on our similarities than on our differences and I officially joined the church. From my Catholic faith I learned our magnificent shared history, the gift of the sacraments, and a deep sense of connectedness to the very beginnings of Christianity. And then some 15 years later God called me to seminary and it just happened to be Methodist, where I fell in love with John Wesley and amazing grace.
For nearly two millennia ministers have been being ordained. The Bible tells us that Jesus gave Peter authority to teach and lead the people of God. Later, in the Book of Acts, Paul appointed elders in the church, praying over them and committing them to service. To be ordained is to be anointed, appointed, installed, consecrated or conferred with holy orders, and it is a tradition as old as Christianity itself.
I find it appropriate and humbling that this Bapti-Christi-Metho-lic will be ordained by the non-denominational congregation of Snowmass Chapel in the laying on of hands by Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist and Episcopal ministers who have gone before me, and one Rabbi for good measure! Confusing? Perhaps. Messy? Of course. But Jesus wasn’t one to stick to rules and religious orders either. It may not be a tidy little box but it’s BIG box, and there is most certainly room for all.