Leadership and Authority in the Life of the Church (Mennonite Church, 1981)

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Leadership and Authority in the Life of the Church (Mennonite Church, 1981)

Contents

[edit] Introduction

In 1976 the Mennonite Church General Board began working on the topic "Leadership and Authority in the Life of the Church" by appointing a task force and preparing for the presentation of the topic at the 1977 General Assembly. This assembly "strongly affirmed that the study be continued on the basis of the projected timetable" which was as follows:

A. Study plan submitted to General Assembly June 1977

B. Depth study initiated September 1977

C. Preparation of study report on leadership and authority Fall 1978

D. Presentation of study report on leadership and authority to General Assembly August 1979

E. Initiate congregational study process Fall/Winter 1979

F. Presentation and discussion of summary report to General Assembly August 1981

This timetable was followed, resulting in the affirmation of the summary statement by the General Assembly at Bowling Green, August 11-16, 1981.

The General Assembly affirmed this document as a summary statement of current understandings in the Mennonite Church. It urged careful attention to the biblical principles identified in it and encouraged continuing conference and congregational study of issues on which further work is needed. The General Assembly called all members to an attitude of readiness to give and receive counsel in the work of the church. It gratefully affirmed the many gifts which the Spirit provides for the good of the body.

The General Assembly also recognized the need for further consideration of the role of women in leadership ministries and directed the General Board to appoint a committee to study and facilitate the process of the full participation of women in the leadership ministries of the Church.

This summary statement focuses primarily on the question of leadership in the congregation. By necessity it also includes the issue of leadership in other areas of intercongregational relationships. The task force chose to restrict the topic of authority to the leadership question rather than to include such matters as the authority of the Scripture, tradition, and doctrine.

This summary statement is intended as guideline and resource material for personal, congregational, or churchwide use. [The task force that prepared this document was chaired by Ralph Lebold, then President of Conrad Grebel College, Waterloo, Ontario. Marlin Miller of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries in Elkhart, Indiana was the writer of the text.]

[Statements by the Mennonite Church General Assembly state the understanding of the Mennonite Church at the time of the action. Statements have informal authority and influence in the denomination; they have formal authority as confirmed or endorsed by area Mennonite Church area conferences and/or congregations.] Ivan Kauffmann, General Secretary Mennonite Church General Board

[edit] Why This Study?

Changing practices and understandings often cause uncertainty and confusion in the life of the church. So do differences of understanding and practice on important matters. This is presently the case with North American Mennonites* with respect to leadership and authority in the church. However, differences and changes can also become challenges to greater faithfulness. They can lead to a clearer vision of the way to which God calls the church.

Both the uncertainty and the challenges have been voiced in conference consultations* and in the Council on Faith, Life, and Strategy.* Congregational and conference leaders have raised questions about our present practices and understandings of leadership and authority in the church. The Council on Faith, Life, and Strategy* asked for a better description of the believers' church* model of leadership and authority.'

Some major questions are:

1. What are the New Testament guidelines for leadership and the leadership authority in the Mennonite Church,* especially in relation to the ordained ministry?

2. What are the main functions of what has been called the ordained ministry?

3. Does leadership and leadership authority in a believers' church center in the pastor or in a pattern of shared leadership?

4. What is the congregational and the conference authority in calling and preparing congregational leadership, in confirming or ordaining ministers, and in changing ministers?

5. In what ways may women share in leadership ministries?

This study is designed to serve as a tool for congregations and conferences which want to address themselves to the matter of leadership and leadership authority in the church. It is limited in two ways. Rather than attempting to consider all types of leadership in the church, it focuses on what has traditionally been called the ordained ministry in the congregation and its relation to conference. Rather than trying to cover all matters related to authority in the church, it concentrates on the authority of what has usually been the ordained ministry. It is hoped that this study can assist conferences and congregations as they seek God's leading in these matters. It is also hoped that it can contribute to a renewed commitment to the New Testament vision of leadership in the life of the church.

[edit] Bibliography

Seven Articles of Schleitheim (Anabaptist, 1527)

Dordrecht Confession of Faith (Mennonite, 1632)

Mennonite Confession of Faith (Mennonite Church, 1963)

Biblical Understandings Concerning Women and Men (Mennonite Church, 1975)

Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (Mennonite Church/General Conference Mennonite Church, 1995)

©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved. To cite this page:

MLA style: Mennonite Church. "Leadership and Authority in the Life of the Church (Mennonite Church, 1981)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1981. Web. 26 August 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L42.html.

APA style: Mennonite Church. (1981). Leadership and Authority in the Life of the Church (Mennonite Church, 1981). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 August 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L42.html.


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[edit] Leadership and Authority in Anabaptist and Mennonite History

Patterns of leadership and authority in Anabaptist and Mennonite groups have changed over the centuries. Historical trends in congregations and conferences have influenced present-day understandings and practices.

When the Anabaptist movement began in the sixteenth century, groups of Christians gathered to share a common life, study the Bible, admonish one another, pray, and make decisions. Within two years several leaders met near the Swiss village of Schleitheim in 1527*. They found consensus on several issues facing the young fellowships. One point of agreement referred to congregational leaders as "shepherds." According to Schleitheim the office* of shepherd shall be "to read the Scriptures, to admonish and teach, to warn, to discipline, to ban in the church, to lead out in prayer for the advancement of all brethren and sisters, to lift up the bread when it is to be broken, and in all things to see to the care of the body of Christ, in order that it may be built up and developed, and the mouth of the slanderers be stopped." In the following years "shepherds" were not the only kinds of leaders in Anabaptist congregations. Some were preachers, some admonishers, some overseers, some teachers, some bishops, and some servants of the poor or deacons.

Women shared more actively in church life among the sixteenth-century Anabaptists and Mennonites than in Protestant and Roman Catholic groups of the time. A few are known to have exercised teaching, evangelistic, eldering, and writing ministries. In the seventeenth century, Article IX of the Dordrecht Confession (1632)* included deaconesses as one of the "offices" in the church: "Also that one (i.e., the congregation) should ordain and choose honorable old widows to be deaconesses, that they, with the deacons, should visit, comfort, and care for the poor, weak, ill, distressed, and needy people, as also widows and orphans, and help to alleviate the needs of the congregation to the best of their abilities, 1 Timothy 5:9; Romans 16:1; James 1:27."

By the middle of the sixteenth century, Mennonites had generally moved toward a threefold pattern of ministry; consisting of (1) bishops or elders, (2) preachers or ministers, (3) deacons. All of these persons were usually ordained for life. They generally also carried out their ministry in one place. This threefold pattern has continued to the present in many congregations. But it has, in this century, also changed in many other congregations. According to this pattern:

1. Bishops or elders are those to whom the "full ministry" has been committed. They have the authority to ordain, administer discipline, officiate baptism and communion services, as well as preach and teach. The bishop or elder has usually been chosen from among the preachers or ministers either by a majority vote or by lot.* Bishops' or elders' authority may be limited to one congregation or extended to several.

2. Preachers or ministers are those who help the bishops or elders in the ministry of the Word. They do not ordain others, have not been primarily responsible for exercising discipline, and have not regularly administered baptism, communion, and other ordinances. Nevertheless, preachers or ministers have usually been ordained for life.

3. Deacons have historically fulfilled many tasks. Their duties usually included caring for the poor of the congregation, assisting the bishop in the administration of the ordinances and in discipline, reading Scripture in worship services, and assisting bishops and preachers in visiting the sick. Traditionally, a man was ordained deacon for life, but in some cases could become a preacher as well as a bishop.

In the present century, women have been active as missionaries and Sunday school teachers in the Mennonite Church (MC). With few exceptions they have not served as congregational ministers. In some areas, deaconesses have played a minor role in the life and service of the Mennonite Church. In contrast to the Dordrecht Confession, the 1963 Confession of Faith* does not mention the office of deaconess.

In recent North American Mennonite (MC) history, there have been several trends. In some areas, the threefold pattern of ministry has been continued or slightly modified. In other areas, there has been a tendency to drop both the office of bishop and deacon, and to move in the direction of having one pastor. When this happens, congregations usually choose a board of elders or a church council which meets with the pastor for advice and counsel. Where the trend has been toward a one-pastor system, there has generally been increased or full financial support. Congregations have also often chosen a pastor from outside the congregation who has either Bible school or seminary training. The pastor often serves only for a limited time in one congregation, rather than "for life."

During the past twenty years other congregational leadership forms have arisen among North American Mennonites. Team ministries, elders in communal fellowships, shared leadership by a church council, and greater pastoral autonomy are a few of the leadership patterns which can also be found in Mennonite Church congregations. There have also been significant trends in conference functions since the sixteenth century. Area conferences in the sixteenth century were usually gatherings of bishops or elders, sometimes with other ordained leaders. They met to develop common strategies for mission and evangelism, or to seek agreement on doctrinal and moral issues. They had no continuing organization which functioned between meetings.

Among North American Mennonites, district conferences began in the eighteenth century. Toward the end of the nineteenth century and during the twentieth century, district conferences began to exercise more authority among North American Mennonites. Examining and ordaining (or approving the ordination of) congregational leaders became an important conference function. The role of conference in formulating, deciding, and implementing discipline grew. Simultaneously, conference gatherings have not been limited to ordained leaders. They have included teaching and inspirational sessions, as well as action on conference policies. In addition, many conferences have staff persons and committees which cam out the work of conference between sessions.

Besides the district conferences, the Mennonite General Conference* (MC) was organized at the end of the nineteenth century. The Mennonite General Conference has usually functioned in an advisory role. It has not exercised as much decision-making authority as the district conferences. Nevertheless, it has been a major influence in the Mennonite Church life. It has adopted several significant statements such as the 1963 Confession of Faith. In 1971, the Mennonite General Conference was reorganized. It became the Mennonite Church with Regions, a General Assembly, a General Board, and other councils and program boards.

Trends in district conference authority during the twentieth century have varied from area to area. This has led to differing understandings and practices on the authority of the local congregation in relation to district conferences. According to Article VIII of the 1963 Confession of Faith, "The primary unit of the church is the local assembly of believers." The Bylaws of the Mennonite Church as adopted in 1971 at the Kitchener General Assembly reaffirm "the congregation's centrality in the life and witness of the denomination." At the same time the Bylaws affirm the tasks of districts and conferences which "may provide for fellowship, program sharing, or mutual guidance in such matters as polity and doctrine, leadership, and validation of ordination."

Mennonites in the twentieth century have also been influenced by other churches and Christian groups as well as by American society and culture. Growing individualism, widespread confusion of authority with authoritarianism, and modern organizational and management practices are present in Mennonite churches and church organizations. Through radio and television, American religious leaders have influenced Mennonites' expectations about leadership and authority in the church. Differing convictions on the role of women in church leadership are debated both among Mennonites and other Christian churches and groups.

These historical developments, changes, trends, and influences have shaped the Mennonite Church, Mennonite Conferences, and congregations in a variety of ways. In view of this variety and this history, what are the New Testament guidelines which can enable us as Mennonites to face the current challenges of leadership and authority? What changes may contribute to greater faithfulness? What changes may lead down the wrong path? We shall look first at the biblical guidelines, then at the implications of these guidelines for leadership patterns among Mennonites.

[edit] Bibliography

Seven Articles of Schleitheim (Anabaptist, 1527)

Dordrecht Confession of Faith (Mennonite, 1632)

Mennonite Confession of Faith (Mennonite Church, 1963)

Biblical Understandings Concerning Women and Men (Mennonite Church, 1975)

Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (Mennonite Church/General Conference Mennonite Church, 1995)

©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved. To cite this page:

MLA style: Mennonite Church. "Leadership and Authority in Anabaptist and Mennonite History." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1981. Web. 26 August 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L42.html/L42_2.html.

APA style: Mennonite Church. (1981). Leadership and Authority in Anabaptist and Mennonite History. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 August 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L42.html/L42_2.html.

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[edit] New Testament Guidelines for Leadership and Authority in the Church

A. Leadership in the Church

B. Authority and Leadership Authority in the Church

C. Gifts and Ministry of Women in the New Testament

The authority of the church, according to the New Testament, applies to carrying out its mission in the world, to formulating right doctrine, to discerning faithful practice, and to providing appropriate leadership. Some of the following guidelines on the authority of the church would also apply to the areas of mission, doctrine, and practice. They focus, however, on the nature of church authority and leadership authority in the church.

[edit] A. Leadership in the Church

The New Testament does not give one fixed form of leadership in the early church or for all times and places. Nevertheless, the form of leadership in the church is not arbitrary or unimportant. Rather, there are several characteristics of leadership in the New Testament which reflect a distinctive type of leadership in the Christian community. These characteristics are repeated throughout the New Testament and are basic for any pattern of leadership in the church. They include:

1. All members of the church are given a gift or a ministry to exercise. Leadership in the Christian church, therefore, takes place in a community where all members are called to exercise their particular gifts and ministries, 1 Corinthians 12:7 and Ephesians 4:7; see also 1 Corinthians 12.

2. There are diverse ministries in the New Testament. This means that leadership in the church should normally be given by several differing ministries. In the New Testament these included apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors, helpers, administrators, etc. Apostles as well as prophets, teachers as well as pastors, provided leadership in the New Testament Church. This does not mean that everyone is a leader. Nor does it mean that no one gives leadership. It means that several ministries give different kinds of leadership. 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4; Romans 12:6-8; 1 Peter 5; Acts 20; 1 Timothy 3:1ff., 5:17ff.; Titus 1:5f., 2:2ff.

3. In the New Testament, each ministry is normally shared by several persons rather than vested in only one person. Just as the one Spirit works in all for building up the Christian community, it is fitting that several share the same ministry. The examples of leadership ministries in the New Testament churches repeatedly refer to several persons sharing the same functions even on the local level. For example: the apostles in the Jerusalem congregation, the seven in the Jerusalem congregation, the prophets and teachers in the Antioch congregation, the elders in the Ephesus congregation. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 27-31; Galatians 2:9; Acts 6; Acts 13:1; Acts 20:17.

4. In the New Testament, the terms "elders," "overseers" or "bishops," and "shepherds" or "pastors," refer to the same ministry. The term "elders" was borrowed from the language of the Jewish synagogue. The word translated as "overseers" or "bishops" describes the same ministry in a functional way. The word translated as "shepherds" or "pastors" describes the same ministry in a figurative way (using the image of sheep and shepherds).

These persons shared in the oversight of a local congregation. There were normally several elders, overseers, and pastors in a local congregation. Some of the elders, bishops, and pastors were also teachers. This means that even among those who shared this ministry, it varied according to their gifts and calling: Ephesians 4; 1 Timothy 5. Those who shared this ministry did not have to fit into an "office" which required exactly the same functions from everybody. By sharing in this ministry according to their gifts, each complemented the others and was complemented by them.

The ministry of elders/bishops/pastors in the New Testament comes closest to what we usually mean today when we speak about leadership in the local congregation. It means taking initiative to help the congregation find direction. It includes enabling many gifts and ministries to work together in congregational life and in witness and mission. Some who share in this ministry are called to teach or preach. Some have the gifts and skill of pastoral care, some of coordination and administration. This ministry of leadership oversight is needed in each local congregation.

In summary, these four characteristics of New Testament leadership (1-4 above) are based on the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit. According to Ephesians 4:8, Christ's saving work and his present lordship include giving gifts to each in the church. The whole body works properly, becomes mature, and reaches the fullness of Christ as many shared ministries work together in the church. These characteristics are described as the work of the Holy Spirit, in 1 Corinthians 12, and as participation in the body of Christ, in Romans 12. Because these characteristics are based on the work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, they are not limited to first-century Christians. They remain for the church which seeks to be faithful today.

[edit] B. Authority and Leadership Authority in the Church

In human society and social groups, authority usually means the right to exercise power over others or to compel them to act in a certain way. It may be based on a strong tradition and the presence of an elite which rules by preserving the tradition. Or authority may be based on a set of laws which apply to everyone, but are interpreted by experts, who have the "office" of governance. Or authority in social and religious groups may center in forceful personalities with a strong sense of vocation. They may be accepted by many followers or may impose themselves on others by the power of their personality. Sociologists call these three types of authority in human societies "traditional," "legal," and "charismatic."*

Sometimes authority in the church is similar to these types of authority. But it should have a distinctive character because of its origin and New Testament instructions for its exercise. The authority of the church comes from Jesus Christ who gives it the right and power to act in his name. Tradition is important, but the church cannot create or maintain her authority primarily by appealing to a long tradition. Furthermore, a common way of life is important. But the church cannot create or maintain her authority primarily by making rules of conduct which a few people enforce. Finally, some people have more powerful personalities than others. But the church cannot create or maintain authority primarily by unquestioning acceptance of unique personalities who demand personal loyalty.

In the church, authority comes from Jesus Christ who is present as the Head of his body. The Holy Spirit sustains this authority by working in and through the Christian community. This authority reflects the life of Jesus Christ in the Christian community. It is an authority where all members contribute to the upbuilding, well-being, and mission of the congregation by exercising their gifts. Genuine authority is therefore present or absent as the church conforms to or is unfaithful to the "mind of Christ" revealed in Scriptures and discerned through the leading of the Spirit. This means several things for authority and leadership authority in the church:

1. The authority of the church is primarily corporate rather than individual. Jesus Christ gives it primarily to the Christian community as members exercise many gifts and ministries to learn the mind of Christ, to grow toward maturity in him, and to act on his behalf on earth (Ephesians 4; 1 Corinthians 12; Matthew 18). This happens in many settings. It especially includes times when the believing community gathers around the Scriptures under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to worship, to discern God's will, to exercise mutual discipline, and to make decisions.

2. Leadership authority in the church should be expressed in serving one another rather than in lording it over others. Jesus taught his disciples to exercise leadership by taking the initiative to serve rather than to rule (Mark 10:42-45; Philippians 2:5-8, etc.). By his own example, he demonstrated servant leadership. Therefore, the main issue about authority in the church is not whether it is based on tradition, or guarded by a system of rules and regulations, or centered in powerful personalities. Most important is the way in which people exercise authority in the church. Servant leadership includes:

--Growing in faithfulness to Jesus Christ as the Lord who was with us as servant.

--Meeting others' needs and acting for their welfare.

--Encouraging and helping others to exercise their gifts and ministries so that all grow toward fullness in Christ together.

--Granting those who are served the freedom of corporately and voluntarily accepting, rejecting, or modifying the direction leaders are moving in rather than coercing them to follow.

--Being single-minded and having clear vision while refusing to dominate others--even "for their own good."

--Speaking the truth clearly and fearlessly in love without duplicity.

The servant leadership which Jesus taught and exercised thus expresses spiritual strength rather than weakness. The New Testament words for leaders reflect the servanthood nature of leadership. The Greek word for "first one" or "one who rules over" is used for Jewish and Roman leaders. It is not used for Christians. And the Greek term which comes closest to the English term "leader" refers always in its noun form and usually in its verb form to Roman and Jewish leaders. Sometimes it refers to Christian leaders. The way it is used can help us understand the difference between servant authority and the authority of rulers.

Hebrews 13:7 admonishes the believers: "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the Word of God...." The passage warns against being taken in by "diverse and strange teachings." It says rather that the trustworthy leaders are those who have spoken God's Word and whose lives have demonstrated their faith. Verse 17 tells Christians, "Obey your leaders and submit to them" because they are "keeping watch over your souls as those who will have to give an account." In the first example, the leaders' authority comes from their having spoken God's Word and from having lived according to it. In the second example, believers are admonished to obey those who have been given oversight ministry. The word "obey" used here does not mean blind obedience to a ruler, but being persuaded because of trust and confidence. Christians are thus called to submit willingly to those having leadership ministries because they are persuaded to do so not simply because they have no choice in the matter. See also Hebrews 13:24; Acts 14:12; Acts 15:22. Some translations of 1 Thessalonians 5:12 say, "We beseech you to respect those who ... are over you in the Lord .... " A literal* translation would read "those who ... stand before you .... " Servant authority is not based on ruling over. It involves leading out, taking initiative in serving others. In this passage it may refer to the elder/overseer/pastor ministry.

3. The shape of leadership authority in the church is one of mutual submission. This is different from a hierarchical or egalitarian pattern. In a hierarchy, leadership authority starts at the top and is imposed on and/or accepted by subordinates. In an egalitarian pattern every individual has the same authority. The New Testament vision and practice is nonhierarchical without downgrading authority. It is corporate without downgrading individual uniqueness. For example: As an apostle, Paul was called to give leadership in founding and teaching in churches. But he was also sent out by the prophets and teachers together with the congregation at Antioch. He remained accountable to that congregation. He thus submitted himself to others who were exercising their ministries in the church. Simultaneously he asked others to accept his apostolic authority. (See 2 Corinthians). All sought to submit to Jesus Christ, and to each other out of reverence for Christ.

According to 1 Corinthians 14, prophets exhorted the gathered congregation. Other members of the congregation were to submit themselves to the prophets who provided this kind of leadership. But the congregation was apparently also to test the prophets. The prophets thus exercised authority in mutual submission. The elders/bishops/pastors carried the oversight and sometimes the teaching responsibility in the local New Testament congregation. But other members of the congregation could also "correct" the elders by using the procedure outlined in 1 Timothy 5:19-20. Thus, the elders/ bishops/pastors who exercised the ministry of oversight in the congregation were also accountable in a way which may be described as mutual submission.

Other examples also reflect the spirit of mutual submission. In Acts 6, the apostles proposed that the body of disciples choose "from among you seven men of good repute." The congregation approved the proposal, chose the seven, and "presented them to the apostles." According to verse 6, either the congregation or the apostles "laid their ,hands on them." In Acts 15:22 "the apostles and elders, with the whole church" came to agreement on the expected conduct for Gentile Christians. Together they chose to send representatives to the other congregations. This pattern of mutual submission should shape the relations between servant leaders. It also applies to servant leaders' relations with all members of the congregation. They should work them out in a way that fits the relation and ordering of everyone's gifts and ministries. It is not the same as:

--A hierarchical kind of authority in which one particular office or a descending ladder of offices mediates the corporate authority of the church to all other believers.

--A clerical type of authority in which the clergy alone as distinct from the laity mediate the corporate authority of the church.

--An egalitarian kind of authority in which each individual believer possesses equal authority regardless of particular gifts and ministries. In this case everyone becomes his or her own authority alone.

In summary, in the New Testament pattern of mutual submission, those who share in one ministry are called to discern as well as accept the authority of those who share in other ministries in the life of the church.

4. Leadership authority in the New Testament is both conferred and confirmed in its practice. Leadership authority in the New Testament is not only delegated by the authorizing person or group of people. Nor is it only legitimized by its exercise. In the first case authority would only be conferred; in the latter case, only functional. Because of its divine origin, its spiritual quality, and its servant style, leadership authority in the New Testament is both given to those who are to exercise it, and confirmed by the way they exercise it. Examples include:

--The baptism and testing of Jesus (Mark 1:11-13) and his entire ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection.

--Jesus' call to the Twelve and their ministries.

--The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and the missionary ministry of the church, according to the book of Acts.

--The apostle Paul's call on the Damascus road, his commissioning by the congregation at Antioch (Acts 13), and the confirmation of his apostolic authority in the exercise and results of his ministry (for example, 2 Corinthians 10-13).

--The appointment of the seven, Acts 6ff.

--Timothy, cf. 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy.

--Knowing prophets by their fruits, Matthew 7:15ff.

[edit] C. Gifts and Ministries of Women in the New Testament

In comparison to first-century society, the New Testament gives new dignity and responsibility to women. This is revealed in the way Jesus related to women. It is shown in the part they had in his ministry, in his teaching of women, in his calling them to tell others about him, and in their being the first witnesses to his resurrection. This new dignity and responsibility of women continued in the New Testament church. Women were among those who received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost in Jerusalem, and in Cornelius's household. Peter explained Pentecost as the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy. This prophecy foretold the time when "your sons and daughters shall prophesy" (Acts 2:17). The experience of the New Age of the Spirit also belongs to the work of Christ: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:27f). A new unity between men and women became a reality in the Christian church. It is based on the work of the Holy Spirit and oneness in Christ Jesus. Similarly, Ephesians 5:21 speaks of the mutual submission of men and women to each other in Christ.

1. There are several examples where women exercised significant gifts and ministries in the life of the New Testament church.

The four daughters of Philip "prophesied," Acts 21:8-9. According to 1 Corinthians 12, "prophesying" is one of the gifts of the Spirit for the common good of the church.

Phoebe was "a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae," Romans 16:1 (instead of "deaconess"; "deacon" would be the literal translation* of the Greek). Some translations prefer to use such terms as "servant" for Phoebe. However, they translate "minister" or "deacon" in every other Pauline passage which uses the same word. Thus, Phoebe should be seen as a "minister" or "deacon" in the usual sense of those words. Phoebe's ministry is also described with the Greek word "prostatis." This noun is not used in other Pauline writings, but the verb form of the word is used to mean "preside over." Whether "prostatis" means that Phoebe "presides over" a congregation as deacon is not absolutely clear. But she is more than a "helper" in the usual sense, because other members of the congregation are told to "help her in whatever she may require from you."

Romans 16:3 mentions "Prisca and Aquila" who are the apostle Paul's "co-workers." This term is used for Timothy in Romans 16:21, for Clement in Philippians 4:3, and others. This couple is mentioned in the New Testament six times. The wife's name comes first four times--Acts 18:18, 26; 2 Timothy 4:19; and here. Both "expounded the way of God" to Apollos in a more accurate way.

Together with her husband, Prism thus exercised a significant ministry in the life of the early church. We do not know further details about the ministry she and her husband shared.

In Romans 16:7, Paul sends greetings to "Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners who are eminent among the apostles, and who were in Christ before I was" (literal translation). Many versions translate Junias. The more likely translation is Junia. Junia is a common woman's name. Whether Andronicus and Junia were husband and wife as Prism and Aquila is not said. Both are mentioned as fellow prisoners and apostles.

Other examples could be mentioned. In addition to Phoebe, Prism, and likely Junia, seven additional women are singled out for greetings in Romans 16. We are not told what responsibilities they may have had.

According to 1 Corinthians 11, women prayed and prophesied in the congregation; according to Titus 2:3f., older women were to " ... teach what is good and so train the young women ...." First Timothy 3:11 refers either to the wives of deacons or to women who serve as deacons (in the second century church and later they were called deaconesses): the literal translation is simply "women likewise must be serious, no slanderers ...."

2. Together with these examples, several passages give instructions about women in the church and about the relation of women and men; for example:

According to 1 Corinthians 14:34, women are "to keep silence in the churches..." and "are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate .... " The apostle Paul had just given instructions in 1 Corinthians 11 for women who pray and prophesy in the church to do so without removing their veils (as a sign of subordination). Keeping silence may therefore refer to particular misuses which had arisen in the churches, perhaps because of the new freedom in Christ. Or it may refer to a particular limitation such as teaching (some biblical interpreters connect this verse with 1 Timothy 2:12). First Timothy 2:11f.: "Let a woman learn in quietness in all submission. I do not permit women to teach or to domineer over men." The verb used in this verse means "domineer" or "usurp authority over" more than simply "have authority over." It is used only here in the New Testament. Some students of the Bible understand this verse to apply to the cultural situation of the first century. They point out that women had no preparation for teaching. Furthermore, Jewish women had not been permitted to participate in the synagogue meetings--for Christian women coming from a Jewish background the shared Christian gatherings were a new experience that may have led to misuses. Other interpreters see the passage as a general rule for all time. They understand the difference of men's and women's roles to mean that women should not teach because that would be "exercising authority over" men. In either case, it apparently means that the question of whether women may teach because of their newfound freedom in Christ arose in the early church. According to this passage, Paul ("I do not permit ...") did not allow it. But according to Romans 16, he recognized Phoebe as a deacon; Prisca, together with her husband, as one of his co-workers; and likely Junia as an apostle. Passages such as 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5 speak about the husband being the head of the wife. Ephesians 5, as well as Colossians 3, for example, speaks about wives being subject to their husbands. These passages are often connected to 1 Timothy 2:11 and 1 Corinthians 14:34 in the sense that women should not teach because that means exercising authority over men rather than being subject to them.

3. The 1973 Mennonite Church Study* goes into more detail about the roles of men and women in the life of the church. This study focuses on leadership and authority in the life of the church. Here the New Testament teaching and examples may be summarized as follows:

The headship of husbands in relation to wives is emphasized in 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5. The model of headship is Jesus Christ in his relation to the church. It is not the model of non-Christian society where there was a one-way relation of domination. Because Jesus Christ's relation to the church is the model for headship, to be "head" means to "love," to "give oneself for," to "care for" as Christ has done and continues to do for the church (Ephesians 5:23ff.). It does not mean to dominate. The New Testament does not admonish husbands to impose their headship on their wives, but to love their wives. This is their way of participating in mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21). These and other passages instruct wives to be "subject" to their husbands. This did not mean that wives are to blindly obey their husbands because they have no other choice (for example, because that was the pattern in pagan or Jewish society). It means that they are called to willingly "respect" their husbands and be "subject as to the Lord." This is the wives' way of participating in mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21).

Some interpretations find in Galatians 3:27f. a higher expression of equality between women and men in Christ than in the passages which speak about husbands' headship and about women's remaining silent in the church. Different passages may in fact have different emphases. The New Testament, however, points both to a new and liberating unity between men and women in Christ, and to distinctive roles of each in relation to each other. We should therefore not read modern notions of individualistic equality, which rules out any significant distinctions between women and men, back into the biblical vision of unity in Christ. We should also stop reading many traditional understandings of social roles for women and men back into the biblical vision of how they relate to each other in their distinctiveness.

To summarize, the whole New Testament picture includes several things: a Christ-centered understanding of the relation between wives and husbands, the new unity of men and women in Christ Jesus, and women who exercised significant gifts and ministries in the New Testament church within certain limits. If women were not to teach at all, then teaching meant something different from prophesying and praying, from Phoebe's ministry as deacon, from the ministry Prisca shared with her husband, and from Junia's s likely apostleship. If women were not to teach in specific situations or because of misuses and excesses, some may have taught according to their particular gifts and ministries.

[edit] Bibliography

Seven Articles of Schleitheim (Anabaptist, 1527)

Dordrecht Confession of Faith (Mennonite, 1632)

Mennonite Confession of Faith (Mennonite Church, 1963)

Biblical Understandings Concerning Women and Men (Mennonite Church, 1975)

Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (Mennonite Church/General Conference Mennonite Church, 1995)

©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.

To cite this page:

MLA style: Mennonite Church. "New Testament Guidelines for Leadership and Authority in the Church." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1981. Web. 26 August 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L42.html/L42_3.html.

APA style: Mennonite Church. (1981). New Testament Guidelines for Leadership and Authority in the Church. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 August 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L42.html/L42_3.html.

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[edit] Implications for Congregational Leadership Patterns in the Mennonite Church

A. The Threefold Pattern of Bishops, Ministers, and Deacons

B. The Single Pastor Pattern

C. The Team Leadership Pattern

D. Forms of Undesignated Leadership

E. Women in Church Ministries

We have already seen (Section 2) that Mennonite churches today display different trends and leadership patterns. Each may manifest certain elements of the biblical guidelines. Each may also respond to the challenges of our time in ways which partially follow the distinctive New Testament characteristics of leadership and authority. Each may also be partially influenced by attempts to correct previous shortcomings.

Churches are often tempted to think that only one right form of leadership exists. Or they may be tempted to assume that all forms are about equally good, as long as intentions are good. The New Testament characteristics, however, both allow for variation in leadership forms and reveal a distinctive type of leadership and leadership authority. We can learn some things about leadership and leadership authority from church history and from today's social studies and organizational practices. However, the New Testament model remains the standard for discerning what present insights and practices may be adapted in the church, what should be changed in line with the distinctive New Testament characteristics, or what should be rejected as incompatible with biblical example and teaching. The main questions we must answer are:

--Which elements of present practice and ideas most faithfully implement the distinctive New Testament characteristics?

--How can present-day forms move in a direction which better corresponds to this biblical teaching and example?

The following points are guidelines for responding to these key questions. These guidelines begin with present practices in Mennonite churches and suggest their strengths and weaknesses as well as ways of moving toward the New Testament distinctives.

When looking at individual strengths and weaknesses of the present forms, the important issue is the way in which each element fits into a total pattern. For example, the threefold pattern and the team pattern both are a form of shared leadership. But the particular kind of shared leadership and the way it fits into the overall vision of gifts and ministries is different in each form.

[edit] A. The Threefold Pattern of Bishops, Ministers, and Deacons

This form seems to incorporate several New Testament characteristics:

1. It is a form of shared leadership in the church.

2. It recognizes some diversity and variety of ministries in the church.

3. Although its tendency has been toward obliging persons to fit into prescribed functions of a particular office,* it can allow those sharing leadership to exercise their ministry according to their own gifts and calling.

4. The tendency of this form has been toward limiting church authority to the group of bishops, ministers, and deacons. But it can sometimes reflect the corporate nature of church authority if the bishops, ministers, and deacons function in mutual submission and in sensitivity to all members of the congregation.

5. Those who share in this form of leadership can manifest the characteristic of servant leadership and of an authority confirmed by practice as well as conferred upon them.

In several ways, this pattern does not adequately follow the New Testament guidelines. It would need modification to move in that direction:

1. Some word differences conceal structural differences. The New Testament uses the terms "bishops/overseers," "elders," and "shepherds/pastors" in ways that largely overlap. Mennonite and other churches have usually made three distinct offices of bishops, elders, and pastors. To move in a biblical direction churches would understand these three terms as referring to the same office in a local congregation, namely the leadership group of the congregation. This group might be called a council of "overseers" or "elders" or "pastors."

2. This pattern of leadership has often hardened into offices with fixed expectations. When that happens, it should become more flexible to adapt to the particular gifts of those who have been called to serve.

3. The traditional threefold pattern has often become a hierarchical structure with ordination leading from the office of the deacon to the office of the minister-preacher, and in some cases eventually to the office of the bishop. To move in the direction of the New Testament guidelines would imply eliminating the hierarchical pattern and its corresponding levels of ordination.

4. Practice of the threefold pattern has often led to limiting the active ministries of the church to bishops, preachers, and deacons. To move in the direction of the biblical guidelines, churches would encourage all members to exercise freely their gifts and ministries. All members would share in discerning the direction of congregational and church life, making significant decisions, and mutual disciplining.

[edit] B. The Single Pastor Pattern

A growing number of Mennonite congregations have accepted a single pastor form of congregational leadership. In Mennonite churches, this pattern has usually been supplemented with a group of lay leaders in the form of a church council, an elders' board, or a similar group. Congregations generally elect the lay leaders for a limited period of time, and they are rarely ordained.

This pattern has certain apparent similarities to the New Testament guidelines:

1. The pastoral minister and the group of lay leaders together partially provide a pattern of shared leadership.

2. The pastoral ministry can correspond to the biblical use of "bishop," "elders," and "pastors" in referring to the same, not different, leadership ministries in the congregation.

3. The pastor usually exercises a teaching and preaching ministry. This represents a partial element of the biblical guidelines in which pastors, who were the same as elders/bishops, were called to teach according to their particular gifts and calling.

4. Those exercising the pastoral ministry often manifest the characteristics of servant authority and an authority confirmed by practice as well as conferred upon them.

5. When the church's expectations are flexible, pastors may exercise their ministry according to their particular gifts and calling, rather than being obligated to fit into prescribed functions of a particular office which are the same in all places.

However, in several ways this pattern needs to change to fit New Testament guidelines:

1. Distinctions are usually made between the pastor and the lay leaders on the basis of ordination, full-time employment, and formal education. Moving in the direction of the New Testament guidelines could mean ordaining more than one pastor. It could also mean including others in the shared leadership group.

2. The pastor is usually expected to be the overall leader of a congregation. To move closer to the New Testament vision would mean that overall guidance of the congregation would normally, be shared by several pastors, according to their gifts and calling. Part- or full-time financial support could vary according to need. Still others might also share in preaching, worship leadership, and counseling, according to their particular gifts calling, and preparation.

3. The practice of the single pastoral form has often led to limiting the active ministries of the church to the pastor. To move in the direction of the New Testament guidelines, churches would encourage the ministries of all members. All would share in testing the direction of church life, in decision-making, and in congregational discipline as appropriate.

4. This form sometimes makes the pastor seem more like an employee than a full-fledged congregational member. When this happens, the pastor's authority to continue depends primarily on periodic majority votes, rather than on the mutual and corporate discernment of all gifts and ministries, including the pastoral ministry. To move toward the New Testament guidelines churches would see pastors not simply as employees who may continue on the basis of audience satisfaction. They would be treated as fellow members whose strengths and weaknesses can be complemented by others in the church. They may profit from occasional opportunities for growth and/or mutual correction as well as for vocational reorientation and change. Any continuity, correction, or change should be for the mutual welfare of both pastors and congregations and only with careful and prayerful discernment.

5. This pattern also tends toward expecting any one pastor to fulfill a wide range of functions linked to this one office. Moving more in the direction of the biblical guidelines would mean adapting the "job description" to the particular gifts of the person.

Mennonite congregations which have adopted a single pastor pattern of ministry usually combine it with a church council, an elders' board, or similar group. There are significant differences as well as apparent similarities between "elders" in the New Testament (see Section 3) and in most present-day Mennonite congregations.

1. The apparent similarities include:

--The elders' board represents a form of shared leadership.

--The elders may function in ways which give general oversight and direction to congregational life, usually in administrative and organizational matters. They rarely share in preaching, teaching, and pastoral visitation.

2. The differences include:

--The term "elder" and the term "pastor" in the New Testament apparently refer to the same ministries in the congregation.

--Elders in the New Testament congregations could, according to their gifts, share in the ministries of teaching, intercongregational relations, and spiritual oversight.

--Elders in the New Testament congregations apparently provided for greater continuity in general congregational oversight. Today elders may serve for only three or four or five or six years.

--There was no recognizable difference between the way "elders" and "pastors" were appointed or confirmed in their ministries in the New Testament.

3. To move in the direction of the New Testament guidelines would include at least:

--Choosing elders on the basis of their gifts in such areas as teaching, intercongregational relations, and spiritual leadership as well as in administrative and organizational matters.

--Giving serious attention to the need for helpful continuity. The more rapidly there is turnover in the elders' group, the less the elders can provide leadership continuity in congregational life. Elders who share in the congregational leadership might also be called to terms of service similar to pastors.

--Finding ways for elders, as well as pastors, to have the experience, orientation, preparation, and training to carry out their ministries. This could include apprenticeships with experienced elders. It might also include shorter or longer periods of training or study in congregations, conferences, Bible schools, or seminaries. --Giving serious consideration to the ways in which elders are recognized, appointed, or confirmed in their ministries (see Section 5B).

[edit] C. The Team Leadership Pattern

A few Mennonite congregations have developed team patterns of congregational leadership in recent years. These patterns attempt to renew the biblical characteristics of ministry and leadership in the church. They attempt to utilize some strengths of the traditional threefold and the pastor forms while correcting their weaknesses. This pattern varies from congregation to congregation. It usually includes several distinct ministries. For example, one kind of team leadership pattern may include:

1. A minister of the Word, whose primary task is leading in Bible study and interpretation. This ministry includes preaching and teaching. It may also include Christian learning and education in the broader sense.

2. A minister of congregational life, whose primary tasks may include counseling, visitation, helping the congregation in decision-making, and in discipline.

3. A minister of resources, whose primary task in the congregation would include helping it discern particular gifts and ministries, overseeing the administration of congregational activities and programs, and coordinating relations with the broader church.

4. A minister of evangelism and service, who would provide leadership in congregational outreach and witness. As presently practiced, a ministry team may include those who are or are not ordained and those who have or do not have formal training. Some may serve part time, others on a full-time basis, according to the needs and size of the congregation. They may receive partial or full financial support, depending on the resources of the congregation and the time needed to carry out their ministries.

This pattern apparently reflects several New Testament characteristics:

1. It represents a form of shared leadership in the church and recognizes a variety and diversity of leadership ministries.

2. It encourages the discernment and exercise of other members' gifts and ministries in the life of the church.

3. Those sharing in this pattern of congregational leadership may model in their working together the mutual subordination and servant authority which should characterize all believers' ways of exercising their gifts and ministries in the church.

4. When team members together provide congregational oversight, this pattern corresponds to the recurring shared elder/bishop/pastor congregational leadership of the New Testament.

5. This pattern may take seriously both the particular gifts and preparation of those serving in the leadership team as well as the needs and mission of the congregation. It need not oblige them to fit into a particular office which is the same in all times and places regardless of who serves.

This pattern also needs evaluation and changes to better incorporate the New Testament guidelines:

1. This pattern may tend to limit the active exercise of ministries in the church to those who share in the leadership team.

2. It may discourage a shared form of congregational leadership, if each team member is seen as the only specialist in a particular ministry rather than as one of several persons who shares in that ministry. To move further in the direction of the New Testament guidelines may therefore include, for example, a shared ministry of the Word (and other ministries), according to the gifts of those in the congregations.

3. There may be a tendency to ordain, support, or train only some of the leadership team. Moving further in the direction of the New Testament guidelines would therefore include responding to the questions of financial support, training, and ordination according to the effective service and need of each team member.

4. Team ministries and other patterns of shared ministries also need to work in ways which assure continuity in teaching and preaching, in coordination, and in following through on decisions. For example, someone may be designated as coordinator, those who preach and teach may need to plan cooperatively, etc.

If there is also an elders' group in congregations having a team ministry, the same considerations would arise as with an elders' group linked with the single pastor pattern (see Section 4B).

[edit] D. Forms of Undesignated Leadership

During the 1960s and 1970s small groups and house fellowships, sometimes within larger congregations and sometimes independently, have functioned without designated continuing leadership or with informal leadership. Undesignated leadership has taken a great variety of forms and has been motivated by many concerns. Many of these forms apparently reflect several characteristics of the New Testament guidelines:

1. There is broad participation in discernment, decision-making, worship leading, and mission.

2. There is usually an emphasis upon all members exercising their gifts and ministries.

3. There is usually an emphasis on the non-coercive styles of leadership.

Ways in which many of these undesignated patterns need to be changed include:

1. The frequent reaction against the misuses of authority in traditional leadership patterns should go on to the recognition of appropriate oversight and leadership.

2. The exercise of particular gifts and ministries in the church needs to be distinguished from the kind of egalitarianism which assumes that everyone should do everything on an alternating basis.

3. The informal patterns of leadership should be recognized and structured in order to provide mutual accountability, clarity of direction, and continuity.

[edit] E. Women in Church Ministries

We have seen that women shared in church ministries, both in the New Testament church, and among Anabaptists and earlier Mennonites in ways which have been discontinued among most North American Mennonites today. This loss came about because of influences from the broader society and because of passing over some New Testament examples and teaching. Partly because of a renewed discovery of the biblical message and partly because of influences of the broader American society, the role of women in the church has become a controversial issue in recent years. Furthermore, this issue has often been reduced to the question of whether women may be ordained as pastors.

The following guidelines should be considered as we seek to be faithful to the New Testament vision in our time:

1. The matter should not be narrowed to whether a woman may be ordained as a pastor. As we have seen, some women shared in several recognized ministries in the New Testament church.

2. In the New Testament, congregations moved in the direction of shared ministry and leadership teams. Both in the first century and today, shared ministry can manifest the new oneness of men and women in Christ, as well as reflect the newness of headship and mutual submission in Christ. In shared leadership patterns, women and men can exercise the ministries for which they are gifted and called, and can make their distinctive contributions to the building up and mission of the church.

3. The apostle Paul's injunction that women should not teach in the church may be understood as a general rule with no exceptions. It is also the case that women exercised other ministries of leadership in the New Testament congregations and missionary outreach. Applying the injunction today that women should not teach would fit the biblical model only if other significant and recognized ministries are shared by women. Otherwise, we would simply be choosing some parts of the scriptural teaching and example and omitting others.

4. It may also be that the apostle Paul's injunction not permitting women to teach should be understood either as a general rule with exceptions or as directed toward specific misuses (see Section 3C). Then, cases when women may be called to a teaching ministry would be discerned according to their gifts and calling, the welfare and edification of the church where they serve, and the New Testament vision of mutual submission in Jesus Christ.

5. As we seek to be faithful to the biblical vision and practice, we need to refuse both the temptation to keep traditions which fall short of the biblical vision and the temptation to accept uncritically trends of today's society. Too often Christians are caught in identifying their use of Scripture with either the more conservative traditions or the more liberal fads. Often neither side corresponds to the newness of life in Jesus Christ and the Spirit, a newness of life which is to be lived out in a world whose form is "passing away" (1 Corinthians 7:31).

[edit] Bibliography

Seven Articles of Schleitheim (Anabaptist, 1527)

Dordrecht Confession of Faith (Mennonite, 1632)

Mennonite Confession of Faith (Mennonite Church, 1963)

Biblical Understandings Concerning Women and Men (Mennonite Church, 1975)

Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (Mennonite Church/General Conference Mennonite Church, 1995)

©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved. To cite this page:

MLA style: Mennonite Church. "Implications for Congregational Leadership Patterns in the Mennonite Church." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1981. Web. 26 August 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L42.html/L42_4.html.

APA style: Mennonite Church. (1981). Implications for Congregational Leadership Patterns in the Mennonite Church. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 August 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L42.html/L42_4.html.

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[edit] Call, Confirmation, and Change of Church Leaders

A. Scriptural Concepts and Examples

B. Implications for Leadership Ministries in the Mennonite Church

C. Some Practical Guidelines

Ordination as the official act by which someone is formally authorized to perform the duties of a ministerial office in the church developed after the New Testament. This happened for several reasons. Some of them were valid and others questionable. They included: the attempt to provide order among the ministries of the church, a need to distinguish between true and false claims to authority, and the growing influence of hierarchical forms of government in the church. Whether the traditional pattern of ordination is the best way to meet these needs should be reexamined in the light of the New Testament and the experiences of church history.

The New Testament does not give us a definite and detailed concept of ordination. Nor does the New Testament prescribe one way of recognizing leadership ministries. It gives certain guidelines which provide standards for faithfulness in our time. What are, therefore, the distinctive characteristics of calling and appointing church leaders in the New Testament?

[edit] A. Scriptural Concepts and Examples

1. Approximately twelve Greek words with different shades of meaning are translated "ordain" in the King James translation. Some refer simply to actions such as commanding (1 Corinthians 7:17), or deciding (Acts 16:4). Others mean the action of selecting, recognizing, or appointing people to particular ministries. The action of designating and recognizing certain individuals for ministries is described by several words in the original Greek:

-- "And he made twelve to be with him, and to be sent out to preach ... " Mark 3:14 (literal translation). --"Select from among you seven men of good repute ... whom we may prepare for this duty" (Acts 6:3, literal translation). --"Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them" (Acts 13:2). --"He has been appointed by the churches" (2 Corinthians 8:19, compare Acts 14:23). --"That you might place elders in every town ... as I directed you" (Titus 1:5, literal translation).

Of the twelve Greek words translated "ordain" in the King James Version, two are based on the Greek root "tasso." They come closest to the word family of "ordain" in English. However, none of the places where the KJV translates these two words "ordain" refers to offices in the church. The passages which use this Greek root for tasks in the church are as follows:

--Acts 15:2, "Paul and Bamabas and some of the others were appointed (KJV--determine) to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question."

--Acts 22:10, "And the Lord said to me, `Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed (KJV-appointed) for you to do.' "

--1 Corinthians 16:15, "You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves (KJV-addicted) to the saints."

--A related word which is properly translated "command" is used in 1 Timothy 1:1 and Titus 1:3 to say that Paul is an apostle "by the command of God our Savior" and Paul has been entrusted with preaching "by command of God our Savior."

The New Testament clearly recognizes specific and various ministries in the church. But there is no one concept which clearly covers the act of recognizing and appointing people to particular ministries. Nor is there one such term which refers to one group of people in the church who share in the church's ministries, as distinguished from those who do not. Each of these terms, understood in their contexts, refers to choosing, preparing, naming, and recognizing certain people for particular ministries within the congregation or in the church's service and mission in the world. These actions of choosing, appointing, or recognizing persons for ministry, included prayer, the leading of the Holy Spirit, the concerted discernment of the churches, or the completion of the apostolic mission.

2. The "laying on of hands" has usually been associated with ordination. But in the New Testament the laying on of hands is not limited to ordination. Nor does the appointment to a particular ministry always happen with the laying on of hands. Furthermore, the laying on of hands may symbolize slightly different things. In Acts 6:1-6, the seven were filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom before hands were laid on them. Paul reminded Timothy of the time hands were laid on him and gave this as an additional reason why Timothy should develop his God-given gifts. But he also said that the gift was given by "prophetic utterance" (1 Timothy 4:14ff., 2 Timothy 1:6). Nothing is said of hands having been laid upon Titus, even though he had a specific ministry in the church. The apostle Paul does not seem to regard the time when hands were laid upon him, Acts 13:1-4, as his ordination in the usual sense of the word. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in every church with prayer and fasting, but no clear mode of appointment such as laying on of hands is indicated (Acts 14:33). Jesus appointed the twelve disciples to particular tasks and gave them authority to carry out those tasks. We are told nothing about the mode of that appointment, or whether he laid hands on them.

We may conclude that the laying on of hands was often, but not necessarily always used, as a part of designating persons to a specific task or ministry. It apparently meant something like its use in baptism, prayers for healing, and benediction. It symbolized definiteness. It indicated the focusing of prayers and the charge of the congregation to the person. It gave that person a clear sense of being recognized for a specific ministry or task in the church. It apparently symbolized solidarity and fellowship. It may have indicated the recognition of a certain order and of continuity in the life and ministries of the church. It showed a relationship of accountability between the appointed persons, and the appointing body. Finally, it symbolized God's leading in the individual's and church's life.

In this manner the appointment of persons, sometimes accompanied by the laying on of hands, was a means of authorizing the person to exercise a particular ministry. This authorization may be understood as a conferred authority. The actual exercise of this ministry then confirms this authority or makes it questionable (see pages 16ff. ).

3. Who may appoint others for a particular task or ministry? The New Testament does not offer one detailed answer. For example:

a. Acts 6:6 is often understood to mean that only the apostles prayed and laid their hands on the seven; grammatically, it can mean that the larger group of disciples prayed and laid their hands on the seven. In either case, both the larger community and the apostles shared in the discernment and appointment of the seven.

b. In Acts 13:1-3, prophets and teachers participated in praying, laying hands on, and sending out Paul and Barnabas.

c. According to Acts 14:23, both Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in each church. Although Paul was an apostle and Barnabas a teacher (as well as an apostle according to Acts 14:14), we do not know whether either was considered a bishop or elder as such.

We may conclude that appointing, selecting, and setting apart specific persons to a particular ministry was not limited to a particular office in the New Testament church. It depends on the leading of the Holy Spirit and an orderly process of discerning the mind of Christ. In the New Testament examples, this process usually was moderated, although not always, and implemented by those who shared in the oversight responsibilities of the appointing body.

4. The call and qualifications for leadership ministries is spoken to in the Bible. Some recent biblical interpretation has suggested that baptism should be understood as ordination. Because all Christians share in the ministry of the church (Ephesians 4:7 and Ephesians 12; 1 Corinthians 12:7) and because all share in the priesthood of the believers (1 Peter 3:9), the baptism of all is understood as their ordination. Furthermore, the New Testament emphasizes that the entire church is the body of Christ and the household of God.

It does not divide the church into clergy and laity. Finally, one may point to the baptism of Jesus himself, which was his "call" and "setting apart" at the beginning of his public ministry.

This interpretation cannot however point to a clear identification of baptism with the recognition of a particular ministry or leadership function in the life of the church. It correctly underlines the New Testament teaching that all are given ministries and gifts in the church. But it does this in a way which apparently differs from the New Testament Scriptures.

Several New Testament passages explicitly describe or implicitly indicate the qualifications for leadership ministries in the Christian community. These include spiritual, personal, and experiential qualifications, such as:

--Recognizable gifts and abilities to exercise the particular ministry to which one is appointed.

--Both spiritual and personal maturity.

--Loyalty to the apostolic teaching and example in the midst of contemporary challenges.

--Moral integrity, particularly with respect to the temptations ofpower and privilege, as well as to general Christian conduct.

In addition, there are a few New Testament references to a personal sense of purpose and direction which we have come to describe as being called to a particular ministry. This sense of call may precede a formal appointment by the Christian community. It may develop largely on the basis of the church's guidance. In either case, both a personal sense of call and the church's call to and appointment to particular ministries mutually confirm each other and provide a means for discerning divine guidance.

5. Is an appointment for life or the duration of a specific ministry? The New Testament does not explicitly speak to the question of whether ordination is for life or only for the active exercise of a specific ministry. Guidelines for responding to this issue and for an appropriate practice should be derived from the New Testament vision of the church and the exercise of gifts and ministries in the church's life and mission (see page 44ff. ).

6. There are no specific references to the ordination of women in the New Testament. Women exercised specific ministries, with certain limitations, in the life and leadership of the New Testament churches. There are no specific references to "appointing," "setting apart," "selecting" and "placing" women in leadership ministries. Other than for the teaching ministry (compare pages 19ff. ), there is no explicit rejection of women for church ministries. There are instances where women are recognized as exercising ministries for which, in some cases, men were specifically" selected" or" set apart." It is possible to say that there is no explicit affirmation or example of ordination of women to the ministries they exercised in the New Testament church. Such a statement has only limited significance, because the New Testament does not have a uniform concept or practice of "ordination."

[edit] B. Implications for Leadership Ministries in the Mennonite Church

Because of the diversity as well as the recurring characteristics in the New Testament, we are challenged to seek an appropriate language and pattern for confirming church leaders. They should seek to be faithful to the direction pointed by Scriptures, to the leading of the Holy Spirit and to the mind of Christ. The tendency to develop levels of ministries or to limit them to one class of Christians should be corrected. Tendencies which undermine genuine authority of leadership ministries in the church should also be corrected.

1. Which concept should be used?

a. There would be good reasons to speak of "commissioning," "appointing," or "calling" people to particular ministries as well as "ordaining" them. For example, the term "appointed" means being recognized and designated for a particular ministry. It also comes closest to the Greek root of the word which is translated "ordained" in the King James Version. This term, as used in Acts 14:23, includes congregational participation (see also Acts 6:1-6). Another example would be the word "commissioned." It could properly be used to mean "the sending" to perform a particular ministry (literally: "sent-with").

b. There would also be reasons to use the concept "ordination," but to expand it from the restricted sense it has come to have in most denominations. (It should then be understood to include the range of New Testament terms outlined in Section 5-A).

c. In discerning which concept or concepts would be most consistent with the New Testament in our time, several things should be taken into account:

--The biblical terms and how they are used in the New Testament as well as how they have been interpreted in church history.

--The positive and the negative learnings of the churches' experiences with the term and practice of "ordination."

--How the servant authority of leadership ministries in the church can be strengthened in the context of broader church ministries and gifts.

Largely for the reasons of tradition and broader Christian usage, this study suggests that the term "ordination" may be continued. But it should be understood and practiced in a way which includes the entire range of New Testament terms. Ordination would then mean the act by which a person, after appropriate personal and corporate discernment, is formally and publicly appointed to a particular ministry in the life and/or mission of the church. It is fitting that this act takes place in the context of worship and normally includes the laying on of hands, prayer, and other appropriate means of commitment and celebration.

2. Which ministries should be formally recognized and confirmed? During the past twenty years, there have been several proposals and practices for the extent of ordination in the Mennonite Church.

a. Some have proposed that "ordination" should be limited to "pastors." This assumes that the primary responsibility for congregational leadership rests with the pastor. It singles out the pastor as the one who equips the other ministries in the congregation. Limiting "ordination" to pastors may strengthen pastoral identity and distinguish this leadership function from other ministries.

This option would be questionable from several perspectives. One can hardly make a clear case for it from the New Testament evidence. It appears incompatible with the New Testament pattern of leadership which emphasizes the plurality and diversity of leadership. It is also difficult to clearly define the work of the pastor. Is it primarily preaching? teaching? administering? leading public worship? counseling? all of these or some of them? Since the pastor may be assisted in several of these tasks by others who do at least some of the same things, should they be "ordained"? If so, then ordination can't be limited to the pastor.

b. Others have proposed that "ordination" should be reserved for the "ministry of the Word." Limiting "ordination" to the ministry of preaching and teaching the Word would point toward the fundamental importance of communicating the Word of God for the establishment, continuity, and direction of the church. The ministry of the spoken Word would in this way be understood as basic for all other ministries.

This position, however, also lacks certain dimensions of the New Testament characteristics of church leadership. It does not sufficiently emphasize the multiplicity and diversity of leadership gifts and ministries which are important for the building up of the church. It seems to diminish the importance of the eldering or oversight function in providing continuity and direction in the church. In the New Testament context this function sometimes included teaching, but sometimes did not.

c. Others have proposed that ordination should include all ministries of continuing church leadership. Those who share in the continuing leadership of the church would be ordained or appointed. This would recognize the importance of the eldering ministries as well as the Word ministries for church leadership. Other specific leadership ministries might also be recognized by ordination, for example, longterm pastoral counselors, ministers of worship, missionaries and church planters, itinerant evangelists, chaplains, etc.

This option would reinforce the multiplicity, diversity, and plurality of ministry and church leadership in the New Testament. It would reflect the New Testament flexibility of having teaching elders as well as others who did not teach. It would continue and change some aspects of the threefold pattern in traditional Mennonite practice. It would not rule out having one or several full-time ministers. But it would normally include them in a larger group of "ordained" leaders. The line between "ordained" and "unordained" ministries may vary somewhat from congregation to congregation and conference to conference. It could well include those ministries which provide overall leadership in the mission and well-being of the church. This possibility would still likely tend to distinguish between those who are ordained and those who are not as two classes of church members. Such a distinction does not seem fully consistent with New Testament teaching.

d. Some have proposed ordination for all identifiable and discernible ministries. Because all are given gifts and ministries, all members of the church would in some way be ordained.

Ordination for all identifiable and discernible ministries would seem to be most consistent with the New Testament vision that all are given particular gifts and ministries for the life and mission of the church. As such, the New Testament does not give explicit teaching or examples either for or against ordination of all identifiable and discernible ministries. A practical difficulty may be in finding ways to carry out these implications. It might also appear that the authority of leadership ministries, such as pastors/overseers or teachers or administrators, would be seriously diminished if there were also formal recognition of all other ministries and gifts in the church.

Ordination to all identifiable and discernible ministries could, however, strengthen the authority to exercise all particular gifts and ministries. For example, those called to be pastors and those called to be song leaders would each be ordained for their particular ministries. The authority of each would come from their God-given gifts, from the initial and continuing confirmation by the church, from exercising their ministries for the welfare of the church and its mission, from their mutual submission to each other in the church, and from being accountable for them to the congregation. The authority of pastors would then not be partially based on song leaders not being "ordained."

3. Other considerations should be noted with regard to the appointment to leadership ministries in the church. In the New Testament, the primary considerations for appointment of certain members to leadership ministries are their spiritual and personal qualities, and the gifts and abilities which God has given them in relation to the needs of the church in that place. The distinctive New Testament characteristics also include a pattern of shared leadership ministries and a servant model of authority.

There are also other considerations for the appointment to leadership ministries. These considerations include such things as formal training, financial support, full-time service, lifelong service, and service in church structures outside the local congregation. These considerations may be secondary in some respects. But they should also be taken seriously in choosing members for leadership ministries in the present situation of the Mennonite Church. Even though they will properly vary from person to person, congregation to congregation, and conference to conference, they should be resolved in the framework of the elements which are central for the New Testament vision.

a. The need for preparation and training. Preparation and training for ministry in the church can take place in several ways. Apprenticeship relations between those preparing for leadership ministries and mature ministers, Bible school, college, seminary, supervisory training, in-service education and training, and periodic times for continuing education should be encouraged. These are means of cultivating and strengthening the gifts and ministries of those sharing in church leadership. They help develop the skills and insights which contribute to the edification and mission of the church. In the light of the New Testament pattern of shared leadership ministries, appropriate preparation and training should however not be limited to pastors, but may well include those preparing for a broad range of ministries in the life of the church.

Schools, colleges, and seminaries provide valuable educational and training opportunities to prepare for or strengthen ministries in the church. However, congregations and conferences have a primary and special responsibility to discern gifts, to call forth members to various ministries, and to provide experience and preparation for ministry.

b. Accountability structures. When persons are appointed or ordained to congregational or broader church ministries, care should be given to having clear lines of accountability. It is helpful to have common ideas about the expectations of the appointing body. There should also be clear understandings of responsibility and who is responsible to whom and for what. This kind of accountability would best include ways in which the growth of those in ministry can be encouraged.

c. Appropriate financial support. In the Mennonite Church, ministers traditionally did not receive full financial support. In the more recent team or one-pastor forms of leadership, financial support has been given to those exercising these ministries. This has led to a tendency to understand financial support as belonging to the one-pastor form of church leadership, but not to other patterns.

In light of the New Testament characteristics of leadership ministries and the nature of the church, it would be more fitting to give financial support according to the time needed for particular ministries, rather than linking it only to a particular office. For example, preaching, teaching, counseling, and other ministries require time for preparation, being available to people, etc. Those appointed to exercise leadership ministries in the life of the church would therefore be supported in proportion to the requirements of their service. In this fashion, there may be many cases where persons will be fully or partially supported financially; in other cases the practice may vary.

d. Part-time or full-time ministries. In the traditional patterns of leadership, leaders often ministered on a part-time basis. In the more recent one-pastor form of church leadership, there has been a general trend toward full-time ministry, although there may also be exceptions in certain circumstances.

In light of the New Testament vision of leadership ministries and the nature of the church, it would be most fitting to resolve this question according to need and the given ministry rather than linking it only to a particular office. The time involvement should therefore be determined according to what is needed for the edification and mission of the church. In this fashion, there may, for example, be differences in time involvement among those who share in the leadership ministries of a congregation.

e. The prospect of lifelong service in a particular leadership ministry. In traditional Mennonite leadership patterns, those who have been ordained usually served in that ministry in the same place "for life." More recently, greater social mobility, changing patterns of leadership, and employment changes have contributed to uncertainty and a variety of practices. In view of the New Testament vision of gift ministries in the life and mission of the church, the major considerations for resolving this question include:

--Those whose gifts are discerned and who are appointed to leadership ministries in the church should be ready to commit themselves without reserve, but within the context of a designated ministry and place of service.

--Any changes in this appointment and commitment should be made only after appropriate discernment and mutual agreement.

--The appointment to a similar ministry in another setting or to a different ministry should include another process of discernment as well as mutual confirmation and recognition.

--Discontinuation of leadership ministry in general or a particular ministry should also include the appropriate process of discernment, mutual agreement, and recognition.

Thus, the primary concern is neither a lifelong status nor the mobility associated with a particular place of employment. It is the coming together of the church's mission and edification in a specific place and time with the particular gifts and vocations of those appointed to leadership ministries in the church (see Practical Guidelines below).

f. Civil and state regulations. The civil and state laws governing the official recognition of clergy may also be considered as a secondary but important question in the ordination of persons to leadership ministries in the church. Such legal considerations should not however be considered normative for the appointment or understanding of leadership ministries. Rather, those whom the church appoints to carry oat certain functions such as marriage celebrations, etc., can be designated as those whom the state would also recognize.

[edit] C. Some Practical Guidelines

Because this study focuses on "leadership and leadership authority in the church," it does not offer practical guidelines for the discernment, confirmation of, and appointment to all possible ministries in the church. Further churchwide study and discernment may be needed on these matters. The Board of Congregational Ministries* offers materials and resources to congregations and conferences who wish to pursue these broader issues. Within this study, some practical guidelines are being proposed primarily with respect to leadership ministries such as pastor/eldering, teaching, administrative oversight, evangelism, and church planting.

1. The process which leads from the discernment of particular gifts to the appointment of persons for leadership ministries in the church should include: --A review of the New Testament characteristics of leadership minis tries and authority in the church. --The discernment of how the particular needs and total mission of the church in a given place and the gifts and preparation (formal or informal) of the person(s) being considered correspond with each other. --The mutual discernment of a local congregation and broaderconference or church representatives as appropriate. --The participation of a local congregation and broader conference or church representatives, as appropriate, in the public recognition of and appointment to or ordination of persons to specific leadership ministries.

2. Considerations to be weighed with respect to the appointment and/or ordination of women to church ministries are:

--There is in the New Testament, among the sixteenth century Anabaptists and Mennonites, and in the Dordrecht Confession of Faith a clear precedent for women to share in leadership ministries in the church.

--The precedent of Dordrecht, which recognized deaconesses as sharing in church "offices," would suggest that women as well as men at least be appointed and/or ordained to specific counseling, administrative, and mutual assistance ministries in the church.

--The example and teaching of the New Testament should lead to seriously considering the appointment and/or ordination of women to other shared leadership ministries in the church, according to the discernment of their particular gifts, and the welfare and mission of the church.

3. Various considerations should be weighed with respect to continuing service, transition to other places of service, or to termination of leadership ministries (see Section 5-B).

There may be valid reasons for periodic reaffirmation as well as for changes of persons in leadership ministries. But Spirit-led discernment and careful process is needed to discriminate between constructive and demoralizing changes. The greater mobility and flexibility of today's society makes changes more credible than in traditional patterns of leadership ministries. But it also undermines continuity, a sense of direction, and a commitment to mutual strengthening of gifts and ministries in difficult times. In many congregations and district conferences, the Mennonite Church today suffers from too little continuity in leadership ministries; in others, an appropriate process of reconfirming an initial call and appointment to leadership ministries is needed.

Careful attention needs therefore to be given to the following matters:

a. Any process of discernment for the continuing service of those in leadership ministries should not be reduced to a popular affirmation measured by a lesser or greater majority vote. It is much more important to agree upon a statement of what any vote actually represents, if voting is used.

b. Any process of discernment for the continuing service of those in leadership ministries should not only ask whether someone should continue or discontinue. It should rather begin with an evaluation of the congregation's performance in its life and mission and how the identifiable gifts and strengths of the person are helping the congregation in its life and mission. If there are discernible areas of weakness in a person's ministry, the primary concern should be ways in which growth can be encouraged, how others in the church can provide support, or how the gifts and ministries of others can be used to strengthen the overall ministry of the church.

c. Any process of discernment for the continuing service of those in leadership ministries should be concerned to discriminate between valid and questionable reasons for support or lack of it. From a biblical and believers' church perspective, broad popular support is a less dependable standard of discernment than a minority conviction which is open to careful testing. Concerns which need to be seriously considered in this context include at least:

--Is there broad popular support primarily because of audience satisfaction without taking into consideration questions of Christian faithfulness which may represent a less popular but nevertheless a prophetic and faithful stance?

--Is there a broad support which is based on a joyful consensus that a person's gifts and ministries are contributing to the life and mission of the church in difficult as well as in easier situations?

--Is a possible lack of popular support based simply on general dissatisfaction? Or is there a careful consensus that a person's gifts and ministry can make a more constructive contribution to the life and mission of the church with some modifications either in the kind or place of ministry?

--Is there a willingness to take persons in leadership ministries seriously as brothers and sisters whose personal and spiritual welfare is foremost?

--In cases of controversy, is there the willingness for direct conversation at the points of disagreement and offense (Matthew 18:15-18; 1 Timothy 5:19)? Is there openness to broader testing with the help of trusted leaders from another congregation or from conference, rather than the insistence on "solving our own problems"?

4. Some congregations and conferences have adopted the practice of licensing persons for leadership ministries. Licensing (some conferences call this commissioning) is sometimes a way of recognizing and approving a particular ministry. Sometimes it is done for a probationary period of one to three years and may be followed by ordination. The probationary period may also lead to the conclusion that longer-term ministry and ordination are not appropriate.

Licensing (or commissioning) is sometimes understood as a way of approving the exercise of a particular task for which ordination has not seemed appropriate. In this case, licensing does not normally lead to ordination. It is limited to a particular task and is valid as long as such a task is being carried out.

In reviewing this practice several considerations should be taken into account:

a. Licensing may be understood primarily as a way of testing someone's gifts and skills in the exercise of a particular ministry. In this case, the structures of accountability and the discernment process are very important. It may be that serving as an intern, an assistant, or as an apprentice with an experienced person in ministry would also be an appropriate means of testing. If the practice of licensing leads to the understanding that being "ordained" to a particular ministry depends upon successive stages leading from lay to ordained status, it should be discouraged as undermining the New Testament vision of leadership ministries.

b. The practice of licensing should also be reviewed in the light of the New Testament teaching and example with respect to which ministries are considered for ordination. We have already seen that ordination for all who share in ministries of continuing leadership (see Section 5-B) or for all identifiable and discernible ministries (see Section 5-B) are more biblical than appointing or ordaining only pastors or only those who preach and teach. If licensing is used as a means of testing and discerning gifts, it should be compatible with the New Testament pattern of recognizing gifts and ministries.

[edit] Bibliography

Seven Articles of Schleitheim (Anabaptist, 1527)

Dordrecht Confession of Faith (Mennonite, 1632)

Mennonite Confession of Faith (Mennonite Church, 1963)

Biblical Understandings Concerning Women and Men (Mennonite Church, 1975)

Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (Mennonite Church/General Conference Mennonite Church, 1995)

©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved. To cite this page:

MLA style: Mennonite Church. "Call, Confirmation, and Change of Church Leaders." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1981. Web. 26 August 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L42.html/L42_5.html.

APA style: Mennonite Church. (1981). Call, Confirmation, and Change of Church Leaders. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 August 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L42.html/L42_5.html.

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[edit] Conference Authority and Leadership

A. New Testament Guidelines

B. Implications and Guidelines for the Mennonite Church Today

As we noted in the historical survey (Section 2, pages 9ff. ), the significance of district conferences and of the Mennonite Church General Conference (General Assembly since 1971) has grown in this century. It is not possible in this study to address all the important questions about conference (both district and general) authority and leadership. This study is limited to what the Mennonite Church Bylaws have called "mutual guidance in . . . leadership and validation of ordination" (Section 2). This section will therefore focus on conference authority with respect to leadership ministries in the local congregation and on leadership ministries in the conference(s) in relation to local congregations.

To place these areas of concern in the proper perspective, we will give some attention to what "the congregation's centrality in the life and witness of the denomination" means. This statement has been strongly affirmed as well as sometimes misused since it was adopted by the Mennonite Church. It merits attention in the present study on leadership and authority in the church.

We will look first to biblical guidelines on the relation between congregational and intercongregational leadership, then to their possible implications for the Mennonite Church at the present time. An additional resource is the 1971 statement on "Principles and Guidelines for Interchurch Relations"* by the Interchurch Relations Committee of the Mennonite Church General Conference. See especially the section on "The Way of Christian Unity" and its "Implications for the Denomination."

[edit] A. New Testament Guidelines

The New Testament does not offer a particular pattern of church order beyond the congregational level. Nevertheless, there are fundamental biblical reasons for working out visible expressions of Christian unity which extend beyond the local congregation. What are the New Testament examples and perspectives which give some indication of how this broader church unity can be expressed in relation to leadership ministries?

1. The "Jerusalem Council" (Acts 15:1-35; Galatians 2:1-10). The authority of the Mosaic law was one of the most important issues for the New Testament congregations. It became a crucial question when non-Jewish persons responded to the good news and became Christians. Less than twenty years after Pentecost, apostolic leaders who represented opposing points of view gathered in Jerusalem to seek a common practice.

Several characteristics of the Jerusalem Council pattern are:

--The meeting focused on an issue which represented genuine differences between the early Christian congregations and apostolic missions. This focus corresponds in the intercongregational and interapostolic leadership contexts to the " Rule of Christ"* in the interpersonal contexts according to Matthew 18:15ff.

--The meeting focused on a significant issue about the content of the gospel message, the doctrinal implications of the message, the standards for Christian conduct, and broader Christian unity. The significance of the issue thus arose from the missionary, doctrinal, and ethical concerns in the broader network of Christian communities.

--The ways of simply disregarding the teaching of the "Judaizers" or excluding them from teaching in the Antioch congregation without seeking a broader resolution of the matter were apparently rejected.

--Those appointed by the Antioch congregation to participate in the meeting (Paul, Barnabas, and "some of the others") were persons directly involved in the issue. Their appointment by the Antioch congregation also implied a broader discernment that the position of Paul and Barnabas represented a matter worthy of extensive testing and more than local consensus.

--The "council" used procedures of discernment and decision-making patterned after a congregational model. The procedures were: address the issues openly and frankly, consider the major positions in the gathered assembly, seek a genuine decision, and solicit the larger "assembly" as well as the apostles and elders to confirm the deliberations.

--Those who participated in the council agreed upon an understanding and practice which they commended in the following years to the scattered Christian congregations. The authority of the council thus depended on the discernment which led to the convening of the meeting, the conferred and confirmed authority of those participating in the council, the meeting's consensus on the issue, the continuing apostolic recommendation of the consensus to the congregations. It apparently also depended on the broader implementation and continuing discernment in local congregations.

--The task of interpreting the consensus and commending it to the congregations was apparently given to the different groups represented at the meeting (see Acts 15:22). It did not depend entirely on Paul and Barnabas, whose position was already well known.

--In the overall direction of the early Christian congregations according to the book of Acts, the Jerusalem Council played a crucial role in pointing a direction for broader consensus on a critical issue. At the same time, it recognized acceptable differences.

It would be incorrect to equate the Jerusalem Council with present-day conference organizations. But the characteristics of this example reflect the Holy Spirit's leading in ways which should guide broader discernment, decision-making, and the exercise of leadership ministries in implementing a common stance on significant issues in the church.

2. Itinerant apostles, teachers, apostolic helpers. In the New Testament church, apostles, teachers, apostolic helpers, and others exercised leadership ministries beyond local congregations. Congregations in a given area appointed some for particular tasks, such as for gathering the collection for the Christians in Jerusalem and Judea. Itinerant apostles such as Peter and John, Paul and Barnabas, and apostolic helpers such as Timothy, Silas, and Titus, established congregations, organized leadership ministries in those congregations, provided counsel and direction in doctrinal and ethical matters, encouraged communications, mutual accountability and support between congregations, and facilitated the carrying out of common tasks. They also provided leadership in seeking to resolve controversy between differing positions and practices. On occasion they mediated situations of conflict between local members and congregational leaders.

These ministries encouraged and gave direction to the broader Christian identity and unity in common tasks, in working out a common stance on significant issues, and in facilitating broader fellowship.Those who served in these ministries were often appointed in the context of local congregations. They were also tacitly confirmed in the carrying out of their ministries by other congregations and other apostolic leaders. The exercise of these itinerant ministries manifest the characteristics of servant leadership considered normative for congregational leaders as well (see Section 3B).

The New Testament model of itinerant ministries may provide perspectives for church leadership ministries beyond local congregations:

--Those exercising such ministries are in some way accountable to a local Christian congregation as well as to the broader Christian community.

--Itineracy itself symbolizes the mobility of servant leadership by its readiness to meet those who are served on their "turf."

--Itinerant leaders in the New Testament Church challenged local Christian communities to a vision and practice of Christian unity, faithfulness and mission that went beyond the shortcomings of isolationism and made visible the creation of a new humanity in Christ (Ephesians 2).

[edit] B. Implications and Guidelines for the Mennonite Church Today

In the history of the Christian churches, some have emphasized the "apostolic" ministry of the New Testament as the precedent for an episcopal* type of inter-congregational organization with strongly hierarchical and centralized leadership ministries. Others have taken the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15; Galatians 2) as the biblical precedent for a more synodal* type of inter-congregational organization. Others have emphasized the autonomy of the congregation and congregational leadership. Each of these emphases have had differing understandings of the relation between leadership ministries in the local congregational and in the inter-congregational contexts.

During the past one hundred years, there have been several differing emphases within the Mennonite Church. Nevertheless, the general pattern of inter-congregational conferences has generally been affirmed. In the nineteenth century, this pattern usually meant a loose affiliation of congregations in districts, primarily for the purpose of fellowship, counsel, and mutual support. Toward the end of the last century and during the first half of this century, conference bodies with stronger authority roles developed. In more recent years, conference authority has apparently declined. Church institutions and organizational structures in the Mennonite Church have become more influential. A review of leadership ministries in inter-congregational relationships at this time should seek to carefully evaluate these developments as well as from the biblical motifs outlined in Section 6A. The strengths and possible weaknesses of the emphasis on the "centrality of the congregation" should also be evaluated in light of these developments.

1. The "centrality of the congregation." The present Bylaws of the Mennonite Church rightly emphasize the "congregation's centrality in the life and witness of the denomination" (Article IV, Section 1). The way in which this emphasis is understood and implemented remains, however, a very important matter. It can reflect much of the New Testament vision for inter-congregational relations and leadership or it can be susceptible to certain dangers in North America at this time.

The strengths of this emphasis include:

--It reflects the New Testament pattern where the congregation is God's people meeting in a particular place for "reconciliation, witness, worship, service, discernment, mutual fellowship, and discipline" (Mennonite Church Bylaws, Article IV, Section 1).

--The centrality of the congregation comes also from the regularity, continuity, and frequency of congregational gatherings in comparison to conference and denominational gatherings. This greater regularity, continuity, and frequency of coming together should provide the context for more binding decision-making, more sustained teaching and discernment, more direct forgiveness and admonition, and more immediate support and fellowship, than what is usually possible in inter-congregational gatherings and work.

--The centrality of the congregation also provides the model for intercongregational, conference; and denominational fellowship and mission. At all levels, there should be open conversation in decision-making, mutual acceptance of persons with varied and diverse gifts, and the exercise of servant leadership in the context of shared ministries. The Jerusalem Council, for example, represents a broader discernment and decision-making process which reflects a congregational model as adapted to an inter-congregational context (see Section 6A-1).

--The centrality of the congregation also means that conference and denominational bodies are to be servants of the congregation. They should enable congregations to do together what they cannot do or may do less well alone. Conference and denominational bodies are therefore accountable to congregations. The Jerusalem Council is also an example of how a significant issue raised in numerous congregations led to a consensus between congregations. However, the congregation cannot exist apart from broader Christian relationships. There are also certain dangers in a congregational emphasis, which need correction:

--This emphasis may too readily discount the New Testament mandate for unity of faith and practice between congregations. It may too readily make the working out of this unity overly dependent on congregational provincialisms. The examples of itinerant apostles, teachers, and helpers in the New Testament church, as well as of the Jerusalem Council, point to the importance of broader than individual congregational structures to find and live out the unity of faith and practice in the body of Christ.

--The emphasis on the centrality of the congregation may sometimes be used as rationalization to justify local congregational understandings and practices without openness to have them tested by broader testing.

--This emphasis may also undermine the broader mission of the church, the resolution of important differences, and the sharing of spiritual, personal, and material resources. The New Testament examples corrected tendencies in the early church to perpetuate conflicting practices of mission, to avoid broader testing of doctrinal and practical concerns, and to disregard material and spiritual needs of sister congregations. In our context, too much emphasis on the centrality of the congregation may also need correction. Otherwise it can undermine the appropriate ways in which conference and denominational bodies can help congregations in their common tasks and mission.

--Finally, a wrong emphasis on the centrality of the congregation can be used to justify less commitment by congregational ministers to inter-congregational expressions of common faith, life, and mission.

The New Testament patterns of itinerant ministries and inter-congregational gatherings can hardly be reduced to an episcopal, or a synodal, or a narrowly congregational form of church polity. We do better not to think in terms of conference and denominational authority at the "top" and congregational authority at the "bottom"-or congregational authority at the "top" and conference or denominational authority at the "bottom." It would be more fitting to think in terms of concentric circles. The movement from the congregation to the ever-widening circles of conference and denomination reflects the centrality of the congregation in the life of the church. The conference and denominational agencies and bodies should be servants of each preceding circle of relationships. Simultaneously, the wider circles of conference and denomination can provide resources which challenge congregations to a higher quality of unity in faith and life. They can also enable them to carry out their ministry and mission more faithfully and effectively.

2. Conference confirmation of leadership ministries in the congregation. In an episcopal form of church organization, the final authority for ordination resides with the bishop. In a synodal form, final authority for the examination and ordination remains with the area synod. The implications of the New Testament appear to indicate a shared responsibility for the discernment, appointment, and/or ordination of those in leadership ministries. The primary responsibility and authority would appear to lie in the gathered congregation. The conference and/or broader inter-congregational bodies or representatives appropriately assist the congregation, by providing counsel, and by confirming the ordination of persons to leadership ministries.

a. Various procedures may be adopted in a congregation leading to the appointment and/or ordination of persons to leadership ministries. These procedures should, however, be agreed upon by the congregation. They should include sensitivity to a person's sense of call, the discernment of a person's gifts as they have already been exercised in the life of the congregation, and careful consideration of the New Testament qualifications. Congregational leaders, or those appointed for this purpose, should give sensitive and careful direction to the procedures of call, selection, and eventual ordination as agreed upon by the congregation.

It is fitting that congregations in the same area or conference develop and periodically review guidelines which may be used in the choice and appointment of persons to leadership ministries in the congregation. It is also to be recommended that a congregation simultaneously solicit the help of persons or committees designated by conference or denominational bodies to provide counsel and assistance. This is particularly important when persons being considered for leadership ministries come from "outside" the congregation. This broader consultation is, however, also to be recommended when considering persons from "within" the congregation. This is one way of following the New Testament concern for broader Christian unity and common identity in faith and practice.

b. Conference confirmation. In view of the concerns for common faith and practice, it is fitting that the congregation's decision to extend a call and to ordain someone for a leadership ministry be confirmed by the appropriate conference persons or bodies. This may include another process of discernment (such as "examination" by a committee or group of persons so designated), sharing in a service of appointment or ordination, and in communicating the appointment to the broader church as desirable.

This confirmation may be facilitated if congregations have already agreed upon qualifications and expectations for leadership ministries, and upon similar procedures for choosing and ordaining them. If there is an initial unwillingness on the part of conference to confirm the person(s) a congregation wishes to ordain, the congregation and the conference should be ready to reexamine the matter.

c. Which congregational ministries should be confirmed by conference? In line with Section 5B, conference confirmation would be appropriate at least for all ministries of continuing congregational leadership and inter-congregational relations.

[edit] Bibliography

Seven Articles of Schleitheim (Anabaptist, 1527)

Dordrecht Confession of Faith (Mennonite, 1632)

Mennonite Confession of Faith (Mennonite Church, 1963)

Biblical Understandings Concerning Women and Men (Mennonite Church, 1975)

Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (Mennonite Church/General Conference Mennonite Church, 1995)

©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved. To cite this page:

MLA style: Mennonite Church. "Conference Authority and Leadership." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1981. Web. 26 August 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L42.html/L42_6.html.

APA style: Mennonite Church. (1981). Conference Authority and Leadership. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 August 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L42.html/L42_6.html.

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[edit] Conclusion

Since the beginning of this century, the Mennonite Church* has grown, has changed, and has sought to be faithful in word and deed. During this time, Mennonites have also become less isolated from other North American churches and from the broader society. Some of these changes have been for the good, some have been mixed, some need correction. Discerning which have been good and which need correction depends in part on the kind of leadership the church gives, receives, and accepts. The Christian churches, including Mennonites, face important challenges and opportunities for witness and service in the last two decades of the twentieth century. Some of these challenges and opportunities can become occasions for renewal, for growing in faithfulness to Christ, and for mission in today's world. Some may become an occasion for taking directions which hinder faithful witness and service. The direction Mennonites take in the coming years will depend in part on the kind of leadership we expect, encourage, are given, and accept.

In leadership and leadership authority, as in all areas of Christian faith and hope, we are called to renew our minds rather than to be conformed to the pattern of the age, (Romans 12:2). We are called to have the same attitude that was in Christ Jesus who took the nature of a servant, (Philippians 2:5). This means that we look to Jesus Christ who is the revelation of what leadership and leadership authority is called to be in the church. By following Christ as revealed in the Scriptures we need not choose authoritarian leadership and leadership without authority. Both conform to the spirit of the age. Instead, we may renew our vision of Jesus Christ, the servant leader, and of leadership ministries in the New Testament.

For these reasons, this study sought to summarize the distinctively New Testament characteristics of leadership and leadership authority. These led to guidelines for evaluating the patterns of leadership in Mennonite congregations. According to these guidelines, some aspects of these patterns should be continued, others would best be changed. The study also responded to several other concerns raised by congregations and conferences: ordination, women in ministry, and the relation of congregational and conference authority. In some cases, the study proposed specific conclusions and practical applications. In others, it proposes matters which should be carefully considered as congregations continue to seek God's leading on leadership issues and practices.

During the past two years, congregational and conference groups, as well as individual members and church leaders, have given counsel as part of this study process. Some of the counsel led to changes in the original study paper; some seemed to confirm its direction and content; some challenged specific points or the general approach. Further counsel and evaluation, as the study is used in the churches, may be sent to the Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries. As a community of believers, we can look back in gratitude for God's faithfulness in calling forth men and women to minister in the church's life and witness. As we look forward, we remain confident that God will be faithful in the future as in the past. Leadership and leadership authority in the church ultimately come from and depend on God's grace and continuing mercies.

[edit] Bibliography

Seven Articles of Schleitheim (Anabaptist, 1527)

Dordrecht Confession of Faith (Mennonite, 1632)

Mennonite Confession of Faith (Mennonite Church, 1963)

Biblical Understandings Concerning Women and Men (Mennonite Church, 1975)

Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (Mennonite Church/General Conference Mennonite Church, 1995)

©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved. To cite this page:

MLA style: Mennonite Church. "Conclusion." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1981. Web. 26 August 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L42.html/L42_7.html.

APA style: Mennonite Church. (1981). Conclusion. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 August 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L42.html/L42_7.html.

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[edit] Glossary & Appendix

[edit] Glossary

Anabaptists. The name given by their opponents to the Radical Reformers of the sixteenth century because believer's baptism was considered one of their distinguishing characteristics by those who practiced infant baptism. Contemporary Mennonites trace their historical and spiritual roots to the Anabaptists.

Believers' Church. A term which has been used by historians and theologians to describe the type of church which emphasizes the necessity of personal faith as a condition for baptism into the church, and related characteristics of Christian faith and life. This broader term would include Anabaptists, Mennonites, Brethren, and other similar types of churches which have sometimes been called "free churches."

Board of Congregational Ministries. A Board of the Mennonite Church which provides program and other resources to assist congregations and conferences in such areas as evangelism, nurture, worship, ministry, leadership, music, peace and social concerns. Their address is P.O. Box 1245, Elkhart, IN 46515.

Charismatic. The sociological sense of this term refers to the powerful personality types of certain leaders in social and religious groups. This meaning should be distinguished from the use of the word "charismatic" which refers to a Pentecost-type renewal movement in many churches today. It should also be distinguished from the New Testament word which includes a whole range of "grace-gifts" (=charismata) ranging from prophecy to administration, from a word of wisdom to marriage.

Church. Sometimes used in the sense of both local congregations as well as the broader church.

Conference Consultations. A series of consultations which are scheduled periodically between representatives of district conferences and church board and agency representatives (General Board, Board of Missions, Education, Congregational Ministries, Publication, and Mutual Aid Board) in the Mennonite Church. Confession of Faith (1963). The confession of faith adopted by the Mennonite Church General Conference at Kalona, Iowa, in 1963.

Council on Faith, Life, and Strategy. A standing council of the Mennonite Church, responsible to the Mennonite Church General Assembly and General Board.

Dordrecht Confession (1632). A Dutch Mennonite confession of faith translated into German and English and widely used as a doctrinal standard by European and North American Mennonite groups until the nineteenth and/or twentieth century. The section on "widows" in Article IX of the Dordrecht Confession has been translated into English and German in several different ways. This study (Section I) has gone back to the original Dordrecht and translated directly from the Dutch text. The most precise and accurate translation which has been available so far in English is the one by Joseph F. Sohm in the English edition of Martyrs Mirror, as follows, "And that also honorable aged widows should be chosen and ordained deaconesses, that they with the deacons may visit, comfort, and care for, the poor, feeble, sick, sorrowing, and needy, as also the widows and orphans, and assist in attending to other wants and necessities of the church to the best of their ability. 1 Timothy 5:9; Romans 16:1; James 1:27." Other translations, particularly those which omit the word "ordained" and which add the clause that deaconesses should assist in taking care of any matters in the church "that properly come "thin their sphere," are incorrect, because the original includes "ordained" but does not have "that properly come within their sphere."

Episcopal. The form of church government in which supreme authority rests in the bishop (English translation of the word "episcope" ) or body of bishops.

Literal Translation. A word-for-word translation from the original Greek of the New Testament.

Lot. A traditional practice of determining those who should be ordained to church ministry. According to this practice the candidates for ordination were asked to choose one of several books (generally hymnbooks) placed on a table; the one who chose the book (without any advance knowledge) which contained a blank sheet of paper or "lot" became the one designated for ordination.

Mennonite Church (MC). The largest Mennonite group in North America, formerly known as the "Old Mennonites."

Mennonite Church Study (1973). Printed as "Biblical Understandings Concerning Women and Men," a summary statement adopted by Mennonite General Assembly, August 5-10, 1975, available from Mennonite Publishing House, Scottdale, Pennsylvania.

Mennonite General Conference (MC). The denominational organization of the Mennonite Church from 1897-1971. It was predecessor of the Mennonite Church General Assembly and the Mennonite Church General Board formed in 1971.

Mennonites. May refer to several Mennonite groups, particularly when emphasizing similarities among them. Offices. A traditional form for the "official" leadership roles in the church, regulated by prescribed qualifications, duties, ordination, peer standards, and largely independent of those who "fill" them. "Principles and Guidelines for Interchurch Relations." Compiled and edited by James M. Lapp, August 1971, available from Mennonite Church General Board.

"Rule of Christ." The term used by sixteenth-century Anabaptists (adopted from the theological language of the time) for Matthew 18:15-20.

Schleitheim Agreement (1527). The first and formative statement of agreement on several essential elements between Anabaptist leaders in the sixteenth century.

Synodal. The form of church government in which supreme authority resides in the council of official clerical arid lay representatives from congregations in a specified area; characteristic particularly of Presbyterian and Reformed churches.

[edit] Appendix

Greek Words Translated "Ordain" in King James Version and in Other Translations Original Term Root Meaning Places Translated "Ordain" in KJV Other Translations of the Same Term 1. diatasso related to #10) order, command 1 Corinthians 7:17; 9:14; Galatians 3:19 command: Matthew 11:1; Luke 8:55; 17:9 appoint: Luke 3:13; Acts 7:44

2. kathistemi (related to #11) to place Titus 1:5; Hebrews 5:1; 8:3 make: Matthew 24:45, 47; Luke 12:14; Romans 5:19 is: James 3:6; 4:4; 2 Peter 1:8 appoint: Acts 6:3

3. kataskeuazo to prepare Hebrews 9:6 prepare: Matthew 11:10; Hebrews 11:7 make ready: Luke 1:17 build: Hebrews 3:3, 4 make: Hebrews 9:2

4. krino decide Acts 16:4 judge: Matthew 7:1; 19:26; Luke 19:22 sue: Matthew 5:40

5. horizo (related to #9) mark off Acts 10:42; 17:31 determine: Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; 11:29; 17:26 declare: Romans 1:4 limit: Hebrews 4:7

6. poieo do, make Mark 3:14 do, make (many times)

7. prographo prewrite Jude 4 write aforetime: Romans 15:4; Ephesians 3:3 set forth: Galatians 3:1

8. pro-etoimazo pre-pare Ephesians 2:10 afore prepare: Romans 9:23

9. pro-orizo pre-determine 1 Corinthians 2:7 determine before: Acts 4:28 predestinate: Romans 8:29, 30; Ephesians 1:5, 11

10. tasso arrange Acts 13:48; Romans 13:1 appoint: Matthew 28:16; Acts 22:10 set: Luke 7:8 determine: Acts 15:2 addict: 1 Corinthians 16:15

11. tithemi place John 15:16; 1 Timothy 2:7 put: Matthew 5:15; 12:18, etc.

12. cheirotoneo choose by Acts 14:23 chosen: 2 Corinthians 8:19

[edit] Bibliography

Seven Articles of Schleitheim (Anabaptist, 1527)

Dordrecht Confession of Faith (Mennonite, 1632)

Mennonite Confession of Faith (Mennonite Church, 1963)

Biblical Understandings Concerning Women and Men (Mennonite Church, 1975)

Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (Mennonite Church/General Conference Mennonite Church, 1995)

©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.

To cite this page:

MLA style: Mennonite Church. "Glossary & Appendix." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1981. Web. 26 August 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L42.html/L42_8.html.

APA style: Mennonite Church. (1981). Glossary & Appendix. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 August 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/L42.html/L42_8.html. Document Actions

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