By Israel Galindo, Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning
Topics and themes have a cyclical life to them, coming into popular dialogue and debate and then receding into the background, as others become the “hot” issue of the day. Happily, recent years have seen the resurgence of one of the more important concepts in both theology and congregational concerns, namely, the role of the laity in the church. The Order of Ministry: Equipping the Saints , ed. by Jerry L. Sumney. Lexington, KY: Lexington Theological Seminary, 2002. 102 pages, is a collection of essays addressed to a Disciples of Christ audience on matters of long concern for that denomination: ordination and the role of the laity under the understanding of the priesthood of all believers.
The contributors of the eight essays and the one sermon that make up this book are members of the faculty at the Lexington Theological Seminary (the essays, in fact, were published simultaneously as the Spring and Summer 2002 (vol. 37, no. 1, 2) issues of the Lexington Theological Quarterly (ISSN 0024-1628)). The essays collected in this book grew out of a D.Min. class that focused on the office of elders and their role in the Disciples of Christ churches.
While the related matters of ordination, the role of the laity, and the understanding of ministry found in this slim volume are discussed in the context of the Disciples of Christ churches, the book is an informative and valuable resource for any free church denomination or tradition—but should also provide a challenging read to more sacerdotal traditions. The non-sacramental understanding of ministry of the Disciples, with its emphasis on the teaching function of the pastor, and the subsequent emphasis on the role of the laity and ministry in the local church can serve to both clarify and challenge many current notions of these important issues among Baptists and others.
The book’s greatest strength is the grounding of the conversation about ordination, clergy, and laity in the fundamental disciplines that must inform any theological stance: responsible biblical interpretation, historical background and development, and honest theological struggle with the vagaries and stumbling blocks of any theological interpretation.
Baptist leaders and churches, especially in the South, will benefit from reading these essays. The early thinkers and shapers of the Disciples doctrines covered in this book (Alexander Campbell, et al.) were, and remain, influential in many of the Baptist churches and denominational bodies of that region of the country. Issues of ordination, the value of education, the role of the laity, the biblical practice of the ordinances, and creedalism remain vital, and unsettled, issues in contemporary Baptist life. We often can sharpen our thinking about matters close to heart when we can eavesdrop on how others deal with the same issues with which we struggle.
This short volume concludes with an ordination sermon, and a suggested liturgy for ordination.
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly, he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer and Don Reagan.
His books on Christian education include The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice), and A Christian Educator’s Book of Lists (S&H).
Galindo contributes to the Wabash Center’s blog for theological school deans