NEW FORMS OF MINISTRY
Drawn from a presentation by Reverend Dr Novelle C Josiah that was made at a Circuit Youth Seminar, held on 27th October 2007 at Sawcolts
One of the products of the restructured church is what is commonly referred to as the “New Forms of Ministry.” “Forms of Ministry” looks in a narrower sense at the way in which the ordained ministry is ordered.” Prior to restructuring we basically had two forms of ministry:
(1) Ministers – who are both male and female;
(2) Deaconess Order (Deacon) catering primarily for female.
With the restructuring the following forms emerged:
(1) Presbytery/Presbyterate, with the term Presbyter being the new name for ministers. Presbyter comes from a Greek word meaning minister. Presbyters are ordained to Word and Sacrament.
(2) Diaconate which replaces the Deaconess Order and facilitates (includes) both male and female. Deacons, unlike Presbyters, are ordained to special ministries.
We have also introduced the “Local Presbyter” which is a non-itinerant, presbyter who is local to the Circuit in which he/she has membership.
Consideration is also being given to the Episcopacy for the Presidents that will result in the use of the term “Bishop” to describe our Districts and Connexional Presidents. This has been met with various responses. There is no conclusive decision on this though some District Presidents are called bishops, for example, as in the case of the Bahamas/Turks and Caicos District President. The MCCA publication, Methodist Roots – Know your Methodism series 1, makes the point that “Caribbean Methodism has both “Episcope” and “Episcopacy” in its historical system, but the term bishop is not used. Instead the terms “Superintendent, General Superintendent and President” are used.
It should be pointed out that the New Forms of Ministry, including the use of the title “Bishop,” is supported by scripture. From the very onset, division of labour and specialization were very evident within the church. We may refer to the ministry of the Apostles. The call to discipleship issued by our Lord Jesus Christ may be regarded as the initial and deliberate attempt to develop specialization within the ministry of the church. It is upon the foundation that the Apostles have laid, that the Ordained Ministry is based. It is for this reason that the ordained ministry is often referred to as an “apostolic succession.” Further in the New Testament, during the second and third centuries, we see the threefold pattern of Bishop, Presbyter and Deacon being established as the pattern of ordained ministry throughout the church. As such, what we call New Forms of Ministry are not so new after all.
Not withstanding these new forms of ministry, one of the challenges facing our church is having sufficient ordained workers who are set aside to carry out the work of the church. Fewer and fewer individuals are offering for the ordained ministry in a context where increasing demands are being placed on the church that has a contracting number of willing and committed lay workers. The reluctance of some persons in considering full time ministry may be linked to several factors including the following:
(1) Expectation/ Image of the minister and where ministry is portrayed as a drab profession
(2) The requirements of candidature
(3) The length and rigours of the candidature process
(5) Itinerancy, which is partially countered with the option of the “Local Presbyter”
(6) Attitudes of members towards our Caribbean ministers and the context of ministry
While there are no easy solutions to these issues, it is not enough to simply brush them aside. Every effort needs to be made to enable this vocation. Creative approaches to ministry must be pursued to make this vocation relevant and rewarding. Every effort should be made to present those who do full time ministry as professionals who are worthy of approval and who are unashamed of the work that they do. These are useful measures that should assist in commending ministry as a career to those who feel a sense of call to the full time ministry of the church.