Where Do Ministers Come From:
A Discussion about Lineage, Tradition and the Holy Spirit
By Reverand Jonathon Clinesmith
Thank you friends, family, mentors, and colleagues in ministry for getting me to this moment. All Christians are called by God into some form of ministry. I happen to be called specifically to the ministry of ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. (Warning: this could come off as a "pat myself on the back" post, but I promise it's INTENDED to be a "THANK GOD FOR GETTING ME THROUGH THIS" post.)
According to the UMC's Book of Discipline, "the responsibilities of elders are derived from the authority given in ordination. Elders have a fourfold ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service and thus serve in the local church and in extension ministries in witness and service of Christ's love and justice. Elders are authorized to preach and teach the Word, to provide pastoral care and counsel, to administer the sacraments, and to order the life of the church for service in mission and ministry as pastors, superintendents, and bishops."
They also get to wear stoles.
Becoming an elder in the UMC is not an easy task. For the better part of the last decade of my life I've been busy fulfilling the requirements to attain ordination. Getting a master's degree, spending dozens of hours in District Committee on Ministry and Board of Ordained Ministry meetings, writing hundreds of pages worth of theological treatises, having my psyche examined and somehow being declared sane and competent enough to be entrusted with a congregation. A long process, and grueling at times.
And it wasn't just my sacrifice- the process takes a toll on your family as well. You don't get to stop being a spouse or parent going into it. You don't usually get to quit your job. And I didn't begin it with the tools I needed. Going into the process, I didn't know how to say "no" and the people I love most in the world suffered for it. But by the grace of God I eventually learned about the myth of balance, the tyranny of the urgent, the value of self-care, the importance of emotional health in spiritual leaders, and the absolute necessity of learning how to prioritize. But those are lessons that I sometimes had to get scars to learn.
So, I can hear you asking, "why go through all of THAT?"
Well, my standing jokes have been either that I really want to wear scarves on Sunday mornings or that I want fallen human beings to confirm a call that God had already given me.
But the truth is, I pursued that calling for a couple of reasons:
1.) I love God.
2.) I love people.
3.) I had the unmistakable burning in my soul that I had been called by God to go through this process specifically into this type of ministry.
4.) I love the theology of the United Methodist Church.
5.) I absolutely trusted that God was with me all the way through it.
As a Methodist Christian I am the blessed inheritor of a worldview shaped by "Wesley's Quadrilateral." No, that's not a trick play run by the Little Giants. It's a four-fold lens for understanding the Gospel and this world. The four lenses are Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. Scripture is the primary lens, and the others are secondary, but they're all valuable.
Sometimes people view the lens of tradition as being restrictive, but I've come to learn that it can also be empowering. One of the amazing things about being ordained in the UMC is the tradition I inherit.
I was ordained by Jimmy Nunn.
Who was ordained by Louis Wesley Schowengerdt.
Who was ordained by Ivan Lee Holt.
Who was ordained by Elijah Embree Hoss.
Who was ordained by Holland Nimmons McTyeire.
Who was ordained by William Capers.
Who was ordained by William M'Kendree.
Who was ordained by Francis Asbury.
Who was ordained by Thomas Coke.
Who was consecrated by John Wesley.
Yes, THAT John Wesley.
And that's just the Methodist branch of this tradition. Wesley was an Anglican, and the Anglicans split from the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church had it's roots in the primitive, post-apostolic church. A Methodist pastor in Texas (Rev. Gregory Neal) did a little more digging, and although it gets a little bit murky at times, he presents a good argument for a line of ordination that goes back WAY further:
John Wesley was ordained in 1724 by Dr. John Potter. Then the line continues backwards as follows:
Dr. John Potter, 1715
Dr. Baxter Tenison, 1701
Dr. Philip Tillotson, 1683
Niles Sancroft, 1658
William Laude, 1633
Kyle Abbot, 1610
Richard Bancroft, 1604
Mark Whitgift, 1577
Steven Grendall, 1575
Dr. Parker, 1559
Phillip Barlow, Bishop of London 1536
Then "Bloody" Queen Mary had a LOT of English clergy killed off (she doesn't seem like she was super nice), but we know of at least 3 surviving bishops that were ordaining folks at this time to ordain Phillip Barlow. Following one of those lines of ordination, that of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, we get this:
Thomas Cranmer, 1533
William Warham, 1503
Cardinal Morton, 1488
Cardinal Bourchier, 1469
Cardinal Kemp, 1452
Henry Chichele, 1413
James Abingdon, 1381
Simon Sudbury, 1367
Simon Langham, 1327
Walter Reynolds, 1313
Robert of Winchelsea, 1293
John Peckham, 1279
Robert Kilwardby, 1269
Boniface of Savoy, 1252
Richard Weathershed, 1230
Stephen Langton, 1205
Hubert Walter, 1197
Thomas Becket, 1162
William de Corbeuil, 1122
Ralph d'Escures, 1109
St. Anselm, 1093
St. Augustine, 601 (The guy that brought Roman Christianity to England, not the more famous one with all the street cred.)
Quoting directly from Neal now: "Augustine was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury in 601 AD by three Bishops of Gaul, the same line which originally evangelized England in the 200s AD. The church in Gaul was originally planted there by missionaries from Ephesus in the mid-to-late 100s AD. Its Episcopacy was established by St. Irenaeus, who was consecrated by the Bishop of Ephesus and sent to serve as Bishop of Lyons in 177 AD. Irenaeus tells us in his histories about sending missionaries into Roman Britain, and the planting of churches and the sending of Bishops to 'shepherd the Body of Christ in that northern island.'"
The Episcopal Line in Lyons can be traced as follows, and, granted, this is where we're starting to veer towards oral history and legend, although the church from a very early age was known for its record keeping (which is why pagan rulers eventually coveted Christian monks in their courts):
Maximus Lyster, 587
St. Mark Pireu, 581
Gregory II, 547
St. Evarestus, 502
Christopher III, 485
Christopher II, 472
Timothy Eumenes, 468
Clement of Lyons, 436
St. Christopher, 394
Paul Anencletus "the Elder", 330
Mark Leuvian, 312
Pious Stephenas, 291
Andrew Meletius, 283
Gregory Antilas, 276
St. Matthias, 276
Philip Deoderus, 241
St. Nicomedian, 180
St. Irenaeus, 177
Since Irenaeus was alleged to have come from Ephesus, which had a strong connections with Paul according to early sources like Polycarp and Clement of Rome, we can follow the last little bit of the ordinal line like this:
St. Polycrates, 175
St. John the Elder, 113
St. Onesemus, 91
St. Timothy, 62
St. Paul the Apostle, 33?
That's pretty cool. It's also pretty heavy.
Does this tradition of ordinal lineage matter in the long run? Probably not. The Spirit of God is going to call people to serve the church and build the Kingdom with or without it.
But being connected to this lineage through Bishop Nunn's laying on of hands, and having the hands of Rev. DA Bennett, Rev. Brett Thomasson, Rev. Greg Tener, and Rev. Sam Powers laid on me, who each have their own rich ordinal inheritance, is a powerful thing. Getting to do Kingdom building work daily with Godly colleagues like Rev. Dr. Dyton L Owen and Rev. Marilynn Schellhamer, who were also called into ministry as ordained elders, is a powerful thing.
At the end of the day, though? I want to love God. I want to love people like Jesus loved people. I want to serve, and I want to lead the hurting, the broken, and the lost to the feet of the cross. And that's the call of ALL CHRISTIANS. The ministry of elders is an important one, but not the ONLY one.
This is the ministry that I have been called to. My prayer is that you discover the one God is calling YOU to. Be blessed!