By Bishop Scott J. Jones
August 30, 2023
Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).
God is doing a new thing in the Methodist movement by forming the Global Methodist Church. God is calling men and women to serve as laborers in the mission field. We know that disciples who follow Jesus need to belong to a local church. And we know that local churches need preachers who will proclaim the gospel, administer the sacraments, teach the faith and order the life of the church.
The apostle Paul put it clearly in Romans 10:14-15 saying, “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”
God is raising up and sending a new generation of clergy to participate in this Wesleyan movement. Praise the Lord!
In just eight months, I have participated in sixteen different provisional annual conference sessions this year, including the preliminary gatherings that were preparations for the formation of provisional annual conferences. Most of them have included services of ordination, and as of August 24, I have ordained or assisted in ordaining 440 women and men. And I have four more ordination services scheduled between now and the end of the year! A recent photograph from the North Alabama Annual Conference included the 68 persons I ordained and those who had transferred in from other denominations. Seeing such a crowd gives one confidence about the future leadership of the Global Methodist Church.
Each of these ordinations is special to the person being ordained and their family. Some of these persons are recent graduates of seminary. Others have served as licensed local pastors for decades. Some were qualified as elders but rejected as too conservative for their former denomination. Others were deacons who now feel called to be elders in addition to being deacons.
For each of these persons I would have preferred the opportunity to get to know them and their story better than I do. But one in particular stands out. Josh Groce was called into ministry as a second career. He was still a young man. He received his call while he, his wife, Alicia, and their two children were members of Hernando United Methodist Church in Hernando, Mississippi. He attended Asbury Theological Seminary and joined the staff of his church. Given the turmoil within his denomination, he delayed ordination until his church voted to disaffiliate. He then applied and was approved for ordination in the Global Methodist Church. Tragically, Alicia was diagnosed with rapidly advancing ALS syndrome. Earlier this year it became clear that she would not have long to live. But she had supported her husband through his call to ministry and his theological education and she wanted to see him ordained. The Mississippi–West Tennessee Transitional Conference Advisory Team asked if I would ordain Josh in a special worship service. So on April 18, with members of the TCAT and the Hernando Methodist Church present, I ordained Josh as both deacon and elder. Alicia and their children were present. She died August 5 at the age 35.
Despite major challenges, both personal and corporate, God is raising up clergy for the Wesleyan movement in general and the Global Methodist Church in particular. It is a great privilege to be part of that process in which the Holy Spirit is working!
Three points about clergy leadership should be emphasized. Like other Wesleyan denominations, the GM Church believes in education, certification, and ordination for its clergy.
While John Wesley described himself as homo unius libri, a man of one book, he also insisted that his clergy should read many books and study to improve their preaching and leadership. For many years Methodist preachers followed a course of study. With the founding of seminaries, a system of formal education was established for clergy. The GM Church continues to value educated pastors, so it requires those who hear a call to ministry to pursue a formal education by attending seminary or availing themselves of other pathways the denomination has approved.
In addition to the educational requirements, each candidate must past through a certification process. That process begins at the local church level, then involves critical engagement with an annual conference board of ministry, and culminates in a vote of approval for ordination by an annual conference’s clergy session.
Finally, the GM Church, like most Methodist denominations, has an episcopal form of church governance. Therefore a bishop (the title comes from the New Testament Greek word, episkopos) has the solemn duty and honor of ordaining approved clergy candidates for service in the church. The GM Church’s ordination liturgy involves the bishop examining the candidates in front of the whole conference. The bishop speaks about leadership in God’s church and the specific tasks of deacons and elders. He also asks the ordinands for their commitments to preach the gospel and maintain the church’s faith. Then the bishop lays hands on each person’s head and prays that the Holy Spirit might be poured out on him or her for the office and work of their new status. And in the case of an elder, the bishop invites the ordinand to take authority to preach the gospel, administer the sacraments, and order the life of the church. That episcopal ordination connects the newly ordained clergyperson back to John Wesley through the chain of bishops ordained by him in 1784.
It is a joyful and awesome experience for the whole church to participate in ordination services. Men and women come forward believing God has called them to serve as clergy. Mentors have walked alongside them as they continued to discern that call. Teachers have enriched, challenged, and tested them as they have grown in faith and wisdom. And boards of ministry affirmed their calls through close examination and prayer. It is no wonder ordinands and bishops approach the altar with fear and trembling and often tears of joy at ordination services. It is a mighty thing to be ordained by a bishop and then sent forth as a humble laborer in God’s great work to redeem the world through his Son, Jesus Christ.
Learn more about the Global Methodist Church, a movement dedicated to making disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately, love extravagantly, and witness boldly.
Bishop Scott J. Jones is an episcopal leader in the Global Methodist Church.