By Chris Blount
Chair of the Communications Commission
And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news." -- Romans 10:15 RSV
The Service for the Ordering of Ministry officially closed and 'sent forth' the members of the 2012 Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. At the service, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward preached a sermon titled, Good News, based on Romans 10:12-15 and Luke 8:1-3; 9:1-6.
She recounted a moving illustration of a call and acceptance to ministry as recounted by her friend, United Methodist Bishop Reuben P. Job, retired. As a teen, Reuben dreaded his father's reaction to hearing the news of his call to ministry. When he finally summoned the courage, his father's response was an unexpected blessing: "That's the best news I have ever heard."
Bishop Ward said that this illustrates the Annual Conference's response to the calling of all persons presented Sunday for licensing, commissioning and ordination.
"We believe your call, and your answer to this call, is some of the best news we have ever heard. A called person is good news. You are a great, great gift, a treasure of the Kingdom of Heaven," Bishop Ward said.
Sunday's service began and concluded with the Passing of the Torch processional and recessional. Retiring ministers led the processional with the fire of the altar. And following the service, newly commissioned and ordained persons led the recessional carrying the fire of the altar into the world again. In this act, the Annual Conference recognizes that both the call and fire of ministry come from God -- not from human hands.
Participating in the service were three bishops, Bishop Ward, Bishop Clay Lee, Jr. (retired) and Bishop Duncan Gray, III of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi. Bishop Ward stated that Bishop Lee is a treasure of this Annual Conference. And she celebrated the tradition of partnering in ministry across denominational boundaries with Bishop Gray and the Episcopal Diocese, as well as the Roman Catholic Diocese.
After a liturgy of remembering our baptism, retiring clergy and spouses were honored. Then, after a time of worship, all were seated except the presented candidates and the bishop, who stood facing one another.
The bishop examined the candidates, stating: "Licensing, commissioning, and ordination are gifts from God to the church and are exercised in covenant with the whole church and within the covenant of the office and order.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, you have been called to licensed, commissioned, or ordained ministry. The church now confirms your calling. By the grace of God, you are to be coworkers with the laity, bishops, deacons, diaconal ministers, local pastors, associate members, commissioned ministers, and elders. Remember that you are called to serve rather than to be served, to proclaim the faith of the church and no other, to look after the concerns of God above all."
Bishop Ward then asked the candidates to confess and confirm beliefs and vows essential for all who are called to a life and work of licensed, commissioned or ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church.
Candidates each affirmed aloud their holy calling.
Local pastors were then licensed for pastoral ministry, including David Olen English, Raphael Donzell Johnson, Sr., Jeffrey Christian Nesbit, Albert Shields, Jr. and John Allen Williams, Jr.
Provisional members commissioned for service include Mark Eric Barfield, Megan Grace Becnel, Adri Kaylin Bullard, Colby Uriah Cuevas, Stephanie Camille Foretich, Charles Kenneth McGill, II, John Wesley Pepper, William Thomas Rambo, Anna Kristen Chipley Schrickel and Jeffrey Myron Tollison.
Ordained as deacons were Karie Sue McCaleb and Philip Karl Messner.
Ordained as elders in full connection include Linda Faye Dixon, Roy Reed McCaleb, Brenda Ann McCaskill, Anthony Jerome Murray, Frank Michael Newell, Garry Evan Ruff, David Carl Shumaker, Maurice Smith and Creighton Delon White.
At the service, it was announced that Mississippi seminarians received $255,079 over the Conference year through the Ministerial Education Fund. This fund provides scholarships to Mississippi candidates for ministry enrolled full time in theological education. The offering given Sunday was dedicated to this fund.
Participating in the Service for the Ordering of Ministry were: Bishop Hope Morgan Ward - Resident Bishop, Mississippi Area; Bishop Clay Lee, Jr. - Retired, The United Methodist Church; Bishop Duncan Gray, III - Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi; Tim Crisler - Conference Lay Leader; Scott Larsen - Chair, Board of Ministry; Warren Black - Registrar, Division of Elders; Walter Frazier - Chair, Order of Deacons; Chris Young - Registrar, Fellowship of Local Pastors; Kristen Schrickel and David Shumaker - Liturgists.