The validity of an Independent ordination

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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
I realize this discussion could get heated, so it is perhaps best that only Presbyterians comment on this thread. I am reading through Alexander McLeod's Ecclesiastical Catechism today, and noticed (on page 31, question 69) that he argued for recognizing the validity of both Episcopal and Independent ordination. I can understand that, from a Presbyterian point of view, recognition of the former would not be controversial, but has there not been a significant body of opinion within Presbyterianism that has argued that Independent ordination is not valid owing to its sectarian nature? Do you know of any further arguments/writings pro- and contra recognizing the ordination of Independents?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
The generality would recognize its validity if not its regularity I should think? Since even Presbyterians recognize what might be done in an extraordinary circumstance while irregular, is nevertheless valid. Church on an Island, etc. ?
 

Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
The validity of an ordination can vary, but the validity of an independent ordination is (as Chris put it) an extraordinary circumstance. I'm assuming that you are talking about the ordination of a man independent from a Presbytery or any denomination and of someone who is orthodox?
 

Backwoods Presbyterian

Puritanboard Amanuensis
From a practical standpoint in a Presbyterial setting, in my former Presbytery we had a man transfer in from an "independent" church (baptist, non-denom) and he was required to "jump" through a couple more hoops than a man who would be coming into from a NAPARC church. From what I gather this is fairly common in other presbyteries. So in a sense there is a bit of extra-care when it comes to independent ordination that does not exist with Presbyterial/Classis ordination for that particular reason.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
As I understand it, the RPCGA requires former Independent/Baptist ministers to be re-ordained, or, rather ordained as they have never been ordained owing to the perceived invalidity of Independent/Baptist ordinations. I have heard of similar things happening within some presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. And, If I recall correctly, the last Baptist minister to join the RP clergy was ordained by one of our presbyteries.

I would have thought it would have been argued that, unlike Presbyterian and Anglican ministers, Independent/Baptist clergy have not been ordained as ministers of the church catholic, but as leaders of sectarian bodies that have no real connection with the church beyond the local sect. Hence, the wider church cannot recognise their ordination as valid.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
The generality would recognize its validity if not its regularity I should think? Since even Presbyterians recognize what might be done in an extraordinary circumstance while irregular, is nevertheless valid. Church on an Island, etc. ?

You are probably right, Chris. Thus, I would like to see if there are any sources that touch on this issue in any detail. I wonder if Charles Hodge or Thomas Smyth dealt with the issue?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
The Presbyterians and Independents at the Westminster Assembly clashed over the former wanting to have a law that placed TE ordination above the congregational level where congregations could conveniently associate with other churches (they mean where it is possible). However the argument was not because it is invalid but that they having a duty to associate when they can, the presbytery ordination is to be sought. You can see the debate papers in The Grand Debate (Naphtali Press, 2014) 275-302. The rebaptism/reordinantion issue comes out of Southern Presbyterianism if I'm not mistaken and that may be the source for he RPCGA's rule? See this old thread from 2008 wrt the PCA and baptist re-ordination. http://www.puritanboard.com/f116/pca-ordination-31992/
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
The rebaptism/reordinantion issue comes out of Southern Presbyterianism if I'm not mistaken and that may be the source for he RPCGA's rule?

Possibly, and thanks for the reference to the Grand Debate. As far as I am aware, the PCI does not re-ordain Anglican or even RC clergy, but some of their presbyteries have ordained those who had previously been ordained by sectarian communions such as the Baptists or the Plymouth Brethren. Those who advocate this view would argue that the former is irregular but valid, while the latter is invalid as it was not carried out as an act of ordination by the wider church.
 
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NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Interesting. As divided as the Presbyterrian churches are it sure seems tenuous to base the rejection upon sectarianism.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Chris is on the money, in my opinion.

Hodge, Smyth, and the like would consider rejecting the ordination of a Independent as itself sectarian. The argument often made for rejecting Independent ordinations is not only that it was not made by the wider church (though many Independent bodies examine and ordain in voluntary association with other bodies), but that many Independents do not recognize Presbyterian ordinations. But then neither do churches that strictly insist on Apostolic Succesion (like many Anglicans and certainly the RCC).

It's arguably sectarian to reject as a church in any sense a church that itself may be sectarian. And I also agree here on the influence of Southern Presbyterianism. Thornwell's brand of Presbyterianism, as Hodge pointed out, was a certain sort of divine-right approach that tended to make Presbyterian government pertain to the essence of the church as much as it did to its well-being and thus to unchurch all who were not Presbyterian.

I would argue, then, that such ordinations ordinarily should be regarded as irregular but not invalid. We in the OPC would also tend to do what Ben mentions with respect to his former Presbytery: since they may not have been examined by the wider church for ordination, we would require more of them by way of examination if we were receiving them in our Presbyteries as ministerial members. However, we would not (in most cases) require them to be re-ordained. I say most cases because what goes under this rubric is wide and I am not willing, without the particulars before me, to say that in every case we would recognize their previous ordinations. But all things being equal, we most likely would.

Peace,
Alan
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
It doesn't accord with the Presbyterian view of Apostolic Succession. See James Walker's book on Scottish theology and theologians.

But Presbyterians being true Catholics are not interested in dismissing sections of the visible church on such grounds.

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nicnap

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
As I understand it, the RPCGA requires former Independent/Baptist ministers to be re-ordained, or, rather ordained as they have never been ordained owing to the perceived invalidity of Independent/Baptist ordinations. I have heard of similar things happening within some presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. And, If I recall correctly, the last Baptist minister to join the RP clergy was ordained by one of our presbyteries.

I was required to be "re-ordained," or ordained, however one wishes to view it, by First Presbytery of the ARP. When I was ordained as a Southern Baptist, it was by a committee of pastors from the Association of which the calling church was a part. I explained my case that it was not an "independent ordination," but some men had questions, and so I yielded to the will of the brethren.

First Presbytery is in the process of updating its Manual of Procedure, and part of that will likely include something requiring NAPARC men to take the theology portion of our exams, and the oral exams. Those coming in from outside of NAPARC will be required to take all five exams.
 

Stephen

Puritan Board Junior
The PCA at least in some Presbyteries, does re-ordain men coming out of independency. I have come to believe this is a good practice, especially if the church in question does not have the marks of a true church.
 

puritanpilgrim

Puritan Board Junior
unlike Presbyterian and Anglican ministers, Independent/Baptist clergy have not been ordained as ministers of the church catholic, but as leaders of sectarian bodies that have no real connection with the church beyond the local sect.

:banghead:
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
unlike Presbyterian and Anglican ministers, Independent/Baptist clergy have not been ordained as ministers of the church catholic, but as leaders of sectarian bodies that have no real connection with the church beyond the local sect.

:banghead:

As my brother Aaron has so vividly pointed out, the claim that "Independent / Baptist clergy have not been ordained as ministers of the church catholic, but as leaders of sectarian bodies that have no real connection with the church beyond the local sect" is demonstrably false to fact in many cases. Certainly my own Baptist denomination requires not only that candidates for ministry be recommended by the local churches to become candidates for ministry, they must also pass denominational exams.
 

Dearly Bought

Puritan Board Junior
As my brother Aaron has so vividly pointed out, the claim that "Independent / Baptist clergy have not been ordained as ministers of the church catholic, but as leaders of sectarian bodies that have no real connection with the church beyond the local sect" is demonstrably false to fact in many cases. Certainly my own Baptist denomination requires not only that candidates for ministry be recommended by the local churches to become candidates for ministry, they must also pass denominational exams.
The largest Baptist convention in North America has no such "denominational exams" nor any oversight of ordination beyond the local congregation, so I think the point stands as a general rule. Generally one would find such things to be characteristic of more "mainline" Baptists.
 

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
As my brother Aaron has so vividly pointed out, the claim that "Independent / Baptist clergy have not been ordained as ministers of the church catholic, but as leaders of sectarian bodies that have no real connection with the church beyond the local sect" is demonstrably false to fact in many cases. Certainly my own Baptist denomination requires not only that candidates for ministry be recommended by the local churches to become candidates for ministry, they must also pass denominational exams.
The largest Baptist convention in North America has no such "denominational exams" nor any oversight of ordination beyond the local congregation, so I think the point stands as a general rule. Generally one would find such things to be characteristic of more "mainline" Baptists.

First of all, as has already been stated, the vast majority of Baptist pastors were ordained by a group of churches and not just a single church, and so the argument that there is no oversight beyond the local church is false. Secondly, I fail to see how Presbyterian pastors have been anymore ordained into the "church catholic" than Baptist pastors. All protestants are sectarian in a sense, and so the argument simply does not fly.
 

Dearly Bought

Puritan Board Junior
First of all, as has already been stated, the vast majority of Baptist pastors were ordained by a group of churches and not just a single church, and so the argument that there is no oversight beyond the local church is false. Secondly, I fail to see how Presbyterian pastors have been anymore ordained into the "church catholic" than Baptist pastors. All protestants are sectarian in a sense, and so the argument simply does not fly.
Bill, I'm utterly confused. Who in the SBC has been speaking as though ordination involved a group of churches? I am aware of the occasional invitation to neighboring pastors to sit in on an ordination council in an advisory capacity, but everything I know of Southern Baptist polity makes ordination strictly an act related to the local congregation. What version of Baptist polity teaches that ordination is an act of a group of churches?
 
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Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
First of all, as has already been stated, the vast majority of Baptist pastors were ordained by a group of churches and not just a single church, and so the argument that there is no oversight beyond the local church is false. Secondly, I fail to see how Presbyterian pastors have been anymore ordained into the "church catholic" than Baptist pastors. All protestants are sectarian in a sense, and so the argument simply does not fly.
Bill, I'm utterly confused. Who in the SBC has speaking as though ordination involved a group of churches? I am aware of the occasional invitation to neighboring pastors to sit in on an ordination council in an advisory capacity, but everything I know of Southern Baptist polity makes ordination strictly an act related to the local congregation. What version of Baptist polity teaches that ordination is an act of a group of churches?

In the SBC, a local church is affiliated through means of a local association. In the case of my church, we are members of a local association with approx. 40 other churches. When a pastor is to be ordained, a council made up of pastors and leaders from throughout the association is convened and the candidate is examined and subsequently ordained. As far as the nature of this examination, this will vary from association to association, just as I'm sure it might from presbytery to presbytery. The SBC as a national organization has no part in this, and this is perhaps why most outside the SBC are unaware of this process.
 

Dearly Bought

Puritan Board Junior
In the SBC, a local church is affiliated through means of a local association. In the case of my church, we are members of a local association with approx. 40 other churches. When a pastor is to be ordained, a council made up of pastors and leaders from throughout the association is convened and the candidate is examined and subsequently ordained. As far as the nature of this examination, this will vary from association to association, just as I'm sure it might from presbytery to presbytery. The SBC as a national organization has no part in this, and this is perhaps why most outside the SBC are unaware of this process.
Bill, the convening of an ordination council involving members of the association may be a common practice among Southern Baptists, but surely you recognize that it has no bearing on the validity of an ordination? Speaking according to the Baptist polity I know, any local congregation has full authority to license and ordain men completely apart from any outside counsel if they so choose. Many do. While there may be lists compiled from what local congregations report, there are no association or convention credentials for a minister. I'm not speaking as an outsider. My father attended an SBC seminary, my college was SBC-affiliated, and I was a Baptist until halfway through seminary.
 

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
In the SBC, a local church is affiliated through means of a local association. In the case of my church, we are members of a local association with approx. 40 other churches. When a pastor is to be ordained, a council made up of pastors and leaders from throughout the association is convened and the candidate is examined and subsequently ordained. As far as the nature of this examination, this will vary from association to association, just as I'm sure it might from presbytery to presbytery. The SBC as a national organization has no part in this, and this is perhaps why most outside the SBC are unaware of this process.
Bill, the convening of an ordination council involving members of the association may be a common practice among Southern Baptists, but surely you recognize that it has no bearing on the validity of an ordination? Speaking according to the Baptist polity I know, any local congregation has full authority to license and ordain men completely apart from any outside counsel if they so choose. Many do. While there may be lists compiled from what local congregations report, there are no association or convention credentials for a minister. I'm not speaking as an outsider. My father attended an SBC seminary, my college was SBC-affiliated, and I was a Baptist until halfway through seminary.

I understand your point, Bryan, and yes many Baptist churches will ordain pastors independently of any outside authority. I guess my question to you would be, why would a Baptist ordination that involved an association be any less valid than a Presbyterian ordination that involved a presbytery?
 

Dearly Bought

Puritan Board Junior
I understand your point, Bryan, and yes many Baptist churches will ordain pastors independently of any outside authority. I guess my question to you would be, why would a Baptist ordination that involved an association be any less valid than a Presbyterian ordination that involved a presbytery?

Let me preface this by saying that I'm more inclined to accept Baptist ordinations as irregular, yet valid. That being said, it's hard for me to compare the counsel/advice of a few ministers from churches in the local Baptist association to an authoritative act of presbyterial ordination. It's like comparing an SBC resolution on freemasonry to a ruling of a confessional presbytery concerning freemasonry. Maybe there's some resemblance on the surface, but when you get down to brass tacks, I know which one sounds better to the freemason.
 

Pastork

Puritan Board Freshman
I have been reading this discussion, and I really have no desire to debate the issue, but I am stunned by the complete lack of Scriptural citation -- unless I somehow missed it. I have read posts that want to find out what certain other theologians or groups have written, but no one who seems to be focused first of all on what may derived from Scripture on the subject. To be fair, I think those involved are presupposing a Scriptural underpinning for their views, but I still find the lack of Scriptural focus here a bit odd for a group of Reformed men, and even a bit disturbing. I certainly can't imagine being part of a discussion regarding what constitutes a valid ordination without reference to Scripture. Perhaps those involved here just don't want to rehash an Scriptural debate? If so, I guess I can understand up to a point, but I still find it odd.
 

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
I understand your point, Bryan, and yes many Baptist churches will ordain pastors independently of any outside authority. I guess my question to you would be, why would a Baptist ordination that involved an association be any less valid than a Presbyterian ordination that involved a presbytery?

Let me preface this by saying that I'm more inclined to accept Baptist ordinations as irregular, yet valid. That being said, it's hard for me to compare the counsel/advice of a few ministers from churches in the local Baptist association to an authoritative act of presbyterial ordination. It's like comparing an SBC resolution on freemasonry to a ruling of a confessional presbytery concerning freemasonry. Maybe there's some resemblance on the surface, but when you get down to brass tacks, I know which one sounds better to the freemason.

I understand that Presbyterianism carries with it an authority beyond the church level that congregationalism does not. That being said, at the end of the day an ordination is carried out by men under the authority of God. If an ordination is performed by godly men who have genuinely sought to examine a candidate based on biblical standards, then I fail to see what difference it makes the level of authority granted by men to the ordaining council. I sometimes think that Presbyterians ascribe a level of authority to their polity that is born out neither by Scripture or reality.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
I am stunned by the complete lack of Scriptural citation

That has something to do with the fact that it is a discussion concerning historical approaches to a matter of ecclesiology, not a discussion about matters of biblical exegesis. The OP is not dealing with the question of whether or not Presbyterian ordination is exegetically correct, but with the views of Presbyterians about ordinations carried out by communions that Presbyterians have viewed as sectarian.
 
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Pastork

Puritan Board Freshman
I am stunned by the complete lack of Scriptural citation

That has something to do with the fact that it is a discussion concerning historical approaches to a matter of ecclesiology, not a discussion about matters of biblical exegesis. The OP is not dealing with the question of whether or not Presbyterian ordination is exegetically correct, but with the views of Presbyterians about ordinations carried out by communions that Presbyterians have viewed as sectarian.

But surely there needs to be an exegetical basis for how and why one is viewed as "sectarian," right? By the way, I did read the first sentence of the thread, but I didn't think your use of the word "perhaps" excluded my comment. At any rate, I will comment no further.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
From what I remember from James Walker's book, the laying on of the hands of a duly constituted Presbytery signified that the ordinand's ministry was Apostolic in that the current equivalent of Apostolic approval had been given to his ministry in the tradition of the Apostles.

Some Presbyterians might say that since Independent ministry did not have the proper Apostolic sanction, it was irregular, schismatic, and in some sense outwith the Catholic Church in the Apostolic tradition.

One area of Scripture that would be important would be the meaning of the laying on of hands in the NT.

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