Rt. Rev. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Theodosius Episcopa
The covenant of the minister is a divine vow he takes before God and a promise he makes to the church of his life for the mission and ministry in the church and society. His wife joins in the ministry through the divine order of marriage. His family shares this commitment and together participates in living the covenant involved in the pastoral ministry.
An ordained minister is a steward in the church. He has privileges and responsibilities. He has the responsibility to shepherd the flock and render sacrificial service; to be fervent in the proclamation of the Gospel and constant in the ministry of teaching. He will celebrate the sacraments and manifest the dignity of Christian ministry (I Tim. 3: 1-10 & Sabha constitution 11)
1.The Ordination & The Covenant
An ordained minister is a baptized Christian who practices his faith, professes that Jesus Christ is savior & Lord and remains a communicant member. He is one who consciously expresses his call for ordained ministry by subjecting himself to the selection process and the seminary training. The church announces his name for a minimum period of one month to ascertain that he is blameless and has a good standing in the church context. The members of the church recognize him as a minister when he is ordained publicly and his vow before God and the church is read aloud to the assembled congregation (Sabha Constitution 55 & 45).
His dedication for the ministry and the commitment to the call are marked as he makes the sign of the cross and puts his signature on the Ordination Register kept in the church. He is reminded of the divine ministry through the ‘Amologia,’ cutting of the hair, and robing him with the priestly garb. He is given the holy bible to invoke him to the preaching and teaching of God’s word to the people and to realize that all his faith and practices are to be quite biblical. He is given the vestments (Kappa) for the administration of the sacraments.
A minister, thus ordained, affirms his faith in the Holy Bible, consisting of the 66 books as divinely inspired and containing all the teachings necessary for human salvation (I Tim. 3: 9). He takes the covenant to observe the doctrine and practices of the Church, to conduct in accordance with the constitution of the church and to accept and obey the orders and directions of the Bishops. He solemnly declares that, “whatever functions of a minister or other responsibility in relation to the church, he is entrusted with, by higher authority, he undertakes to discharge them faithfully and diligently and to the best of his abilities.”
An ordained minister will have a genuine motive to renew his life and vocation from time to time as he grows in his experience of carrying out the pastoral ministry (Gal. 5: 19-25). The liturgical engagement and his interactions in the ecclesial and social context give him sufficient opportunities to remember his covenant of ordination. The celebration of the sacraments refreshes and renews him in the ordained ministry and enables him to honor his covenant
Mar Thoma church encourages the minister to lead a married life and to carry out the ministry together with his family. They together form the nucleus of a covenant - people. Gospels tell us that Jesus carried out his public ministry with a group consisting of both men and women (LK. 8: 1-3). Every husband and father is a pastor in his own household (I Tim. 3: 2, 4). The ministry of the Clergy begins at home.
2.The Sacrament of Marriage & The Covenant
There is a covenant involved in the sacrament of marriage. This is a sacrament instituted by God; and the God of the covenant initiates it with the bride and the bridegroom; both being the children of God are called to enter into a binding relationship, where God remains as Lord and bestower of all blessings. The Holy Bible says 'they are no longer two, but one'. A minister who enters into this sacred relationship does not forget his call for pastoral ministry but enriches it with the different talents he and his wife bring together.
A married clergy is in a position to understand better the values of the covenant and the sacredness of divine relationships. Love is the binding factor in a healthy married life. Love not only respects persons but also provides in sharing life and caring for each other. Experiences of life together and a regular lifelong dialogue teach them great lessons. The liturgy of marriage speaks about Christ as the bridegroom and the Church as the Bride. This symbol of life is a great lesson for the minister to understand his relationship with the Church. When he learns from Christ the meaning and depth of self-emptying (kenotic) ministry, the minister is challenged to love the Church with such a sacrificial love.
Married people find meaning in life by forgiving each other unconditionally, hating all that is evil, and holding on to all that is good. This gives a pattern for the life of the minister in the church. Marriage is a call to cultivate true love, concord, peace and inseparable unity. Only those who are patient in tribulation, constant in family prayer, and diligent in the study of the Word of God can grow to such a unity! They will have the values of humility, gentleness, good conscience and the spirit of righteousness with which they will enrich the married life. These are the qualities an ordained minister also needs in leading the members of the church closer to God and to grow in the values of the Kingdom of God.
The wedding ring is a sacramental ring to remain in married life as a symbol of perfection and joy. This is an assurance that the married couple obtains grace, mercy and blessings from God all through the days of their life together. Partners in marriage are called to maintain purity of life, practice charity, hospitality, and carry out all noble things by keeping away from the wicked and the envious. The minister who is ordained in the church needs all these qualities to remain loyal and faithful and also to keep the church from all possible defilement and hateful things.
The relationship between the family and the church is mutual. The church is understood in the context of a family and the family is understood in the context of a church (Ephesians 5). The Gospel read in the sacrament of marriage from Mathew 19: 1-6, reminds us of the process of leaving and cleaving. This marks the dawn of a new life together which is also the nature of a covenantal relationship with God. The Gospel speaks against all thoughts of divorce and gives a divine call to be enriched in Godly discipline adorned with spiritual gifts and to be perfected in all good works. The couple is called to fight together against all the powers of evil. They are crowned with the crown of righteousness so that they will rejoice in all their lives by glorifying God. The covenant in marriage thus enriches the covenant of the ordained minister and enables the clergy-family to love the church and lead the members to remain loyal and faithful in their ministry in the Church and in the world.
The family vision helps the church to celebrate the interrelatedness of the members. In a local parish, there are differences and diversities in gender, marital status, spiritual practices, social and economic status, etc. I Corinthians 12 gives us an interesting reading here. It opposes the spirit of individualism and promotes unity. It is a great lesson today to know that the identity of a person in the church totally depends on being a member of the faith community. God has also bestowed us with different gifts. The gifts are for sharing and for the common good. The members of the church, as members of the family, are called together to strike a balance, eliminate division, and to inculcate the spirit of mutual care and support. The minister and his family are called to identify the gifts of the members, pool them together and celebrate the ministry of sharing in the daily functioning of the church.
3.The Characteristics of the Ministry
The minister and his family require clarity in vision, credibility in mission and solidarity in action for an authentic ministry in the world as they live in covenant relationship. We believe in the priesthood of all believers. The minister with his leadership stands as first among equals, in carrying out the divine ministry of the church in the world. The partner in life has a partnership in the ministry all through. One of the characteristics of a minister is discipleship.
An ordained minister is a called out person to be in the presence of God all through his life and to go out into the world to preach the gospel and to cast out all evil practices from the people (Mark 3.15). This is not for power or position (Mark 10: 35-45). Jesus gave a call to his disciples to become servants and showed them a model through his life (John 13: 3-17). Christ is the Master & Lord from whom all ministers derive all the theological discourses and theological living. The minister leads the members of the faith community to live a Christo-centric life. The ministers inherit the long tradition of the church and they continue the ministry by re-living it with the centrality of the Resurrected & Living Christ; giving new modes of life in the fast changing world of the time. All functions of the ministerial practice are based on strong Christological grounding (Col. 1: 16, 17).
The discipleship of a minister seeks transcendence in the mundane and earthly matters of life by reshaping the daily living in accordance with the transcendent Christ who is on the right side of God (HQ Liturgy). This is seriously engaging in the daily affairs with the daily prayer, "Thy Kingdom Come", "Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven". The minister looks up to God regularly to receive clear direction for daily conduct and sanctification by the Holy Spirit. The new life in Christ takes the life of the minister to the experience of the Kingdom of God. The daily growth in that spiritual experience towards the fullness of the stature of Christ transforms the mind, attitude, aim, aspirations, and the whole outlook on life and ministry. This is the distinctiveness of the discipleship in pastoral ministry.