Getting Jesus’ lordship wrong?

A recent high-profile ordination case was not forwarded in Texas. One of the reasons we are hearing in public is because — among other things — the candidate could not sufficiently articulate the meaning of the Lordship of Christ for all the world.

I’m trying to figure out what that means. The candidate who was not advanced wrote about other topics when she revealed the reasons she was not advanced, and all the subsequent commentary I have read has also been about other topics.

But I find myself wondering how a candidate for ordination fails to articulate the meaning of the Lordship of Christ for all the world. Is it harder than it sounds?

Jesus Christ is Lord of heaven and earth. All people and nations stand under his authority, power, and judgment. He is, with the Father and Holy Spirit, the creator and sustainer of all life and redeemer of all humanity. One day, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess him as Lord.

Or something like this. I know in ordination papers you have to spill more ink than my 10 second version above, but you get the idea. What do you fail to say in one of these interviews or in writing the papers that makes people question whether you can articulate the fact that Jesus is Lord of all?

This seems like one of the easiest questions possible for someone who feels called into ministry. The call is to serve Jesus Christ and his church. To have the call at all, it seems to me, would require you have some sense that Jesus is Lord. Am I missing something? Is it secretly a tricky and difficult question?

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4 thoughts on “Getting Jesus’ lordship wrong?

  1. I was recommended this year for provisional membership as an elder in the very same Annual Conference you’re referring to. Personally, I can see how that question could trip someone up. The exact wording of the question, per the Discipline, is “How do you interpret the statement, “Jesus Christ is Lord”?” In my written examination, I explored what it meant for Jesus to be my Lord and not just my Savior (i.e., he guides and directs my life, he doesn’t just save it from eternal damnation). During the interview, I discovered (after a minute or so of awkwardness) that the Board of Ordained Ministry (BoOM) wanted me to explicitly say that Christ’s lordship is universal, and not relative. I had no qualms about affirming Christ’s universal lordship (as you said, it’s pretty straightforward), and the interview went smoothly from there. With respect to the candidate you’re referring to, it is plausible that she simply believed that Christ’s universal lordship was assumed by everyone there, didn’t see the need to explicitly state as such, and did not decipher whatever clues were offered by the BoOM members that she needed to explicitly state her belief in Christ’s universal lordship. I don’t know if that happened or not, and as you point out in this post, there were other dynamics at work surrounding her interview. But it is plausible that she affirms Christ’s universal lordship, and just didn’t see a need to articulate it clearly during that interview.

    1. Thank you for the comment. Very helpful.

      I wonder if that is a common experience for many folks. Do the questions tend to lead to certain kinds of gaps between what the candidates think is desired and what the board wants to hear.

      If so, sounds like some sort of guidance could or should be offered to avoid confusion and wasted effort on both sides.

      And, btw, congratulations!

      1. Thank you, I’m pretty excited about this new chapter in my ministry!

        I think the confusion regarding expectations is a common experience, but in my case, the committee was helpful in steering their questions to set me up for success, or so I felt. I think that’s inevitable to some degree, because every committee person brings their own expectations/baggage with them in asking questions and reading responses. But it wouldn’t hurt for interviewers to make those expectations clear during the interview, which they did in my interview, and I hope they did during the interview in question (though again, with everything else surrounding that interview, only the committee and the candidate know for sure).

  2. John, to your question about gaps, my conference Board rewrote its questions this year and the means of grace question specifically mentioned baptism but not communion. We were all certain to talk about communion but it wasn’t asked. Rumor has it they’re rewriting the questions again this year because they wanted candidates to talk specifically about infant baptism. So yes, confusion about wording is very common.

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