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McCleskey to ordinands: Heed Paul’s advice

McCleskey to ordinands: Heed Paul’s advice
Photo by Matt Brodie

AC2016 commissions, ordains 32

By Jessica Brodie

Ordination2FLORENCE—Former South Carolina Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey returned to the Palmetto State with some strong advice for new clergy: always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist and carry out your ministry fully.

The advice, taken from 2 Timothy 3:10-4:8, were the Apostle Paul’s identical charge to Timothy, whom many considered to be Paul’s spiritual son. The responsibility is hard work, McCleskey cautioned the ordinands, but if called, it’s a responsibility one must accept.

“You’re charged to carry out demands beyond your strength,” McCleskey told the clergy. “So how do we do it? We do it with help. We do it by grace. We do it because God empowers you.”

In a service preached by McCleskey, joined by South Carolina Resident Bishop Jonathan Holston, Annual Conference ordained or commissioned 32 men and women Monday night, June 6, as deacons, elders or provisional elders.

Five were ordained as deacons in full connection: Eric Philip Hendrickson, Andrew Thomas Jones, Bernett William Mazyck, Elizabeth Adams Murray and Martha Ann Timmons. Thirteen were commissioned as provisional elders: Anthony Griffith Carosiello, Beverly CroweTipton, Shawna Michelle Darnall, LaTonya Monique Dash, Eleanora Coaxum Ellington, Katherine Marie Haselden, Bette Ann Hedden, Jon August Hoin, James Stewart McDowell, Brian Edward Preveaux, Sara Elizabeth Relaford, Sylvia Freeman Watson and James Timothy Whited. And 14 were ordained as elders in full connection: Doris Regina Bright, Meghan Lindsey Sweeney Cook, William Wallace Culp III, Lillie Kerns Davis, Zachary Harmon Dillard, Sharon Spann Gamble, Michael Eugene Goldston, Erik Kenneth Grayson, Kayla Brooke Harward, Miriam Wilson Mick, James Lawson Morgan, Charlie Thomas, Carly Kirsten Wicklund and James Elbert Williams.

McCleskey told the ordinands that at the time Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, the church was becoming an institution, more of a formal structure, and part of Paul’s concern was the integrity and faithfulness of the church and its leaders. Paul talked about the challenge to the church, then urged Timothy to “always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.”

The sobriety aspect of his advice is easy in some regards, McCleskey said—intoxication is certainly to be avoided. But he noted the Greek word for sobriety means more than avoiding drunkenness, and other translations have Paul cautioning him to be sensible, temperate, thoughtful, controlled and steady.

McCleskey quoted the theologian William Barclay, who wrote, “The Christian is not to be the victim of crazes; stability is his badge in an unbalanced and often insane world.”

And when it comes to evangelizing, he said, do the work of the preacher of the good news—especially given that “insane world.”

“If you don’t preach the good news, your people will get what theology and ethics they get from someone else,” McCleskey said. “Many people in our time draw from a political culture that promotes a distorted version of theology as if it were the heart of the Gospel, and from an economic culture that promotes a selected position of ethics as if it were the good news.”

Just take a look at the current political cycle, he said.

“Too many politicians are willing to co-opt Jesus … a bigoted, mean-spirited, unforgiving Jesus who promises prosperity and security if you’ll just ‘Vote for me!’” he said.

He urged the ordinands to remember: Jesus was not a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent. Jesus was not a conservative or a liberal, not a Tea Partier or a Libertarian.

“Jesus, the made-flesh crucified savior and risen Lord, that Jesus, was a Palestinian Jew who was saved as a child by a sojourn into Egypt who took the initiative in building relationships with foreigners like Samaritans … and spent far more energy being gracious than judgmental,” McCleskey said. “But too many good Christians in our country today don’t know enough Bible or theology to tell the difference between the real Jesus and the political version.”

That is why it is critical to “do the work of evangelists,” he told ordinands—spreading the good news, promoting dialogue, building bridges and not walls.

Next is the concept of carrying out one’s ministry fully. McCleskey said people in congregations are counting on their pastors to always give their best. Pastors are there for people in their biggest moments: births, baptisms, funerals, marriages, even when marriages are crumbling.

“It’s a call you can never fully live up to, but it’s there,” McCleskey said. “If that doesn’t make you humble there’s no hope for you.”

And along with that is the concept of enduring suffering. God never promised any of this would be easy. And he urged ordinands to remember the humility and beauty of the itinerancy, which is both a blessing and a difficulty.

“All of us are just stewards of the ordained ministry of the church for awhile,” he said. “When we go to a new appointment, we inherit its history. While there, we add to the story. When we leave, we pass it on to someone else to add to the history. That’ll keep you humble.”

The offering taken at the Service of Ordination and Commissioning will go to The J. Lawrence and Margaret F. McCleskey Scholarship Fund of the South Carolina United Methodist Foundation.

Prior to the collection, the Rev. Jeffrey Salley spoke about the need for the scholarship fund, noting seminarians graduate with an average debt of $66,000.

The Chapin UMC Orchestra and Choir provided music for the evening.

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