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Questions on ordination...
exception one bishop asked

by Rolf Wangberg (bishop of the Northwestern Minnesota Synod)

December 20, 2004

If someone makes a request for a non-episcopal ordination under the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) 2001 bylaw amendment, what questions might they receive from their new synodical bishop?

The nine questions below were sent by Bishop Rolf Wangberg, Northwestern Minnesota Synod, to two new pastors when they applied for an exception to the policy of episcopal ordination within the ELCA.

Bishop Wangberg gave permission to post these questions with this explanation:

What you need to know about those questions is that there is nothing permanent about them. The next time I will probably use another set of questions. They were simply a way to try to help students address the issues that need to be addressed in asking for an exception (rather than simply saying, "I want an exception, because I have a right to an exception." OR "I want an exception so my uncle can do my ordination.") and in answering questions council members have asked of me as I consult with them. I will probably use other questions next time. And I am open to other suggestions at how to get at helping students describe how their situation meets the description of being a kind that is unusual warranting an exception because granting an exception will enhance the mission, ministry and unity of the church.

The Questions

  1. What is it that makes your situation so unusual that it warrants the bishop granting an exception and authorizing ordination by a pastor of the ELCA?
  2. What is it about granting an exception that is on a moral level higher than the playground where a kid takes his ball and goes home if the team won't let him be the quarterback?
  3. Why would a congregation think your request for an exception is nothing more than a candidate insisting on the candidate's own way out of irritability or resentfulness?
  4. Since you have already indicated to me that your request is tied to Called to Common Mission, what is it in Called to Common Mission that makes ordination by a bishop a church usage that cannot be observed without sin even if it contributes to peace and good order in the church? (Chapter XV of the Augustana)
  5. Is there anything within CCM, when read with the most charitable construction, which suggests Episcopal Ordination is necessary for salvation?
  6. As you build arguments for an exception to Episcopal Ordination, what are the best arguments you can muster for Episcopal Ordination? (I am not looking arguments to use against your request; I am giving you the opportunity to show how closely you have listened to another position and how faithfully you can represent it.)
  7. What is it about the requirement for Episcopal Ordination that is such a flagrant mistake that the requirement should be set aside when we do not set aside the requirements that ordinands be ordained by a pastor of the ELCA, that ordinands complete a seminary education, and that ordinands be approved by seminaries and candidacy committees?
  8. Summarize how granting an exception would "enhance and extend the ministry and mission purposes of this church and contribute to the unity of the Church."
  9. Should an exception be granted, what role would a synodical bishop have in the ordination service?