Bishop says all must ‘lay bodies on line’ for Christ

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Bishop says all must ‘lay bodies on line’ for Christ

By J.A. Buchholz | July 6, 2009 {1041}

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker urged those being commissioned, licensed and ordained June 12 at the 2009 Florida Annual Conference Event to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice to Christ.

Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker tells those attending the service of licensing, commissioning and ordination that all Christians — not just clergy — must lay their “bodies on the line for Christ.” Photo by Caryl Kelley. Photo #09-1237.

But that message wasn’t just for ministry candidates. Whitaker said all who are baptized are called to fulfill that command.

Whitaker based his appeal on Romans 12:1-2: “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Whitaker clarified exactly who the apostle Paul is addressing in the Scripture.

“Paul is not writing to the ordained; he is writing to the baptized,” Whitaker said. “He is not speaking to only a few of us here tonight; he is speaking to all of us here tonight.

“Yet it is right for you who are being licensed, commissioned and ordained to listen to what the apostle is saying to all Christians because the place where you will practice your Christian life is an office of the church.”

There are many different offices in the church, Whitaker said, but there is only one Christian life.

“You will live your Christian life as an officer of the church, but the source of your life will always be your baptism in Christ,” Whitaker said. “From Christ, who knew us before we knew him, comes our calling, our justification, our sanctification and our glorification.”

Both the Christian and spiritual life are closely related, Whitaker said, but Paul wanted followers of Christ to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. He was was also interested in something else, Whitaker said.

“Now, hear what we often do not hear,” he said. “Paul says, ‘Present your bodies as a living sacrifice.’ The Christian life is not just about the mind and the spirit. It is also about the body. Indeed, the body is the place where we live our Christian life.”

Candidates for ordination as elder respond to questions from Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker. Photo by Greg Moore. Photo #09-1238.

Noting that people sometimes refer to themselves as souls, Whitaker said it’s clear why Christians may talk about saving souls. While humans do indeed possess a soul or mind, he said, neither can exist on its own, nor without the body, which God created specifically so humans could have a relationship with God.
“God’s purpose is not the salvation of souls, but the salvation of human beings who have a bodily existence,” Whitaker said, adding that Christians are given the task of using their bodies as a sacrifice to God.

Saying the word sacrifice may sound “scary” to some, Whitaker defined it as making an offering.

Whitaker said Christians live their lives by giving of themselves — their bodies — as an offering to God. He said the Christian life is shaped by Jesus Christ, who said, “My body given for you.”

All Christians are accountable for that sacrifice, Whitaker said, citing 2 Corinthians 5:1: “For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.”   

At first glance, it might seem the Scripture is saying Christians must answer for their actions related to bodily desires, Whitaker explained, but a closer examination reveals the reference is to the body as part of the body of Christ, which is the church. A member becomes part of the body of Christ, Whitaker said, when he or she is baptized, a bodily act.

As a member of the body of Christ, Whitaker said he had to ask himself some hard questions.

“Have I cared enough about the health of this body of Christ?” he said. “Have I loved it enough, even in its most physical, institutional form, as mundane as it can be? Have I helped the church to be embodied in its unique way in every place?”

Whitaker said the church must be authentic to the needs and location it is called to serve. He said one church can never replicate what another church or program is doing because those ministries may not bear fruit in another place.

Each church is the embodiment of Christ in its own place and time, Whitaker said, and “it is as a member of this body where we offer our sacrifice to God.”

Whitaker relayed a story about planting new shrubbery around the episcopal office several years ago to help explain the organic nature of the church.

Willie J. Bailey is ordained an elder. Photo by Rev. Dr. Armando Rodríguez Jr. Photo #09-1239.

Whitaker said he surprised many by requesting to meet with the designer. His interest stemmed from wanting to know exactly what kind of plants would be planted. His concern was not due to appearance, but awareness. The plants had to be “at home” — able to thrive — in Lakeland, not Miami or any other location.

“To be in the body is to be aware of our particular place in God’s creation and to care for that particular place,” Whitaker said. “Florida is a beautiful place, but unless we care for it, it is going to look more like Ohio or New Jersey than Florida.”

Speaking specifically to the candidates for ministry, Whitaker said they have the responsibility to assist Christians in practicing the Christian life.

“Tonight those of you who are being licensed, commissioned and ordained will come forward and lay your bodies on the line for Christ,” he said. “Come and offer spiritual worship; discern what is good, acceptable, and perfect; be renewed in your minds. But, remember, by the mercies of God, the appeal to you is nothing less than to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.”

Thirty-nine candidates were ordained, licensed or commissioned — eight ordained elder, five ordained deacon, seven commissioned as probationary elders and 19 licensed as local pastors. The orders of two clergy people were recognized.

More information about the conference session is available at

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a freelance writer based in Seffner, Fla.

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