The Kingdom of Christ only has room for authentic originals and not carbon copies of those who came before them.
That was the message delivered by Florida Annual Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker during the licensing, commissioning and ordination service on June 1 at the Tampa Convention Center.
Using Galatians 1:11-24 as his text, Whitaker said the apostle Paul, like those being licensed, commissioned and ordained, was called by God. He reminded those in attendance that it is God's grace that calls people into the ministry.
"That you have been called at such a time as this is evidence that the Holy Spirit is with us," Whitaker said.
|Bishop Timothy Whitaker leads the service of commissioning and ordination at the Florida Annual Conference June 1. (Photo by Linda Beavers)
Whitaker said Paul talks of receiving his gospel not from man but through a revelation of Jesus Christ. It is up to the individual to share their calling as they have received it from Jesus Christ, he said.
Whitaker then related the story of a priest named Tom Hopko who was ordered out of her hospital room by an ailing church member before he could talk or pray with her. A church staff person later told Hopko, "'Sometimes when you visit, you don't bring God. Sometimes on Sunday mornings, you don't bring God, you bring Tom Hopko. We don't want Tom Hopko, we want God,’" the woman said.
Whitaker implored those being licensed, commissioned and ordained to not get in their own way when sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
"We can't practice our ministry when we are so preoccupied with ourselves," he said.
The other half of the equation is finding a true self in Christ, Whitaker said. He told the candidates they are not called to be a copy of a famous or glamorous minister.
"You are called because you are you. You are not called to be carbon copies. You are unique images of God's own self,” he said.
The image of God can be found in every person and it's up to pastors to reach out to everyone so that they may find themselves in Jesus Christ and come to know themselves in Christ as he created them to be, Whitaker said.
|Louis Telcy kneels to receive his ordination as an elder at the Florida Annual Conference June 1 in Tampa. (Photo by Linda Beavers)
Referring to the theme of the 2011 Florida Annual Conference Event of Transforming the World by Living as Peacemakers, Whitaker encouraged those in attendance to unify the body of Christ by helping others to find themselves in Christ just as they have done.
After the service, the Rev. Katie Michele Pestel, who was ordained as a deacon, said Whitaker's message resonated within her.
"I had to work through my call," Pestel said. "I had to become who God created me to be, I had to live into it. Now that I have, it's great. I know that God has called me to family ministry and that's who God called me to be and that's who I am."
The Rev. Dionne Hammond, who was ordained as an elder, said she found Whitaker's message to be inspirational.
"It was very affirming," Hammond said. "Ordination is not the end but just the beginning of answering the call of ministry."
The Rev. Joretha Capers, pastor at Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Miami, said answering the call of ministry means transforming the entire world. Two members of her congregation were licensed as local pastors.
"It means ministering to people who may not look like us," Capers said. "It means ministering to people who may not have jobs, it means ministering to people who may be living on the streets, it means ministering to people who may be hungry, it means ministering to all God's people regardless of our hang-ups or prejudices. It means to minister to people the way Paul did."