Letters of Ordination

By Steve Roe

According to the United States Navy there are three religions that cover all matters pertaining to God: Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish. If a person was not Catholic, Jewish, or heathen, he was referred to as Protestant and subsequently followed the Protestant rules set down in the Chaplain’s Manual. All religious matters aboard ship must be cleared with the Chaplain’s Office, such as use of the ship’s chapel, times for meetings, religious activities, baptisms, etc., before they become legal.

As the brethren of the Saratoga carried on the work of the Church by teaching others, it became necessary to baptize. On the last cruise, a canvas baptistry was made in the Philippines and this cruise, a collapsible iron frame was built. The things that we lacked, only the ship could supply: water, a place to set up, and permission to carry on religious activity. This introduction sets the scene for the congregation’s first major problem aboard the Saratoga-the Chaplain’s Department denied us the right to baptize! That is not all; they took away the right to partake of the Lord’s Supper!

According to Chaplain Witt, the Head Chaplain, the Chaplain’s Manual and the Naval Civil Liberties Act (both of which he never showed me) state that none will be allowed io baptize or to administer the Lord’s Supper without proper proof of “lay-leadership” or “ordination.” A what? A letter stating that one or more of us have been properly schooled or trained and qualified to carry on the work of our particular “denomination.”

Sometimes it is hard to understand how people become so involved with the doctrines of men that they forget about the Word of the God that they claim to serve. It is impossible for me to understand the reason for letters and diplomas of ordination. I cannot see how a letter of this nature makes me a better Christian than my brother and better equipped to baptize (unless there is a weight lifting course along with it). The truth of the matter is this: the Bible just does not teach anything that resembles the necessity of being ordained by a better or higher mortal being, but rather “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” (1 Pet. 2:9). Were these “ordained ministers” of this passage? They are the newborn babes of verse 2. Peter was talking to Christians. Christians in general are the royal priesthood!

The Bible speaks of several ordinations. Christ was ordained by God (Acts 10:42). Paul was ordained by Christ (1 Tim. 2:7; Acts 9:15). The law was ordained by angels (Gal. 3:19). God ordained a mystery or hidden wisdom (1 Cor. 2:7). Paul told Titus to ordain elders in every city (Tit. 1:5). The word “ordain” means to choose for a particular use. It holds no sanctity among the celestial realm, as some wish to believe. Christ came to save the world Ono. 3:17). Paul was chosen to take the Gospel to gentiles, kings, and Jews (Acts 9:15). The elders are ordained to be overseers of the Church.

As in many other things, the denominational world has sliced up the Word of God and pasted it back together in the manner that best suits them. Mankind evidently has enough knowledge to reject the plan of God and replace it with “a much better idea.”

No, the Christian does not need a letter of ordination to administer the Lord’s Supper. He does not need a degree in theology to baptize a person into Jesus Christ. The apostles were commanded to “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things which I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19, 20).

As the chain of events took place, Brother Harold Dowdy of the South Jacksonville (Fla.) Church wrote a letter of “ordination” for the brethren aboard the Saratoga, explaining our beliefs on the subject and stating that as Christians, we were qualified to carry on the work of the Church. It was accepted.

Editorial Postscript

The preceding article by 23 year old Steve Roe indicates that Christians, who really desire to do so, can worship, study, grow, and even convert others, under very unique and sometimes adverse circumstances. All the members of the Saratoga church are young in Christ, as well as young in years. Brother Roe has been a Christian longer than any of the other members, and he was converted only four years ago. All of the other members have been Christians for a year or less.

In an accompanying letter, Brother Roe reported: “Several of us intend to become gospel preachers. We seem to mature a bit faster while at sea than we do ashore, because of the great amount of time on our hands to study. We feel equipped to defend the truth against instrumental music, institutionalism, and the Ketcherside movement, to name a few. Just recently we challenged the Pentecostal group aboard to debate on the Holy Spirit. They refused because they said it would split the Pentecostal Church.”

We joyfully commend the zeal and enthusiasm of these young brethren, and trust that they will continue with their desire to preach the gospel and in their preparation to do so.-Cecil Willis

Truth Magazine XIX, 8: p. 114
January 2, 1975