Q: When an elder who has been ordained commits a moral fault, receives a discipline of removal, and then is rebaptized, can he/she assume the same position in the future?
A: It is always good to remember that when a person has been removed from church membership by ecclesiastical discipline, his or her re-admission will usually be preced- ed by rebaptism. An elder automatically loses his or her ordination at the time of ecclesiastical discipline. When he/she is rebaptized, he/she becomes a regular member of the church. The Church Manual does not forbid his/ her ordination once again as a church elder; however, such a process should be carefully considered by local church administration. This practice is rather uncommon; therefore, each Ease deserves careful attention and time for consideration.
Q: I've been a church elder for almost a year, and I still haven't been ordained. Is this delay normal?
A: No! An elder who is elected should automatically be ordained. The authorization for ordination is implied by your nomination. For many years, it was common prac- tice for newly-appointed elders to undergo a probation- ary observation period before being ordained; however, this should not occur. Such observations should be made before the nomination. When a nominating committee selects someone for eldership and the church approves, it is understood that this person has fulfilled all require- ments for such a function. Care should be taken when nominating someone to be a church elder. The Church Manual says, “Election to the office of elder does not in itself qualify one as an elder. Ordination is required before an elder has authority to function in that office” (p. 50). Naturally, there is a technical time period between the nomination and ordination, but this time shouldn’t be long, and it shouldn’t be used for observation. It should be a short period in which one has the opportunity to set the date or wait for the presence of a qualified person to perform the ordination ceremony.
Q: How much time should pass between member discipline and rebaptism?
A: The Church Manual does not set a fixed period of time. It only says: “Because removal from church membership is the most serious form of discipline, the period of time before such an individual may be reinstated should be sufficient to demonstrate that the issues which led to removal from membership have been resolved beyond reasonable doubt” (p. 199). Considering that when a member receives discipline by censure (which lasts from 1-12 months), such a person has technically committed a smaller error than the one whose name has been removed. Therefore, he or she should not be rebaptized in less than one year. Although, we recognize that there are exceptions, they should not be turned into rules.
Q: How long should a person be a church member to qualify for the office of elder?
A: The main characteristic for a person to be nominated for eldership is not how long they’ve been a church member, or their age, or their social status. Maturity and time in the faith should definitely be considered; however, the main characteristics should be (1) moral and spiritual credibility; (2) capability and knowledge; and (3) availability of time and commitment to dedicate himself/herself to the church’s work.
A person also doesn’t need to be married to be an elder. A single person could very well fulfill such requirements. However, when a person is not married, the biblical orientations regarding a family should be taken into consideration. When the Bible says that we should not be hasty in the laying of hands (1 Timothy 5:22), it is specifically referring to the lack of criteria and proper consideration at the time of someone’s nomination for eldership.
Q: Could we elect as a church elder someone whose spouse is not an Adventist?
A: We cannot forget that the elder is an important spiritual leader of the church. In the absence of the pastor, the elder is the religious leader of the church and by example and precept should be a model to all. Theologically there is not much difference between a pastor’s and an elder’s ordination. How would you view a church pastor whose spouse was not a Christian? I believe that as we choose someone for eldership, we should seek the best. An individual may have all the right moral, spiritual, and personal characteristics or qualities, and yet may wish to serve the church other than as an elder if they lack the support and example of a Christian family committed to such a ministry.
General Conference Ministerial Association