*BUMPED TO THE TOP*
In our recent discussion about pastoral overwork, Keith Taylor wrote:
I’ll tell you what, in my opinion, is at odds with a spiritually healthy life. A part time pastor who works a secular job, and then works as a local licensed pastor, and then is told by the UMC hierarchy that he or she is not qualified to serve holy communion, or baptize an unsaved heathen, or perform a marriage for one of his or her own members in a church other than their own, because they are only a part time local pastor, not a full time elder. It is simply, UnChristian, IMHO. We don’t have second class Christian Pastors. Not if you do the job right. I do not understand why the UMC assigns great men and women who want to serve the Lord as a part time local pastor and then ties their hands like this. It makes no sense to me at all and I find no Biblical basis for it.
The practice of the sacraments by licensed local pastors in the UMC seems to vary widely. I think that the Discipline pretty clearly states that local pastors have sacramental authority. ¶ 316.1 reads:
Probationary members approved annually by the board of ordained ministry and local pastors approved annually by the district committee on ordained ministry may be licensed by the bishop to perform all the duties of a pastor (¶ 340), including the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion as well as the service of marriage (where state laws allow),4 burial, confirmation, and membership reception, while appointed to a particular charge. For the purposes of these paragraphs the charge will be defined as "people within or related to the community being served." Those licensed for pastoral ministry may be appointed to extension ministry settings when approved by the bishop and the board of ordained ministry.
So it seems pretty clear to me that licensed local pastors have sacramental authority within their own parishes. I can't take a road trip across America and start handing out the Eucharist, but I can offer it to whoever attends my church and I can take it to homebound members. But I've heard people around the Conference tell me variously that only full-time local pastors can offer the sacraments because they have been interviewed by the Board or that no local pastor (full or part-time) can offer the sacraments without an elder being physically present.
There seems to be a wide variety of interpretations of the sacramental authority of licensed local pastors. As for me, my District Superintendent told me to offer the sacraments within my parish, and I do whatever my DS tells me to.
What do you think? Do licensed local pastors have sacramental authority? Should they?