Previously discussed here, here, and here.
I would like to propose a solution to the dispute about whether or not licensed local pastors in the United Methodist Church should have the authority to offer the sacraments.
This solution is premised upon the notion that sacramental authority should be restricted to those who can understand the sacraments theologically, and not that the Service of Ordination gives a pastor the magical power to preside over effective sacraments. The sacraments are a means of grace, not magic, and are given by God, not by an earthly sorcerer.
Now, with that point prefaced: I can understand the earnest desire of the voices within the United Methodist Church to insist that only those who understand the sacraments should administer them. Elders are trained at great cost and examined carefully to determine if their sacramental theology is sound.
Currently, the Boards of Ordained Ministry vote annually on the fitness of licensed local pastors to serve in their appointments. In my own conference, this does not involve an interview, so I take it that the decision is fairly cursory as the Board moves onto its many other duties.
One of my professors, Dr. Kandace Brooks, argues that no one should offer the sacraments whose sacramental theology has not been examined. This is a sound argument. Therefore let the Boards of Ordained Ministry require that candidates for licensed local ministry write a paper on their understanding of the sacraments. Furthermore, let each candidate for licensed local ministry be interviewed by the Boards on the sole subject of the sacraments.
The benefit is that if this proposal is implemented, no one will offer the sacraments whose sacramental theology has not been examined and been found sound. The trade off is that the workload of the Boards of Ordained Ministry would increase substantially.
What do you think?