Ordination Myths

“The myth of I am ordained; I can now ordain others”

Many ordained ministers are under the impression that if they have been ordained, they can now legally license and ordain other people to the ministry without regard to any church authority. There is no such provision in the US Constitution or in case law. To the contrary, the courts have ruled, and the IRS has quickly followed, that no one person has the right or power to license an individual. That power belongs strictly to the church organization. This does not mean that you cannot lay hands on a man or woman of God to be ordained as a licensed minister. What it does mean is that you, as a minister or authorized person by the licensing church, can lay hands on a man or woman of God and legally ordain him or her so long as it is done under the authority of the church who has asked you, in accordance with its doctrines, beliefs, and bylaws, to perform such a ceremony.

For example: When you go to your state’s Department of Driver Services to receive your driver’s license, there is a process you must complete to receive that valid license. Once that process is complete, the individual behind the counter at the DDS hands you your state driver’s license. Although it was an individual behind the counter who handed you a driver’s license, he or she is not the one who is validating your driver’s license. That person is simply a representative of the state that is validating your driver’s license. Similarly, it is not Pastor A from Church X validating your ordination. Rather, it is Church X validating your ordination via Pastor A. Simply put, Pastor A is a representative of Church X.

The myth of “once ordained, always ordained.

The other great assumption is the idea of “once ordained, always ordained.” Many ministers believe that because they were ordained in their previous church, they can continue to be and act as ordained ministers even after leaving the church that ordained them. This is true only if the church from where you received your ordination specifically and purposely keeps your license valid. It is important to know that if the church organization that initially ordained you chooses not to renew your ordination for whatever reason, then your ordination license is no longer valid. Furthermore, the ordaining organization has the right to revoke your ordination without your knowledge, and if the ordaining organization dissolves, your ordination license then becomes invalid. This is a harsh reality that many ministers face on a regular basis, but the fact is that if the church that initially ordained you is no longer operating, your ordination license is no longer valid.

For reasons stated above, this is why we stress the importance of receiving an "in-house" ordination through the very church organization that you are serving and maintaining the requirements for renewing your ministerial licensing. Next, let's take a closer look at what it means to be legally ordained.