Don Morris, USMB national director, was ordained Nov. 12 in a service hosted by the Southern District Conference (SDC) Faith and Life Commission and Cross Timbers Church, currently Morris’ home congregation, located in Edmond, Oklahoma.
Jeremy Jordan, Cross Timbers Church pastor, and Tim Sullivan, SDC minister, led the afternoon service held at the Edmond church and attended by about 50 people—family, friends and members of Cross Timbers Church and Pine Acres Church, the USMB congregation in Weatherford, Oklahoma, where Morris served as lead pastor before joining the U.S. Conference of MB Churches staff in 2004.
The ordination service recognized the “depth and fervor” of Morris’ call to ministry, a call that has “not just come to him for a season but for the fullness of his lifetime,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan described Morris as “one of our most able-bodied and gifted statesman.”
“We will lay hands on Don and Janna (his wife) because we’re the church,” Sullivan said. “The church … does this (to) declare that those who’ve been ordained have the confidence and commitment of the believers. They have proven themselves to be trustworthy, exemplary in their faith and focused on the mission of the church.
“We have confidence in you,” Sullivan said to Morris. “We’ve watched your life. We’ve seen how God’s Holy Spirit has led you. We’ve watched you walk faithfully and serve generously.”
“You don’t do this work alone”
Using the image of many people pulling a one-horse plow, Sullivan reminded Morris that “you didn’t get here on your own, and you don’t do this work alone.”
Sullivan encouraged Morris to remember the many people who have invested in his life, listing by name his parents, kindergarten teacher, MB Biblical Seminary professors and coworkers.
“In both big and little ways, you owe a debt of gratitude to God for people like these in your life,” Sullivan said. “Our U.S. Conference owes a debt of gratitude for people like these in your life.”
Sullivan invited those present to support Morris in prayer. “Don’s success in ministry will depend on our being willing to pull on the rope along with him,” he said.
Recognizing a lifelong call to ministry
Sullivan noted that ordination in the U.S. Conference of MB Churches is an affirmation of one’s lifelong and faithful call to ministry.
“We are dedicating Don to God,” said Sullivan. “Don loves Jesus and loves the church Jesus’ loves—and he has for a long time.”
Sullivan, who was Morris’ classmate while the two grew up in Ulysses, Kansas, said he recognized Morris’ commitment to Christ while they were in high school. Sullivan spoke of the Morrises’ decision to give up a successful farming business to move to Fresno, California, where Don attended MB Biblical Seminary. Sullivan recognized Morris’ years of faithful ministry at Pine Acres Church and affirmed Morris for listening to God’s call 13 years ago to serve beyond local church ministry and to work as director of Mission USA, the USMB church planting ministry, and now as the U.S. Conference national director.
“The adventure Don and Janna embarked on 30 years ago when they left Ulysses has already changed hundreds of lives,” Sullivan said. “And because we believe God will continue to use Don, I’m excited about what we are doing here today.”
Morris affirms commitment
In a series of prepared questions posed by Sullivan and Cross Timbers’ Jordan, Morris was asked to affirm his commitment to the Bible, the USMB Confession of Faith, his call to ministry, living a life of integrity and faithfulness and to his local church, the SDC and the U.S. Conference.
Janna was asked to affirm her willingness to support Don in his ministry and to take upon herself “the denial and sacrifice that such a calling may bring with it.”
Earlier in his message, Sullivan had recognized Janna’s commitment to her husband’s ministry.
“I’m fully convinced of that fact that…anyone who gives themselves fully to the ministry for God can only be as successful as his or her spouse allows them to be,” said Sullivan. “Janna, we acknowledge the incredible role you play and how your faithfulness has made all the difference in how well Don has been able to serve over the years.”
Following the questions, Sullivan, Jordan and Paul Klassen, retired Cross Timbers pastor and a member of the SDC Faith and Life Commission, laid their hands on the couple and prayed for Morris. Donna Sullivan, USMB administrative secretary and long-time friend, prayed for Janna.
Participants confirm Morris’ ministry
The ordination service began with congregational singing led by Tony Cannon, pastor of care and connection at Pine Acres Church, and a group of eight musicians and vocalists from both Pine Acres and Cross Timbers Churches. Morris recruited Cannon to the Pine Acres staff in 1997 as pastor of worship and music, and the two men served together for seven years. The hymns and worship songs were chosen by Morris.
After welcoming those gathered, Jordan invited members of the audience to share affirmations and comments regarding Morris’ ministry. Garrett, Morris’ young grandson, was the first to speak, and he was followed by Brady Morris, the Morris’ youngest son, who affirmed his father for the example he set as a husband and father. Retired pastor Klassen recognized Morris for 30 years of pastoral ministry and noted that this service recognizes Morris’ gifts locally and nationally. Jordan spoke of Morris’ “godly input into my life.”
Sullivan read letters of affirmation written by Chuck Buller, former USMB executive director who hired Morris in 2004 to lead Mission USA; Ed Boschman, retired USMB executive director; Gary Wall, Rick Eshbaugh and Terry Hunt, district ministers from the Pacific, Central and North Carolina district conferences, respectively; Marv Schellenberg, current USMB Leadership Board chair; and Randy Friesen, MB Mission executive director.
More than once, people spoke of the unique connection Morris has with other current USMB leaders. Morris, Sullivan and Eshbaugh as well as Garvie Schmidt, former USMB pastor who now works with MB Foundation, the U.S. Mennonite Brethren stewardship ministry, grew up together in Ulysses, as did Donna Sullivan and Janna Morris. They were in the same grade or within one grade of one another, and the four men were mentored by Jules Glanzer, president of Tabor College who was the Ulysses MB Church pastor when they were young adults.
“I desire to be faithful”
In his remarks following the laying on of hands, Morris said he was thankful to be a “conduit for God to work through.” He spoke of wrestling with his call to ministry. “I dreamed of being a farm family forever,” he said. “God was changing that.”
Morris thanked his wife for being “totally supportive” of their new “ministry lifestyle.”
“I desire to be faithful,” Morris said as he introduced the closing song, “The Stand.” Morris referenced the final line: “My soul, Lord, to you surrendered; All I am is yours.”
“We rejoice because we see that in you,” Jordan said as he closed the service and invited the audience to a reception for Morris that was held in the fellowship hall.
Ordination among U.S. Mennonite Brethren involves completing a lengthy questionnaire and an in-depth interview by the respective district Board of Faith and Life. Ordination is initiated by the local church in recognition of one’s life-long commitment to ministry.
Connie Faber joined the magazine staff in 1994 and assumed the duties of editor in 2004. She has won awards from the Evangelical Press Association for her writing and editing. Faber is the co-author of Family Matters: Discovering the Mennonite Brethren. She and her husband, David, have two daughters, one son, one daughter-in-law, one son-in-law and two grandchildren. They are members of Ebenfeld MB Church in Hillsboro, Kansas.