I have always been sceptical of the so-called "indelible character" of ordination to the ministry. If find the idea nowhere in the Bible. The popular notion is that once a man is ordained he is "ordained for life." Now, true enough, this is God's intent and calling in ordination—that a man will be faithful to this special calling all his life, through thick and thin.
But what if he proves to be faithless and by the judgment of the church he is deposed? Or what if he changes his mind or cannot find church that desires his ministry? If he is faithless, then he is deposed. If he is unable to find a call, then he leaves the ministry and demits voluntarily.
In either case, this means that his ordination, his is call to the ministry, is removed. He is stripped of his office. Period. He can't go around saying, "I'm still ordained" or "I'm a minister for life." Phooey. A minister's calling is not something that he holds independent of the judgment of the church, except of course in extraordinary circumstances where the church herself is faithless.
I base my comments on converasations, even disputes with men who have been deposed, but who still believed the are "called to the ministry," or "once a minister, always a minister." My response to them is: if a congregation calls you and you are approved by the church for service in that parish, then you are indeed called to the ministry. Until that happens you are not. You are a former minister of the Gospel.
I have Luther on my side. In speaking against calling ministers "priests," according to the late Medieval Roman Catholic understanding, Luther says, "If they are merely ministers, the 'indelible character' also perishes, and the eternity of their priesthood is nothing but a fiction. A minister may well be deposed if he ceases to be faithful. . . In fact, the minister of matters spiritual is more subject to removal than any civil servant, because if he turns unfaithful he becomes more unbearable than any civil servant, who can work harm in matters of this life only" (LW 40, pp. 35-36).