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Ordination Redux

September 19, 2007

Bob Walker: Throw me in the water and see if I can swim
Larry Mann: I think you’re missing the point here Bob, we’re about to throw you off a cliff and see if you can fly.                                 –The Big Kahuna (1999)

The inherent problems in ordination process for the UMC have recently gotten a lot of play here in the ol’ Methodist blogosphere.

Personally, I tend to be a bit of a pragmatist and prefer working in a team.  Getting commissioned was a pain in the keester, and I felt kind of hung out to dry when it came to getting where I am.  I was alone.  Utterly alone.

Seriously.  And I was warned.  I had heard horror stories about candidates having to know the ordination requirements along each stage of the process so they could inform the BoOM how to do their jobs. I had been told that one does not get commissioned, one has to [essentially] commission oneself.  Nobody tells you what date stuff has to be done.  And if you wait for “the packet” from the board, you’re screwed.  Find out what should be in the packet and start working on it.  By the time you get the bundle of paperwork from the board, there will not be enough time to get it done.

And it took an extra year for me.  It was my fault – I went to Africa for a seminary cultural immersion experience, and the preparation for that trip took up more of my disposable time than I anticipated.  In the meantime, I dropped the ball.

Now that I’m here, I am enrolled in the “Residence in Ministry” program in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.  [Nice new linguistic twist on “probation.”  Where else does probation end with a life sentence?]  We will retreat four times a year while working together to meet our ordination requirements.

The ordination system as it currently exists is essentially an obstacle course.  The problem is that it does a better job of rewarding folks who are great at navigating obstacle courses than ordaining great preachers or pastors.
So here’s my proposal.  People in our culture have greater potential for connectivity than ever before.  Most of us in the process (maybe all of us) have high speed access to this here series of tubes.   Social networking utilities like Facebook and 7Villages make connectedness quite easy so long as you check in often.  Heck, even simple emails make the exchange of information and documents really easy.

The bottom line for me is this:  I refuse to wait around for the conference to make anything easy for me.  They won’t.  It’s probably too much to ask of them anyway, given that the members of the board are pastors and I know how busy a pastor can be.  So I am trying to take the initiative to create a network comprised of the IGRC commissioning class of 2007.  A strong support system in this process is essential (probably more essential for some than for others, and I’ll admit that I’m better as a member of a band than as a solo artist).  If there’s going to be a great support system through this process, I need to take initiative in creating one.

I want to be in touch with my fellow probationary elders all year long.  I would like to see us bounce ideas off one another.  I want to be able to ask, “have you heard anything from the board?”  When I find out something from the board, I want to email everyone with the same info.  Having a mentor and a covenant group is great, but having a connected support system comprised of peers going through the same experience is even better.

In the meantime, perhaps we can effectively change the way ordination happens.  In addition to waiting for General Conference to make changes we can make changes at the grassroots level, perhaps even providing a model from which General Conference and our Annual Conferences can learn.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. jmeunier permalink
    September 19, 2007 10:16 am

    Bravo. God speed.

  2. September 25, 2007 7:15 am

    One of my observations through the process was that the last thing any of us need is “required community.”

    Such community ought to be grassroots and it seems to me it would be healthier if it stays there.

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