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Being Positive About Ordination

March 12, 2009

I have begun CPE at Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, Indiana.  As I stated in my Skandal-ous Mission post, I submit myself humbly to the process.  Putting aside my professional arrogance, I approach this assignment with an open mind and an expectation that God is in the process and that I will learn something valuable.  I am committed to being positive about the experience.  Bitterness only emphasizes and contributes to my own brokenness.

Let there be no doubt, I still believe that I am entangled in a process that is profoundly broken.  I believe that if we are honest, we all believe that it’s broken: students, candidates, members of the BOM, Bishops, and the ordained.  All of us would probably like to tear the whole thing apart and rebuild it in our own image (sound Biblically familiar?)  But with that in mind, let me offer up just a few suggestions for reform.

  • Let’s work together to make the ordination process less complicated than the US Tax Code.  The chief complaint I’ve heard from members of the BOM is that the process is so complicated that they can’t understand all of it.  If they were to take the time to read and learn the whole binder full of material they would be neglecting other essential aspects of their own ministries in the churches they serve.  Clear, concise objectives in plain language would benefit us all.
  • Let’s renew a commitment to young clergy.  By the time I’m ordained I will have been in the process for seven years – enough time to have gone back to medical school, completed residency, and start a private practice.  Or enough time to have gone back to law school, passed the bar, and been in practice for a couple of years.   Too many people start the process at an age when they could be considered young clergy, but are too old to be considered such at ordination.
  • Let’s look at the reality that the ordination process was designed for people who discerned God’s call upon their lives in their teens or early twenties in light of the current reality that more and more clergy are in their second or third careers.
  • Let’s reform the Residence in Ministry program so that the time candidates spend away from their churches and families is productive and goal-directed.  Readings and written assignments can be designed to be productive toward completion of the written ordination work outlined in the Discipline and toward ordination interviews.  Candidates should be able to set goals targeted at specific areas of ministry (pastoral care, ethics, preaching, administration, etc.) that would then be addressed in RIM retreats.
  • Residence in Ministry retreats are good opportunities for candidates and the BOM to develop healthy, non-adverserial working relationships.  Greater involvement by more members of the BOM would be a positive development.
  • Get laypersons involved in the process.  In the North Alabama Conference, Bishop Willimon has brought in laypersons with backgrounds in personnel, which I think is a brilliant move.

These are just a few preliminary thoughts about fixing the problem.  What are some of your thoughts?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Christy permalink
    March 21, 2009 10:06 am

    I am in the inquiry process although I know that I am called to ordination. Ordination will be at least 15 years away for me. I live in Oregon and the only way to be ordained is to move to Ohio or California to finish seminary. I have a family and can’t pull up stakes and move, so for the next ten years or so I can be a local pastor but that is as far as I can go. That is not right. Good luck with your CPE.

  2. Kelly permalink
    May 15, 2009 8:36 am

    I too have been caught by the ordination process. I chose to go to a seminary away from my home conference. Now I have to make choices between church and school when it comes to meeting with dCOM. I’d like to meet with them during Annual Conference, but that just seems impossible – not sure why just yet. We’re all in the same place; we all have to eat… I see time. It’s frustrating… just frustrating.

  3. June 3, 2009 6:59 pm

    It’s time to look at the seminary system. Not enough to allow people in, and too far away to be realistic.

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