Friday, January 08, 2010

the Process of Orindation

Yeah, it's been a couple months...

I just got a note from a good friend, questioning how I made it through the process of ordination in the PC(USA). As I responded to him privately, I realized that what I was saying was the exact same thing that EVERY committee, every group, every PASTOR could say to a young person who comes in and feels called to ministry - and particularly those who need to go through a process that includes the discernment of others in their call. And I think every good ordination process includes that.

Yeah, there's been a bunch of talk across the interweb about ordination, killing it, the awful inequalities, the unfairness, etc. I'm not on that bandwagon. But if you're interested, here's what I think should be said to anyone who comes before, particularly, a Presbyterian Committee on Preparation for Ministry or CPM for short:

“Sir/Mam, we have a huge responsibility here. We need to determine, and confirm, that the call you feel is really a call from God to commit yourself to a lifetime covenant between God and God’s people. We need to take these 3 years (or more) and question you, listen to you, prod you and eventually determine whether you’re going to make it. Because the only thing worse than discouraging you in this process would be to pat you on the back for the next 3 years and send you on your way, only to be bludgeoned in the first 6months of your ordained ministry and either lose your faith & quit the ministry, or worse yet – lose your faith and STAY in the ministry. So, right now, we’re going to be hard on you. We’re going to take you through the wringer. Too many people, too much time, energy and money is being invested in you to have you fail. If your call to serve God is NOT in ordained ministry, please know that we don’t look at you any less than anyone else. Half of us on this committee are not ordained to the office of Word and Sacrament – not because we don’t love God, not because we have not been called and ordained, set aside for a task of God in the church – but because our call was different, and that’s ok. In our culture, too many people mistake God’s general calls as a specific call to fulltime Christian vocational ministry. And they’re not entirely prepared for how difficult that can be. So, we want to make sure that YOU are ready. We want to make sure that you will succeed. So, bear with us. We’re going to try to get to know you over these next 3 years – so that whatever comes about, we will ALL know that it’s God’s will, and not simply our own desires, or our own lack of discernment that leads us to the end.”

If this was done with everyone, it's possible a lot of hurt feelings and miscommunication could be cut off long before problems arose...

3 comments:

nancydayachauer said...

The United Methodist Church has an ordination process that is longer and has some different hoops because of our ecclesiology but the experience is about the same. I agree with you 100% about the need for the process in spite of the fact that I don't particularly enjoy experiencing it.

A pastor friend told me that people who can't handle the rigors of the ordination process would not be tough enough to handle the rigors of ordained ministry because parishioners can be a lot tougher than any ordination committee.

Beloved Spear said...

Amen to this. Some process of testing and facilitation in the process of discernment is absolutely necessary. It isn't just hoops to jump through. It refines and strengthens our call. That's not to say the process can't be abused, but we really do need to hold on to the idea that call is something that involves and serves the whole community.

Don said...

Nancy - amen! The congregation can indeed be tougher than any committee. The best part is, they can also be much more of a joy and encouragement than any committee, as they live life with us.

Beloved - yes, individual call is only one component of the process and sometimes, in our invidualized Western world, we lose sight of that. I just wished communities did a better job of holding the tension together instead of trying to fight what some see as that individualized misdirection.