A recent high-profile ordination case was not forwarded in Texas. One of the reasons we are hearing in public is because — among other things — the candidate could not sufficiently articulate the meaning of the Lordship of Christ for all the world.
I’m trying to figure out what that means. The candidate who was not advanced wrote about other topics when she revealed the reasons she was not advanced, and all the subsequent commentary I have read has also been about other topics.
But I find myself wondering how a candidate for ordination fails to articulate the meaning of the Lordship of Christ for all the world. Is it harder than it sounds?
Jesus Christ is Lord of heaven and earth. All people and nations stand under his authority, power, and judgment. He is, with the Father and Holy Spirit, the creator and sustainer of all life and redeemer of all humanity. One day, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess him as Lord.
Or something like this. I know in ordination papers you have to spill more ink than my 10 second version above, but you get the idea. What do you fail to say in one of these interviews or in writing the papers that makes people question whether you can articulate the fact that Jesus is Lord of all?
This seems like one of the easiest questions possible for someone who feels called into ministry. The call is to serve Jesus Christ and his church. To have the call at all, it seems to me, would require you have some sense that Jesus is Lord. Am I missing something? Is it secretly a tricky and difficult question?
This is one of those posts that I might live to regret the next time my dCom meeting comes around.
Here is the truth, though. I’ve been preaching in a United Methodist Church since April 2007. This year, 2014, for the very first time, I had someone in supervision of my ministry ask me to articulate my understanding of Wesleyan theology.
My answer that day was a brief walk through of the four alls of Methodism:
- All need to be saved.
- All can be saved by the grace of Jesus Christ.
- All can know they are saved.
- All can be saved to the uttermost.
I made sure to work in specific reference to Jesus Christ, as I’ve heard rumors of candidates for ordination not bringing up his name during interviews. Those rumors were confirmed a few minutes later.
One of the people interviewing me told me later — in response to a question of mine about how to prepare for the Board of Ordained Ministry in coming years — that one problem the Board encounters from time to time is candidates who cannot articulate a clear sense of who Jesus is and why he matters.
This still surprises me even as I type the words. Candidates for ministry who cannot talk about Jesus?
So, as a service to both our Boards of Ordained Ministry and future candidates for ordination, I’d be interested in hearing stories like these. Where to candidates struggle? What questions did you as a candidate never get that you expected to have to answer?
A reader raised a good question in the comment thread about ordination.
That being said, the blog I read called for the UMC to not just make tweaks, but to completely overhaul the ordination system. So, at the risk of highjacking John’s blog since I don’t have one of my own, I have to ask what a new system of ordination would look like. If we stripped everything away and started from scratch, what would our priorities be?
Another way of asking the question is, what do we have to do to provide a pastor with basic formation? What priorities do we want that pastor to have and how will we equip that pastor to live those priorities out in the life of the church?
What do you think?
United Theological Seminary dean David Watson recounts his ordination experience and asks a question that many clergy and candidates would give a quick answer to.
Is the UM Ordination Process too Arbitrary?
Since my ordination I have served on the District Committee for the Miami Valley District of the West Ohio Conference, as well as the West Ohio Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. I’ve reflected a great deal on the ordination process and the proper work of committees and boards who have oversight of the process. I have much more to say about this matter, but there is one item that I want to highlight in this post: the biggest problem with our ordination process is that it is not undergirded by a clear theology of ordination.
Mitchell Lewis reflects on the meaning of the doctrine questions posed to candidates for ordination.
I’ve been hearing lots of stories this week from clergy candidates caught in the teeth of our system of supervision and ordination. A few unorganized thoughts rise as I stew on these things.
First, a disclaimer: I know hundreds and thousands of clergy out there are doing their best to be Spirit-led stewards of the church and the gifts and graces of the candidates in the process. I am not a member of the “tear it all down” school of thought. The machine is working, or, at least, I am not in a position to judge whether it is not.
Consider these more thoughts from someone who has seen a few places where the belts are slipping the gears and hoses are shaking loose.
I see some behavior that appears to be intended to produce learned helplessness. When candidates are delayed or rejected and given cryptic reasons why — or reasons that are on their face absurd — it leaves them in a position of having no idea how to avoid failure in the future. It makes their experience of the process like one trying to appease a capricious and angry god.
I hear stories of people who are allowed to continue far into the process and then rejected or delayed for things that could have been brought up years before.
I listen as people talk about the only thing that matters is getting to the other side of the ordination process. Then they can do or say what they want. This seems disordered on many levels.
I know the General Conference has considered changes to the ordination systems for a few quadrennia now. I know these stories are not representative of universal experience. But they strike me as more than outliers.
I don’t have the knowledge, experience, or wisdom to offer solutions. I merely offer a report from the field.