“You can’t pay people to do what United Methodist ministers regularly have to do,” Will Willimon said at a gathering of pastors.
He was talking about calling. In the talk, he contrasts the Christian meaning of calling to Parker Palmer’s notion of vocation: “Whatever causes you bliss.”
Christian calling, he says, is whatever causes God bliss. It is something that comes from God first. It is what God wants. It is not what you want. It is not what the church wants. It is what God wants.
I wonder if some of our awkwardness with calling has to do with that fact that one or both sets of human actors have forgotten about God’s role in it all?
We as individuals should not talk about “my” calling. It is God’s calling on me. It is not something I own and certainly not something I initiate or choose. It is God’s claim on me. And that means God might have some ideas about what I should do and how I should be doing it and where I should be doing it that have little to do with my little notions.
The Wesleyan Covenant Prayer should be on our lips at all times.
And the denominational boards need also to remember that God’s call is what they are discerning. The question is not whether a certain person has the right political ideas or the right kind of personality or a proper respect for authority. The question is whether God is calling this person to minister in our denomination.
The problem is not the institutional needs of the United Methodist Church, but the uncontrollable desires of God.
These things are a lot harder to figure out than whether someone has worked through a systematic program of study and mentoring outlined in a PowerPoint slide deck. Like certain kinds of demons, it only comes out with prayers and fasting.