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.