How would you rebuild ordination?

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?

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5 thoughts on “How would you rebuild ordination?

  1. I don’t know if there is any way to accomplish this, but ideally I would think that becoming a member (though not a participant) of a United Methodist Church would be somewhat difficult and involve required time in a group like a class meeting for a certain minimum amount of time along with passing some sort of examination on basic United Methodist belief. (Exceptions could be made for the intellectually disabled and other special cases.) Ordination would then flow from identifying folks among those who are members who are called and who have already been discipled as Christians and specifically as United Methodist Christians. That process could be more focused on growing in practical skills while formation as a United Methodist church member would be expected to continue. Instead of trying to figure out if the person is a danger to the church or somehow inadequate the ordination process could focus on refining and equipping leaders from among those already on the way to perfection. Ordination would occur once a board of (hopeful future) peers determined they were both spiritually mature and competent for the vocation of pastoral ministry.

    In Summary: make membership much harder and ordination somewhat easier. My .02.

  2. …and along the way we could add fiery hoops back in. Actually, unless there’s an outbreak of heart holiness, adding more criteria will not assure discernment but further clot the system with subjective judgment, weirdness, corrupting cronyism, and futility

  3. I agree that a rediscovery of the class meeting should play a part in membership and ordination. That said, I’m not sure there is any agreement on what “basic United Methodist beliefs” are anymore. Issues like sexuality cloud fundamental disagreements over the nature and authority of Scripture, the Incarnation, Christology and the resurrection.

    One change that could and should be made now is dissolution of the University Senate, or at least the stripping away of its ability to decide what is and is not an “approved” UM seminary, along with the tyrannical, arbitrary power it has to make life unnecessarily difficult for UM seminarians attending “unofficial” yet excellent, orthodox seminaries in lieu of being forced toward apostate, dying institutions.

    According to the Discipline, a strong case can be made that it is the Annual Conferences that have ultimate authority to accept or reject the seminary credentials of its ordinands. Liberal, declining conferences can continue to ordain candidates that exhibit the qualities desired, and other annual conferences can choose ordinands with an altogether different pedigree.

  4. To take a shot at answering my own question, I would encourage going back to Wesley. When he said, “You have one business, to save souls” I think he meant it. I often hear lip service for justification, but rarely here it as a ministerial focus. That’s what I believe we need to get back to.

    So, a pastor needs to have a heart for those who do not know Christ, the ability to communicate the message of Christ and to lead the congregation into deeper discipleship with Christ.

    That’s what I would like to see. How we get there is another question altogether and I’m not sure how that would be accomplished. I suspect that we would need to refocus on mentoring and encouraging up and coming pastors to be coached by excellent pastors. Mentoring would be less about jumping through the BOM hoops and more about being a spiritual leader.

    1. Mentoring, coaching, and teaching in an apprenticeship model would be excellent ideas. We do that a little now when a new seminary grad gets appointed to one of our bigger churches as part of a staff. Some senior pastors, I suspect, are better mentors than others. But for the large number of pastors who get sent out into smaller churches to learn on the job without much or any support, little of that kind of learning takes place.

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