Ordination Process in the UMC, before.

Okay, so I have my interviews Monday with the Board of Ordained Ministry (BoOM) in the North Alabama Conference.

When I say, "before" I really mean "before my final interviews" as I started the process when I was 18 and I'm 28 now.  10 years.  Awesome.

This is kind of my last chance to talk about the ordination process while in process, so I figured I'd share a few thoughts about it, and we'll see if things are different after Monday.

This is NOT a post on why I think young adults should pursue ordination in the UMC, I'm saving that for later.  This is simply me wondering if my thoughts on some stuff will change after I sit in front of the BoOM one last time.  Plus, I'm banking on the fact that there might be some things I can say now that would not sound the same once I'm finished with the "process" or on the Board.

So, first, how I see things now.
  • The candidacy process is about discernment.  This is what I'm told and its also what I feel.  Look, there is no doubt in my mind that for some it feels like a grueling hoop jumping triathlon.  But when you look at your walk with God, do you ever stop trying to grow in knowledge or in faith?  Moving on towards perfection is about never reaching a level where you sit back and rest on your laurels.  I'll be glad to be done with this process, but it certainly won't stop me from wanting to grow in ministry.  Some current clergy would do well to remember this.  Just because you are "full connection" does not mean you've arrived.  But back to the process - yes, it can be political.  Rough, tumble, imperfect.  Not making excuses, backroom discussions about my future should be brought to light.  But also political like the Trinity is political.  I digress - basically, if the process isn't helping people discern their call (and by that, I mean include or exclude them from ordained ministry in the UMC) then it isn't serving its purpose.  I believe we can shorten the process and make it more effective in this discernment.  Is the process too long?  Not if its doing its job - but it isn't.  So there.
  • The process does not hamper ministry.  Let me explain - throughout the 10 years I've been in ministry and discerning God's call, I've never not been in formal United Methodist ministry.  Youth director, part time licensed local, full time student pastor, probationary Elder.  What gives?  Why are people running around crying that the Church is shutting them down?  Look - if the UMC denies me ordination in the Conference, great, awesome, wonderful.  Lord, set me aside for thee or lift me up for thee.  I'll go be in ministry somewhere else!  Its not like the UMC is the end-all-be-all of ministry (geez, do people really think that?) and the fact I'm not ordained clergy certainly doesn't mean I'm not useful, or fulfilled, in the ministries I'm involved with already.
  • The people of the UMC are changing.  Love it or hate it, there is a new generation of Christians coming into the church.  It doesn't matter what laws you pass or what the discipline says.  Folks are going to find God and make decisions based off that faith - not their relationship with the previous generation.  In the next 15 years when a gazillion UMC pastors have retired, the landscape won't look so bleak people.  Sure, our parents and their parents might not be happy with us, but last I checked following Christ isn't supposed to win you friends this side of eternity anyway.  There are some in the UMC who are practically licking their chops at the idea of changing the Discipline.  Be scared?  Or be thrilled?
  • The UMC's discipline tries to be Jesus for us, when it isn't Jesus.  Okay, so the Discipline is supposed to hold our denomination together.  Lets hope it continues giving practical (snicker) application of our faith in the real world experience (hehehe) of doing church.  hahahahahahaa, sorry, I couldn't type that without getting the giggles.  The Discipline has overstepped its bounds.  That book won't hold people together - but Jesus can.  I know that sounds vague and illusive, but I'm serious - our faith will hold us together better than any laws.  Laws are important, but they aren't the purpose for existence.  Aren't there people who have tried that before?  Isn't there some story about them in the Bible?  Didn't Jesus get angry with them?  I think Wesley would not only have something to say about the holiness (social and personal) of those who are "Methodist" but he'd also have something to say about the distinct lack of motivation via faith as opposed to motivation by force [of the Discipline].
Some questions I'll be asking myself at my interviews - 

What should my response to inclusion/exclusion be?
Who am I trying to please?
How can I bring people together in the UMC?
How can I help my friends through this weekend?

Update: You may be interested in my thoughts *after* ordination as well.  You can find those in this blog entry.

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