June 5th, 2009 I will be ordained into the Order of Elder in the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Thats a mouth full. Translation? My life's calling will be affirmed by the church on June 5th.
But my mind goes not just to the future and what that will look like, it also turns back to my friends. Or aquaintances who have been in the ordination process. I wish I could say everyone who has sought ordination in the United Methodist Church, found it. But that is not the case.
This is my open blog post for those who are deferred, rejected, or encouraged to withdraw from seeking ordination in the UMC.
I'm sorry. My heart aches because things didn't work like you thought it would. Despite the perceived intentions of man/woman, God's intentions are for you to prosper and live fully into the calling God has on your life. There is no board, church, society, person, seminary, evil, or circumstance that can stop you from living into your very being with God. All I have for you is hope and hurt.
Do you know about the candidacy process in the United Methodist Church? Its elaborate, somewhat laborious, and time consuming. I think I started the process when I was 18. Its been 10 years. But those ten years were formative, and helpful, and if anything... helped me discern where I will be then next 10 years of my life.
Now, I've said this before and I'll say it again - ministry can happen concurrently to this whole process. I don't feel like I've been held back within the process. Some that I've spoken to felt that the way the system is designed it implies that until you are "full-connection" Elder or Deacon, you are just a partial minister of sorts.
Well, if you are thinking of ordination as some kind of pyramid system where Elders/Deacons are above Laity, like the Catholic Church, then you'd be right. Anyone short of the Pope is not as powerful or important as the literal representation of Jesus Christ. Its a power pyramid.
Now, no church would claim that pastors are *ahem* more important than the people who make up the church. Because frankly, the church is not centered on the clergy. It should be centered on Christ. But some churches will say this translates that the church centers on pastors (as the representatives of Christ).
I don't think this is what Christ wanted in his church. Instead, a Christ-centered congregation would welcome and encourage ministry in all its beautiful forms (we are, afterall, a priesthood of all believers). I'm not saying we don't NEED clergy. Lord knows there must be someone not to LEAD but to serve. If its a pyramid at all, it should be an inverted pyramid with the clergy below the laity.
In MY mind, the closer we can come to understanding ministry as a system of servanthood and less a system of power, the more being deferred from Ordained Ministry will be less of a let down and more of a discernment/joy.