Friday, February 15, 2008

Board of Ministry Reflections

The majority of my week was spent working on the Conference Board of Ministry examining persons seeking to be commissioned as probationary elders and deacons. Our Conference divides the work into four subcommittees: Call and Disciplined Life, Bible Study, Proclamation, and, Theology and Doctrine. I serve on the last one. It really is an involved process and it always leaves me both rejoicing over the people responding to the call to ministry, and very frustrated.

I rejoice as I see bright young people excited engaging the questions. I rejoice as we interview second career persons who reveal good experience and maturity in thoughtful responses. And I rejoice when I learn how God is working in the candidates' lives as they give themselves to study and ministry.

But I get frustrated over those who seem to come before our committee without preparation. I get frustrated over seminary graduates who cannot teach a Confirmation level understanding of grace from a Wesleyan perspective, or cannot explain clearly why we baptize infants or ordain women. I worry when potential ministers cannot discuss the theological challenges the church faces today and name the mission of our church.

So, needless to say, we approved some, and continued some for another year, and prayed for all of them. I know it is a high-stress event for the candidates, but I don't think we can change that or should apologize for it. We certainly don't try to make it any more stressful than it naturally is. But being qualified for ministry calls for our very best.

Finally, one candidate who previously was continued and this year approved, told me afterwards, "It has been a good year. I've learned a lot that I probably wouldn't have learned if you'd approved me last year. I wasn't ready then, but now I am more confident in my theology."
And as they say in the Hokey-Pokey, "That's what it's all about."

1 comment:

roadtripray said...

When I decided to answer God's call into the ministry, I put much prayer and research into discerning with whom I would answer my call. Obviously being raised United Methodis that was my top choice, but I kept an open mind and explored the doctrine, theology, and polity of so many denominations it made my head spin.

The reason I reaffirmed my commitment to the United Methodist Church had a lot to do with doctrine, such as Wesley's explanation of prevenient grace preceding our knowledge or ability to know God's love for us. I also held my newborn daughter and was horrified how in some traditions if she felt the same call of God into ministry as I felt, she would not be permitted to serve in a pastoral capacity.

Beyond that, though is the accountability inherent in the UMC. I told my wife that I needed the support of holy conferencing and the accountability that is present in our church. It's not that I think poorly of my spiritual maturity or my gifts, but that it is so important to me that I want to be continually challenged, encouraged, and improved.

Of course, I'm sure I'll have my periods of frustration with UMC bureaucracy ... okay, maybe I already have had those moments. But anything built and run by mere mortals will be imperfect, but I like the way the people called methodists "do church."

-- Ray