Called out of ministry

Much of the ordination process of the UMC is built on an idea that we feel called into ministry.  It took me ten years, from start to finish, to become ordained in the UMC.  There is a long and comprehensive process for identifying a call into ordained ministry.  

A mentor and friend whom I deeply respect and admire mentioned recently that we ought to consider the a process for those people who feel God calling them out of ordained ministry.  

As our lives change and we gain wisdom over and our sense of self change over time, so to would one's sense of call.  Are you the same person you were 10 years ago?  Will you be the same person 10 years from now?  

Of course not.  

What happens when a life of an ordained person in the UMC changes, and they no longer sensing a call in ordained ministry?  Do we allow them to continue to do ordained ministry and limp along?  Do we instead build into the system a process for transition out of ministry?  

What would a process of being called out of ministry look like?  Would that be something that would be an appreciated process for those ministers who can move out of ministry with dignity?  It has to be better than surrendering credentials with a sense of shame and/or disgrace.  It has to be better than "plugging along" until retirement.

Don't congregations deserve ministers we are called into ministry and not called out ministry?  

Paradox of the call

A story was shared at Annual Conference last night about a farmer who felt a call from God to be ordained in the UMC. It was reported that this farmer turned minister felt a that a burden had been lifted from his shoulders upon ordination.  

I heard that story and began to get chills.  Not because of the ordained part, but because I can connect (and I am sure you can as well) to the idea than when we are able to "do" that which gives us purpose we become liberated.  When we are able to live out our call, whatever it may be, we become free from the anxiety of "what do I want to be when I grow up" and the pressure to "live a meaningful life".  When we are able to do what we are called to do, we have a burden lifted from us.  If you find you are chronically unhappy with your work, I wonder if your work is what your call is?  

I have the privilege of being one of the people in the world who gets to do what I feel I am called to do.  I get to do work that gives meaning a purpose to my life and I get to help those around me do the same.  Upon ordination, I anticipation a burden to be lifted from my shoulders as I am liberated to do work that connects me to a greater whole.  

At the same time...

Ordination is a very humbling and heavy mantel.  

By being ordained I am joining in a long tradition of which I get the honor of carrying for a period of time.  I am given the permission by the laity to help lead a congregation of which people before me helped create and nurture.  I feel I am being handed the keys to a beloved Gran Torino and asked to be careful with it.  

I feel a heavy burden of being an ordained elder in the UMC being placed upon me today.  

This is the paradox of the call on our lives.  We are liberated and set free to do and be that which we are called to be, yet at the same time we become keenly aware of the responsibilities that come with the privilege of being able to be one who is able to do work that feeds the deepest part of oneself and helps neighbors.  

If you love what you do and do what you love, count your lucky stars you are able to do it.  Few have that chance to live our the call on their lives.  You are able to live into a call on your life that gives you meaning and purpose and direction.  At the same time may you come to know the great responsibility that comes with this gift of living our our call.  

So today, the paradox of the call begins for me.

It is 99% official that it is over...

The first step in ordination in the UMC is to read a little book called "Christian as Minister".  After that there are many other steps that one must take to become ordained in the UMC.  

Some roll their eyes at the length of the ordination process (for a frame of how long it took me, I read Christian as Minister when I was 17 years old and I am now 28.)  

Some are appalled that a Masters of Divinity is an 80+ hour masters program which is on par with a Ph.D in terms of course work.  

Some are working to change the ordination process for the better.  

Some are glad the process is taken seriously with real discernment by all those involved.  

Some dread the paperwork that we have to do while others dread the interviews and still others are intimidated by both.  

Today, at 8:30am, I was interviewed by a team on the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM) of the Central Texas Conference as a candidate for Elder in Full connection in June.  

I am delighted to share with anyone who will listen that I was approved for ordination in the UMC this June.  

There is still one more vote that happens in June in which all the clergy of the conference (that is a large geographic region comprised of over 300 churches) must approve the candidates that the BOM recommends for ordination.  (It has been my experience that I have never heard of anyone being rejected by the conference after the BOM recommends them, so I could be the first.)

So, baring some unprecedented action by the conference, come June I can add "ordained" to my facebook profile.  

The journey continues.

Ordination Questions

What is your understanding of?
1) The Kingdom of God
            Simply put, the Kingdom of God (KoG) is what the world looks like when God and no other is in charge. The KoG is that which Jesus came to proclaim as in part and yet to come. I believe we are called by the Spirit of God through Christ to help usher in the Kingdom of God by our prayers and actions. There are attributes which reign in the KoG that do not reign in our current dominant kingdom. While there are signs of Grace, Mercy, Compassion and Love right now, they do not reign dominate. Instead our pursuit of retributive justice, violence, death and greed (also called idolatry) dominate our world. The KoG can be seen when the oppressed are let free, there is a equal distribution of resources, debts are cancelled and sin is forgiven. The KoG is not built on the false binaries of the current dominant kingdom. That is to say the KoG is not constantly seeking out who is “in” or “right” or “out” or “bad”. The KoG is the remaking of the earth and the powers and the principalities into the very good creation that God intends for it to be. It is my firm belief that if the Church is not proclaiming or empowering the KoG then the Church is lost.
2) The Resurrection
            I believe in a God of new life and new life means the old life must die or fall away in order for the new life to manifest. Resurrection is required for the ushering in of the KoG, because the old ways cannot remain and still expect to have a new way. God cannot usher in the KoG if violence is still present in this world. Violence must fall away. Since I believe that all things are made by God then I believe that everything has a redemptive quality to it even when I cannot see it. Therefore, I believe even violence has some redemptive quality to it. The resurrection proclaims that everything will pass away and the power of God will resurrect it (not revive or resuscitate) to a new way. When Jesus was resurrected his form was both recognizable and also different; likewise the resurrection of all things will mean they will be recognizable but also different.
            It is evident to me that humanity will be resurrected with the entire creation and be remade. Again, I do not know what this will look like but I do believe we will be recognizable and different. I am not interested in what resurrection of humanity will look like, such as will we have physical bodies or not. I am interested in the process of resurrection. What are the ways that lead to resurrection? What are the ways in which I can help others? What are the ways that lead to a dying of self and a shedding of the old so that the new self can be resurrected? These questions drive me to move on toward perfection because I cannot resurrect anything or anyone, I can only be a willing servant of God.
3) Eternal Life
            If death is the end of life and there is no eternal life then I have come to improperly understand to God in the Scriptures and the God revealed by the Spirit of Christ. If death is the final destination then death has the final say and ultimate power, even power over God. Through the witness of Scripture and Christ, I understand God to be one that continually is making life. Even when everything looks dire and death looks as though it has the final say, God finds a way to make life. I do not dwell on eternal life very much in my life just like I do not dwell on the source of my next breath or the power of my next heartbeat; I trust that those will happen. And only when my breath has ceased and my heart has stopped will I know in full the beauty of eternal life for society and myself.