Ordination Questions

Ordination in the UMC takes a bit of time. I am not complaining, I think there are strengths and weaknesses to this process.  However, one thing I have encountered while I go through this process is that lay members do not have much of a clue as to what the process involves.  I want to take a few posts and share some of the questions that all those ordained in the UMC must answer in written from to a credentialing body for review.  Upon submission of these responses, one is interviewed to go over the responses given.  The questions that I will post in the next few posts are questions for those people later in the ordination process than those who are just beginning.

Even if you do not read the response I think the questions are interesting to consider.  How would you respond to these questions if you were asked by someone?

So here is the first question and my actual response (unedited) that I submitted to the Board of Ordained Ministry:

What effect has the practice of ministry had on your understanding of humanity and the need for divine grace?
     The more I have the opportunity to talk with people outside the seminary context, the more I have become aware of the cycles of blame and scapegoating we are all held hostage to. We seek to blame people for the situations we find ourselves in and all the while justify the search as ‘just’ and ‘right’. For instance, the outrage over the pipeline leak in the Gulf of Mexico in the summer of 2010 was a global effort to blame BP for the massive environmental damage. Of course BP has their part to play but it is interesting to me to notice that BP did not become one of the largest energy providers without the demand of people for cheap energy. We are quick to blame BP for their lack of response or emergency plan, we are quick to blame governments for acting too late or interfering with a private company, we are quick to even blame the CEO as he attends a sailing race, but I have yet to hear anyone raise their hand and say, “I helped contribute to the spill because I helped raise the demand for oil and encouraged companies to seek risky drilling.” We are all quick to see the fault of the other and blame them for causing the problem while maintaining our own innocence in the situation. I see all of us move though life throwing so many stones that we do not even see the damage we are doing when we throw those stones. We are not a very forgiving species on a whole, and we quickly forget the past in order to seek an immediate desire. Humanity desperately needs Grace for we are all involved in creating the problems in this world. It is interesting to me that the stories which are the most profound and deeply moving are the stories which are rooted in Grace, Forgiveness and Peace, not the stories rooted in hate, blame, and violence. When we encounter that divine Grace we are moved in ways that are beyond our primal responses of seeking a scapegoat. 
     It saddens me in a way that some of the most vicious blaming that goes on in the world is located in the Church - Lay members blame pastors for the problems of the local church; ministers blame the cabinet for the problems of the conference; the conference blames heath insurance or pensions to the problems of the denomination. We all are involved in blaming someone or something and it is rare to find anyone in that chain of blame standing up to say, “it is partly all of our fault and I contributed to the problem as much as the next person.” Grace is made visible when we are willing to stand up and take some of the blame and recognize that we all are interconnected and intertwined – that our survival is dependant upon one another. When we have more individuals willing to own their part of the problem then we will begin to see the further manifestation of the Kingdom of God. I believe, in part, this is why humanity is in need of divine Grace. In order to help usher in the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Peace, reconciliation, justice and mercy, we need to be willing to help make manifest Grace and stop blaming and seeking out scapegoats. It is my prayer that God will continue to guide and uphold the United Methodist Church as a place in which we all can have the courage to stand in the midst of the mob and declare the end of blaming and scapegoating. It is my prayer that the Grace of God will be made manifest in the UMC for it is desperately needed to break us out of the cycles which hold us hostage.