July 26, 2010

United Methodist Ordination – Pt. 4

Posted in Ordination at 5:13 pm by billgepford

I haven’t been posting these simply to complain;
I really do want change.  However, naming a problem isn’t enough so here is my proposal…

We keep the current ordination classifications as they are.

(I know, not what could be expected after the earlier posts).

But we also need to add to the two ordained classes that currently exist.  Some people are called to itinerancy.  Some aren’t.  Paul was obviously itinerant; James the brother of Jesus was not.  Did the early Church value both itinerant and non-itinerant ministry?  Absolutely.

Why don’t we?

Really, I do understand some of the reasons for keeping elements of the current system, and they truly are compelling.  There is obvious value in a pastor being appointed wherever they can best serve the church – provided they are called to such service.  However, itinerant preachers are not the only servants of God present in the scriptures, nor are they they only ones called today.  James, the brother of Jesus, lived out his ministry in Jerusalem. Therefore, I propose that we add a third class of ordination.  Those who love the itinerant system can still maintain their itinerancy.  However, we should also ordain those who are called to full time pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church, but not itinerancy.  This would be different from the Deacons, who do not itinerant (they find their own jobs), but are also limited in what they do.  Deacons, for example, cannot administer the sacrament in the United Methodist Church.

I am advocating that we create a third class of ordination alongside the Deacon and the Elder – a non-itinerant, non-guaranteed position that is fully empowered to do all the work of the elder, yet with the responsibility of finding their own job.  This will appeal to those pastors who feel called to specific types of ministry (and thus need to seek their own position), yet also feel that the sacraments are part of the ministry that God has called them to.

July 23, 2010

United Methodist Ordination – pt. 3

Posted in Ordination at 7:02 am by billgepford

The itinerant system is most often defended with the excuse that it facilitates prophetic preaching.  The assumption seems to be that itinerancy permits pastors to speak freely, as they no longer worry that their congregation will fire them for calling out sin.  However, itinerant pastors are rarely in one place long enough to build deep relationships, which are also essential for effective prophetic preaching; congregations can easily ignore transitory pastors who have no foundation in the community. While non-itinerant pastors can be fired for preaching over inflammatory subjects, itinerant pastors can be completely ignored during the same sermons, simply because they don’t have longstanding relationships with the congregation, and will probably be leaving soon anyways.

So what is the point of preaching?  Is the point merely to say something from the pulpit, or to draw the congregation closer to God?  Itinerant preachers may feel empowered to say whatever they wish, but do they have the deep bonds to truly make it stick?

I would rather get fired for preaching one effective sermon than live a life full of Sundays that have no impact.

July 20, 2010

United Methodist Ordination – Pt. 2

Posted in Ordination at 5:22 am by billgepford

I’m not arguing against the UMC, but rather against the peculiar institution of itinerancy.  Why?  Because I’ve heard way too many Godly, high potential leaders refuse ordination in the UMC because they refuse to be itinerant.  It seems to be the number one reason that young future pastors are abandoning their Methodist roots in favor of greener pastures.

For those outside the Methodist system, itinerancy is the system by which pastors are appointed by their bishop to serve different churches.  Theoretically, pastors can be ordered to move to a new church every single year if the bishop so chooses, which would effectively prevent the forming of deep relationships.

At its theoretical best, the bishop will be perfectly led by the Holy Spirit and will appoint each pastor in the right place, and for the right amount of time.  However, I don’t know if this generation of future pastors are really so ready to trust their entire futures to bishops they have never met.  Why couldn’t the pastors themselves be the ones listening for God’s call and following that to the correct church?  While some bishops may be fantastic (and I believe I’m blessed to be in the state of just such a bishop), some people have had too many reasons to distrust the system.

If Wesley were around today, would he institute the itinerant system?  I highly doubt it.  Wesley was considered a genius organizer in his day – the itinerant system directly stems from that, and it really did make the most sense 250 years ago.  However, times have changed drastically since then, and that Wesley himself might arrange things differently today – “John Wesley’s great success as an organizer was due at least as much to his readiness to accept, and his adroitness in adapting, the suggestion of others, as to the fertility of his own resources” (John Wesley by John Henry Overton, page 120).  Does itinerancy make sense now?  Not in the slightest.  The UMC recognizes a correlation between long tenures and effective ministry (http://www.umc.org/atf/cf/{db6a45e4-c446-4248-82c8-e131b6424741}/CV_PRESENTATION.PDF – specifically page 48), and yet long tenures are destroyed by the inerant system.  Furthermore, the best leadership thinkers of the day espouse the importance of the support team around you (Harvard Professor Ashish Nanda in his address to the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, Jim Collins tackles it here – http://www.jimcollins.com/media_topics/first-who.html); itinerant pastors do not get to choose the staff around them.

Thoughts?  I love my church and want to do everything I can to see it fulfill the calling that God has for it, even if that means asking the uncomfortable questions.  Are there any real reasons left for an itinerant system?

July 15, 2010

United Methodist Ordination – pt. 1

Posted in Ordination at 8:43 pm by billgepford

Several of the top young grads I’ve met at Perkins (a great United Methodist Seminary) have refused ordination in the United Methodist Church.  They have all of their paperwork done, and nothing stands between them and ordination…and yet the refuse to be ordained.  This, after spending nearly $100,000 for the education necessary to arrive at that point.  Throw in the desire of the UMC to raise up new clergy, and there is clearly a question to be asked:

Why are so many bright young potential clergy, who have been called by God and fulfilled the required all the steps, refusing ordination in a church that so desperately wants them?