I have a friend on the United Methodist denomination wide study committee on ministry. As we continue into the 21st century, [they] are evaluating certain practices. [They] hope [I] would be able to answer a couple of questions, as [they] deeply value [my] opinion:
The two questions are:
1. What is your opinion of the guaranteed appointment as the United Methodist now practices with the itinerant clergy (the clergy agree to go where the bishop sends us, the bishop guarantees the clergy a job). Would you favor keeping it or not? As much detail and perspective that you can give would be most helpful.
2. If the guaranteed appointment is eliminated, and if non-seminary trained local pastors are ordained, what would be the motivation for a candidate for ministry to pursue a seminary education (and accumulate a large amount of debt)? Recent statistics suggest that almost half of new candidates for ministry are on the local pastor track (which currently means they are not ordained).
1. My opinion of the guaranteed appointment as the United Methodist Church now practices with itinerant clergy is that we are not doing any favors to our churches, our pastors, or the Gospel. By limiting risk, and rewarding complacency (don't rock the boat) we are not creating enough discomfort in our congregations and for our clergy to effectively risk and challenge and change. I am reminded of several passages in the epistles where the Apostles have gone out and appropriated what was before, in the culture, or in the historical record of Israel and made it work differently for the immediate context they live. Jesus does this as well, accepting the discomfort internally, while creating discomfort for the people. [Luke 4:14-30] I am in favor of guaranteed appointments, with a broader understanding of the purpose of the appointment, to train leaders, to administer the Sacraments, and to serve more churches (in the style of our Circuit Riders - entire regions of several states, etc, not our Current Circuits that encompass no more than 7 churches [that was the largest circuit I heard anyone serving]) I also believe that we do not do enough oversight of our clergy as provided for in the Discipline for evaluation and removal from ministry. If we were to do the work required for oversight as presented in the Discipline I think we would not have the same issues. Paragraphs 331.5-6 (deacons) and 334.4 (elders)
2. I know the expected debt load of incoming clergy is beyond what the expected income is. This should be better rectified, with a more strenuous examination prior to entering seminary, including service in the local church. It might be that the Board of Ordained Ministry would spend time culling from the ranks of the enhanced leadership of the Local Pastors those who would be a good fit for seminary. I applaud the efforts of our local pastors, and know them to do outstanding work. I think that setting seminary trained persons as guides and trainers for service would only serve to enhance that model, as well as allow for greater lay empowerment through the entire process.
I apologize if I have been anywhere unclear in my thoughts, and I would be happy to follow up as best I can.
Labels: Book of Discipline, Discipleship, Emerging Church, Theology