Friday, November 09, 2007

my process

in the united methodist church the ordination process is just that: a process. it's a journey that i've been on pretty actively since 1998. i assume that very people have any understanding of that process, and most of you probably don't care to. but i also assume that not many of you understand where i am on that journey, and so i thought i would share a little bit about that today, since i am at a pretty critical juncture.

at my annual conference (the 3 or 4-day meeting of clergy and lay representatives from my whole conference which is all of new jersey) in 2005 i was commissioned as a probationary elder. that probationary status lasts at least three years. during this time i have been involved in mentoring, continuing study, and annual review. the three years will be up at this coming annual conference in june of 2008, at which time i would be a candidate for ordination.

what this means is that i have been busy this fall. there are a ton of necessary preparations in anticipation of this. there are 2 major pieces of this preparation:

first, i have been doing the 'paperwork.' for several months now i have been writing and thinking and wrestling and rewriting. this is work that will be handed in to the board of ordained ministry, the group charged by the conference with the task of helping to discern the call of people on this journey. all of this paperwork will be due at the beginning of december. it includes four sections: a series of traditional theology questions, a series of polity questions, a Bible study that i have to design and a sermon that i have to prepare, preach, and videotape. one of the biggest challenges about this paperwork is that i am given very limited space to deal with some of the most profound theological, Biblical and church-related issues. the other difficulty for me is that i feel this deeply rooted need inside me to make sure this paperwork is absolutely representative of who i am as a person and pastor. as a perfectionist, i feel like it better be nobel prize winning material. mostly, i just need to relax.

the second major piece of preparation for possible ordination in june is my interview with the board of ordained ministry (boom), which will really be a series of interviews taking place during a retreat in mid-february. during this retreat i will get to sit in 4 interviews with clergy and laypeople who will attempt to discern with me my readiness for ordination. there will be many other candidates also doing these interviews, who are at the same point in this journey as me. unfortunately, there are only so many spots available for ministers in the conference, so they have to make decisions based on the number of available spots. after the interviews, the boom will vote on each candidate. if i am not recommended for ordination, i will work to improve and go through this process again next year. if i am recommended, then i will be finally voted on at annual conference in june, and very likely ordained.

as it seems like the last 10 years of my life have been building towards this moment, you can imagine that i am pretty stressed out about it. anytime you are entering into an evaluative moment, especially when it really affects your future, it is a bit tension-producing. so, all of that being said, and now that you know what is going on with me, i would simply ask for your prayers as i continue through this process. mostly, i ask that you pray for peace for me. that i would not worry or be anxious, but would embrace this process, confident in my call, and sure that whatever happens i will continue to live out this call as faithfully as i can.




monica said...

i will be praying for you, greg. it is so interesting to hear the process you must go through. i dont have any advice, but know that He who has led you this far will lead you the rest of the way. I would like to hear your thoughts about being ordained at such a critical time in the UMC. when words like "division" and "break" are not just concepts but seem to be a looming reality. i have heard many say its not a matter of "if" but "when" how is it to join a body of clergy that is grappling with such large issues?

Anonymous said...

Hey, good to hear about your process--and I'd echo Monica on wanting to hear your thoughts about this being a critical time in the UMC. We're facing a similar time in the ELCA, as you may be aware, and my thoughts are in a whirl as I look toward ordination.

Another question: Is part of the issue you will be facing the possibility of relocation? Our process involves that in nearly every case.


Redbank Billy said...

Godspeed on all that "process" stuff,
I know you will do well, you young whipper snapper!!!

cathyq said...

Of course anxiety is natural at this point in the process, but I don't doubt for a moment that God has led you to this place and that God will be with you as you write, preach, and certainly as you answer questions. With all my heart I believe that the UMC needs you and others like you, especially at this critical time. Men and women of faith who stand for the word of God and attempt to live their faith on a daily basis as they lead the way are so needed right now. Don't be discouraged. Whatever happens, know that you are following your call and that Dad and I are more than proud of you. You bring us great joy. Thank you for who you are.

greg. said...

as far as this being a critical time in the umc, i don't worry about that too much to be honest. i recognize that my ordination would be not only to my annual conference but to the global um connection, and i rejoice in that connection. will it divide at some point over homosexuality or even other issues? i'm pretty sure it might. it certainly split over the slavery issue. the truth is that i'm not too concerned about it. i know i am called to be in ministry in the local church setting. being ordained in this particular denomination means, at least for me, that i feel it is the best fit for me in terms of theology and practice of ministry. does it mean i completely agree with every word in the Book of Discipline? heck, no. but i believe we continue to journey forward towards perfect love. it will be a shame if the church divides over this issue, but it might just be inevitable at this point. and we will move forward.