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Posts Tagged ‘ordination’

I think I have been absent from blogging for almost 3 weeks now.  Much has happened and as a result you will be seeing several post over the next couple of days.  In this brief interlude, I have been ordained, traveled out of the country, and experienced my third Father’s Day… oh, and discovered that biking on a street bike for 24 miles for the first time in 20 years is, um, uncomfortable.

In this post, however, I will simply share a little about my ordination experience and let you know that the Father’s Day sermon, Costa Rica Testimonies, and maybe a little on how my training for the 1/2 Iron Man is coming along, will be shared soon.

I have served as a pastor for six years now.  Four of those years have been in my current location of Fleming Island, FL…. which is about 20 miles from the ocean… and not really an Island, but it is quite nice.  Why the geography lesson?  I don’t know, just stick with me.  The most common question I am asked when I say I am being ordained  is, “you’re not already?”  You see, Methodist have a process which is long, drawn out, methodical, and intrusive.  Usually for

the good, occasionally misguided, but well intentioned.  Basically, at some point when a person is feeling called into the ministry they tell somebody.   That somebody then points the called to a pastor who then asks them some questions and leads them to talk to his boss, the District Superintendent (DS).  The church from whom the called comes must recommend that this person be accepted by the district, based on evidence of God’s work in their life, to pursue something called “certified candidate”.  To be “certified” one must go before the district board while meeting with a “mentor” who helps you work through a thick book, guides you through a mental evaluation test (like you’re surprised that pastors might be a little “off”) meet with a psychiatrist…. Once you are “certified” you meet with the board for about two years (generally people start this process before they go to Seminary, I started mine after my first year) then y

ou fill out paper work that will be submitted to the Conference Board of Ordained Ministers (whose acronym is BOOM… seriously.  This is the same conference whose finance website is FUMF).  The Paper work consists of a series of theological, personal, and leadership questions as well as a section on Sermon delivery and craft.  The result is about 100 plus typed pages of self produced material.  Let’s say that you are approved with the first submission (many if most are not, due to everything from type oh’s [ again, seriously. once, out of all the material I submitted their biggest concern seemed to be a type oh.  I wrote ‘put on heirs’ instead of ‘put on airs’], to too much student loan debt, to bad theology)…anyway, assume one gets through, you are then called “Provisional Elder”.

A Provisional Elder is basically like a medical intern on Grey’s Anatomy, hopefully with the exception of all the naked drama on that show, and unfortunately I’ve never been called RevSteamy.  What that means is that I am allowed to preach and administer the sacraments in and with the people of my church but I can’t go willy nilly and serve communion in the wine section of Publix.

So now you’re a Provisional Elder, what next?  In three years you get a brand new set of the same kind of questions to answer and submit to the BOOM in which they may or may not declare you ready for Elder.  The good news is that if they say “not at this time” you can come back a year later.  The bad news is t

hat sometimes the reasons they give are not that great. However, once they say, “this is great”, you are then able to be Ordained as an Elder in the United Methodist Church.

My experience in this entire process has been a mixed bag.  I think it is very wise that the conference takes the time that it does to evaluate who they feel is called to be a minister in their denomination.  Overall, it is a good process for both the candidate and the UMC to discern if this is the calling for them.  One of the greatest mistakes I see in ministry is when someone shows a great aptitude for ministry and they think the only avenue to live out that calling is in the pulpit.  This process, when done well, helps people to understand their calling better and truly discern if preaching is their calling or possibly something else.

For me the most frustrating part turned out to be the most confirming.  I submitted paperwork 2 years ago to be Ordained last year, and I was turned down for reasons I thought were not that good.  I understood the reasons and could even understand their point of view.  Ultimately I thought they made the right decision with the wrong reasons.  I do not say that with anger or even judgement.  That is the beauty of trusting one’s life to God.  All along this process, from the early beginnings, I made it a point to somehow remind myself that my life and vocation is not in the hands of men, but in the hands of God as long as I place it there.  If I

were to forget that, and I times I did, I would have felt very defeated.

Regardless of the decisions the board makes, and they are a good people who do pray and seek to build the Kingdom of God, God is in control.  I mentioned earlier that I believed the board made the right decision for the wrong reasons.  What I meant was that in the end, although I still disagree with their reasons, being declined was a good thing.  Up to that point I was becoming a person I was not.  It wasn’t a bad thing, but it was not who I was.  I found myself becoming dependent upon conference approval.  I started listening to the goals that others had for me and wondering if that was my path.  Essentially, I was becoming

a company man, and that friends, is not me.  I do not rebel just to rebel and I do not conform just to conform, but I am my own man and I want that man to be driven by Christ and not by the glory of public opinion.  Another way to say this is that my distaste for corporate process reminded me of the sweet taste of The Word of God.  It never pays to be someone we are not.

It is very easy to loose who we are along the way, even when our vocation is overtly about God and service.  Jesus did say that if we try to save our life we will loose it, and in order to save our life we are to die to self.  But Jesus also says, we are to surrender our lives to him.  .  It wasn’t until I recognized that my recent sacrifices had less to do with Christ and more to do with completing a process that I rediscover  me.  Once I made that discovery and placed my trust in Christ, I was able to write with freedom and the BOOM was able to see Christ in me.  The BOOM may not have been able to put their finger on a good reason to say “not at this time” two years ago, but God could.  Now, through the Holy Spirit’s working and refinement, I am able to freely embrace my calling. This past years interview was refreshing. The result?  I can now administer communion in the wine section at Publix.

a giant PS

I am truly grateful for those in our church, my family, and friends, who were able to celebrate with me this sacred moment.  I am also grateful for those who have lifted me up along the way including the church I currently serve as well as the many others I have been a part of over the years. I am mostly thankful for my wife Amanda and daughter Sydney who love me through it all.

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