why i left the ordination process
In case you are new to the internet or the Christian blogosphere, here is a post I wrote for my friend, the Tamed Cynic himself, on why I decide to leave the United Methodist ordination process. This was not a decision that I came to lightly, but ultimately it was what's best for my family and for me.
To Whom it May Concern:
I am formally withdrawing from the ordination candidacy process of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church. Although I feel called to ordained ministry, at this point in my life I am unable to enter into an itinerant system. My wife is a college professor and her work requires her to be in a specific geographical area. In addition, with the addition of a child to our family and the desire to adopt a child, the reduction in salary would place additional financial hardships on my family.
I do not take my call to ministry lightly, nor was this decision made overnight. This is something that I have been discerning over the past nine months, and I pray that God will honor this decision.
I want to thank the committee, district, and conference for the support given to me over the past three years. I will continue my studies at Wesley Theological Seminary and eagerly await the next opportunity for ministry.
Peace and Blessings,
From high school through today I have felt a call to ministry. Although I ignored the call for quite some time, it is a call that I take seriously. When I finally acknowledged and responded to my calling I enrolled at Wesley Theological Seminary and eventually began working fulltime in a local church. This all began three years ago as I sat at my pastor’s kitchen table and talked about callings and ministry over longneck PBR’s.
Three years ago I entered into the United Methodist ordination process and three months ago I withdrew myself from the process. Three years ago I had ambitions to become an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, and while I still want to be ordained, it will not happen within the UMC. I had serious questions about whether or not I wanted to jump on this crazy train after General Conference 2012, and those questions began to grow into larger more complex questions as I learned more about the Christian experience within my own denomination as well as learned what was outside the friendly confines of the UMC. But I still continued onward, thinking that I could change the system from within and be the change I wanted to see in the world.
My time at seminary showed me that the system I was
pledging being vetted to join was larger than any government bureaucracy I had experienced. From a governing body that only meets every four years to an ordination process that would possibly have me ordained after the next presidential administration, I began to realize that this was a far cry from the ministry I wanted to be engaged in. When I am meeting with someone over coffee or on a bike ride they don’t care that I have a piece of paper saying that I am certified by the UMC to be a pastor. When I am serving the poor in DC or leading a youth retreat they do not care that I took exactly 9 hours of UMC history, polity, and doctrine in seminary. What they do care about is that I love them just and Christ loves me. What they do care about is that I listen to them, and help them come to know the God who has loved me and continues to be a source of strength for me. What the do care about is that I all of this authentically because I love them and not because it’s my “job”.
The letter above is what I sent to the local committee on ordination. I am not happy with with what I sent them because it wasn’t the whole truth. Yes, at this time my family is not in a position for me to take another pay cut while paying back loans for a Masters Degree required for ordination. But even if that were not the case, I don’t think I would have continued with the process because of the fact that I had to write that letter. At no point throughout this process did anyone take the time or give a damn about really wanting to know how I was equipped for ministry. My appointed clergy mentor taught me that once you’re in the system you’re in, and the most important thing once you are in is to not be late for meetings. WOW, I thought ministry was suppose to be sharing in the work of Christ, boy was I wrong!
Instead of wanting to talk about my concerns or connecting me with a clergy member who might have had the same concerns the response I received from the committee was a request for a letter. A letter that “would go into my file”. The letter that was requested of me is ultimately the reason I decided to leave the ordination process.
Ordination and our Christian vocation is not something that can be boiled down to a checklist, 4 hour psychological exam, or open-ended questions with only 1 acceptable response. Our Christian vocation is one that enables us to serve others in the name of Christ regardless of titles we give ourselves or the office in which we hold. It took me 3 years to figure this out.