Friday, May 25, 2007

Ordination Craziness

So if I'm trying to listen to the Spirit through people, here's what I've been told in the very recent past:

Some person (can't remember who now): Can’t you make your own appointment with the bishop? He needs to know who you are!

Person at church, after last sermon (the challenge to emptiness): You sure have the right calling!

Preaching TA: what is going on with your being ordained? You should be doing this. You should be serving the church with this gift.

Internship supervisor/Rector of my current church: You have said things that I will never forget. The Spirit has spoken through you. I know it. And I believe your ordination has already begun. It's already happening - or even has happened. God's ordaining you.
So do you need the title? Do you need the institution to validate what we all see God is doing/has done? Does the title open doors...or does God?

So I leave that meeting (this morning) feeling pretty great. What do I need institutional ordination for? I've got God to ordain me! I'll be able to do (almost) everything an ordained person does. I'll be able to do the ministry I already do. And I keep telling people it's what I'll be doing, title or not, the rest of my life anyway.

But then, I go home to J, who asks: what is your ecclesiology? If you believe in the church’s authority then you want the church to ordain you – to confirm what God has done. Do you want to go back to being free church? Don't you believe in the importance of the institution? That's why we left the evangelical world and became (anglo)catholic! Besides, you love the sacraments and you can't do them without ordination. Or if you think you can, you've completely given up on this church and are ready to go back to being Baptist.

And methinks, ordination is a sacrament. That's what makes it important. And that's why it has to be whole-church, not just me & God.

Then I go to class, and I overhear a classmate: I just had my 2nd meeting with the bishop (this is a guy who told me a few weeks ago that he's "thinking about" ordination) and guess what? He's sending me to Virginia, free ride! Yeah, dude has met the bishop exactly 2 times, wasn't even sure of his calling, and he's the one who gets thrown right into it. All expenses paid.

OK, so I'm jealous. I guess it pays to play in the institution’s game. I could sure do with less loan debt. And I'm annoyed that I'm stuck. I have everyone telling me to get ordained (or that I am being ordained as we speak) yet nobody actually ordaining me. What's one supposed to do with that?

Although we don't need the institution's approval for the work God's doing in us, we want the institution to affirm our call because we believe in the church. My ecclesiology is not free-church anymore. I do believe that the church has God's spirit. Of course it is not infallible. But it is also the place where we learn to be Christians (that's why we use the liturgy and do the sacraments). Ordination is a sacrament, and the church administers it in her wisdom as Christ's body on earth. Thought of in that light, it is less about getting me a title than it is about the Body affirming God's call. And I guess that is why the sacrament of ordination still seems important to me, beyond just knowing it for myself and others do too. To have the institution recognize it means that I am joining a tradition of persons whom the Church has called to the ministry of word & sacrament. And that is important to me, because I purposely left the free-church tradition to join this tradition with historical roots to the apostles.

Too bad Bruno doesn't read the blog, huh? Maybe this all could have been taken care of years ago.

I just know that when I try to make things move, they don't go well. So I'll keep waiting. It will work out in God's timing. I've seen God snatch people and throw them into ordination without seemingly any preparation or even the person being sure. So I'll just wait for that to happen to me, I guess. I really don't think I should do anything about it, so don't suggest things to do. I just have to wait. God will move when and if the time is ever right.

7 comments:

Kristy said...

I ran into similar situations in my diocese when I was trying to get on the path to ordination, people affirming my vocation and refusing to help me towards ordination. I really struggled with the question, "If God is calling me, shouldn't Mother Church confirm it?" I figured out that I was hitting roadblocks because I am a woman--in one of the most progressive dioceses in Episcopal Church, no less. Go figure.

Take heart. God will vindicate you.

Marshall said...

Beloved, are you a co-creator? If so, make that appointment!

One of my pet peeves is those folks who say (and this is not your statement, but it gets me to your statement) "I don't want to (or, I don't think we should) play God." My reading of Genesis is that we were created to "tend and manage the Garden," as God would have us do. So, we were in fact created to "play God:" to take our part in God's ongoing creation. That has its risks; and when we decide it's not just "our part" but "our plan," we tend to go astray. At the same time, neither are we called to passively wait. I know you would say that on an issue of justice. It's just as true in vocation.

I do appreciate the importance the Church's response to your call. I grew up breathing Southern Baptist air. I know that any soul who feels called can find a street corner and begin to proclaim. But, who will listen? And what kind of community will form? And will it be committed to where God leads, or just that one individual, who may be inspired and who may be mad?

I appreciate your appreciation of the Church's call. On the other hand, God doesn't want you just standing around, waiting on her to make it better. It sounds like God's already talking to you (and for some, through you). Make the phone call.

Grace thing said...

Okay, so just this last week I met with a newly ordained woman in the Episcopal church. I talked with her about very similar concerns to yours. And she said "Why don't you just make an appointment with the Bishop? He's just a man!" It is my feeling, Feminarian, that Jon Bruno would LOVE you and might actually prove helpful.

Kathryn said...

That timing thing is so so hard.
Here in the UK you can't even start training at Anglican theological colleges till you have been recommended for ordination...So, 9 years ago, encouraged, even instructed by my diocese I began the process of local interviews, national selection conference etc...only to be told "No". The thing was, I was there largely because of the strong belief of others...there to "offer" rather than because I was sure this was my calling. But while I was at the conference, I realised that yes, this was part of me, that I wouldnt' actually ever be fully myself without priesthood...so when I came home with a "No" it was also with a new certainty. So, after the obligatory 2 year gap, I returned to the selection process and this time went through very smoothly.
And the 2 years? They meant that when I was finally ordained in 2004 the time was right for us to move home, for me to take the leap of committing to full time ministry instead of maintaining my secular job and working as a "non stipendiary minister"...and it has been completely and utterly right.
None of that would have worked 2 years earlier.
But it still hurts like stink when doors seem to be shut in your face.
Prayers for you as you wait on God and the Churchxtkebj

The Feminarian said...

I'm not afraid of the bishop, I simply do not wish to circumvent the process. I want to be called by my church community, and they will send me to the bishop as the Spirit leads. So I don't need to push this. I'm not anxious about getting it done. I'm simply working to interpret all these voices - including those of you commenters.

MLW said...

It is a frustrating experience, no doubt. However, it is not too dissimilar from the apostle Paul who often longed to be with others (e.g., the Philippians) yet "the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to" (Acts 16:7).

Be patient, Feminarian. All in good time.

JTB said...

I want to AMEN Marshall. Yes, you need to be validated in your vocation...but the process is also very much a human process in its organization, its participants, its leaders--though, of course, a human process aspiring to be godly...I couldn't agree more that passivity is not more godly than action--in matters of justice, obviously, and in matters personal and vocational.