Paragraph 312 Orientation to Ministry

December 6th, 2013

“This common ministry preparation experience is for the purpose of building collegiality and understanding among the varieties of set-apart ministry (deacon, elders, and local pastors).”

But notice not Deaconesses or Home Missioners or exhorters or supply preachers.

One of the quickest ways to create group cohesion and collegiality among any group is to create a common enemy. Many youth ministries do this intuitively with the enemy being parents or the senior leadership of the church or the devil. Athletic coaches often use this tactic for making the rival, the media or sometimes even themselves as the common enemy.

The United Methodist Church in its wisdom has added yet another “requirement” in the long and arduously journey toward “ordination”, the Orientation to Ministry, P312The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2012 requirement, a portion of which was quoted above. Some conferences are doing orientation as a day event, others as a weekend event and my own conference has decided on a six month odyssey.

It seems to me that more and more Boards of Ordained Ministry resemble fraternities and sororities who are increasingly concerned about keeping their “club” exclusive and thus creating more and more requirements for potential “members” of their “ordained” club. They do this seemingly to ensure the right people are let into the club and the wrong people (as defined by each annual conference board of ordained ministry) are kept out.

A few years back I spent over a year as the Acting Academic Dean of a United Methodist seminary. In that role representatives from a variety of Boards of Ordained Ministry came to my office to tell us what “their" students needed:

  • one wanted at least two classes in systematic theology (we taught theology but not systematic theology)
  • another conference a class in historical theology
  • another a full unit of CPE
  • another at least two classes in preaching (although I have not seen any evidence that preaching classes actually makes one a better preacher)
  • and still another at least two classes in pastoral care and on and on.

I even had faculty pressing for requiring either Greek or Hebrew (some faculty wanted both languages required) as the Presbyterians do.

Currently we have Conferences adding other local requirements such as training in:  Safe Sanctuary, Sexual Ethics, Inclusiveness, or six months of Orientation to Ministry (really—six months to orient one to ministry).

Where in the world is effectiveness as a pastor in all of this?

The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry has no list of all the extra requirements Conference Boards of Ordained Ministry have added in their never ending battle to keep the wrong people out of their “ordination club.” This seems sure to me the “common enemy” that is binding folks together in collegiality is us or more specifically the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.

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