This past week has been very interesting as I’ve been watching the conversation take place about my post, “When an M.Div. from Princeton isn’t Enough…” I’m sure that many of you have been following all of what transpired, but let me just catch you up to speed:
- I initially felt frustrated with a preliminary decision about what additional courses the Presbytery of San Francisco was going to ask me to take. So I wrote “When an M.Div. from Princeton isn’t Enough…” As I mentioned in my initial post, I have had some really good interactions with folks from the Presbytery of San Francisco. This post was never meant to be an attack on the Presbytery or the Committee on Preparation for Ministry; it was a frustration with the process that we have in place for ordination.
- Tony Jones, a good friend and someone who has often been frustrated for me and many others in the ordination process, thought this was just too much, and he wrote a series of posts concerning first my ordination ordeal, and then more broadly on a theology of ordination. His posts included: Let’s Ordain Adam, Reconsider Ordination. Now., Reconsider Ordination. Now. (Continued), My (Anti-) Ordination Sermon, Ordination: Housekeeping, and finally Is There Ordination in the Didache. Tony was also the creator of an online petition to ordain me (which he has admitted was more of a stunt than anything) – but it has around 138 signatures at this point. Finally, Doug Pagitt interviewed Tony Jones about all of this ordination business on his radio show, which you can listen to here.
- One of most in-depth comments on Tony’s post came from PC(USA) minister Rev. John D’Elia, who has continued the conversation about a theology of ordination on his blog here.
- Christianity Today’s Out of Ur blog posted about my ordination and Tony’s response in their post, Tony Jones: We Ordain Everyone.
- Since this continued to go viral, many others in the blogworld have weighed in with their thoughts on the issue, most talking more broadly about ordination. The following people have written about this issue: Erik Ullestad, Andrew Tatum, Mike Morrell, Tim Ghali, Emerging Methodists, Amanda Cash, Greg Bolt, The GA Junkie, Drew Tatusko, Chad Holtz, Dave Wainscott, Neo-Baptist, The Pink Hammer, lukefourteenthirtythree, Transforming Seminarian, Minutes from the Last Meeting, Lars Rood, The Post Christian, Queer Messages, probably others I’m mising and last but certainly not least, the Christian Research Network now has even more reasons to call Tony Jones a heretic!
So, while I was hoping that people would read the post, I wasn’t thinking it would take on the viral nature that it did and become the impetus for a really interesting (and controversial) discussion on the nature and theology of ordination. It also, of course, brings up a question that more and more people who are in the ordination process are thinking about is the issue of transparency: How transparent or authentic can (or should) you be in the ordination process?
It’s probably not a big surprise to see which side I’ve fallen on. I don’t think it’s helpful to keep things hidden or secret. I had many people, including some very close friends, tell me that I really should have deleted my previous post. They said that it wasn’t going to help my relations with the CPM. I understand their point and I respect my friends who told me to delete the post. However, as mentioned previously, the root of my frustration is a frustration with our process as it stands. I think it’s important to open and honest about our experiences with the process.
Some people, in their hopes of making me feel better, have let me know that I am not the first one to go through this type of situation. Many people have had similar experiences in a variety of different presbyteries. Is that supposed to make me feel better? If anything, that should be more of a sign of a broken system and process. More and more you hear about how mainline denominations are struggling with numbers and there is a huge need for pastors. Moreover, there is an increasing need for young, creative pastors who can help forge a new path forward for our denominations.
And yet…we have systems in place that place a seemingly higher priority on rules, hoops and checklists that have the potential to stall and re-route pastors who are seeking ordination. So if everyone were to keep things quiet about their experiences with the process – nothing would ever change. Being open and transparent is not necessarily going to help me whiz right through the system – but I’ve found that for me, it’s important to be open and authentic.
I want to leave you with this video of Dr. Barry Schwartz, Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College, giving a talk on “practical wisdom” at TED. Someone sent this to me and I thought it was very interesting in light of the situation I’m facing currently on my path toward ordination. If I had the power to do so, I’d love it if every Committee on Preparation for Ministry would watch this video. I think if you watch the video while thinking about our current ordination process, it could lead to some really interesting conversations.