When I made the choice to answer God’s call into ministry I did so with the understanding that there are some who do not think women should be pastors/priests/preachers. As this was something I had to wrestle with myself I was prepared to engage with people about it. When I became an Inquirer for Minister of Word and Sacrament with PC(USA), never did I think that the actual ordination process would be a cause for contention. So I was suprised when Tony Jones, a well known figure in the emergent church movement, had some not so nice things to say about the whole thing. A recent seminary grad named Adam was weeks away from ordination before his fitness for ministry was called into question. This resulted in a tranfer to a different prebytery which in PC(USA) is the governing body responsible for ordination. You can read his full story at his blog post at pomomusings. Tony left the first comment on Adam’s blog post and said,
What will it take for you to get the message that denominationalism and ordination are bruising, sinful institutions? What will it take for you to hear the message that God is sending you?
I am familiar with the idea that some folks find denominationalism “sinful” but the ordination process? After a few folks left encouraging comments on Adam’s post, Tony then went on to say
Um, let me repeat myself: this process is a sin against you. And those of you who leave comments trying to help Adam negotiate the sinful, dehumanizing system are complicit in the sin.
Wow. Really? So it’s the system that’s evil and sinful? I thought it was us humans. Let me say that I do believe that each and every denomination, or community/movement/whatever, has it’s flaws. But it is not the denomination, community, or movement that is flawwed except for the fact that each of these entities are made up of people. And let’s face it: people suck. And yes that’s rather irreverent considering each and every living and breathing person on this planet is an image bearer of God. It is strange to me that there are some that think a lack of systems will fix our problems. If it does fix some of our problems it will surely create more.
I find Tony’s comments to be completely disrespectful of other’s understanding of the nature of preaching as well as the nature of their faith. I believe there is truth in what Tony says but I am saddened by the harshness that folks on both sides of this issue (in it’s specific and general terms) are exhibiting. Are the things we have to say so important that we are willing to disparage those who do not agree with us? It is impossible to attack only an issue, structure, belief, or thought…there are people attached to all of those things. The body of Christ is poking itself in the eye and biting off it’s own fingers so to speak. Could we all stop for a minute to remember we are addressing fellow image bearers of God and that whether or not we agree with each other is irrelavant when determining the respect we are to show each other in that light?
Maybe Tony is frustrated because his thoughts have fallen on deaf ears in the past. I cannot speak to that. Some things that are suprising to me about Adam’s situation in particular are related to the reason his fitness for ministry was called into question: he asked a gay man to preach at his ordination. Though some might find it disturbing, what is suprising to me is not that he asked a gay man to preach. What is suprising to me is that it seems as though this was suprising to those in Adam’s prebytery. If it is the Presbytery’s purpose to get to know those who are Inquirer and then Candidates in ministry it seems to me that his stance on homosexuality should not have been a suprise to folks. I am sure there are a lot of things that I don’t know here, but for me it is food for thought.
It seems to me that something that could be taken from Tony’s criticism is that more effort needs to be spent actually getting to know the Inquirers and Candidates for ministry. Perhaps that’s what he means by dehumanizing. While I find Tony’s comments harsh and didsrespectful, it seems as though he is trying to get those who are a part of the denominational structures to reform. And that is something PC(USA) should be able to do since we are called to be “reformed and always reforming.”
Tags: Answering the Call to Ministry, denominationalism, Is denominationalism a sin?, Is the ordination process a sin?, Is the ordination process dehumanizing?, ordination process, PC(USA), reformed and always reforming