Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Urgency and Pride...
It strikes me as odd that there should be such an adamant push to shorten the time and lighten the academic load placed upon those who serve the Lord in His Church as Pastors. Once, more years ago than I care to admit, I remember hearing how the Church had sought the brightest and best for the highest calling of all. It made me uncomfortable. I certainly did not count myself among the brightest and best of the those preparing for the path to ordination (even if I was loath to say just that in public). But I found myself in company of bright and capable individuals all through junior college and senior college and into seminary. Many of them were my teachers but most of them were, like me, men set on the path to ordination and the red stole.
I was told repeatedly that this calling was so noble and its purpose so important that it required a sifting of those who came until the Church was prepared to offer the office to the man. Whether this was just talk or the intended effect, some 30 pre-sems who came to Winfield, Kansas, that fall of 1972, became less than a dozen eight years later when the Seminaries of the Church marched out the class of 1980. I left behind many friends on the path to ordination (not a few with a much better intellect and holier heart than mine). But, even in the shadow of the Synod split, we trusted that the Lord was at work in this (even in the strangeness of the placement process and the angst ridden moment of revelation of the place where we were called to serve).
Now I find many in the Church insisting that there is a great urgency which requires us to shorten the time of preparation for ordination, a great benefit in keeping the candidates on site and not packed away to St. Louis or Fort Wayne, and a great need to discount the cost of this preparation (both to the individual and to the Church). I don't agree. It seems to me that if this is still a noble and important vocation, of the highest of callings, that we should precisely NOT be about finding shortcuts or seeking a cheap way out. It is the height of arrogance and pride for those training to turn up their noses at the time, education, and cost of this trek to the red stole. It is no less arrogant and prideful for those not seeking ordination to suggest that we have somehow set our standards unrealistically high and we need to dumb it all down -- all for some impatient urgency that thinks God not only will forgive our prejudice against preparation but actually approves of it.
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that men should bear the burden of financial slavery to be a Pastor. I believe it is the Church that should bear the great burden here and I lament that we as a Church have failed in our responsibility to the seminaries and the seminarians being formed for the ministry therein. It is false and misleading dream to choose certain causes as more urgent and noble and therefore to invest the resources of the Church in other places before we care for those whom we have agreed to prepare for what should be, if it is not, a high and noble calling.
We would not seek out a physicians who have a short cut degree from the cut rate medical school. We would not want a teacher unprepared for the subject matter to teach our children. We expect a level of competence in every vocation -- without shame or embarrassment. So why do we now seek a fast track to ordination with fewer requirements? It is not because we value this vocation more -- it is because we value it less, because pride has entered in as we snub our noses at those who went through even longer journeys to the red stole in the past, and because we have less trust in God and have taken the agenda from His hands to presume an urgency that justifies theology lite.
I am ashamed of my Church for finding the funds to do nearly everything thought important except support the Seminaries at they should. I lament the financial burden born by seminarians who make it through what is rightfully an arduous and difficult journey to ordination. But I will not apologize for expecting the best trained, most fully equipped, most faithfully formed, and most carefully examined men to be the Pastors of the Church.