Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Standing In The Way Of Someone's Ordination

I have longed to have someone in my congregation become a minister. I've encouraged, but never pushed, a parishioner to consider ministry.

It is a great life and I love it, and I occasionally meet others who seem so well suited for the ministry.

I asked Andy, when he became unemployed for the second time in a year, "Have you wondered if God is calling you to something new and different -- such as the ministry?"

"I'd be destitute," he said.

I asked Brenda, who seemed to love the church and her work on the Session.

"I don't think so," she said in a way that made me wonder if she would burst into laughter as soon as I left the room.

Charlie came to me and told me he wanted to become a minister. He went to our Session and the elders approved him to be sponsored before the Presbytery. He went to the Committee on the Preparation for Ministry of our Presbytery, and he was received as an Inquirer. He entered seminary and is on his way toward ordination.

One thing stands in his way.


I never would have imagined.

I'm not that confrontational. I like to be the good guy in life. I hate the thought of standing in the way of someone's dream.

But the more I get to know Charlie, the more I wonder if he is mentally stable. His wife is a bitter and angry woman. They seem to cause conflict wherever they go. I've caught Charlie in several small lies.

Already elders are asking if we should resind our support.

One elder who supports Charlie has said, "We have his life in our hands."

I agree -- this is serious.

Whatever we do, we have his life in our hands.

But this man shows signs of being mentally unbalanced. His wife is bitterly angry about everything in his life.


Blogger Joe said...

As someone who got turned down for yet another ministry position today, I want to be sympathetic for the guy seeking ordination. I've spent 3 years applying for ministry positions (that's part of our Baptist weirdness) - and it's been horrible.
So I'm pushing for the little guy - that spunky fella' with the "can-do" attitude.
But then again, there's too much at stake. The pastorate (to be an under-shepherd of the Great Shepherd) is a sacred calling. If the Church and church officers don't stop false or crazy shepherds from taking a flock, all that will be left is piles of carnage and wool.
It may hurt (it will hurt), but that's part of your office. After 3 years, I've have much more respect for someone who will tell me, "Maybe you're just not called to ministry," than the well-meaning people who are sure God has something waiting. A little honesty is much better than the devistation waiting for a destroyed church or a disillusioned seminary grad with $50k in student loans.

12:54 AM  
Blogger will smama said...

You have enough experience to know what the right thing to do is here... and yes it is going to be mes. sy.

Praying here.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Purechristianithink said...

IMHO this is by far the bigger ordination "issue" facing the church--our reluctance to tell anyone who feels called to ministry, "no--we don't confirm that." I've seen Committees on Preparation for ministry employ all sorts of obfuscating tactics,(more seminary, required CPE, polity technicalities) to delay someone's process when they really needed to just say no.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Bill Hayes said...

That is indeed a tough issue.

You are in my prayers.

6:05 AM  
Blogger Howie Luvzus said...

I spent 10 years at a Baptist Seminary watching unstable guys with bitter wives come and go. I really don't know of one that worked out well.

I think we shortchange folks when we somehow communicate to them (I'm not saying you did, but it's a problem in many instances)that ministry is confined to Pastors etc.

That seems to be the problem with many of the Baptists I saw go through seminary. They really wanted to devote themselves to God, but they had been taught that in order to serve God you have to be a preacher or missionary.

Standing in the way may be difficult, but it might also be needed in order to keep him and his wife from being hurt or hurting others. I'll pray for you.

Howie Luvzus

11:02 AM  
Blogger Pastor Lance said...

I serve a church that was almost killed by a pastor that should have never been in the ministry. He had inappropriate boundaries with women and girls. This church tried to stop him and almost paid the ultimate price. He finally left this church, refused to get counseling, went to another church, had an affair, and finally left the denomination before being kicked out.

I could go on and on and on with similar, yet different, stories. They all involve pastors who should never have been in the ministry. We seem to think that if a person jumps through all of the denominational “hoops” that they are then qualified (called) to be a pastor. It is time that denominations take serious the ordaining of pastors. There are some folks who don’t see that they aren’t called to the pastorate.

2:05 PM  
Blogger St. Casserole said...

Tough issue.
I wonder at times about the lengthy and intricate discernment process in the Episcopal Church (or so it seems from my perspective outside of that denomination). However, how loving is it to allow individuals to affirm their own call when they don't have the approbation of God's people.
Thanks for writing about this issue. Most of us have been in your shoes or near them...

10:56 PM  
Blogger DennisS said...

From where I sit, it seems you have two options.

1. Respond along the lines of Mt. 18 - go and tell him of your concerns. I think it's no coincidence that this passage follows immediately after the parable of the "Lost Sheep", and is immediately followed by discussion of forgiveness.

2. Just let it go, or pray that a professor at seminary will figure things out, and take appropriate action.

From my objective distance, I believe you must approach him with your concerns. And I would suggest you include his wife in the discussion as well. Be very clear, be supportive of them as Christians, and see how well they listen. It's quite possible that he continues down this path because he thinks others think he will be a great pastor.

However, let's be clear that none of us are perfect. God still may have a call upon this man's life.

I had the theological knowledge, a great desire to serve, but something just wasn't right. It took months of counseling to deal with issues around my family of origin - especially my father. And that has made all the difference. I had seminary professors who heard my cry for help - but it is a very small seminary. I've been a pastor for a year now, in a mostly rural, aging congregation. I would say that it's a small congregation (52 average attendance), but it's actually larger attendance and membership than most of the churches in our Synod.

A book that really helped me think about my call was "The Drama of the Gifted Child" (by Alice Miller?). It's written in regards to what brings people to the field of psychotherapy - which is often something a person wants to fix in their family, or in their past. It's quite appropriate for consideration of ministry calls as well. Could it be that the man's family is "calling" him into ministry?

The potential pastor needs to know that there are no small issues in regards to trust and truth. It sounds to me as if his wife needs to hear the gospel message with her heart, and until the reverberations shake her soul - she needs counseling to deal with issues of call, and where she fits into their life together.

Anyway, I don't see much grey area here. You need to be straight-forward, forthright, and honest. But that doesn't mean you must destroy all hope of this person serving God, of living for Jesus.

On another note...I'm surprised you would post this. Someone might figure out who this is and not give the person(s) a chance.

8:57 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I realize this post is old and am not sure this wil fit but a major fallacy in thinking goes like this: "Charlie loves to read and study the Bible, therefore Charlie should be a Pastor." Lots of people love to read and study the Bible, or be involved in small groups, pray for people, worship the Lord privately and corporately, some are even good at counseling, but how does it follow that they should enter full-time ministry per se?

I am part of a denomination that doesn't necessarily confirm a person's call through the community, but I wonder if we should?

10:55 AM  

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