Monday, June 04, 2007

The Historic Examination for Admission into Full Connection
¶336 from the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church
  1. Have you faith in Christ? There is a reason that this is the first question asked. I can't imagine becoming a pastor without faith in Christ being central, not just to what I believe, but to who I am.
  2. Are you going on to perfection? I think seminary was last time I heard anyone else talk about entire sanctification, but I actually preached on it yesterday. Though I didn't use the word sanctification or "going on to perfection" - I used the phrase "growing in Christlikeness." Some days I don't feel very Christlike, but I believe I am more Christlike than I was a year ago.
  3. Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life? Every once in a while. I honestly don't think too much about it, except in terms of becoming more and more Christlike. I shudder to think of myself announcing that "I have arrived" and to treat others as if I think thus of myself (like a certain professor I knew in seminary). Just the fact that I bring him up demonstrates that I haven't "arrived" myself yet.
  4. Are you earnestly striving after it? Honestly? I would say that I am striving to strive after it, if that makes any sense.
  5. Are you resolved to devote yourself wholly to God and His work? Yes. Though sometimes it is difficult to discern exactly what is meant by "God and His work" in this context. I include personal care and care for my family as part of His work...
  6. Do you know the General Rules of our Church? Do no harm, doing good of every sort, and attend upon the ordinances of God.
  7. Will you keep them? With God's help.
  8. Have you studied the doctrines of the United Methodist Church? I have studied them, but I wonder if sometimes the tail wags the dog wrt the doctrines.
  9. After full examination, do you believe that our doctrines are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures? Quite honestly, I would never have stepped foot into a United Methodist Church if I could not affirm its doctrines. Though I believe we have the responsibility to speak up and to work on the doctrines, if I couldn't affirm them, I would have no business accepting a position in the Church.
  10. Will you preach and maintain them? Of course. Otherwise, why would they exist? I wonder about those who either don't know the doctrines or don't uphold them; is it just a paycheck? Or a personal thing?
  11. Have you studied our form of Church discipline and polity? Yes. Again, important...
  12. Do you approve our Church government and polity? In theory, yes. In reality, I believe the church government has become top-heavy and that we as a Church need to be a lot better stewards of that with which we've been entrusted.
  13. Will you support and maintain them? Yes, support and maintain, but as for the continual feeding of the overage? And perhaps (to use a gardening metaphor) supporting and maintaining includes pruning and trimming.
  14. Will you diligently instruct the children in every place? This is one of the most important tasks of the Church - but the pastor cannot expect to do it alone. I will do so in various venues, not simply in the church building.
  15. Will you visit from house to house? This is an incredible ministry, but I believe it needs redefined for today's world.
  16. Will you recommend fasting or abstinence, both by precept and example? Of course. I believe this is an area that the Church in our culture has neglected to our detriment.
  17. Are you determined to employ all your time in the work of God? Let's have some definitions (and some boundaries) here! In our personal ministry plans, we are encouraged to have balance between ministry, family, health, finances, hobbies, education, career, and community. Without such balance, one becomes a "worn out pastor" very quickly. A quick note: employing all your time in the work of God does not equal employing all your time in the work of the church (apologies to Jeremy Taylor).
  18. Are you in debt so as to embarrass you in your work? A good question for today's pastor, who has doubtlessly accrued tens of thousands of dollars of student loans for college and seminary and who might also be toiling along at the league minimum salary for who-knows-how-many-years. On the other hand, there are a lot of us who think we "need" a whole lot more than we really do, and we have the debt to show for it. Thankfully, we have minimal debt and we work to pay it off quickly (our only debt right now is for Andrew, and it's absolutely worth it - and I'm not embarrassed whatsoever about it) .
  19. Will you observe the following directions? a) Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never trifle away time; neither spend any more time at any one place than is strictly necessary. This could also use re-definition and clarification with the changing role of the Elder in the UMC system. We are no longer circuit riders, and we are charged with making a difference in our communities. This isn't possible if we have no boundaries or balance, and it's not possible if we don't have any currency with the people we're called to serve. b) Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time. And do not mend our rules, but keep them; not for wrath, but for conscience' sake. The punctuality issue used to drive me nuts with someone I once worked with (who liked to show up at the last possible moment), because I believe that we're called to punctuality. Of course, this means different things for different people...

My verdict is that I'm pretty well-set to answer the historical questions positively. I wonder, however, how many of my colleagues (ordained and yet-to-be-ordained) can do so. But that's neither here nor there.


John said...

I heard Bishop Whitaker ask those questions to ordinands a couple of days ago. He said that the Discipline also permits him to ask others, so he asked one other question: "Will you be present in small groups with other pastors for support and accountability?"

The Thief said...

That's a good question to ask - it's mandated in my district (and I think in the conference as well?) which seems to be the only way to get it done in reality. Though I'm not sure what they'd do if someone refused.

In my opinion, that's the only way to keep clergy connected.