My call to ministry has been a chain of experiences that have brought me to my current understanding of God’s call in my life. In the summer of 2002, I realized that God was not calling me to a career in biology, my field of study at the time. I considered many possibilities for life after graduation during the fall semester of my final year at Pittsburg State University. One of those possibilities was pursuing graduate theological education.
At a campus ministry reterat, as I was reading the account of Jesus calling his disciples in the Gospel according to John, I heard God speaking to me. The disciples’ question, “Where are you staying?” seemed to correspond to my question, “What is this whole seminary thing about?” Jesus responds clearly to them: “Come and see.” To me this response was Jesus saying to me, “Come and find out what seminary is about and how you can serve God in the world. Follow me and I will show you what you need to know.” As a result of this and other experiences, I enrolled at Wesley Theological Seminary after receiving a Bachelor of Science in Biology in 2003 from Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS.
When I enrolled in seminary I was not sure of which direction theological education would take me. Over the next few years my calling was refined from a call to seminary, to a confirmation of my place in seminary, to a call to ordained ministry serving in the local church. I graduated from Wesley Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity degree in May 2006.
It has been a mix of struggle, joy and surprises. I was helped primarily by my family and friends. I am currently serving as a pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.
One of the positive influences in my call to ministry was an exploration event. I invite you to consider www.gbhem.org/exploration as a possibility if you are exploring a call to ministry and are between a high school senior and age 24.
I was at first skeptical of the book, but took some time to work through a few sections myself. I was pleasantly surprised. The questions are thoughtful, probing and at times a bit off beat. I found it to be an effective way to move through a time of self-reflection and discernment. I found some similarities with Wesley’s questions contained in the Rules of the Band Groups, but not close to the depth.
This book is only as good as the effort that the reader puts into engaging with the questions. Without a serious attempt to venture into self-reflection it is a worthless addition to your shelf. However an earnest effort at introspection will yield fruit. I am looking forward to continuing to engage with this book in the months to come.
Over this summer, I had my first opportunity to experience an Episcopal election first hand. I had the opportunity to experience this process both as a voter and as someone helping run a candidacy. I discovered that there is a fine line that candidates try to walk between making yourself “available” for election and “running” for the office. The process is inherently “political” but also a matter of spiritual “discernment.”
All 11 candidates were exceptional people. They had a breadth of experience and a deep spirituality. It was not so much a matter of “do they have the initial qualifications” but how do I discern differences between the different candidates?
Prior to the Jurisdictional Conference in Grand Rapids, I received a number of mailings, postcards, personal letters, and websites to seek information. Most of them were the equivalent of “plain yogurt.” Everyone used many of the same terms like “bridge builder, visionary, leader, spiritual.” I spent a lot of time trying to read between the lines to figure out the encoded message about what they really believed.
The sessions during Jurisdictional Conference itself provided some additional ways to gain insights, but were limited as well. Most candidates said the same things …”I will gather a team together, listen to the chorus of voices, lead by consensus, etc.” I spent a lot of effort trying to discern the differences between candidates while they were trying to articulate their position in a way that had the broadest appeal. The simple question is, “Is this process the best way to elect a bishop?” So, over the next few weeks, we’ll open a few questions up for discussion …
What are the qualifications for a bishop?
Should we judge a candidate on performance? If so, what are the measures?
What is the right way for the electorate to get to know the candidates?
Do you have any experience at Jurisdictional Conference? Is this common across Jurisdictions? Feel free to post your experiences.