Wednesday, September 13, 2006

ordain or not to ordain that is the question

Parental Advisory – this post is long

Already I feel the question of ordination will be equal to the length of the actual process. I have started to discuss it with friends which feels a bit weird because for all I know the first official discussion could result in a ‘you must be kidding’ kind of response, which would make me look just a tad foolish.

The thing is that my friends are my sounding board so it would be impossible for me not to make them my first point of reference. Friends provide rational honesty while poking fun at me, which I find is the best kind of instruction and learning. After the initial shock has passed it makes for an interesting discussion. I can see people trying to process the idea of me in that role and conceding that it is not a bad idea. I get that ‘not a bad idea’ is hardly a resounding yes but it is early days :)

Two comments that have occupied my head for the last 24 hours, from two wildly different sources, have made me think a lot … the first from bigbulkyanglican (I am aware he has a name, but as I don’t think we have ever met it would seem presumptuous for me to use anything other than his pseudonym)

‘God calls real people, not clones who meet certain requirements or standards’

And the other from sychar (now this is odd – a new blog and a well written one and I have no idea who it is – someone sent me the link and I know it isn’t them – we have entered into email dialogue with each other and this was her comment on ordination)

'In James Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" the boy is asked if he would like to be a priest. After several pages of agonising, he decides the priesthood gives individuals too much power: the lure of power is too dangerous and that he would ultimately abuse that power.'

Those two comments place themselves, one each, on the horns of my dilemma. I do believe that against my better judgment, I see the logic in people like myself no longer standing outside pointing the finger and actually getting involved and making a difference where it counts. It makes sense that God picks on/chooses people who do not fit. Nothing would be gained by adding another cloned thinky-a-like to the mix.

Then again ‘the lure of power is too dangerous’ sums up the other horn perfectly. Our culture shows perfectly the results of giving someone everything, music and film stars who have more money than they will ever need and indulge their whims for instance. (no really I am clear that this is not the path of untold riches – but you get my point). The extremes of human behaviour reveal the weakness in the system.

Mrs Steve gave me the analogy that resonated with my soul, I was questioning the fear of selling out myself and holy joes and all our principles, when she pointed out that bands such as The Clash could have stayed underground and small and be highly thought of by a select few. Going mainstream, getting a major record deal means they leave a musical legacy for millions. Which raises the question if we have done all we have with our limited resources and exposure so far, how much more can we do with backing and support and how much change can be achieved from within the larger community.

Then again what will holy joes become and more importantly what will I become. My biggest reason for extracting myself from church over 15 years ago was that I realised they had spent an impropriate amount of time trying to change me to what they thought a better of version of me should be. Now God says ‘oh would you mind going back so they can have another go – hmmm). I am not afraid of change, it just has to be the right change.

Then I go to the other scary pace of debate, what would I do to the church, I am no longer an angry young man, so not so easily dismissed. I have very strong positions on some stuff, other stuff I refuse to take the party line because I feel it is not my place. Am I placing myself in a position of using conflict as a career.

Like for instance the time when I came off a stage having hosted a debate with young people,to be told by a woman (holding a very scary large bible) that I should have told them that sex before marriage was wrong. I put forward the concept that it was not my place to tell people what to do she said as I was a Christian leader that is exactly what I should have done. Easy for me to laugh away the idea that I am a Christian leader in that situation not so easy when I might have a dog collar in the back of a drawer somewhere.

Accountability for me means God, people I trust, people i respect, not some unknown civilian with weird ideas who think they have the right to correct me. I’m guessing you can see already where some of the pitfalls are gonna be. Civilians? What is the right expression? … oh yeah … members of the congregation … God’s people … a concerned parishioner … sheesh this isn’t going well and we are only at the planning stages

Many times I have made decisions to remove myself from a job, a position of power, because of the conflict of not being able to square it with my no compromise stance on some stuff. Hardly possible once you are ordained, the days of door slamming exits stage left may be over.

I don’t do politics or gossip very well, not that I can’t, I just try not to. In my experience the church thrives on it, and nothing makes me surge to the position of blunt honest communication faster than the feeling of being manipulated or an injustice being executed under my nose under the guise of ‘concern’ or ‘sharing’.

The last night of Greenbelt I summoned up my courage and for the first time I voiced what I had been thinking of doing to a friend. Let me just be clear here, not just any old friend, one of the best. The kind of friend that it really matters what they think, for her I wouldn’t just help bury the body without question we would have a right laugh doing it.

Her response was … ‘if you were a vicar I might consider going to church’

No higher praise – and has the added bonus of me being able to blame her a bit if this all works out so everyone wins :)

I also appreciate living in a time where things like blogs allow for a wider reach of discussion about stuff. Obtaining viewpoints from people with no motive other than the debate is very healthy and keeps me thinking to the edges where the good answers reside.

If nothing else this discussion (virtual and real life) has taught me more about myself and others. Maybe I shouldn’t ever get ordained, maybe I should just sustain the discussion about the possibility of it and have lots of interesting thoughts. Yeah let’s waste more of my limited time on this planet.


stuart said...


As someone who is in his last year of training for ministry then as you may imagine, i do have some thoughts on this. I can't help feeling that in these days of radical upheaval within the church (well if not from within certainly from outside looking in) the last thing needed is another person to tow the party line.

Surely what we want from within the established church (any denomination) is people who can be honest about their faith. People who can contextualise the gospel and help it speak with integrity and not just repeating the words others have instructed without really understanding what impplications it has for them. Yes of course you will have many failings, yes at times you would struggle, but if God is truly calling you (and I guess this is part of your process of finding that out) then those times will help your ministry and make your wiser for the experience. I guess I don't know you well enough to make a reccomendation to you other than to say if your looking for your suitibility then you fail the test, as do I and every other person that has been called. Luckily for us however, God sees beyond what we see and uses us any way.


hugger steward said...

For lack of anything to say actually related to the question that wouldn't just be my view of mummy's experience (& therefore pretty unneccessary since she'll have already made any of the worthwhile points) I present instead a piece of intellectual snobbery...

> Maybe I shouldn’t ever get ordained, maybe
> I should just sustain the discussion about
> the possibility of it and have lots of
> interesting thoughts. Yeah let’s waste
> more of my limited time on this planet.

Thinking is almost never a waste of time. Indeed the think might be exactly what's needed - even if the end result is "actually, on second thoughts, I'll leave it thanks"*, there could be things you pass on the way that have a big effect.

Much love
* hence the expression "becomming a vicar is like buying a sticky bun" (anyone who can find a real reason for the analogy may win a small prize :-)

Kathryn said...

Well, my dear,it has to be said that it's not the most startling idea you've ever mentioned in my hearing! Could say that I'd seen it coming for a while (but then, that's exactly the sort of irritating thing people /do/ maybe I wont, though I have)....I can see loads of good reasons why the church might want to ordain you, but I'm not entirely sure that I can see an equal number of reasons why ordination would actually help the ministry you have already. We've got one of the new variety of "pioneer ministers" (I think that's what the C of E calls them - which means you'll have to swap the saab for a covered wagon) newly ordained to work in Gloucester city, to build a church from scratch.I can see that he needs the authority of the Church, and their practical resources, in order to get his work off the ground...but your situation is a bit different. As to the power thing, perhaps my experience is skewed by being a woman but it seems to me far more an exercise in giving others power over you - not the Church authorities, but the community you are called to serve.
msn sometime? I'm slightly less incoherent there than in those garbled texts (for which apologies!)
I'll pray, anyway xx

Graham Stacey said...

followed a link from BigBulkyAnglican to here and even gave the time to read you long post.

I am about to enter my second year of training for ordination. Actually at Ripon College Cuddesdon as mentioned in BBA's post, although it is now nothing like he remembers it from his childhood.

Despite being in full time lay ministry for 8 years, having completed tehological training at LBC [now LST] and now half way through the college part of my ordination training I am still not sure that I want or can do what is being asked of me.

"What on earth am I doing it for?" would be a valid question and one that I ask myself. Of course the answer is very corney and expected. I am only doing it because I think God has asked me to and that was confirmed not only by my family, friends, and church but by the selection process. It is now reaffirmed by my fellow ordinands, tutors and Principal.

I am constantly struggling with the sometimes seemingly conflicting traditional and emerging aspects of church and anglicanism. I am, though, fairly sure that a constant in my calling over the last 14 years has been to build church in such a way that it is around for the long term. Something I would now express as planting a church in the prevailing culture.

I don’t know you at all really but some of your long post resonated with me…

[my Blogger blog is an old one - new at]