Friday, March 5, 2010

Processing, Part Two

I covered most of the basics in Part One, so I won't go into a lot of detail about some of the various steps. I will try to avoid using acronyms and "speaking methodist" too much, but I can't promise anything!

I started the process of ordination when I was 17. I knew I was called into ordained ministry and knew the process was rather long and involved so I wanted to get going with it! I couldn't see why waiting would benefit me at all. I got through my first two steps pretty quickly and met with my first DCOM when I was 18, just before I started my second semester at Birmingham-Southern. At that point the districts were a little different than they are today and I was a part of the Decatur district. I was told that, since I was at BSC, they wanted to get me a candidacy mentor in Birmingham, and preferred that it be a female (which I appreciated). Well, unfortunately Birmingham had two whole districts to itself, which meant two other District Superintendents and two other DCOMs. And somewhere in this I got lost in the shuffle. I ceased to exist in this process for a little over two years. I tried asking the people I knew to ask, but nobody seemed to know exactly who was supposed to have my file or be responsible for me.

I knew that once I started divinity school I had to really kick it into high gear. And within the first week or two I wrote a note to the only person I could think of that was relatively neutral and might have an answer for me. She happened to be serving as assistant to the Bishop at that point. And she did indeed have answers and got things moving for me. When I asked her if I should transfer my candidacy to Tennessee since that's where I was in school and since nobody in North Alabama seemed to want to claim me, she immediately responded that I was indeed wanted and North Alabama would be more than happy to claim me. Within 24 hours I had an e-mail from the Bishop himself, and within two weeks I had my candidacy mentor assigned. If I'd known that would work, I would have done that two years earlier!

Things moved relatively smoothly from there. It was slower than we would have liked, but I knew that was pretty much par for the course and continued on. It took a little over a year before I could meet with my DCOM because they only meet and interview once a year and I didn't have all my requirements completed the first time around so I had to wait. (The thing that wasn't done was my psych evaluation which WASN'T my fault!)

I was a certified candidate for two years. I was interviewed after the first year and then told I wasn't expressing my theology clearly enough and that I had to wait another year. I wasn't particularly satisfied with this. Not because I have anything against their reasoning or their decision but because I was offered no more details, constructive criticism, or guidance. I understand why I was deferred, because the theology section of that interview was a disaster. However, I felt as though the interview was not fair, that I was attacked and not able to complete the answer to one question before they were firing three others at me, and that the interview material was all rather arbitrary and not very well organized. That changed in the next year, which I think helped everyone involved!

I was approved by my DCOM in September and submitted my papers in November. I was interviewed by the BoOM on Monday. The interview retreat was an interesting experience. On the one hand it was an absolute nightmare just because (as one spouse put it) it's the biggest interview of our careers. On the other hand it was nice to have so many people to share it with. It was nice to see classmates from BSC and Vanderbilt I hadn't seen or talked to in quite a while. Plus I met several new people and it was nice to make those connections.

I felt like the interview went well, but I also know the Conference is at an odd place that means navigating some new waters. That includes how they handle the interviews and making decisions about who is commissioned and who isn't. Rather than finding out immediately whether or not we would be approved for commissioning, we had to go home and wait four very long days. They seemed to get slower the closer we got to the end of the week and the scheduled time of 8am-12pm Friday.

I got my phone call at about 8:03am. I knew as soon as I answered the phone what it was going to be. My "request for provisional ministry was denied." I'm not surprised. And I actually feel pretty good about it. Amazingly, it was empowering. Because I'm no longer putting my life on hold for this process. I'm not compromising my personal life for my professional life. I've already given up too much of myself.

I have been called by God. I AM a minister. I still respect the process and agree to work within it, but I will not let it limit me and the person I will become. Ministry is more than just a job. It's more than just what I do to make money. But it's not the only thing that defines my identity. And all these other parts will help me be a better minister.

The only place to go from here is forward!

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