Commission Members Outline Final Study of Ministry Report
Doing away with security of appointment, further streamlining the candidacy process, and allowing ordination when educational requirements are completed are among the major changes proposed by the Study of Ministry Commission.
Members of the Commission, who have prepared legislation for General Conference 2012, outlined their proposals to the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Board of Directors during their August meeting in Nashville, Tenn.
The commission members said the aim of legislation is more grace and freedom and fewer rules, more accountability to the gospel and less conformity to an outdated, bureaucratic system, with more participation from young people and less rhetoric about our good intentions to include and engage younger people.
The Rev. Jay Williams, a 30-year-old provisional elder who serves on the study commission, spoke about the decision to do away with the practice of commissioning and separating full conference membership from ordination. “The practice of commissioning has not been well understood or accepted. We don’t know what it means,” he said.
If the commission proposals are approved by General Conference 2012 delegates, elders and deacons could be eligible for ordination as soon as they complete their educational requirements and after serving a minimum of two years as a provisional elder or deacon, they would be eligible for full conference membership.
Bishop Grant Hagiya said the commission members have gotten more negative feedback about this proposal than almost anything in the report. “I came into the last meeting thinking we should retract early ordination. Jay [Williams] argued passionately for it. It hit me that this is not my future. We are forging things that will affect them, not us. The future is not ours; it is our young adults, young clergy and laity.” “If these younger clergy and laity step up, we really can have a viable future,” Hagiya said.
Bishop Hagiya also urged Board members who are delegates to General Conference not to vote the whole package up or down based on one or two things they don’t like. He suggested that delegates consider approving part of the legislation, even if not all of it is acceptable.
The Rev. David Dodge said that security of appointment for elders has proved a major stumbling block for missional appointments. “We have clergy who have proved ineffective and the ways of dealing with them are cumbersome. Removing the security of employment allows bishops to deploy clergy more appropriately to do missional ministry,” Dodge said.
In order to ensure that women and racial-ethnic clergy are treated fairly, the commission proposed that the Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy meet annually to review and evaluate the commitment of their bishops to open itineracy.
Other legislation proposed by the commission would:
- Require annual conferences to have a vocational discernment coordinator charged with making the candidacy process more inviting and accessible, strengthening the candidacy mentoring program, and giving guidance and training to mentors.
- Require all candidates for licensed or ordained ministry to attend an orientation to ministry conference in their annual conference. This common experience will begin to build collegiality and understanding among the varieties of set-apart ministry.
*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.