Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Preparation for Public Ministry

The Sunday at Humble Walk
Lutheran Church when we baked bread for our
Eucharist during the service instead of singing.
I am a part of the Rocky Mountain Synod of the ELCA.  Our bishop, Jim Gonia, is a visionary leader and this morning I found this blog post in my Facebook newsfeed:

Preparing Leaders for Ministry

He raises issues that have haunted me for years about the existing process of assignment/seminary education:

1. The gifts and passions of individual leaders-while important-are subservient to the places where leadership is needed.

2. Seminaries are attempting to train leaders for ministry on the basis of the gifts recognized within them

3. There is a dilemma that occurs when the gifts and passions that a candidate has to offer don't fit with existing opportunities for ministry within the church.  Inevitably, our new leaders end up in first calls that do not allow their gifts and passions to flourish, or end up waiting a very long time for their first call.

He raises the idea that perhaps we redefine congregational "need" not in terms of an empty position, but in terms of what will propel a community of the faithful more fully into God's mission.  He suggests that we become more intentional about using the energy and gifts of newly trained leaders who might demonstrate a better understanding of and commitment to our theology than many "cultural Lutherans."

He ends the post by saying, "I've said before that the church we are being called to become is not the church we have been.  How will our preparation of leaders reflect this?"

I have felt stuck in this terrible tension of how broken the system of seminary education is and how it is breaking me.  This blog post from my Bishop demonstrates first, that I am not crazy, and second, that there are leaders who see that the church does not have to be stuck in 1955 or stuck in the understanding of what it means to be the body of Christ in the upper Midwest.  It gives me so much hope.  Because I love Lutheran theology, I love scripture, I love what the wild and rampant Holy Spirit DOES to people's lives.  I am not ready to throw out this entire thing, despite what I feel like at Luther Seminary sometimes.

It is terrifying to look beyond what we have been.  It is exciting to see what we might become.  But we cannot dig in our heels and beg and plead that nothing ever changes.  Because that is unrealistic.

So thankful today for prophetic voices.  Thanks be to God.

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