Saturday, March 25, 2023

The Ords, Part 1

We Presbyterians are wonderful at inflicting process on ourselves, and nowhere is that more true than in the processes of ordination.  Layer upon layer of good ideas and accountability, piling up over the years, have rendered becoming a Presbyterian pastor...or Teaching Elder...or Minister of Word and Sacrament...or whatever it is we're calling it these days...a byzantine test of endurance.

I described it once, to a committee that was validating my move to candidacy, as a "trial by process."  Some of them laughed, others didn't, but it was the reality I knew I was facing.  I expected to be tested, and annoyed, and frustrated, and that expectation was not disappointed.

So much of it is redundant, unnecessary, or without evident purpose, and nowhere is that more true than the Ordination Exams.  The denomination administers tests on an array of different subjects, to ensure that pastors know their stuff.  It's a bit like the civil service exams, and equally redolent of 20th century Federal bureaucracy.

If that was it, well, that'd be fine.  Pastors should know their stuff.  But Presbyterians also require an advanced degree from an accredited seminary, which is where one learns about polity and exegesis and worship.  If you've passed coursework from an accredited institution of higher education, then why isn't that sufficient?  Does accreditation not count for anything?  I mean, sure, the schools are all different, and professors are all different, and only Princeton is Princeton.  But the Ords are all graded by an equally wide variance of lay folk.  It ain't any different.

The Ords are a product of a different time, when Presbyterian church membership wasn't plummeting earthward in an unrecoverable stall.  They are a waste of energy, a squandering of our dwindling human resources.