Friday, November 13, 2009

Education and Ministry - Wesley's lists!

Good morning God,

You are going to need to explain to me why so many good people seem to automatically presume that an educated person is somehow less Spiritual or less caring, or even less practical than an uneducated one. I just don’t get it – especially not with regard to what is necessary for ministry.

John Wesley was adamant that those called to the ordained ministry should possess several qualities in order to be able to fulfil the duties of their calling. These he categorized as being either acquired or inherited by grace or nature. In 'An Address to the Clergy' he says that the natural gifts should include 'First, a good understanding, a clear apprehension, a sound judgment, and a capacity of reasoning with some closeness'

As might perhaps be expected, given the extent of his own learning, Wesley also deemed 'a competent share of knowledge' of each of the following to be desirable acquired qualities:
  • Firstly: the office of a minister, 'of the high trust in which he stands, the important work to which he is called'
  • Secondly: the Scriptures
  • Thirdly: Greek and Hebrew
  • Fourthly: history, including ancient customs, chronology and geography.
  • Fifthly: Some knowledge of the sciences, of logic, metaphysics, at least the general grounds of natural philosophy, as well as of geometry,
  • Sixthly: the writings of the Church Fathers
  • Seventhly: of the world; 'a knowledge of men, of their maxims, tempers, and manners, such as they occur in real life.'

Wesley also expected clergy to have acquired both prudence and ‘good breeding’, a good voice and 'good delivery both with regard to pronunciation and action'

All of which makes my request for every minister after 2013 to have to have a degree before being ordained seems rather small!

Of course Wesley was also convinced that such an education was not, of itself sufficient for ministry. 'For what are all other gifts', he insisted, 'whether natural or acquired, when compared to the grace of God? And how ought this to animate and govern the whole intention, affection, and practice of a minister of Christ!

The problem comes when people insist on an 'either-or' mentality instead of one that says both-and.

Yes, I confess, this is personal, as you know only too well.
I have never got used to the fact that some people presume (and delight in telling me!) that I cannot possibly be pastoral or spiritual because (in their opinion) I am too 'cerebral'! Throughout my ministry, you have had to help me live with, and learn how to forgive, the spiteful comments and criticisms of those who do not know me and have never taken the trouble to get to know me, but who have judged me and found me wanting in faith and grace, simply because in their opinion I am ‘too clever’.

Such anti-intellectualism is evident in the bizarre form of political correctness in the Church’s conversations about this subject which makes it almost impossible to dare to suggest that education is AS valuable as practical ministerial skills and that – yes - this might mean - horror of horrors - that maybe, just maybe, not everyone IS called to ordained ministry.

The charge is that I am being elitist by wanting every ordained minister to possess a degree, but this presumes a view of ministry which I simply do not share. I believe that YOU equip the Church with all the gifts and graces it needs to flourish and grow - but I also think that this has become a source of embarrassment to us, God, because – well, you don't always seem to give everyone the gifts and graces that they want, do you (in our humble opinion)!

Of course you do, but there is this misguided idea that you have established a hierarchy of ministry rather than a diversity, and that hierarchy is based on how 'clever' someone is.

Rubbish! Those are the not the values of your kingdom. I find nothing in scripture to suggest that you order the gifts and graces that you share amongst us in that way. The parable of the talents seems to suggest that what matters is not what grace we are given, but what we do with it for your sake!

So help us out God, instead of teaching us how to devalue or dumb down ministry teach us instead how to get ourselves to the stage where we can genuinely celebrate its rich diversity and the gift of the ‘the priesthood of all believers’.

1 comment:

  1. Congregations are hungry and long for educated Ministers/Preachers who can explain God's Word and in so doing let us see the Father so that together we become a Spirit-filled church.