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“Thinking out loud” about ordained ministry

“Thinking out loud” about ordained ministry

The Board of Transition Ministry has invited the broadest possible conversation about ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church. Via the Office of Public Affairs:

Our goal in writing this document is to invite the church to think out loud about how we bring ordained leaders to our churches. From our experience, study and prayer, we recognize these to be important issues in our time. We invite dialogue in the many and diverse ways we have available: conversations on social media, at church gatherings such as meetings of diocesan transition ministers, diocesan conventions, the House of Bishops, and other leaders in our church. We offer this not as a declaration, but as an invitation to dialogue.

The document, located here, explores such topics as the aging church, bivocational ministries, calls beyond the parish, diversity in ordained leadership, and clarifies that “’Calling’ is Not ‘Hiring'”:

The best calls happen when the Holy Spirit is part of the process. We remind our communities that  seeking new clergy leadership is a spiritual process, not an executive search, and we encourage our congregations to be open to God’s imagination as they seek new spiritual leaders.

Read the document here (pdf), find the Office of Public Affairs press release here, and offer direct feedback on the document at


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Ann Fontaine
Philip B. Spivey

I think it’s a good idea to review our thinking around discernment for ministry, both lay and ordained, in the 21st century; indeed, things have changed! It’s also important to acknowledge that despite our progress redressing our old and un-Christian relationships to the marginalized “other”, we still have much to do. Part of the difficulty I see is that we frame these issues in terms of “diversity”. It’s not diversity we lack as a Church; it’s the mechanisms to ensure that people of color and other excluded groups find less painful ways to inclusion.

I don’t think that the terms “diversity” and “multicultural” in the body of the BTM report are useful in defining our task; these are generic, throw away terms for issues that require more precise definition. Our Church (as a member of global Communion) doesn’t lack for diversity in this multicultural (pluralistic) society. What we lack is the faithful “inclusion” of the historically marginalized by virtue of their class, color, national origin, gender or sexual orientation. Seeking so-called ‘diversity’ without the mechanisms for inclusion is empty talk.

I think one of the answers to the question of “why we don’t have more clergy of color” is that our Church has not yet built a platform for that to happen. After generations of exclusion, the Church will have to enact a platform-of-policies that is believable and viable for people of color. What might such a platform look like? It might start by removing most of the economic and financial barriers to ordination. Class and means would cease to be a requirement for entering the process.

Until the “means test” barrier is removed, we will go on seeking and wring our hands about greater diversity among our clergy —for at least another generation or two.

Elizabeth Kaeton

My question: Why are we asking the question? Why are we asking how we can bring more ordained leaders into the church? Why aren’t we asking how we can raise up, educate, empower and enable the leadership of the priesthood of all believers? I think we’ve been asking the wrong questions and then we wonder why we don’t get the answers we need.

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