Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sepculating on Ministerial Formation

These are the thoughts of my colleague Steve Edington of Nashua, NH

Say we take a population of 100 individuals who have prepared for the UU ministry and have all met the following criteria at approximately the same time:

*Have an MDiv or equivalent degree

*Have completed the requisite CPE requirement for Fellowship

*Have done an internship and received a favorable evaluation from their supervisor

*Have taken the required psychological evaluations and been declared sane enough, and emotionally fit, for the UU ministry

*Have completed any of the other requirements for Fellowship that I've overlooked, short of the MFC interview

We divide this population into Groups A and B with 50 in each group. Those in Group A each go before the MFC and those who get good numbers go into the search process as per usual. Those in Group B bypass the MFC and go straight into the search process. Enough persons in each group (say, at least 30) get settlements in parish or community ministries and launch into their ministerial careers.

Now, (for you who are still with me) those conducting this experiment devise a set of criteria for measuring a successful ministry, which I will not spin out here. We track the ministers in each group for, let's say, ten years to see how they measure up to the "successful ministry" criteria; and at the end of those ten years we see how many successful ministers/ministries we have from Groups A and B.

And the question is (if you haven't guessed it already): Do you think there would be an appreciable difference in the successful ministers in Groups A and B?

My answer, based as I'll admit, on sheer personal speculation, is No. This does not mean I'm opposed to any kind of a credentialing process, only that I have some serious reservations about how well the one we now have in place is serving our ministry, and by extension, our liberal religious movement.

Final caveat: Nothing contained in this post is in any way meant disparage, diminish, or demean the fine, competent, and dedicated individuals who serve, or have served, on the MFC. I'm only asking if there's a better way. Got some thoughts on that too but this has gone on too long as it is.


Red Sphynx said...

This was told to me ears ago by the late Rev Sid Peterman. Rev Jim Jones, when he pastored the Peoples Temple San Francisco, approached the UUA about bringing his temple into the UUA. The Peoples Temple was a very successful multiracial congregation and the offer was considered seriously. But the UUMN looked at Jones, found him to be bad news, and said "thumbs down".

So the gatekeeping function is worth something.

Robin Edgar said...

"So the gatekeeping function is worth something."

When it actually functions Red Sphynx. .. which all too often it doesn't. The showing the "less than excellent" U*U ministers the door *after* they somehow get past "less than diligent" or simply too trusting U*U "gatekeepers" doesn't function all that well either. . . The flip side of the "gatekeeping function" is that it can be misused and abused to keep out people who would actually make very good U*U ministers. I am sure that this has happened a few too many times.