Thursday, November 26, 2009

Other Voices on Ministerial Credentialing

My colleague Margret O'Neall, interim minister of the UU church in Sarasota, Florida, lately wrote this to her colleagues, and gave me permission to reproduce it here.

I give a lot of thought to our MFC processes, having seen the committee within the past year, and comparing it both to other professional credentialing systems, and to the process one of my colleagues in the UCC is going through (their "in-care" system). I believe that a more relational and grounded process could, if thoughtfully cultivated, be more consistent with our theological and philosophical understandings and commitments, and contribute more fully to the process of formation.

In my own case, both the idea and the actual experience of being examined by a board of strangers, who knew me only from paper and a brief personal exposure under extremely stressful conditions, felt disrespectful of my ministry and inadequate as a pass-fail system of judgment on my preparation for professional engagement with a congregation or community. No matter how they tried to be both objective and relational, those who sat in judgment over me did not know me, some clearly had their own agendas, and had a lot of power over my future.

Much of my career prior to ministry has been invested in community and academic systems. I find that our current process of admitting ministers into fellowship picks up some of the worst faults in a range of systems, and would do well to be re-thought systematically and with a stronger grounding in congregational, seminary and ministerial mentoring relationships. Some good things are clearly happening -- strengthening RSCC's, mentored praxis in seminaries, the Mountain Desert District's "Living Into Covenant" initiative. Perhaps it will trickle up to the MFC, but trickles do not usually run in that direction unless there is a pump involved.

Margret O'Neall

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