Monday, July 03, 2006

Education, Formation, Preparation, & Ordination

I tried to talk about a seminary directly, but we need to step back and look at the entire issue before we can approach that subject with any hope of communication. So, lets begin with the process of analysis, reducing the large issue into its elements.

First, let's look at what is beyond our scope: being clergy. One's legal Status as a member of the clergy, is determined by the relevant laws. One's Ecclesiastical Status as member of the clergy, is determined by the Ecclesiastical body. So, to recap, things to do with whether one is or is not clergy, in any sense, are matters of Church and Law. In the US the Universal Life Church combines these into a one stop ordination shop, so it isn't exactly a difficult status to obtain if that is all one wants.

Seminaries exist to train and prepare people to practice ministry, and provide related education. They do not grant the status of being clergy. Law Schools exist to train and prepare people to practice Law, and provide related education. They do not grant the status of being a member of the bar. Sure, most of those attending Law School intend to become practicing lawyers, but only a percentage of them will. Most of those entering seminaries intend to become clergy, but only a percentage of them will. And there are those who don't want any change of status, they just want to learn and grow.

Not all denominations that use seminaries, require them. If there are cases where graduating ensures ordination and the status of clergy, I am unaware of them. So, we really need to disentangle these two concepts: preparation and ecclesiastical/legal status.

As far as preparation for ministry is concerned, it is not a simple one-dimensional thing. We can discern different elements, broadly speaking: education, formation, and personal development/preparation.

In terms of education, does it matter greatly who is involved in the education and how? If a bishop does not grade all of the papers involved in a candidates education, has she lost the ability to discern whether the candidate is properly prepared? Does a member of one's particular denomination have to give out reading assignments for the reading to be valuable? I get the impression that this isn't much further down the path of some notions, and we should acknowledge them as being ridiculous.

In fact, the opposite is more likely, one is more likely to get an adequate preparation in terms of education from an institution set up for that purpose. And unless one is afraid of being “contaminated” by ideas from beyond one's denomination, the only issue becomes the quality and adequacy of such an educational program. The Gnostic bottom line: does it work?

Education is a part of formation as clergy, and an educational program involves aspects of formation. However, formation as clergy is of a much larger scope, as it involves the granting of that status as we have seen.

Not all aspects of preparation for ministry can be addressed through education. In fact, only education can. However, since educational programs do not confer any status upon anyone in regards to being clergy, why be afraid of education?


Andrea said...

What about obtaining an education such as a liberal arts degree with the focus on social work and education on the Univesity or State College level. I believe that could help me with my clergy studies since the subject is learning how to work with others in need. After I'm done with my BA, then the question is where do I go from there? Do I be practical and obtain my MA in Early Childhood ED so I can make a living or do I go for a Divinity Degree?
Thank you for your thought provoking posts on Eduation and Preparation for Ordination.


Roger Kuhrt, PhD said...
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Stacey Baird said...

I've been lurking without commenting on this topic, but personally I like the seminary version of theological education. This is mostly because I spent eight years in a Roman Catholic semiary program with the Jesuits. I do think that for a seminary program to be most effective in forming the complete person for ministry it should be a live-in seminary. At the same time I understand the difficulty in creating such a program as Rev. Troy has mentioned.

In my expereince the live-in model was important because it fostered out-of-the-classroom discussion among the seminiarians (as we lived together in several houses). The interaction between seminarians and faculty was fostered as we lived with facukty that were Jesuits but also had many opportunities to spend time with lay faculty as well. As Jordan said this sharing with those who'd been involved in ministry for some time was invaluable, especially for sacrmental training.

Just some thoughts.


Rev. Troy said...

(Hopefully, my comment with be posted this time.)

Andrea, this is the current situation, and from my point-of-view it sucks. The whole notion behind getting a seminary going is to provide something different, a real alternative. This false dichotomy exists because we have yet to step up to the plate.

The degree options out there can aid in preparation, but mostly do not. Those that might be more helpful are too cost prohibitive as this is not a career track. I would like to bring together the resources we have, and work on creating a lot more, and offer a serious program to sincere candidates that doesn't require a mortgage or kidney sale.

The other side-effect that I will be bringing up as I continue to cover the basics, is that this will lead towards more financial support for active ministry.

Roger, I think Jordan is engaged in something quite different. It seems to be fulfilling a legal requirement for clergy status within the AJC in Canada, or something I can't figure out. From his reaction, he has a radically different definition of seminary he is working from, so we will probably have to wait and see what it is to see what it is. Using the same word doesn't always mean doing the same thing.

In any case, theology is either ubiquitous, in that it is just critical thinking involved with religious topics (trivial definition), or is worthless in that it is making use of critical apparatus created to deal with religious matters in a decidedly un-gnostic way (standard definition). And so, is a term I'd really like to see a restraining order on when it comes to Gnosticism. ;)

Stacey, thanks for jumping in. What I am proposing is more along the lines of the Saybrook Graduate School, where there are one or two physical get-togethers a year for such exchanges. It isn't ideal, but beats what we have now hands-down. The advantages of coming together as a community are just such interactions and the enrichment of having interactions with more than a few people both as instructors and guides, and as fellow students.

Andrea said...

Troy: At least it's a start getting together a couple of times a year for discussion and learning among one another. Your vision is commendable and incredibly worthwhile to pursue. I know I'd be willing to help out in whatever you need and I'm certain others may also. Who knows maybe a Gnostic Bill Gates will appear :) And you have an idea how to get this seminary off the ground by taking baby steps.
Roger: Thank you for giving me some ideas to consider. Probably for now I'll pursue a secular education and conduct my clergy studies on the side. Even though I don't make any monetery gain in the clergy, the personal growth and spiritual fulfillment serving is worth it.
Stacey: I'd like to hear more of your experiences in seminary.


Roger Kuhrt, PhD said...
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Roger Kuhrt, PhD said...

Troy: I was considering some aspects of classes. Obviously the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hamadi phenomena needs to be carefully dealt with, but I was curious what you would consider doing with Phil. K. Dick? Contemporary literary and filmographic expositions will be critical--may be the best element in Outreach any of us could have.
And if Dick is the lead Fiction writer "using" Gnosis for building a Gnostic system or consciousness; who are the lesser lights that ought to be included?

Just musing prior to bed.

Cheerfully, RK

Marsha+ said...

I would hope that Phillip K Dick and Carl Yung and many other more modern gnostics and there works would be included in the program. Definatly the works of GRS Mead need to be looked at. His insight was amazing.
More than that however is the practical day to day running of a parrish. Most gnostic churches do not have full time paid clergy so learning to delagate responsibiltiy is vital. Learning the leagal ins and outs of pastorial counsaling would be helpful. Even more so when you consider that most of us are not PHD's.
Troy I hopw to see this endevor of yours move forward. It is a much needed area of the gnositc community.
Rev. Marsha