So I am frustrated.

I attended my denominational school, for both my undergrad and the beginning of my seminary education. During my years there I received a distinct calling to bear the good news to what many would consider to be unbearable places, and I have followed that call from Chicago to Spokane to Portland and now to Los Angeles.

Having recently completed my Masters of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary, I began to investigate the process of being ordained in the denomination I call my home. At this stage, based on the emails I have so far received, it seems that what I assumed would be an opportunity open to me is in fact not.

Here’s the deal: to be ordained, a minister must be EMPLOYED for at least twenty hours a week of paid pastoral work. Never mind the twenty or thirty or forty plus hours you may actually give. What matters here is a paycheck.

So for those of us who have chosen to serve in churches and communities where paid staff positions are few and far between (many urban and ethnic congregations do not pay their pastors), we remain on the margins of our denomination.

Unfortunate. Disappointing. Exclusive.


  1. Hey. I wonder if you could have Redeemer pay you $1 a year for a 20 hour a week position. You could even have them work out a job description. (Like … talking to the neighbors for 20 hours a week.) You could write a letter to the church offering your pastoral experience to them at such a small rate because you feel called and you are excited about the work they are doing and you live in the area. Stupid rules are meant to be broken … break them.

    Hey. When is Doug going to go back to school for his M.Div.? If you two end up being ordained in a different denomination I will be pissed off.

    Hey. (I just wanted to write that one more time.)


  2. Hey. You are great. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Doug and I were just talking tonight about what it would take for him to be able to finish his degree. We live on little and Fuller is not cheap. If you know of any benefactors who have a heart for brilliant musicians/theologians who love the poor, let us know 🙂

  3. Oh Erika!

    They don’t know what they’re doing! They don’t want to miss out on you! I’m sorry, my heart hurts with you for all the disappointment and frustration.


  4. Sus-is it the same for the Presbys? I am imagining that many denominations function like this. I guess it makes sense why the majority of ethnic/urban churches are independant…The irony is that if I were an ethnic minority who WAS ordained by some storefront church, I could TRANSFER my ordination into the Covenant (that is one way the Covenant is seeking to welcome ethnic congregations into our denomination) and enjoy full status as an ordained minister.

    BTW, I found a yellow school bus like Dory’s on Craigs List that I am trying to get for Mercy’s birthday!!!

  5. The Southern Baptists and the Assemblies of God will ordain just about anyone they deem worthy. Of course, it’s not quite that simple, but the process is considerably less formal.

    Of course, the SBC doesn’t really ordain women (though they actually can, by Conference vote). The Assemblies are another story; I’ve rarely been associated with a church as conservative that is also as comfortable having women in leadership.

    I’m pretty disillusioned with denominations these days, except that I’m also finding out that a lot of my long-held assumptions about them aren’t as true as I thought.

    I love the idea of getting $1 for your work so you’re in “paid” ministry. Would that work, do you think?

  6. The $1 idea seems a feasible way to obey the letter of the law (which I feel here is trumping whatever the spirit behind it is). I will look into it, though I have to say I wish I didn’t have to go through a hoop with an obviously bogus “compliance” so to speak. But, the reality is I want to be ordained so I’ll see what can work, legit or not.

  7. Presby’s only ordain to a position. Ordination comes with benefits – literally – so there has to be a church position – someone paying for that. Churches need to meet a minimum salary and pay into the pension and benefits for the pastor. Therefore, it can be very hard for churches that are smaller and don’t bring in as much money to afford someone. The church does see the problem and has tried to work with it in a few ways – I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s a struggle.

  8. So here’s the latest on the ordination thing:

    From an email from the denominational headquarters:

    “you are always free to appeal to the Board of the Ordered Ministry for a Rule of Exception. If you could create a strong rationale for your request, and if you have the backing of your conference superintendent, that would carry weight with the Board. Their next meeting is before Midwinter 2007, so if you are interested in submitting a written request, you may send it to our office by January 1, 2007.”

    I am encouraged…

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