Here’s what I said at Presbytery today.
When I began the process of discerning my call to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament, the leaders of my church encouraged me to participate in a discernment group. So one evening I sad down with a group of people to discuss with me, in detail, all the things I was experiencing as my sense of call. It was very helpful to me in deciding to pursue my call to the ministry, along with the ongoing care I received from my Presbytery’s Committee on Preparation for Ministry. Over the next several years, as I went through seminary, I was encouraged by the knowledge that I was not in it myself. I knew that while anyone could be wrong in discerning God’s call, at least I was not alone.
It was about 17 years ago that I first became a Christian through the ministry of a PC(USA) church. During that period, I admit I have not always been paying attention, but my impression is that we, as a denomination, have been debating ordination standards as long as I have been following Christ.
My question today is whether, during these many years, we have already discerned God’s leading. I wonder if we have already heard God’s call through our own deliberations as a denomination. Through the witness of our brothers and sisters in other denominations here in North America. And especially through the witness of the world church.
Perhaps I’m wrong. Just this morning, I was reading about Joshua and Caleb. I read how they argued as a minority against the other 10 men who had spied out the land with them. So I might be wrong. But as I reflect on my own experience of communal discernment, I wonder if we, by continuing to revisit the question of ordination standards, are less like Caleb and Joshua, and more like Gideon. Are we continuing to cast a fleece on the ground to discern God’s leading? And if we are, how many more time must we cast it?