Signs of spring are everywhere.
The red (they are really pink) bud trees are ablaze. Daffodils have popped up. Bradford pear trees, the landscapers' favorite, look like giant popcorn balls. Poena, a very bright green and irritating weed, is all over my lawn.
Spring is a great time for sports fans. Major league baseball spring training is in full swing. Florida and Arizona host this annual warm-up for the regular season every March. I can hardly wait to hear "Play Ball" on opening day of the regular season. It would be great to see the Braves new manager, Freddi Gonzales, lead the team to the World Series. (Hope springs eternal.). If baseball is not your thing, March Madness is underway as the NCAA basketball tournaments are everywhere.
Another sure sign of spring is the Lenten season which began last Wednesday. The next forty days, excluding Sundays, is a period of self-examination as Christians engage in spiritual disciplines, especially prayer and fasting, as they prepare to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord on Easter Sunday.
There is an event that occurs every year about this time that impacts United Methodists but most people know little or nothing about it. The Board of Ordained Ministry examines candidates for ordained ministry. For persons who feel called into full time ministry as ordained clergy, this is similar to the bar exam for lawyers, the CPA exam for accountants, or the medical board for doctors.
38 men and women are being interviewed this week by the North Georgia Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. The process for ordination in the United Methodist Church is long and arduous. The first step in this process is a recommendation by the candidate's local church staff (pastor)-parish relations committee and charge conference. Afterwards they have to complete a period of discernment, guided by an assigned mentor, to clarify their call. A district committee on ordained ministry must then confirm their direction.
If the district committee affirms their calling, the candidate must satisfy certain educational requirements that include an undergraduate degree from an accredited college and complete at least half (1/1/2 year) of their graduate studies in an approved theological seminary. Upon completion of these educational requirements, the candidate is eligible to submit extensive paperwork and letters of reference as well as undergo a psychological evaluation, present a current credit report and physical examination, and be interviewed by the 62-member Board of Ordained Ministry.
These persons must prove to be proficient in writing and articulating their call to ministry and show evidence that they are properly disciplined in their lifestyle. They must exhibit a clear understanding and support of the theology and doctrine of the United Methodist Church. Additionally, there must be evidence of gifts that will qualify them as "fit and ready" for ministry.
Upon passing muster with the board of ordained ministry a candidate is then available to be appointed by the bishop to serve in various ministry settings. Once these individuals (now called provisional members) begin their service, they are nurtured and guided through a well designed residency period and for a minimum of three years beyond the completion of seminary.
At the completion of residency persons must then submit to another level of examination to evaluate their effectiveness in ministry. With a positive recommendation of the board of ordained ministry, they may become ordained clergy. Persons who will be considered for ordination and full membership in the annual conference will be evaluated in April.
As you enjoy all the beauty of spring and the new life that it brings, pray for those who are engaged in this process of becoming United Methodist clergy. Their leadership into the future is critical for the advancement of the Gospel and the witness of the Church.
[Taken with permission from 'Monday Morning in North Georgia,' March 14, 2011. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]