Friday, June 20, 2014

Ordinands and Synod

For those who are interested, I thought I would write down what happens in a MCSA probationer's ordination year.

The year starts with an assignment where the ordinand prepares a programme for his or her year. This includes training, retreats, reading and more. This assignment is presented at the January seminar in a small group. The seminar has lectures and group work and consists of two or three days. After this another assignment must be submitted where the ordinand researches the subject 'ordination'.

Synod is the next big step. In the Cape of Good Hope District the synod event for ordinands begins with 'screening'. This is an interview with the same committee that interviewed the prospective ordinand a year ago. They look at their notes from a year back and try to determine if growth has occurred in the ordinand's life. They then recommend to synod whether or not the ordinand should be ordained.

For me, it was interesting to see the picture that the committee had drawn of me. I have a terrible tendency to accept people's conception of me and 'play along' and this has been exacerbated by the church training. I suppose also I have become aware of it, so this is a good thing. My own screening interview was fine.

The next evening sees the witness service where all the ordinands share their journey through probation with a synod congregation. We were told we had five minutes in the weeks before the service. This was amended to three minutes immediately before and I think were actually allowed about six. We receive a mark for the presentation of our testimony (and quite possibly we were all marked down for going over three minutes!) It never occurred to me that after the service I would go from a total unknown at synod to 'everyone knows me and now I can't hide'. The encouraging and positive comments were, however, very affirming and made up for my loss of invisibility!

The next item is the oral exam for presbyter ordinands (ministers can be presbyters or deacons). This was scheduled for the next day, Thursday, but actually came about late Friday morning. We received a long list of questions after the witness service on Wednesday night so there was too much to really prepare, but they were not totally unseen when the moment came. The wait was hard. I found my mind constantly going back to the questions which was not helpful as answers should be fairly to the point, not theses. For me, the actual exam went ok. God took away my nerves and broke through the mug that threatens to encase me in these sort of moments. I suppose this is arrogant, but it helps that generally I do know what I am talking about theologically! Again the comments afterwards were incredibly encouraging and affirming. So I felt good!

Finally the marks for the witness service and oral exam are given to the synod and the synod votes on whether or not to ordain the ordinands. All was good for my colleague Wandile and myself and so our next stop is the retreat during Conference and then ordination.

God has been kind to me.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Allowing religion to influence law

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has, presumably, inadvertently got all sorts of people upset by suggesting that law should be informed by religion. I suppose that people have many ideas of what religion is and thus the outcry.

On the elementary level that says religion teaches us to live well and law prescribes how we live, law influenced by religion should prescribe that we live well. But many people see religion as something that breathes disaster and ultimately evil.

I simply gather three interesting and, I think, constructive posts here.

Chris Roper makes the point that religion has the propensity to go bad. While religions may set high ideals, those ideals are often subverted by self-interest.

But this is the problem with Mogoeng’s desire to have religion inform our legal system: which Christianity is going to turn up? Which Islam is going to turn up, the Islam of Boko Haram, or the Islam of Malala Yousafzai? Which Judaism is going to turn up, that of the West Bank Wall, or that of Hannah Arendt?
(Christianity is the enemy of Christianity)

Dion Forster writes that religion is more specific in its application than is the law.

The law is intended to protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of their religious perspective. Laws should be based on the principles of justice and our shared human dignity . . . Religion on the other hand is based on beliefs that are not commonly shared . . .
(Why Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng is wrong - law infused by religion is a bad idea)

Ryan Peter takes the discussion a little further. If it is not appropriate for the church to dictate to the state, should the state not give the church the same respect?

Separation of church and state means that the church doesn’t meddle in state affairs. Great, we all actually agree to that. That’s what secularism means. . . But here’s the other side of the coin: this separation also means that the state doesn’t meddle in Church affairs.
(Are today’s secularists really secular?)

At the end of the day, the church should be living by its own rules. I am afraid that we are too concerned with being 'prophetic' and too little concerned with keeping our own houses in order according to our own values and aspirations. (Not that I don't think there is a place for prophetic.)

In an ideal world church and state would be good influences on each other.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014


I heard what I thought was a very odd statement at synod. It wasn't made by a Methodist minister!

"The world has been transformed, now the church needs to be transformed."

It was an off-the-cuff statement and maybe this person would not have planned to use this phrasing. Does it imply that God is at work in the 'world', but that the church is resisting him?  I would imagine that there are people who see things this way. But that must leave them with a rather different theological understanding of the church!

I don't think the church is quite where it should be, but I do believe that there is more value to being inside the church than outside.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Synod - been and gone

Does my blog remember me? Hello, hello anyone there?

At least my browser remembered my password!

Our district synod was held over the last few days. This was an important synod for me as it is the one which has recommended me to the Conference for ordination. The final countdown begins.

It was an unexpectedly affirming process . . . nice surprises are good.

Thus, barring any major disasters, I will be ordained in September. God has been kind and generous to me.

There is lots that I want to blog about from synod - or rather thoughts that have come to me as a result of synod - perhaps I will get back to writing again!