Category : Ministry of the Ordained

(CT Pastors) J Todd Billings and Stephen Shaffer–The Loneliness of the Pastor-Theologian

In many congregations, the discipline of theology is simply not valued. Congregations may like having a “smart pastor,” but they are unsure how his or her interest makes a difference in the church’s ministry. Theological study is often viewed with suspicion, a particular brand of nerdiness—the Baptist minister is a Spurgeon fan, the Catholic priest roots for Aquinas, and the Reformed pastor wears Jonathan Edwards t-shirts. Theology is all well and good—as long as it does not keep pastors from more important tasks.

In fact, with so many people to care for, sermons to write, skills to master, who can justify the slow work of reading theology (let alone reflecting or writing theologically)? There is no room for the church father Athanasius when marriages are falling apart, people are on hospice, and membership is shrinking.

It’s no wonder that so many pastors who feel the tug of theological reflection abandon it after a few months or a few years in the pastorate. So how can those with a vision and sense a calling to do theological work keep this vision and calling alive as they serve the local church?

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Theology

(Spectator) Harry Mount reviews ‘A Field Guide to the English Clergy: A Compendium to Diverse Eccentrics, Pirates, Prelates and Adventurers; all Anglican, some even practising’

As the wordy title of this book and the name of its author suggest, this is a faux-archaic, fogeyish journey around England’s oddest vicars. The Reverend Fergus Butler-Gallie is, though, the real thing: a young curate in the Church of England. Yes, he’s given to sometimes tiresome jocularity: he describes himself as ‘a Bon Viveur first and foremost, with a soupçon of Roguishness and Prodigality’. But, still, his essential thesis is right: the Church of England has produced some real oddballs in its time, and this is an entertaining gallop through several centuries’ worth of them.

For 400 years after the Reformation, the Church of England was the ideal Petri dish for nurturing eccentricity. Take plenty of money, lots of free time, a good education, power and class confidence, and vicars were bound to overindulge their whims. Well, at least until the second half of the 20th century — when the collapse of religious feeling, the decline of the Church’s wealth and power, and the selling-off of the finest vicarages and rectories brought a sad end to clever, rich, eccentric, educated vicars….

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Church of England, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon–How are we as Christians to understand Work? (For Labor Day)

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Bishop FitzSimons Allison’s sermon this weekend at Saint Philip’s, Charleston–“Happy Guilt”

You may download it there or listen to it directly there from Saint Philip’s, Charleston, South Carolina.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT) Bombed by the K.K.K. A Friend of Rosa Parks. At 90, This White Pastor Is Still Fighting.

The Rev. Robert S. Graetz was virtually alone among Montgomery’s white ministers in supporting the bus boycott that helped galvanize the civil rights movement.

That’s when the bombings began.

As the white pastor at an all-black Lutheran church in Alabama in the 1950s, Mr. Graetz was just 28 years old when he became a recurring target for the Ku Klux Klan.

“The noise awakened us,” Rosa Parks, who was a neighbor of the Graetz family, wrote of a 1957 attack.

In the brief, handwritten document, Mrs. Parks described decades later how she and her husband went quickly to the Graetz family’s home after the bombing. The area had been roped off by the police.

“They said we could not enter. Rev. Graetz spoke to me and said, ‘Come in Brother Parks and Mrs. Parks,’” she added. “We went and offered to help. We began sweeping the floor and picking up.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

Scott Sauls–When Pastors Crash and Burn

Many of us pastors, including Spurgeon and including me, have fallen into the emotional abyss—not in spite of the fact that we are in ministry, but because we are in ministry.

Studies show that pastors experience anxiety and depression at a rate that is disproportionately high compared to the rest of the population. Due to the unique pressures associated with spiritual warfare, unrealistic expectations from congregants and oneself, the freedom many feel to criticize and gossip about pastors with zero accountability (especially in the digital age), failure to take time off for rest and replenishment, marriage and family tensions due to the demands of ministry, financial strains and self-comparison, pastors are prime candidates for relational isolation, emotional turmoil, and moral collapse.

Studies also show that some pastors face unreasonable, even impossible, demands placed on them by their people. I am NOT one of those pastors, thanks to a church that both receives my gifts and embraces my limitations. All in all, the people of Christ Presbyterian Church treat me with extraordinary love and kindness. But, sadly, not all pastors are as lucky as I am.

Dr. Thom Rainer, a leading pastoral ministry guru, once conducted a survey asking church members what they expected from their pastors. Specifically, Dr. Rainer wanted to know the minimum amount of time church members believed their pastors should give each week to various areas of ministry, including prayer, sermon preparation, outreach and evangelism, counseling, administrative tasks, visiting the sick, community involvement, denominational engagement, church meetings, worship services, and so on. On average, the minimum amount of time church members expected their pastors to give to the ministry was 114 hours per week.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Stress, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

(Barna) The Ups and Downs of Parish Ministry

Pastoral ministry certainly has its peaks and valleys, but overall, most pastors are very satisfied with their vocation and feel energized and supported in their work. They particularly love preaching and teaching—a task most feel they are good at—but are regularly frustrated with the lack of commitment among their parishioners. In partnership with Pepperdine University, Barna conducted a major study—The State of Pastors—of how Protestant senior pastors in the U.S. navigate life and leadership in an age of complexity. In this infographic, pastors weigh in on the best and worst parts of their job.

Read it all.

Posted in Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(ENS) TEC Diocesan bishops who blocked same-sex marriages take reluctant first steps toward allowing ceremonies

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A recent Kendall Harmon Sermon: Living as a Christian with suffering and Weakness (2 Corinthians 12)

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology: Scripture

(CT) Skye Jethani–What an alcoholic pastor taught me about administering the presence of God

When Bill finally finished talking it felt like it was my turn to speak, to offer advice, to minister. I stayed silent. I could feel myself shrinking even more within my borrowed chaplain suit. Looking for an escape from the room and the awkwardness, I spoke timidly.

“Thank you for sharing so honestly,” I said. “I appreciate your advice.”

Bill looked away as I rose and moved for the door. Like everyone else in Bill’s life, I knew I’d be more comfortable once I didn’t have to look at him anymore, once he was invisible again. It wasn’t until I grabbed the door handle to exit that I remembered my calling. “In this room you represent the presence of God.” I was not there to represent the chaplaincy office of the hospital. I was not there to represent a young seminary student named Skye. I was there to incarnate the presence of God, if only for a few minutes, to an utterly broken man who had lost his dignity.

I looked back at Bill and was reminded of Peter’s encounter with the lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate. “I have no silver or gold,” the apostle said, “but what I do have I give to you” (Acts 3:6). I had no advice or wisdom for Bill, but I did have the presence of Jesus. I could give him that. I returned to my chair by his bed.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Fred Rogers and the Loveliness of the Little Good

Once, as Tom Junod described in a profile for Esquire, Rogers met a 14-year-old boy whose cerebral palsy left him sometimes unable to walk or talk. Rogers asked the boy to pray for him.

The boy was thunderstruck. He had been the object of prayers many times, but nobody had asked him to pray for another. He said he would try since Mister Rogers must be close to God and if Mister Rogers liked him he must be O.K.

Junod complimented Rogers on cleverly boosting the boy’s self-esteem, but Rogers didn’t look at the situation that way at all: “Oh, heavens no, Tom! I didn’t ask him for his prayers for him; I asked for me. I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession.”

And here is the radicalism that infused that show: that the child is closer to God than the adult; that the sick are closer than the healthy; that the poor are closer than the rich and the marginalized closer than the celebrated.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ministry of the Ordained, Presbyterian

(CT) What Christians in the US Can Learn from Immigrant Pastors

But perhaps the most significant distinguishing mark of US Christianity is the pervasive individualism that saturates the culture and the church, which differs from the community centered values in other parts of the world.

“We go to funerals of people we don’t know, simply because they are Ethiopian and are part of our larger community,” said Endashaw Kelkele, pastor of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church of Denver. “Not many Americans go to funerals of those they don’t know.”

His colleague, Ermias Amanuel, offered another example. “In the US, people drink coffee alone! In Ethiopia, if you have coffee, you share it with someone.” When people are dependent on one another, community is more important. Self-sufficiency and independence lead to breakdown of community.

This individualism affects more than just social interactions. At times, individualism trumps theology.

Jay Kim, a South Korean who now pastors a Presbyterian Church in Alliance, Nebraska, said, “The church in Korea is more interconnected, so much so that sometimes you feel like people know you too much. But in the US, though we go to the same church, the attitude is ‘your faith is your faith and my faith is my faith.’ Though they come to a Presbyterian church, many do not really follow Presbyterian doctrine.”

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Globalization, Immigration, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

The Guardian view on an Anglican cover-up: the church that didn’t want to know

It’s not the scandal that does the damage, they say, but the cover-up. What happens if the cover-up is itself covered up? This is the question that the Church of England must face with the publication of an extraordinary report into the occasion, eight years ago, when it gave itself a pass mark on the issue of sexual abuse. A report then published, prompted by scandals earlier in the decade, was meant to measure the extent of historic sexual abuse known to the church. Instead it produced the frankly incredible claim that there were only 13 cases in 30 years that had not been dealt with properly.

Now that Peter Ball, a former bishop of Lewes and of Gloucester, has been convicted of indecent assault and been sentenced to 32 months in jail, while Lord Carey, who as archbishop of Canterbury attempted to rehabilitate him and suppressed some of the evidence against him, has been barred from working as a priest in retirement, it is time to review the church’s earlier self-examination. The Ball case is only the most visible of what is now obviously a considerable load of past cases. The archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, along with two of his bishops, has been formally reported to the police for alleged inaction over the case of one of their priests who was as a young man raped by an older priest.

So it is disappointing to see that the church has managed to produce another report that appears to argue that the original clean bill of health was the product of perfectly innocent misunderstandings.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

Some English Church leaders react to the Gafcon2018 letter to the churches

Watch and listen to it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, GAFCON, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

The Rector Of Saint Helena’s, Beaufort, writes his parish about the current situation in the Diocese of South Carolina

Stay the Course

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On Thursday, I returned from the Aliquippa mission trip to attend the meeting of diocesan clergy with Bishop Lawrence and our legal counsel. It was hard to leave the team and the wonderful work they are doing, but the Lord made it clear that I needed to be at this meeting and to prepare for our time together on Sunday. It was also quite evident that our mission team was in capable hands under the leadership of our new Student Minister Camden Windham and our dedicated adult leaders. Please continue to pray for the team as they finish their work and return home Saturday evening.

Being together with the clergy and Bishop Lawrence was a blessing; I was encouraged to stay the course. Our legal battle in terms of property is far from over. Our Vision still guides and directs us in our ultimate purpose of reaching lost people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We were reassured yesterday that, contrary to the claims of TEC that all is settled, there are many months in court ahead. If we dwell on this protracted journey, we may be discouraged or tempted to lose heart. Let us fix our eyes squarely on Jesus Christ and dwell on the calling we have in this missionary moment. His Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth and will be the power we need to press on faithfully.

I will have more details on Sunday morning at the Rector’s Forum at 9:15 am. Please make plans to attend if you are able. In The Weekly eNews, we will post all of the pertinent information and links for those who are out of town or otherwise unavailable. Please know that your Vestry and your clergy stand ready to field your questions and guide you to helpful resources. Unfortunately, much of the path that lies ahead is unknown. But we cling to that which is known — the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and the eternal victory of the empty tomb.

Truly the best is yet to come,

–(The Rev.) Shay Gaillard is rector, Saint Helena’s, Beaufort, South Carolina

Posted in * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry