Thoughts on the clergy from a new DS

In recent days I have enjoyed reading the Kyrie Eleison blog of Methodist pastor Sky McCracken. Rev. McCracken was recently appointed to be a district superintendent (or, "DS" - a helper of the bishop who gives oversight to a particular part or "district" of the bishop's episcopal area). Because our bishops have oversight of so many churches (my bishop has more than 400) the district superintendents are a vital part of our system as it is currently structured.

Rev. McCracken recently had a post called "Learnings of a new district superintendent" which discusses some of the (mostly light-hearted) things that he has learned in his new role. However, he does have some sobbering remarks as well about the spiritual depth of some of our clergy:

We have pastors who have little or no spiritual depth, yet are appointed to churches to serve as spiritual guides and leaders - and laity are noticing. Emmaus Walks, Academies for Spiritual Formation, SoulFeasts, and other such venues of opportunity for spiritual direction and formation are helping folks grow in their spiritual walk and discipleship. But they are also helping folks realize how much many of their pastors are neglecting to teach these basics of the faith AND, more to the point, have no spiritual depth or discernment of their own. It doesn't help that more and more clergy surveyed (anonymously of course) only read the Bible for sermon fodder, and rarely for devotion. In all of the consultations that I did this year, not one church asked me to send them a good pulpit preacher. But I did hear "Send us a praying pastor" more than once.

As I've noted before, while we are now having a great deal of discussion about renewing and restructuring the United Methodist Church, I believe we need to have a deeper conversation about the spiritual training of our clergy. Though I don't believe the "Call to Action" report emphasized this, it is clear to me that the current reform efforts need to focus on our seminary training, and perhaps some sort of post-seminary spiritual apprenticeship as well. Our clergy need more than academic credentials and participation in social justice projects. Our clergy need to be thoroughly trained as spiritual shepherds of Christ's flock.

On the front of spiritual direction, I believe some of the Roman Catholic clergy who belong to religious orders are light years ahead of us, because they have been formed in the classic traditions that are so rich and deep. As I continue to strive for growth in this department I plan to begin reading The Book of the Pastoral Rule by St. Gregory the Great in the next few days to engage with the ancient patristic wisdom for pastoral formation.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to read your reflections as you work your way through Pope St. Gregory!

3:54 AM, July 09, 2011  

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