I join the chorus of voices today supporting the decision by the 2012 General Conference to end “guaranteed appointments” for Elders in the church. I am thankful for friends and colleagues Beth Anderson and Justin Halbersma for their thoughtful posts and hope that many of these reflections continue to be part of our conversations in the months and years ahead as we live into this reality as Elders in the church.
For some reason the passage from Luke 10 where the Lord sends out the seventy has been on my mind since hearing of the news this morning.
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.
Luke 10:1-4 (NRSV)
From the beginning, our journey of ministry and leadership carries no guarantees. I learned this from my own life as a pastors kid in another denomination where at any moment the congregation could “vote” my father out as their pastor. So now as an pastor in our denomination I am thankful that we are sent to places of service, to plentiful harvests (even if they don’t seem that way, for more on this check out my “Getting Out of the Boat” series), and to the possibility that it will not work.
I recognize that this decision puts us at a risk of losing our livelihood. No matter how hard we try, work, and pray our churches might not respond. Someone might not like the way we do things and call us “ineffective,” a bishop or superintendent could become unhappy and decide not to appoint us. But none of these things are foreign to the people we serve in their respective jobs. They too have guidelines to meet, standards to follow, and goals to be met. They too take risks everyday in their vocations, most with no guarantee either.
My prayer is that I can continue to discern my effectiveness in the work of leading the Christian community. I pray that my colleagues and friends in ministry keep me accountable to my work. I pray that we can live our covenant together in faithful and trust-filled ways. I pray that our congregations know that we as their leaders want them to be fruitful in the work of the kingdom. I pray that our Cabinets be given wisdom as they make appointments in this new reality that we are facing.
In the end I will admit that I trust . . . I trust our cabinet, our bishops, our colleagues. Most of all I trust the Spirit called down upon me at my baptism and ordination! I choose to live in this way but I also recognize the possibility of injustice and will stand for those who become victims of it in this new day and will work for clear expectations, true metrics, and mutual accountability.
Scary, uncertain, and unpredictable . . . just like it was for the seventy.