Have you ever found that the more you look into something the more you realise you don’t know? Exploring ordination has made me realise just how much I don’t know, or understand, about the Christian faith.
I met with the DDO for the second time last week. It was quite unlike our first meeting, which was a fairly light hearted chat about my life, my route to faith and to exploring ordination. Having said that, the DDO did throw a curve ball at that meeting though, about possibly having to move my family in order to train (see Ordination at any cost?). I should have taken it as a sign that our conversations wouldn’t always been easy.
The conversation started easily enough though, but it didn’t take long for it to become serious. The intensity of the situation rose as the questions began.
We had got together to discuss the thoughts I had had when reading John Pritchard’s book The Life and Work of a Priest (see last week’s post). Having prepared the basis of our conversation meant that I had the benefit of having thought about many of the topics I was being asked about. The questions were certainly serious but I felt reasonably secure in answering them, well most of them.
Infant baptism was added to the mix when I shared that I had been discussing it with a number of people recently (see my post A baptism in social media). Whilst I am beginning to understand why people opt for infant baptism, I still believe my wife and I were right in the decision we took. That puts me at odds with the official position of the Church of England which is in favour of infant baptism.
Naturally this led to me being asked about whether I could would feel able to baptise babies, and whether I could cope with people questioning why my children were not baptised.
When people see a clerical collar they ‘see’ the Church of England and all that it represents in their mind. The priest needs to be able to cope not only with taking any negative flak this creates, but also to be able to do what can be expected of him or her. I could suggest that people consider alternate options but I could not refuse to, for example, baptise their baby if the parents asked me to.
The broad nature of the Anglican Communion it testimony to its ability to accommodate a wide range of views. Thankfully the Church of England recognises, and seems to encourage, individuality. The church is, after all, made up of a group of individuals whose unique walk with God has happened to have brought them together with others on a similar journey.
I have had plenty of experience at having to represent a position that I don’t necessarily hold myself. Having run a number of public consultations for various organisations I have had to understand and manage a large range of arguments, whether I agreed with them or not. It is something I am comfortable doing, although keeping my integrity can mean refusing to put certain things into action; infant baptism doesn’t feel like one of those things.
Satisfied with my answer and ability to cope with being in such a position, the DDO recommended I read Michael Green’s book Baptism: Its Purpose, Practice and Power. The book, like others I’m being encouraged to read, would help me to fill in the gaps in my knowledge and understanding.
After a period chatting about a topic the DDO would peer down at her folder. She had prepared for this meeting too. Raising her head, her gaze would return to me and a new question would follow. It felt like I was being interrogated.
Though the DDO‘s questions were deliberately and necessarily probing, and therefore challenging, they were also designed to be helpful. They, and her advice, were part of her helping me prepare for a possible Bishops Advisory Panel (BAP). The panel would, over 3 days, interview and observe me, and ultimately recomment the Bishop send me for ordination training or not.
At a BAP I would need to be able to articulate why I favoured dedicating children but also respected the corporate view, The panel would also need to be confident that I could cope with people wondering why I have not done for my children that I do for other peoples – it could so easily be seen as hypocrisy.
The spot light was on me. The screw was being tightened. The DDO wasn’t just asking questions, she was taking notes as well!
The problem was that I didn’t have answers to every question I was asked.
I was asked why I needed to be ordained.
I should have expected that one.
My mind was blank, I didn’t know what to say. The truth is that even as I write this I don’t actually know why I need to be ordained. I know that God is calling me in that direction, and it certainly feels like He wants me to be, but He hasn’t told me why.
I joked that this would be much easier if this was Sunday School because the answer would be Jesus!
I knew that at some point I needed to understand why I need to be ordained. That time has come.
The task can’t be put off for a later date. Hoping that the issue will mysteriously become resolved if I ignore it won’t work. That would be nice though.
I need to know what I an ordained person does that a non-ordained person doesn’t. It must be more than being accredited by Bishops that God believes you should shepherd some of His flock. I need to know the theology behind it all.
I’m searching, praying, questioning and listening too. One day, hopefully soon, I will have my ‘eureka’ moment and all will become clear.
I’ll let you know when that day comes.
In the meantime, perhaps you can tell me why some people need to be ordained?
- What are we doing when we baptise people? (thecuratesroom.wordpress.com)
- When Is My Child Old Enough to Get Baptized? (marccortez.com)
- Michael Horton on infant baptism (deovivendiperchristum.wordpress.com)
- A Life Update: Ordination in the Church of England (christianityandvirtue.wordpress.com)
- 3 Questions: Children and Communion, Pt 3 (ministrythroughthelens.wordpress.com)