5.30.2007

Let's Be Real About This

My bishop, my rector, the head of the COM, and my COM mentor are all men who are 30+ years older than I am.

I don't care how many times you say to someone, "We really want you to open up and be yourself," there are occasions where that may not be realistic.

Don't get me wrong, I've known older gentlemen who were extremely supportive of women in ministry, and of me specifically. Having said that though, it's very unlikely that they have an easy time relating to my experiences.

And so, when my rector says that he believes many candidates for ministry try to conform to what they think the COM wants, maybe we should look at why that happens. It seems possible, maybe probable, that has less to do with candidates trying to manipulate the system, and more to do with their comfort levels. How often does a young woman sit in a discussion with a much-older man in a suit, that she is not expected to try to anticipate what he wants to hear? My arguement is that my rector is probably right: we do tailor ourselves during interviews, everyone does. If that's the case, we should be spending more time looking at why people are guarded.

The youngest person on the COM is in his mid to late 30s. None of the women are under 50. There is only one person of color, and he is a recent addition. Of those who are not ordained clergy, one is a chaplain, another is married to a clergyperson, and a third is a retired doctor.

I understand that, as ministers, we need to be able to work with all people. On the other hand, I think we have to be adaptable in order to do that, which means that we censor ourselves in different ways according to the situation. I learned when I interned in another parish that you frame a sermon differently depending on the congregation. That doesn't mean you're being dishonest, it means that you're looking for the means of communication that will be best understood.

I think that if Commissions on Ministry are really going to be effective, they have to spend more time with the interviewees, and they may have to aquire more diverse members. I understand that they have read our written applications (although another candidate told me that when she referenced hers during the interview, COM members didn't know what she was talking about), as well as recommendations from others, but 12 people interviewing one candidate for 15-20 minutes does not give a full picture, regardless of how insightful the group is. It certainly isn't constructed to establish trust, though my rector says that a significant part of my problem is that I need to trust the system. This is not a system set up to foster that, and I'm concerned when any group says, "trust us, and don't worry about whether or not that trust is well-founded."

Something isn't right here. It worked out okay, but there's something here that I don't believe is fully functional.

5 comments:

  1. You're definitely on to something, Mrs. M. This is one of the things I fear going into the discernment process. Things do need to change...and I sense they will. That's my hope, at least. Who knows? Maybe you'll find yourself on the COM someday!

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  2. You know, I got *so* tired of being told to "Trust The Process." I don't know what the answer is; but that ain't it.

    Honestly, that was never the issue. The issue was that "The Process" was/is applied and run by actual, fallible, unpredictable people-- folks who I did not necessarily know, and therefore had no particular reason to trust. So, I placed my trust elsewhere, muddling through by the grace of God and with the advice and care of one or two spiritually solid souls who supported and challenged me to clarity.

    Trusting God, and leaning on trustworthy disciples-- that's what made it possible for me to communicate with my COM in ways they could understand.

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  3. Amen. You got it.

    Not in "the process" but heard plenty of COM horror stories.

    God help us.

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  4. Well, we don't have a COM, but I well remember, even though it wasn't recent, the feeling of sitting in a room with 9 males. They were gracious, but...there was no way I was going to just be myself. Trust the process...yeah, show me that in scripture. :-(
    Blessings to you as you trust God's wisdom and lean on those you do trust!

    Glad you liked my dahlias! They are the most beautiful ones I've ever had.

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"So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."
-Saint Molly Ivins