1. Foremost among my objections is Lancaster’s characterization of the five items in 02-A, as follows: “These five would establish the ordination of Christian educators as ministers of the Word and Sacrament with a specialization in educational ministry.” In fact, 02-A, items 1 through 3, have nothing to do with the ordination of Christian educators. They refer to the description of ministers of the Word and Sacrament (1), and to the preparation and examination process for ministers of the Word and Sacrament (2 and 3). The field education and competencies specified in 2 are for “those persons seeking a call to education ministry” from within the preparation for ministry of the Word and Sacrament, a proposal created in direct response to the General Assembly Council’s instruction to “Recommend standards for Ordination to minister of the Word and Sacrament with Specialization in Education Ministry to be included in the Book of Order.” (See General Background, p. 1 of the Proposed Amendments booklet.). Only 4 and 5 in 02-A. relate to preparation for an ordained call for Certified Christian Educators (CCE), and they carry no qualification of a specialized ordination.
2. Second, Lancaster states, “The fourth section [in 02-A.] is a grandfather clause that would allow ordination as ministers for certain current Christian educators without their having to meet the requirements for ministers.” It does no such thing. No Book of Order change can allow such action. Presbyteries ordain and presbyteries vote on individual candidates. This amendment creates an opportunity for each CCE to apply to a presbytery’s Committee on Preparation for Ministry (CPM) for consideration of her or his situation. Each must be a member of a Presbyterian Church, be presented by that church as an inquirer, and continue with the candidacy process. The presbytery may waive specified requirements after considering the education and experience of an individual CCE, but it is in no way required to do so. The Committee on Preparation for Ministry would consider the educator’s preparation for ordination to the ministry of the Word and Sacrament, determine what may be missing, and then determine what further preparation may be necessary. The committee then creates a plan of preparation in conversation with the educator, that is presented to the presbytery. The presbytery must approve the plan by a 3/4 vote, and after the educator has completed the plan satisfactorily, the preparation requirements have been fulfilled and only then is the educator eligible to seek a call.
3. Lancaster suggests that an extraordinary clause may not be required because the Book of Order already contains one. If that is the appropriate way for Certified Christian Educators to work with a presbytery toward ordination, why has no one ever thought of it or used it? More to the point for most people, this extraordinary clause specifically names CCEs and invites presbyteries to use it to call into ministry in this new way educators who have gifts for, and a call to, ministry. Under the current extraordinary clause one has to fail exams to have an alternate process. This amendment allows waiving of exams because of demonstrated competency in work history or by successful completion of certification exams. However, it does not require that exams be waived. Presbyteries may require exams if they so choose. This extraordinary clause states that CCEs are a unique group of people who have education and competency to bring to the ordination process. It’s a way to say, yes, this amendment is appropriate for CCEs to use an extraordinary clause, but one that more specifically and helpfully applies to their particular situation.
4. If Lancaster is correct in suggesting, “Those who are ordained ministers of the Word and Sacrament should primarily fill the function of preaching and administering the sacraments,” I am forced to conclude that only those who serve as solo pastors, and only those solo pastors who spend the majority of their time doing those two things, are adequately functioning as ministers of the Word and Sacrament. Even associate pastors who preach once a month (and many do not even have the opportunity to do that) do not spend nearly a majority of their time performing those functions. The ministry of the Word and Sacrament is, in fact, much more. The church, by validating specialized ministries of many kinds, has affirmed that is so. By listing responsibilities (see G-6.0202a and b) the church has broadened the understanding of functions that define the ministry of the Word and Sacrament. “The pastor is responsible for studying, teaching, and preaching the Word, for administering Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for praying with and for the congregation. With the elders, the pastor is to encourage the people in worship and service of God; to equip and enable them for their tasks within the church and their mission in the world; to exercise pastoral care, . . . etc.”
Before any vote is taken, we need to be reminded that these amendments continue to affirm the presbytery’s role as ordaining body, and the Committee on Preparation for Ministry’s role as the one that determines what will be required for preparation and for demonstration of skills for ministry. These amendments cannot and do not allow anything beyond what presbyteries vote to allow. Educational ministry happens in many ways and in many places in the Presbyterian Church, thanks be to God. This collection of amendments attempts to enhance educational ministry when performed by Master of Divinity students who seek calls that are primarily educational ministry, by Certified Christian Educators who see their calls in a new way, and by Certified Christian Educators and Certified Associate Christian Educators who choose to continue to practice God’s call in the church as certified educators. That’s the bottom line. Let’s see them as invitations to serve better educational ministry in the church, instead of as attempts to gain “status or power”; as ways to see a call to educational ministry as a valid call; and as ways to hold Certified Christian Educators accountable and to offer them justice and care.
Joyce MacKichan Walker is director of Christian education, Nassau church, Princeton, N.J.