“The ‘Ordination Track’ and PTS”
One of the benefits of going to a Presbyterian seminary, I think, is that the PC(USA) candidacy process is accommodated, if not outright expected.
Earlier this month, I had to miss three days of class to meet with my presbytery. I encountered little resistance. I turned in my work early, and each of my professors sincerely wished me well.
Of course, only about 40 percent of students are Presbyterian. The rest come from the full spectrum of traditions: Methodist, Baptist, Quaker, Mennonite, UCC, Episcopalian, and even Catholic. All of these denominations have their own ordination processes, and while the seminary as a whole may not be as familiar with these processes, they are similarly accommodated. Put differently: everyone here, from the students to the professors to beloved President Torrance himself, has a bigger picture in mind than a single degree program.
My time in Nashville last month initially felt like yet another “hoop” I had to jump through. I was told where to be and when, and the rest of the arrangements were left to me. I lobbied for a Skype encounter – we could just talk online! – but my request was denied. The Presbytery of Middle Tennessee requires in-person consultations. How old-fashioned, I thought. Skype wouldn’t require me to miss class. Skype is how we handle long-distance dialogue in the twenty-first century.
But Skype isn’t how you build relationships. Skype also probably isn’t the way you articulate a call story, a journey of faith, or a vision of the future. These things require real presence: facial expressions, gestures, and eye twinkles. The laptop camera might miss these things. Above all, had my presbytery’s CPM consented to “meet” via Skype, I doubt I would have walked away from our encounter with such a buoyed sense of purpose. That purpose – that affirmation – is neither owed to nor guaranteed for me. Nonetheless, it felt warm, and strengthening. I returned from Nashville with my panoramic perspective restored. CPM forced me to close my books and confront in-person the reality that awaits me on the other side of this academic experience. Although it may seem obvious enough to an outsider, I have to remind myself: I am preparing to be a pastor, not a student. For me – and for PTS – this isn’t merely accepted and accommodated. It’s celebrated.