12/03/2007 11:31:00 pm

Rev Free

Posted by Unknown |

Tomorrow I was booked in to go to my second round of interviews to be ordained as a Deacon for the Anglicans here in Sydney. I was in a special stream of deaconing (or may be it's called a deaconate, pfft, silly church words) that ordained me to be a deacon but never to become a presbyter. Which means I'd be called Rev. Tom French, I could do weddings and funerals and get a house and car when I worked for the church. But I couldn't run a church, give communion and I couldn't forgive sins (pronounce the absolution), unless I did a further 4 years or so study.

I was in the running because I thought it might be helpful to my ministry. I wasn't much excited about being Reverend Tom. But I figured the extra spiritual superpowers might be good. I also liked the idea that I got a stamp of approval from the men in town if ever I needed to go work in another church.

I'd prayed about it and got nothing either way, so divine silence meant I just went with logic and logic said it'd be helpful.

That was about 2 years ago. I thought it'd all be over by now. End of next year at the latest but I'm only up to the second official round of interviews. Seeing as I was part of the first group going through, the guinea pigs of this new ordination scheme, things have been pretty slow.

Sometime over the course of the application process (an interview with an Archdeacon about your sins, a visit to a psychologist, a panel interview about your theology, a dinner with an Archbishop, a couple of forms and many months of hearing nothing) it came out that after ordination I was expected to serve in Sydney for 3 years. That's after my 2-3 years of ministry observation in my current job. Had I gone the presbyter route I could almost have been fully ordained before I'd made it to my three year tour of duty in the deaconing system.

All this extra time wasn't really making me excited about the process. And I didn't feel all that committed to serving in Sydney for three years. I feel committed to serving wherever God sends me, and I'm not to keen on saying "Here I am Lord, send me. But only somewhere south of Newcastle, north of Wollongong and east of the Blue Mountains.

Then I started having conversations with people and it dawned on me that getting ordained as an Anglican here in Sydney is good if you want to work in Sydney. It's not all that helpful if you want to work outside of Sydney. We don't really have a very good reputation outside of Sydney. Partly because Sydney Anglicans have historically been seen as rather aggressively conservative and arrogant. And partly because the strong evangelical nature of Sydney (which I love) doesn't gel with the strong liberal nature of most of the rest of Anglican Australia. Once again if God calls me outside of Sydney I don't want to make it harder to go. But God can work around obstacles like ordination.

Finally the more I thought about it the less comfortable I felt being called Reverend. It gives the implication that the bearer of the title is worthy of reverence. I don't want to be revered. I want Jesus to be revered. He can be Rev. Jesus Christ. I'll just be Tom. Many people told me it's not a big deal, but it has been for me. Pastor is fine, pastor is about the role rather than the nature of the title holder. Reverend is about how wonderful the person with the title is. And I'm not wonderful. The only wonder about me is the wonder that has come from Jesus.

Plus the more I prayed about it, the more uncomfortable I felt about the whole deal.

So on Friday I informed the people in town that I am withdrawing from candidacy for ordination. I'm out. No more Rev for me. Tomorrow I won't be going to any interviews. I can just sleep in, watch movies and eat Thai food. And that feels good in my soul.

That said I should just clear up I don't think other people would be doing the wrong thing to become deacons. Nor would they be wrong to serve God in ordained ministry here in Sydney. But my calling is too unclear for me to commit to that and my behaviour is too dodgy to be revered. So I'll just serve Jesus ordination free and see what happens.