Sunday, May 23, 2010

Guaranteed Appointments and Universit...

I see multiple parallels between the university faculty tenure package and the system of guaranteed appointments for itinerant clergy in The United Methodist Church.  In both cases, the path to that place of security is long and tortuous.  The supplicant must leap over tall buildings and navigate treacherous obstacle paths. He or she is subjected to multiple and often painful evaluations by groups of peers.  At some point, certain scholars are deemed ready to be awarded tenure, and certain clergy become Ordained Elders in Full Connection with the Annual Conference.  Unsuccessful candidates drop by the wayside, eventually, we hope, landing in fields that seem better suited to their gifts and talents.

The purpose of both procedures is to ensure freedom after such status has been achieved.  Scholars enjoy the freedom to do academic research, even if it means reaching unpopular conclusions.  Clergy embrace the freedom to minister and preach with prophetic voices, even if it means they are not especially popular with certain church members.  

Yes, we've all suffered under faculty who became lazy after tenure.  But they are few.  Most embrace their scholarly work with passion and love for their field, pushing boundaries, engaging their students, providing the best of the life of the mind.

Yes, we've also all suffered under clergy who became "ineffective" after ordination.  But they also are few.  Most have hearts that seek to beat in rhythm and harmony with the heartbeat of God.  This means calling out sin, courageously following Jesus to the cross, caring for the least of all creation.

Tenure is disappearing on many campuses now.  This is primarily an economic decision.  It is expensive to keep tenured faculty.  Guaranteed Appointment is getting ready to disappear.  It is expensive to maintain a group of clergy in full connection.

Sad as it is, I can understand money becoming God on university campuses. But money becoming God in a church situation?  How grievous.  There are other ways to deal with those clergy deemed "ineffective."  And I'm still waiting on a definition of ineffectiveness.

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