Dr. Eboo Patel gave of his time and energy to share with us an articulate, challenging, and thought-provoking vision of young people coming together and leading people from different faith communities to serve the needs of the world through service to others.
This weekend (May 21-24) I’m here in Shreveport, LA at Centenary College attending the National Student Forum of the United Methodist Student Movement–basically a gathering of United Methodist college students who are from all over the US. Also there are 50+ UM campus ministers and chaplains (I’m now one of those as the Emory Wesley Fellowship Director!) It is a pretty awesome gathering of people in the United Methodist Church who are deeply passionate about young people, the church, and the world. Our theme is breaking barriers and building bridges.
Today at the conference Dr. Eboo Patel founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core spoke to the students and later to the Campus Ministers about coming together despite differences, pluralism, and serving others. The Interfaith Youth Core, is an organization who “builds mutual respect and pluralism among young people from different religious traditions by empowering them to work together to serve others.” Patel is a young, energetic, extremely intelligent and well-read communicator.
He spoke to us about the importance of building the “beloved community” of which Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke. Dr. Patel, a devout Muslim, shared his belief that MLK, Jr.’s vision of the beloved community consisted of and was informed/formed by two things: 1) his being deeply rooted in the Christian faith tradition, and 2) his relationships with people of other faiths. Patel encouraged and challenged the students and campus ministers to grow more deeply in their faith, noting that in deepening their own faith traditions they will encounter truths that resonate deeply with other faith traditions. He talked about the interfaith encounters and relationships of Martin Luther King, Jr. with Ghandi, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel to demonstrate that Martin Luther King, Jr. was not only a great leader for the civil rights movement and a great leader for the Christian movement, but that he was also a great interfaith leader.
Dr. Eboo Patel gave of his time and energy to share with us an articulate, challenging, and thought-provoking vision of young people coming together and leading people from different faith communities to serve the needs of the world through service to others. His message was and is encouraging, insightful, and it is gaining momentum–one conversation and one interfaith leader at a time. May it continue.
So, last week 50+ people desiring to be United Methodist elders and deacons went before the Board of Ordained Ministry of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church to be essentially “interviewed” to be approved or not to be placed in ministry in the UMC.
In short, I “passed,” although the official words are that I am “deferred pending appointment.” Many did not make it through, but must repeat some parts of the paperwork and interview sessions. This is a difficult verdict to hear because in preparation for the Board, every candidate has to go through a lengthy candidacy process (it takes at least 3 years) which includes Masters in Divinity, a 3 year graduate theological education basically, on top of your undergraduate degree and ministry experience. My paperwork wound up being close to 80 pages double-spaced as they ask a difficult set of questions ranging from “How do you see the Holy Spirit working in the World?” to “What does it mean to say that Jesus Christ is Lord?” to “What is the nature and mission of the Church?” Basically, the Board wants to see if you can articulate theology–that you can write and speak coherently about God, humanity, and their interaction.
My experience with the Board, although challenging, was a positive one that left me feeling both encouraged and hopeful. Encouraged–that more experienced ministers and pastors on the Board were willing to listen and appreciate the passion and call of a young person who is hoping to enter the ministry. Hopeful–that things are changing in the Church and that the Church has a future with young people in the world and in ministry.
Now what?! We wait for a little longer to see if there is a place where my gifts and talents match the needs of a church or ministry. This is how the Methodist itineracy system works. So, join me in praying for all who met with the Board: that we may find ministries to which we are well suited and that will enable us to fulfill our calling to serve God and neighbor. But, for the next two weeks my wife and I are simply going to celebrate that I was affirmed by the Board of Ordained Ministry–for each day has enough worry of its own.