Feb
22

Seminary Now

Seminary

So, another quick update for those of you that are following my Seminary career;

Today I go before the Ministerial Program Committee (MPC), to have my final fate decided. Up to this point, everything had been going amazingly well. I have had no negative interaction with my Professors, any Pastors, anyone in authority at all, my Seminary Brothers had proven to be one of the most amazing groups of guys I have ever had the honour to encounter, my supervising Pastor was very happy with my work, and every single piece of feedback that I had gotten from my congregation had been overwhelmingly positive. In short, the experience that I have had this time at Seminary was nothing like the one I had had.

Then this Sunday a Professor of mine who also attends my congregation and sits on the MPC pulled my Pastor and me aside and explained to us that the Seminary had just received some negative feedback.

I was crushed, floored. I couldn’t think of a single conflict I had had with anyone in authority for literally – years. I asked what the conflict was, what the feedback was, and was told that I was not able to be told until the Faculty met on Wednesday and decided if the concerns were legitimate and should be passed on to the MPC.

I spent the rest of the long weekend praying, reading Psalm 130, and just attempting to deal with what had just happened. I talked to my Pastor, he said he had no idea what it could be, but suggested that it “Couldn’t be anyone here, these people really love you.”

I chose not to tell my beautiful wife. I wanted to save her having to worry for longer than was necessary. I don’t know if that was the right thing to do, but I just didn’t want to see her hurt.

I told some of the Seminary Brothers, barring one whose wife works with mine as I didn’t want to put him in the awkward position of having to keep something from his bride. Maybe that was wrong too.

Then, Thursday morning came. I met with that same Professor and he explained to me that they felt that the feedback was legitimate and would be passed on to the MPC. I asked what it was…

The response floored me. I was told that some at my congregation had said that I had been “arrogant.” Specifically, during a Bible Study that I had been assigned by my Pastor entitled, “Is it a Sin to be Rich?” this person thought I had implied that we aren’t to be compassionate to the poor because they “have a lot of money.” I honestly have no idea how that could have come across, I have dedicated years of my life to working with and serving the poor. It is what I do as a career currently. If anything, showing compassion to the poor is the only thing I care about as much as evangelism. But if I implied that, I certainly need to be more careful. It was a difficult topic.

I was also told that during Movember, when I was raising money for the Seminary’s donation for prostate cancer, that the joking manner in which I had made the announcements asking for donations from the congregation had come across to someone as inappropriate and that it had become more about “beating the other students” than the cause. I did make those jokes, and even though I passed it by my Pastor before I did them, I should have been more sensitive. I made those jokes in order to raise as much money as I could to help people suffering in that terrible way, and in no way intended to hurt people with my humour. I will definitely be more careful with that in the future.

I was also told that I had used a “sarcastic type of humour” that left someone worried that the recipient of that kind of cutting humour would have felt “bullied.” I do have two couples at my congregation that trade pointed barbs back and forth, one of whom are relatively new members that have become quite close with my family and me, and the other who I had invited to join our congregation and have known for years, also close friends. I can only assume that these conversations were what are being referred to. I have already reached out to all of them, apologizing and begging forgiveness if anything I have done was offensive or hurtful. They all assured me that there was absolutely no offense taken and that it was all in the context of our loving friendship, but I still promised to do better and must watch that this kind of humour is used in appropriate contexts.

I had also been told that some felt that I had denigrated other denominations online and my behaviour online, specifically on Facebook, had been too much. They are absolutely right. I can only say that I apologize and repent and want to do better. I will do better.

Lastly, I was told that someone said that I had also used humour in a “bullying” way at the Seminary to one of my classmates, though I wasn’t given specifics. They are absolutely right. I should be more careful, whether or not the recipient of the joke personally was hurt or someone overheard some trash-talk at the foosball table and thought it had gone too far, it amounts to the same thing. I cannot do that sort of thing.
So, this is the context I am walking into today for the MPC.

Also, I have been deluged with phone calls, texts, personal messages, well wishes on Facebook, e-mails, and personal conversations wherein people have expressed their support for me and endorsement for continuing on at Seminary. Some have sent e-mails and letters of support to the Seminary itself, including the psychologist I have been seeing, a couple of friends, my boss, my Seminary Brothers, my supervising Pastor, my congregation’s Board of Elders, and the congregational President I serve.

If nothing else, this more positive feedback shows how loved I am and I am so grateful for that.

But those on the MPC, those at the Seminary have a nearly impossible task. They have to predict the future. They are charged with preparing men for the Office of the Holy Ministry and also (and perhaps more importantly) protecting the sheep from the wolves that try to infiltrate the Church.

I am a sinner; my iniquity is more than you know, and more than I know. My behaviour in the past has placed me under the microscope, and that is a good thing. The fact that so many are taking such an active interest and taking this so seriously shows just how much care and love that they have for my beloved Synod and for Christ’s Church.

If I am unworthy to take on the Office of the Holy Ministry, I praise God that we have in place people who are willing to make the hard decisions. Pray for them, pray for them all. What they do is not easy.

And pray for those that shared their concerns, they are obviously genuine in their love and care of the Church in that they want to ensure that only the very best of men becomes a Pastor. I thank God for all of them.

Pray for me. No matter how this goes, I want to use this to become a better man and a better Christian. I want to be the most healthy and happy (spiritually and emotionally) man that I can be. Please pray that I become that man.

I have changed. The difference in my attitude and activities are like night and day. And I continue to improve in all areas. If the MPC finds that it is not enough, just pray that I can start over and come to peace with it.

Thank you for all of your love. God be with you all.

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