The Real Business of Ministry:
Report from the Covenant Ministerium
By Brad Boydston
Published in the Covenant Companion,
You should see my desk. Three or four major piles of projects-in-process plus a scattering of 15 or 20 pieces of paper that aren’t really big enough to make up a pile on their own all live there. This, along with the five or six piles on the floor, constitute the ordered chaos of an overly busy pastor’s study.
It can’t really be helped. We’re getting ready to build our first facility–at the same time we’re adding pastoral staff–at the same time I’m trying to prepare sermons–at the same time we’ve got some people struggling with major health issues. In other words, like every other pastor I know, I am not lacking for something to do.
So, why should I give up some of my very precious time to fly to Minnesota two days before the annual meeting of the denomination in order to attend the Ministerium meetings? I know that I’m not the only one asking this question.
I suppose I sometimes go to these events out of a sense of duty. After all, the Ministerium is a vital arm of this thing we call the Covenant. All members of the ordered ministry–ordained, commissioned, and licensed ministers, as well as missionaries, are members of the Ministerium. And we have business to conduct!
For example, at the meeting of the Ministerium on June 20-21, we approved a budget of $55,525 and raised our own dues by $5. We elected two new officers. David Kersten, the pastor of First Covenant Church in St. Paul is the new president and Sandra Anderson, associate pastor of Roseville Covenant Church, Roseville, Minnesota, is now the treasurer.
We approved 29 candidates for ordination and two candidates for commissioning. In addition we approved 453 ministerial licenses. Sadly, we had to vote to revoke the credentials of two ministers who had gone astray. All of this was done with much prayer and through due process.
The Ministerium received critical briefings from Covenant officers such as President Glenn Palmberg, Executive Director of the Ministry Donn Engebretson, and the president and dean of North Park Theological Seminary, John Phelan.
Both Palmberg and Phelan talked with enthusiasm about the new Presidential Scholarships at the seminary. Twenty such scholarships were awarded last school year, providing tuition-free education for Covenant students. Twenty more students will receive the scholarship this coming year and an additional 20 the following year (for a total of 60). President Phelan and President Palmberg are working to raise $20,000 per student.
Carol Lawson, director of staff ministry, brought a recommendation regarding external orientation procedures for commissioning candidates. The assembly approved the recommendation that reduces the number of required classes, as well as the cost, for ministers in the commissioning process.
Jerome K. Johnson brought a report on the Sanctuary Project, a year-long pilot project on non-reporting pastoral care of pastors being conducted in the North Pacific Conference.
Doug Vetvick from the Book of Worship Commission and Dagfinn Skögey from LaBora, a Norwegian company, presented a demonstration of the software that will be used for the CD-ROM version of the new Covenant Book of Worship. The $350 CD will be available in October and will contain multiple resources in addition to the Covenant Book of Worship.
Nancy Gordon, president of the Association for Covenant Clergy Women, on behalf of the association, made a motion referring a proposed Family Leave Policy for Covenant Clergy to the Executive Committee of the Ministerium. The assembly approved the referral.
Cathy Barsotti, director of development for Centro Hispaño de Estudios Teologicos, briefed the assembly on the tremendous progress at the school which through extension and satellite centers around the world trains Hispanics for Covenant ministry.
Roger Nelson from the Covenant Chaplains’ Association reported on efforts to endow a chair in pastoral care at North Park Theological Seminary. The assembly voted to establish a task force to spearhead a fund drive to be launched at the 2001 meeting of the Ministerium.
Phil Hakanson gave a briefing on the Task Force on Ordered Ministry which has the assignment of a “substantial rewrite” of the rules for an ordered ministry. They have established committees to work on the issues related to the licensing of administrators, the relationship between ordination and commissioning, and the standards for credentialing individuals with a ministerial call but minimal education.
This is just a sample of some of the business we conducted over the two days that we met together. But it wasn’t “all business”. There were multiple breaks to pray for colleagues going through tough times and for the denominational officers who serve us. There were occasional clusters of pastors spontaneously gathered in the hallway outside the assembly to pray for each other.
Of course, a good portion of the “business” conducted at the Ministerium’s gathering actually took place in the hallway--not too far from the coffee pot. Ministers shared experiences with each other, networked in their quest to find additional staff members for their churches, passed along thoughts on outreach programs, and discussed the continuing education presentation of Dr. Greg Boyd.
During a session on Wednesday morning, Boyd, who teaches at Bethel Seminary and is pastor of Woodland Hills Church, both in St. Paul, spoke to the Ministerium about doing ministry in a Postmodern era.
On Tuesday evening the First Covenant Church in St. Paul hosted the Ministerium for an Italian dinner and communion service. James Sundholm, associate superintendent of the Northwest Conference, preached about the cross-cultural nature of the church’s mission.
So it wasn’t strictly all business.
As a matter of fact, when I think about it, I don't forsake those interminable office piles every June so I can do business. I'm certain we could figure out alternative ways to get it done-ways that aren't so time consuming. We could centralize and streamline-delegate and relegate. But we'd lose the connectedness-and that's really one of the top items on the agenda of any Covenant meeting. And as I see it connectedness is a higher priority than the piles on my desk.