Many Methobloggers and Methodist writers have written extensively in recent weeks about perceived flaws in the UMC process for ordaining ministers. As a person in the midst of the process, I understand the frustration of my colleagues struggling with contradictory instructions from institutional authorities, "lost" paperwork, unreturned communications, and long delays. And I appreciate the concerns of ordained clergy who desire for the process to be streamlined or reduced. But I think that none of these critiques address the root problem in the UMC ordination process.
It is this: our denomination is shrinking in America. At its birth in 1968, the UMC had 11 million United Methodists in the United States. Now that number has fallen to 8 million. That means that every year, there are fewer appointments for ministers. As one former Board of Ordained Ministry member explained to me, it may soon reach the point here in the Florida Conference where there are called, confirmed, and qualified ministers ready to enter into full-time ministry, but a scarcity of churches to send them to.
Were we a rapidly growing denomination, as we were in the 19th Century, the District Committees and Boards of Ordained Ministry would be struggling to find even semi-qualified candidates to fill pastorates in new churches as a wave of revival sweeps across the land.
Calls to streamline the ordination process, if answered, will only result in Boards facing the problem of too many elders and not enough churches. The real solution is nationwide spiritual revival. We may not like that solution because it is not something that we can legislate at General Conference, but it is the only solution that addresses the actual problem.