The Culture of Call
October 29, 2018 / By Rev. Mark Kimpland, Endwell UMC
Editor's Note: This article was first published in the Fall 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on itinerancy in the United Methodist Church.
Over 40 years ago, while attending a youth retreat at Casowasco Camp and Retreat Center, I encountered the very presence of God calling me into ministry. I only wish I had comprehended the event as a call, but the best I could conjure was simply an occurrence I had never experienced before. How does a high school junior begin to discern the gravity of that moment when my sole hope at the retreat was to secure a date to my prom?
I was however keenly aware that what happened that night was real, emotional, and transcendent. In my teenage world of peer pressure/acceptance, athletics, and hormones, I did understand that I encountered the divine amidst my human confusion. Is not that just like God, where in a time of my life I was running from God, the grace of the Holy stopped me in my tracks and revealed a truth I still do not completely comprehend? One thing is certain; the call that began so many years ago is constantly evolving, emerging, and transforming my life today.
As a member of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM), our main task is to confirm the authenticity, interpretation, and presence of one’s call to ministry. The primacy of this call directs our work and recommendations for those preparing for commissioning and ordination and is the catalyst of our functions. Every division of BOM, Clergy Status, Standards and Qualifications, Recruitment and Enlistment, District Committee on Ministry, Provisional membership, and Clergy Effectiveness root their work in the foundation of a candidate’s call.
This “Culture of Call” has its genesis from the very beginning of Candidacy for Licensing or Ordination as outlined in paragraph 310 of The Book of Discipline, 2016, “The licensed or ordained ministry is recognized by The United Methodist Church as a called-out and set-apart ministry. Therefore, it is appropriate that those persons who present themselves as candidates for licensed or ordained ministry be examined regarding the authenticity of their call by God to set-apart ministry.” I have come to appreciate that the examination of my call that continued throughout the entire process of my ordination, continues every Sunday I lead worship and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps this is the dichotomy of one’s call. When a specific moment in time recognizes the Divine summons, it is in the lifetime of moments following, that articulates and discovers God’s purpose of that call. This is where the United Methodist appointment process positions itself uniquely where the called are able to live out their call. This distinctive system allows those named by God, through an intentional appointive process by those who have heard, mentored, and guided that call, to live out the call to its fullest.
As I begin my 34th year under appointment, I not only stand amazed at the transformation of my call, but also to those over the years entrusted in the fulfillment of my call in the appointment process.