I'm a little, ummm, frustrated right now. When I started this journey, I figured it would be fairly difficult - balancing work, dad, husband, and school - and that part hasn't disappointed me. It is challenging, but I enjoy it. I enjoy learning and I enjoy the growth that I'm undergoing. The frustration stems from this diaconal ordination track that I'm trying to figure out. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I started the program at St. John's without an intention of ordination. However, at the time I wasn't aware of the Deacon program within the UMC. There truly is a calling above the self fulfilling gratification of further study and I am serious about the diaconal program. However, I've grown increasingly frustrated with the definitions that are presented with the program. Everything is vague and from my point of view open to a great deal of interpretation. I was initially told that with a previous M.S. and being over 35, I needed 24 (and depending on which website or pamphlet you read it could be 27) credits of basic graduate level theological courses, half of which would need to completed at an "approved" school. (What's half of 27 credit-wise?) That wasn't a big deal since United Theological Seminary and Luther Seminary are just down (140 miles) the road and they do offer a few online courses. Better yet, St. John's will count those credits towards my degree AND will include them in the fellowship they've given me. Sweet deal... but too sweet?
Now to the frustrating part. During a conversation with a professor at another school about some environmental issues, the subject about ordination came up and I was told that ALL my credits needed to come from an "approved" school. Yet, all the literature I've found says "Master's degree in appropriate area of specialization, plus completion of 27 semester hours of basic graduate theological studies in the Christian faith. OR Professional certification, plus completion of 27 semester hours of basic graduate theological studies in the Christian faith. Must have reached 35 years of age at the time of being certified as candidate." It says nothing about an approved school OR the 27 or 24 credits having to come from an approved school. For tracks A and B, it specifically states that all work must be completed at an approved school. The frustration (and you must realize that I work for state government, so it takes a lot to get me frustrated!) stems from not being able to get an answer about any of this. In the last two weeks I've left 11 voice mails with various people at the General Board of Higher Ed. and have yet to have one returned. That really goes beyond, rude - it's incompetence in my mind. My District Super. has called on my behalf and hasn't gotten really any further than I have, other than they're sending him some informational literature.
The second point of frustration grows out of the "approved" school list. For a theology born from an Anglican tradition it is truly amazing that there is not a single Anglican, Episcopal, or Roman Catholic school on the approved list. I've pretty much decided that whatever transpires within the UMC, I'm going to finish my M.A. program at St. John's. They've made a commitment to me financially and I've made a great deal of progress in my studies of combining ecology, spirituality, and theology. So, stay tuned, I'm sure there will be more twists and turns on this journey.