Recently, I’ve been trying to think through some of the questions that new ministry structures raise for the Church of Scotland.
And there’s a big one around the issue of ‘the call’!
For some their ‘call’ has an almost sacramental significance. They return to it for comfort and assurance in the same way as Luther reminisced of his baptism. Others are more pragmatic or even dismissive; believing the call to ‘word and sacrament’ has been raised too high above the general calling of all Christians.
I also suspect high and low views of call transcend the traditional theological boundaries of progressive and conservative. But no matter how sacred we consider ‘the call’ the likely restructuring of the Kirk will challenge all of us.
The language of call is of particular significance in the CofS because in the absence of Bishops the call functions as our Presbyterian sorting hat. An Individual may discern a call, but central committees must affirm it, congregations must echo it and Presbytery’s must confirm it.
Calling therefore operates on multiple levels from a personal sense of vocation to the fulfilment of a perceived institutional necessity, ie this vacant church requires a minister to function effectively. For example, I felt a strong, if uncomfortable and unwelcome, draw towards ministry in the Church of Scotland. But my particular background meant that I’d never heard of ‘Word and Sacrament’ or thought about ‘Parish Ministry’. Which is the authentic call; the personal conviction or the available institutional expression? What are we called to?
This is significant because until relatively recently ministers in the Kirk were generally called to a particular charge. But what will we be called to in the the unfamiliar territory of a post covid, post Christian and post GA 2021 world and an increasingly congregational Kirk?
And if we object to a redefined concept of call. Will we be on strong biblical ground, or simply expressing a preferred historical approach to filling institutional slots? Can we redefine ourselves as called to a region or a social subcategory? Can we consider ourselves called to something other than a parish and still be considered a ‘real minister’? The pioneer minister pilot assumed that we could as do different forms of chaplaincy.
And lastly, many of the concerns from my previous post about hubs are relevant here. Working in teams is a good idea, in theory. And deploying ministers over larger areas and multiple congregations and ministries may be a necessity. But can it work in our specific context and can it be bluntly applied based solely on geographical proximity or current vacancy?
In the case of call, these may be even bigger questions. Because, while congregations may be often less concerned with theology than function, it’s the nature of theological practitioners to really care about theology.