This is my second week reading William Willimon's, Bishop. You'll find last week's post here. Chapter 2 is called, "Summoned to be Bishop." Here are just some things that jumped out at me.
1. Ministry is God's idea before it's ours (13).
2. Those who are most reluctant to be bishop should be (15).
3. Wesley and Asbury really tussled over the idea of bishop. Wesley despised the idea. Asbury thought of it in apostolic terms. Asbury saw itineracy as the heart of being a bishop, moving around giving oversight. Quite interesting.
4. So Methodist episcopacy claims to be different from the Episcopal "monarchical episcopate." Willimon calls it a "managerial episcopate." Willimon tries to look at ministry in general as practical rather than "ontological," as if the office of minister or bishop itself makes a person intrinsically different in weight.
5. He mentions "evangelical whiners" who want the bishop to do more but would never give the bishop real power to do it. You get somewhat of a sense of disempowered bishops, from his perspective. They make ministers and that's about it, you get the impression.
6. He has restorationist tones now and then. So the early church was "connectional" rather than "congregational." He finds no evidence that it was democratic.
7. He believes the Methodist system is biased to pick ministers who, "follow instructions, preserve rigid rules, keep information sharing to a minimum, and develop a clergy system that privileges experience and credentials over God-given talent and sacrifices creativity for conformity" (25). At one point he suggests that a bishop is more likely in the UM church to get in trouble for not meeting diversity quotas on boards than for not believing in the Trinity.
Willimon thinks it's a system prejudiced toward "uncreative bean-counters" (26). I had a brief conversation with someone at IWU recently who said bureaucracy was indicative of a declining organization, one that has passed its peak. Someone else told me that policies sometimes are meant to replace good leadership, so a system will run itself and you don't have to count on gifted individuals.
8. Willimon has an interesting take on seminary education, in fact one very similar to Kevin Myers' talk at our Wesleyan general conference. Willimon believes it is the church conference's job to train ministers at practical tasks. The job of the seminary, he thinks, is to be a seedbed of biblical interpretation, sermon preparation, theological discernment, biblical languages, etc. Basically, he sees seminaries as giving the theory and the annual conferences teaching the practice.
Kevin Myers said something similar when he said that the local church (or in his case the large church) is the place to train ministers. The implication is then that colleges and such would give the Bible, theology, and theory, but the local church would provide the training. This is a model that certainly would improve on the predominant models, and Russ Gunsalus at HQ has taken up the offering quite vigorously. IWU undergrad has been working with the KERN foundation to set up a similar model that would get a students to something like "MDIV equivalency" in competency in 5 years out of high school.
Meanwhile, Wesley Seminary at IWU has reformulated its MDIV around a practical focus and training as well. We try to do a critical mass of both training and classic theological disciplines in an integrated form. The key is that we require a person to be in connection with a local church as they go through our MDIV. Surely there are many ways to get to the goal. All these models agree on the competencies a minister should have. They just try to get there in different ways.