May 11th, 2010


Reviewing the CTP: Ordination Examinations

This is not currently a recommendation that I have for the CTP, but more of an entry that begins to explore some of this liminality I'm feeling and tries to make sense of that last "gate" to move from "eligible" to "ordained". . . so this is totally a "talking" post. It just happens to fit nicely in my current theme.

I've done some looking to see what various mainstream denominations require of their clergy, and most require some sort of oral or on-paper examination prior to ordination. Reasons for this are pretty varied (most have a strong emphasis on recall and understanding of religious texts), but they center around a couple of particular things:
  • Exams give the student a chance to allow his or her vocation to truly shine
  • Exams ensure a knowledge of myth and lore
  • Exams ensure the correct interpretation of that myth and lore
  • Exams can show a weakness in practice or doctrinal understanding (the latter being generally unimportant to an orthopraxic religion like ours)
  • Exams provide the larger church body with assurance that the candidate is fit for his or her ordination
In most churches, passage of the ordination exams are not guaranteed (apparently, nearly 30% of Presbyterian ministers fail at least one out of five of the tests and have to repeat).

Not all of the above points could really apply to us: about the only doctrinal item we could ask about is whether the person believes the Archdruid is fallible, after all. But it would be good if we could ask about lore. Here's a set of starting questions that I could see potentially asked (naturally, they'd change from candidate to candidate):
  • Vocation
    • How does your vocation interact with the Vision of ADF?
    • What are the three primary attributes of your vocation and how do they express themselves in your devotional life?
    • Why does your vocation find a home in ADF primarily?
  • Theology
    • What do you believe happens to an individual after death?
    • What makes a god a god, and what is the substantive difference between deity, spirit of nature, and ancestor?
    • How did the world come into being?
  • Lore
    • Describe an instance in the lore where a deity in your hearth culture did something morally wrong (by your judgment). What explanation can you offer for this?
    • Explain the role of the oath in two hearth cultures.
    • Briefly describe the life of a hero from your hearth culture, including birth, major deeds, and death.
    • Recite the Archdruids of ADF in order (or something like that, for a bit of our own lore)
  • Open for questions from the Folk
And all the answers would be available to our members to hear before ordination (for those present) or for viewing after the fact (for those not present).

We already test our Initiates with questions. . . I would like to see us open the ordination process to questioning from the wider Org, where members could ask the candidate anything they felt was relevant (though I would want an "examination board" who could perhaps rule a question irrelevant if necessary). Personally, this scares the hell out of me: I've had plenty of stumbles and flat-out face-in-the-mud moments in the past nine years in ADF, and I would not want to see all that dirty laundry aired. But just because it scares me doesn't mean it shouldn't happen.

("dirty laundry" makes it sound like I've been a very bad boy. . . shamefully, not the case. . .)

Anyway, just some thoughts on the process. I'm interested in hearing additional thoughts. . .