Originally posted Dec. 4, 2010, at Luthermatrix Republished with permission of the author.
Editor’s note: “Bi-vocational” is the term in common use for “shared-time ministry.”
So, one of the things people going through the candidacy process have been told (by synod bishops on down) as of late is that they need to be prepared to be “bi-vocational.”
I would like to stir up the pot a little bit. When we are told that we need to be bi-vocational, are we really being told that we need a second job?
If I remember my Reformation history accurately, part of the revolutionary nature of Luther’s teaching was his understanding of vocation. In a sense the medieval church embraced uni-vocational ministry; or to put it another way bi-vocationality was impossible in that system.
By this I mean the only job that was “spiritual,” the only job that was actually fulfilling God’s will and calling upon a person’s life was that of the priest.
Luther’s response to this was that a father changing a child’s diaper was as holy as the prayers of a whole monastery of monks. It was a re-capturing of the noble spiritual truth that when we serve our neighbor we also serve God.
All of a sudden being a baker, a banker, a mother, a father, a husband, a plumber, or a social worker were all vocations — they were all jobs of spiritual worth, all jobs we are called by God to do because they serve a common good, a communal neighbor, and thus serve Christ and his gospel.
Thus I have four questions I believe to be worth discussing:
- So why is it that only now, when there aren’t enough full-time calls for Lutheran pastors, that the ELCA is calling us to discern a second vocation?
- For that matter what does this “bi-vocational” language say to pastors who are fathers and mothers? GED certifiers? Volunteers of all sorts? What if a pastor has discerned that God has called him to be a pastor, God has called him to volunteer at a homeless shelter, God has called him to be a husband, and God has called him to be a father? That’s four vocations already! Four holy callings upon a man’s life!
- The lifestyle of a pastor makes maintaining other vocations, such as parent and spouse, hard to do.
Why is the ELCA only concerned with a clergyperson’s other vocations once it involves money? (As a side-note, yes, I am aware of the wholeness wheel.)
- For that matter, when we discuss lay folk and non-ordination-track folk we lessen the use of this language of vocation. Why is it only when the work life of ordained folk is concerned that we trot out this language of vocation?
I guess it seems that as a church it is important to call things what they are.
Find a link to Chris Halverson’s blog Luthermatrix at Lutheran Blogs.