The debates have raged for years, whole books (come on MPH how come your own search does not find your own books) have been written on the subject (and without coming to much agreement IMHO). Now David H has accidentally started a new debate when he asked Why do we do weddings?
The debate moved on (cos realistically weddings are not a very significant use of time for most Methodist Ministers) to whether Methodist Ministers are "professionals" or not. It seems that Pam and I managed to shock Ian, which was interesting and I have to say for me quite surprising.
So are Methodist Ministers "Professional"? It seems to me that is a tricky question. In plain practical terms in seems to me that there are three different definitions in common use:
Professional as in a traditional vocation.
Doctors, Lawyers, Architects and Priests are among a number of "traditional" professions. However, this use of the word profession has fallen out of common usage. I also wonder to what extent it ever applied to non-conformist ministers.
Professional as in high quality.
This is a pretty modern understanding and one, it seems to me, has come from other cultures. In Britain it was always considered that the amateur represented the best quality. See for example the film . Anyway it is certainly in common usage today. The phrase "professional quality" is used to sell almost anything and also frequently used to justify high prices.
Professional as in paid.
Another traditional definition. Used most commonly in sport.
Are any of these definitions helpful in considering what a Methodist Minister is and how they do it? I don’t believe they are, for historical, theological and ecclesiastic reasons
In Methodism our ministers are understood to be a representative role, that is crucial to how we are church. A representative role goes against all 3 definitions of Professional.
To separate some vocations out as professional certainly goes against the idea of a representative role. It suggests hierarchy alien to Methodism and a separation between ordained ministers and lay people that on other posts David laments. In my ministry I find the counter cultural aspects of the gospel to be vitally important. Being considered a "professional" appears to me to be fully embracing a culture that stands entirely against the gospel.
- The call to discipleship is not restricted to certain professions.
- The idea that high quality is only achieved through paying a high price also goes directly against much of the teaching of Jesus.
- The idea that ministry/discipleship/call is only for those who are paid is ludicrous and damaging to the gospel and church.
- The idea that people’s worth can be measured in monetary terms stinks. I am honoured to be able to stand alongside those who in the eyes of the world have little value, look them in the eye and say "Jesus says he came to bring good news to the poor, he says you are of infinite worth and I believe him and that is why I am here as a Christian".
So I do not consider myself as a Minister a "Professional Christian", instead a person called by God and recognised by the Church to serve as a representative of him and his people, something I consider a great honour.