Friday, May 14, 2010

The Joy of Candidacy, Part Three

I am a candidate for ordained ministry again. It's an odd place to be, since I've been an ordained minister for nearly a decade.

But the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has declared itself open to receiving lesbian and gay candidates in Publicly Accountable, Lifelong, Mutual Same-gender relationships (PALMS) on its roster, so I am a candidate once again.

Which means going through candidacy again. For the third time.


The first two times weren't bad, really. I had a really terrific candidacy team in the Sierra-Pacific Synod (the northern halves of California and Nevada). They wanted me to be approved, even to the point of tacitly encouraging me to bend the truth in order to do so. And they were loving and kind when I stubbornly refused to play the "I'm in compliance right now (here in this office)" game. ("Now available from Hasbro! Hasbro, for all of your integrity-compromising needs.")

The second trip through candidacy was with the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, which accepted all of my ELCA paperwork (and kept copies of it all, which has turned out to be a Godsend). I also had to write an essay about how my sexuality would influence my ministry, which felt like one of those "you need to do something special for us so here it is" requirements. But I wrote it and I'm sure I'll come across it any time now and enjoy reading it again. Or laugh. Laughing is a distinct possibility.

ECP is now Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, and it will always be my primary home. Were it not for the pioneers of this movement, dozens of us would have been left out in the cold, like so many of our sisters and brothers in other denominations. I am proud to be "extraordinarily ordained," and grateful as hell to all those who worked so hard to pry open the doors to ministry.

The ELCA's doors are sort of open now, though I am not steeled for bureaucracy as I should be, having been sheltered by ECP-then-ELM all of these years. The institutional church is a whole different animal.

Case in point: Since it has been (just) over ten years since I was postponed by an ELCA candidacy committee, it appears that the Synod has shredded my paperwork. They can't find my file, and think it has been "disposed."

Ouch. Since I was postponed, I assumed that they would hold my file open. Or at least check in before chucking it.

First rule of interfacing with bureaucratic institutions: Never assume.

ELM, my one true love, has my paperwork. Most of it, anyway. They kept it in a fireproof vault, and have already sent a copy to my new Synod. I'm searching through old floppy disks for my approval essays. Have found two of the four. I think the other two are on the hard drive of the office computer at my internship site. A computer which has surely been discarded long ago.

So the search for hard copies commences.