Selfie Vocations

It bothers me a great deal how much self-selection goes into the calling of pastors. How important and deceptive is the feeling of “being called to the ministry” (or priesthood)? And so, how many people are at the altar and pulpit basically because they feel that they should be? Or are prompted by what amounts to a voice in their head? The volitional chickens have surely come home to roost when the presbytery becomes open to women, in whom the affective side of personality dominates and in whom therefore the subjective call which has become so widely and wrongly expected among men becomes decisive and institutionally set.

One cannot help but think that if things were right, the call should normally come externally and irrespective of personal feelings (raw instances of which one encounters in the prophets, apostles, and church fathers), that simply being a faithful Christian man whose profile matches that of the Pastoral Epistles makes one liable to be named by his congregation or pastoral superior to the apostolic office. The old nolo episcopari, rather than the desire involved in the personal call, should be regarded as the normal condition of the will in the election of ordained ministers, and whatever formal training is deemed necessary should follow the call and pastoral ordination, being as it is wholly ancillary to the institution itself.

S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.

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