So, one of the things ELCAers going through the candidacy process have been told 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 Luther’s teaching was his understanding of vocation. In a sense the medieval church eschewed 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:
1. 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?
2. 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!
3. The lifestyle of a pastor makes maintaining other vocations, such as parent and spouse, hard to do (http://www.pastorburnout.com/pastor-burnout-statistics.html http://www.desperatepreacher.com/pastorcare/intro_clergyfamily.htm) 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 http://www.elca.org/Growing-In-Faith/Vocation/Rostered-Leadership/Leadership-Support/Health/Wholeness-Wheel.aspx)
4. 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.