“So, you weren’t a real pastor before?”
“Weren’t you already ordained?”
“Were the weddings you performed before legal?”
The general public doesn’t think (or care that much) that much about what it means to be an ordained pastor, which makes sense to me. Why would they? So when I recently received some of these questions after being approved for ordination this summer in The United Methodist Church here in Indiana, (whose requirements include: a Master of Divinity from an accredited and approved seminary, a 2yr (in Indiana, 3) probational period of full-time ministry, countless pages of paperwork, at least 2 full psychological exams and assessments…to mention a few) I wasn’t offended at all, because most people simply don’t know what it means to be ordained as a pastor.
I am a United Methodist pastor and have been serving in full-time ministry as one since 2009. So, the descriptions or examples that follow are speaking specifically to ordination within The United Methodist Church, as I can’t speak with experience about the ordination processes in other protestant denominations.
I use two examples, from the marketplace, to give an idea of what it means to be an ordained United Methodist pastor. One example might be receiving tenure as a college professor. Moving from adjunct, to faculty, to tenured faculty gives an idea of the ordination journey. An adjunct is a real professor teaching real students in a real classroom, the status of “adjunct” speaks more to the educator’s relationship with the institution rather than his or her relationship with his or her students. Receiving the status of “tenure” is a statement by the individual professor and the institution of a shared commitment to the other.
Another example I use to describe ordination in The UMC is a practicing lawyer who becomes partner in his or her firm. S/he is a real lawyer practicing real law in a real courtroom, even though he or she is not a partner of the firm he or she is practicing law on behalf of. The competence or style in practicing law does not change once he or she becomes a partner. Their relationship to the law changes very little, it is their relationship with his or her law firm that changes as they become partner. Again, this change speaks to the shared commitment of the individual lawyer and his or her law firm.
So don’t worry, if I’ve done your wedding in the past couple years, it’s legal. Legit? That’s on you.