I'd like to dedicate this blog post to informing our congregation about the vital work of the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOOM) of the Northern Illinois Conference (NIC). This topic is particularly relevant at this present time as the BOOM is currently preparing for its annual interviews of candidates seeking ordination, which is scheduled for March 8th-9th via ZOOM.
Both Deacon Barbara and I serve on the BOOM as board members. It is a great joy for us to serve our Annual Conference in this way! One truly has the sense of participating with the nearly other 50 members of the BOOM in lifting up the next generation of clergy.
The BOOM manages a wide range of responsibilities such as clergy continuing education, the approval of clergy retirements, funding for the education of local pastors, clergy mentoring, and much more... Chief among the BOOM's responsibilities is its yearly recommendation to the Bishop of our Annual Conference of candidates ready for either commissioning or ordination. Candidates who are "commissioned" have completed an approximately 5-7 year process of coming before their local pastor, local church Staff-Parish Relations Committee (SPRC), local Church Conference, respective District Committee on Ordination (DCom), and finally the Board of Ordained Ministry, all of whom must pass the candidate before the candidate is deemed ready to be "commissioned" by the Bishop before the Annual Conference's yearly ordination worship service. Additionally, the candidate must either complete or be actively pursuing varying seminary requirements depending on whether she/he is seeking commissioning as an elder or deacon. Finally, there are written requirements accompanied by a wide range of other requested materials the candidate must provide all throughout the discernment/interview process.
Candidates who are "ordained" have passed their commissioning interview; served in ministry for at least two years in an approved ministry site by the BOOM; participated fully in the BOOM's "Residency Program," which provides commissioned elders and deacons with a wide range of educational opportunities and small group work; graduated from seminary (or soon will); and passed a second interview with the BOOM in which the BOOM interview team examines if the candidate is learning how to integrate-and-apply her/his theology into her/his ministry context. The expectations of the second ordination interview are more stringent than the first commissioning interview as the second interview is truly the "final check" before the candidate is fully ordained and released from the yearly examination of the DCom and BOOM. In total, from the candidate's first conversation with her/his pastor to the final ordination interview, it generally takes a candidate about 7-9 years to be ordained.
The structure of interviews for candidates seeking either commissioning or ordination is quite fascinating. Each candidate is interviewed by a 9-person interview team comprised of mostly clergy with some laity. The interview team is divided into three sub-teams: the "Home Team" manages the overall interview process and is responsible at the end of the interview for addressing with the candidate any topics/questions which weren't covered adequately by the other two sub-teams; the "Theology Team" focuses on the candidate's theological statements as found in the candidate's paper and oral interview; and the "Practice of Ministry Team" examines carefully how the candidate is applying her/his theology within her/his ministry context. Each team has a dedicated amount of time with the candidate. This division of responsibilities among the sub-teams allows each team to prepare more thoroughly for their respective area of focus.
A key point I wish to convey is how proud I am of the robust credentialing process our denomination upholds. Moreover, this process is utilized all throughout the US in its many annual conferences, each of which maintain their own Board of Ordained Ministry; this means that there is a standardized process for commissioning and ordination across annual conferences.
When our church gives toward its apportionment, part of our funds go toward the budget of the Northern Illinois Conference's BOOM. These apportionment funds are key to making possible the work of the BOOM and its ability to credential candidates. Additionally, the BOOM is a chief example of the power of our United Methodist connectionalism: without the clergy from several churches, funding from apportionments, oversight of the Bishop, and rich tradition of our Methodist faith, the BOOM wouldn't be possible. Through our giving, we are all participating in the Spirit-led, multigenerational process of lifting up the next generation of clergy!
I close by also foregrounding up our church's long tradition of serving as a field education site for seminary students of Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary. In conjunction with our church's support of our annual conference and its BOOM, our church has made it a focus to invest in both the education and credentialing of the next generation of clergy. Praise be to our Lord for this fruit of ministry produced by our congregation!
Grace & peace,
Scott S. Himel, Senior Pastor