Perhaps a Little Too Smug?
Just how many pity cards can one person play at a time?
A little too dark. What? The Presbyterians I know would be absolutely thrilled to embrace a dark-skinned, very ethnic Sri Lankan--with a solid Christian faith and a genuine call by God to ministry. Rather than an impediment to her being ordained, her ethnicity would be seen as a boon. “At last we’re actually moving toward the kind of church we hope to be!” would be on people’s minds. “Here’s someone who can do things and go places I never could! We’re in for a treat!”
A little too female. No way! Has Niles looked around? The percentage of women in seminary and being ordained is large and growing. Being female is no bar to ordination in this denomination. What she means by “too female,” I’m not sure, but if her idea of “female” means “heterodox,” then, yes, she would be correct. But hers would be a very narrow and faulty definition of “female,” excluding the brilliant minds, excellent ministries, and consecrated lives of many of my esteemed colleagues with two X chromosomes.
A little too single. What does that have to do with anything? In more than three decades in presbyteries, I have never seen marriage considered an ordination requirement. If by saying “too single,” Niles meant “too single and sexually active,” then, again, she’d have a point. But then that’s not a case of being single; it’s a sad case of simply being immoral. Being married and immoral would be just as great a hindrance to ordination.
A little too smart. Okay, this might actually be the rub--not in actuality, but in her self-perception. I have yet to find a presbytery that says, “Give us candidates who aren’t very bright. We like the dumb ones, the slow learners, the imperceptive louts. No more Phi Beta Kappas and summa cum laude candidates. We want underachievers, dimwits, and drudges!” Instead, I have seen presbyteries captivated by some truly brilliant candidates for ministry. But I have also seen presbyters rightfully provoked by smug and egoistic candidates who consider themselves superior to the naïve, simple folks presuming to judge them. Any candidate who considers him- or herself “a little too smart” for the presbytery has much more to learn prior to ordination. I’d highly suggest a serious read of Helmut Thielicke’s slim A Little Exercise for Young Theologians prior to a second, more reality-based consideration of ordination.
If Niles's lame excuses weren’t sufficient to raise some red flags about readiness for ordination, her sweeping dismissal of those in her denomination with convictions different than her own was absolutely stunning. Rather than ascribing any hint of deep theological conviction to her ideological opponents, any semblance of either caring love or intellectual capacity, Niles just swats them away with a breezy, “Our friends want to deal with rules so they don’t have to deal with people.” Well, if this is any indication of the quality of Niles’s theological discernment, collegial esteem, breadth of understanding, and pastoral style, again, I would think that voices in her presbytery that questioned her readiness for ordination were on to something.
Any candidate who puts on airs, seems to consider ordination some kind of birthright, is swift to give pitiful excuses, deems her- or himself just too brilliant for the morons in presbytery to understand, and perhaps shows up weak on orthodox theology--well, that person is understandably going to have a difficult time being ordained.
I would think the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) could well do without any more smug, self-satisfied, and possibly heterodox pastors. But apparently the Covenant Network showcased one such as a conference speaker.