As noted in comments a few years back we have in the republic of the United States a unique caste system that most refuse to recognize. If attention is drawn to it there are vehement protests of denial!
This caste system has existed within the clergy structure of the United Methodist Church for quite a long time.
I started out as a supply pastor in the former Methodist Church nearly half a century ago. Supply pastors were persons who felt called of God to pastoral ministry but in most cases had rather limited education. They did not hold the “status” of ordained seminary trained clergy. They were limited in the appointment process with the seminary trained people given preference to the higher salaried “prestige” appointments – sort of an unwritten “law” in how things were done – you know, we pray about the appointment procedure and if God is going to work in this thing, He better make sure that the dignified ordained elders are placed in the preferred appointments, while those who rank lower on the totem pole get the leftovers.
Over time if anything the “caste system” is more entrenched and complex that it has ever been in Methodist history with new categories being invented into which preachers are sorted out and positioned!
A couple of critical issues that further underscore the sheer stupidity of categorizing pastors involve voting rights and serving the Lord’s Supper.
Depending on what slot you fit into, you may not be able to vote on ministerial issues. General Conference 2008 has attempted to expand that a bit, but rest assured that it is a sure thing that there will always be some pastors who can stand in a pulpit of a United Methodist Church and preach a sermon but who will be restricted somehow when it comes to voting at annual conference sessions!
And then there is that matter of the Lord’s Supper – who can serve it and who cannot.
Again, depending on your ranking in the United Methodist clergy caste system, you may be “authorized” to serve the Lord’s Supper or you may be told by a member of the hierarchy or a member of that illustrious group known as the Board of Ordained Ministry that you cannot serve the Lord’s Supper.
Now here’s a stimulant for a few brain cells – how is it God calls a person to preach and teach His Word but because of a caste system set in place over time due to the trappings of human tradition, that person is not permitted to serve the Lord’s Supper to the persons with whom he or she shares God’s Word on a weekly basis?
Now then, how about this -- where do you find in the New Testament church such a caste system for clergy established? And where do you find that an ordained elder must “consecrate” the elements for those who are at a lower level on the United Methodist clergy totem pole?
Yes, I already know – objections will quickly be hurled in my direction preceded by the word, “But…”
Just remember, the way to Hell is paved with cobblestones – on top of each one is engraved the word, “But!”
Will anything of substance be done to dismantle the UMC’s infamous caste system which members of the hierarchy refuse to acknowledge?
Hardly – ordained elders will adamantly refuse to give up even one square inch of their coveted domain!
Clayton D. Harriger
Retired elder in full connection
W. PA Annual Conference
The United Methodist Church
PS: Those “comments” referred to at the beginning are found at The Caste System Nobody Dares to Mention! Use return feature on your browser to come back here.
PPS: Even as this was written notice has already been sent out to all pastors in the W. PA Annual Conference, no matter what their position on the totem pole might be, of a gathering later in August. The Order of Elders is to be organized. It is noted that it is not necessary to organize the Association of Local Pastors and Associate Members according to the Discipline. However, Bishop Bickerton desires that all three groups should be organized at the same time. See what we mean in saying that the “caste system” is alive and well when it comes to United Methodist clergy?
Caste: any exclusive social or occupational class or group; rigid class distinction based on birth, wealth, etc., operating as a social system or principle. --- as defined in Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary.
--- James 3:13-17
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.