Making ministry difficult: The goal of seminary

"See our big buildings?” asked the dean of the medical school as he swept his hand across the panorama of the Duke Medical Center. “Their purpose is to produce a handful of doctors who can be trusted to be alone with a naked patient. Takes us four years.”

I repositioned the dean so that he faced the neogothic buildings of the divinity school. “That’s where we teach our seminarians to be in awkward situations with naked, vulnerable parishioners. It takes us only three years.”

After two quadrennia as a church bureaucrat, slogging through the mire of the ecclesiastical trenches and sending pastors to remote, unappealing locations where Jesus insists on working, I’m again teaching in that countercultural phenomenon called a seminary. I was honored to serve with fellow clergy who risked United Methodism in Alabama, though I leave behind a subpoena and three lawsuits. Don’t tell Governor Bentley that I’ve fled the state.