Initial BACOM Reflections

Ambivalence isn't indifference, it's the "experience of having thoughts and emotions of both positive and negative valence toward someone or something". That is, it means that you have mixed emotions - you feel and think both positively and negatively about the same person or thing.

BACOM is a weekend in our Diocese spent with the Bishops Advisory Committee on Ministry, where aspirants to the priesthood go through a final 24 hour evaluation before a decision is made as to whether the Church will send them on to the next stage of the discernment process - postulancy.

It will be no surprise to long-time readers, friends, family, etc. that I came out of BACOM feeling ambivalent.

In relation to my own performance, going in I made a conscious decision not to try to paint a rosy picture of myself, but to be as honest as possible in the things I said and the way I behaved. For the most part I feel happy about that decision, and the way it went. I have no problem with playing a role in work where I have to behave inauthentically - but not if that is a religious inauthenticity, and not if I am a religious leader (which I have resigned myself to in one way or another). The religious world is a place where honesty is in short supply, and I have no desire to serve as a priest if it means pretending to be something I'm not. The goal is always to be as honest as possible, in a way that can be heard by others. Because I made that decision, I'm feeling generally anxious that I didn't paint as positive a picture of myself as I might have, and that I might not have spoken up in areas where I should have. Focusing on one's own integrity can result in inattentiveness to the concerns of others - which is the paradox of love and discipline.

In relation to the process itself, the thing I said multiple times coming away was that "it was what it should have been". By that, I meant that it was a comfortable space where it was possible to share openly without feeling threatened, and where appropriate questions were being asked. We were given a fair chance to show who we are, and that was because the people on the Committee were/are without a doubt concerned to treat aspirants well and fairly, and take seriously the responsibility of their calling. I trust them. At the same time, in retrospect I do feel that there are a lot of questions that need to be answered that weren't asked. Or maybe placing more responsibility on myself, there were aspects of my sense of calling that didn't come out during the 24 hour period. Most specifically, mission, from my perspective, simply didn't get the attention that it needs. I personally had a chance to address this in a small way during a final interview, but I think I generally blew the question.

In relation to discernment of calling, I think the weekend was helpful in that it cemented my feelings about ordination securely on the fence. It gave me a view of the pearl of great price that is the priesthood, but also left me feeling that I personally am in a sort of Zero Sum game. Whatever the COM decides, I'm in a situation that I want to be in. The costs and benefits of ordination are about equal for me, and I can genuinely envision celebrating whatever recommendation is made.

We were told that we'll find out the results before Easter. More waiting, which will also be no surprise.


Anonymous said…
my friend no matter what happens, many a great minister/missionary where originally turned down from their "home" organizations only to be sent out by others. i have heard talks in the past of being losing my credentials or even having my degree pulled for my "lack of Baptist character". It is God who ultimately ordains and appoints, and as Bill Cosby said, the proof is in the pudding, not a piece of paper.
"The religious world is a place where honesty is in short supply, and I have no desire to serve as a priest if it means pretending to be something I'm not."

WOW....those are words worth pondering. thanks tim.....

btw, did you ever tell us what you did for the talent portion?
Anonymous said…
Hey, Tim-

We met briefly at D-House last summer for a bishops' hangout thing. I'm a Postulant in Olympia (I've done everything I need for Candidacy, been approved, but haven't gotten the official letter yet). I am super cynical about all this, but I think you stand a great chance. Liberal dioceses, like Olympia, LOVE - and I mean LOVE LOVE LOVE - self-deprecating/honest middle class dudes. I mean, seriously. Their favorite thing in the world is a white guy who can cry. And who can tell stories about his volunteer work and how much he loves his wife. So I think being honest and non-pretendy was the best possible thing you could have done - it is earning you points with compound interest right this second, believe me.

This is actually supposed to be a post that reassures you and not one where I dump 8 years of residual bitterness! Sorry about that. BACOM is really the worst of it. I found Candidacy retreat much, much nicer, and meetings with the Standing Commission and such are pleasant, interesting, and accountable.
Unknown said…
Thanks all. Don't worry Shelly, I like my discernment served with extra cynicism. And Dustin, I agree 100%. This is a pragmatic piece of discernment I'm doing now - I think the spiritual/vocational aspects are a different piece that I'm generally confident about. That's part of the reason I'm fine with either direction that my life heads. Roberta, I did a reading that started out okay but finished with a sort of awkward nervy whimper. I might put it up here at some point.