Endorsement Essay Questions

There has been some good discussion both in comments on this blog and on other blogs that I frequently visit.  I hope to get (back) to those conversations soon.  However, time restrains me right now, and something else is bugging me.

I am writing the Endorsement Essay for my next step in the Candidacy Process for Ordination in the Lutheran Church.  I find some of the questions to be poorly worded.  For example:

You will be asked to
serve in accordance with the Scriptures, the creeds, and the confessions of the
ELCA. In light of doctrinal traditions,
what characteristic functions will reflect your role as a ‘diligent and
faithful’ rostered minister in this church?

This is just complicated mush, if you ask me.  What are characteristic functions, and how can they reflect my role as a diligent and faithful minister in light of doctrinal traditions?  There are so many qualifiers and twists and turns in that question that I’m not sure where to begin.  It’s just a poorly worded question, and if my committee were asking me this question in person I’d respond, "why do you ask that question?" or, "what do you mean by that?"

The "diligent and faithful" words in this essay question comes from the ordination liturgy:

Will you be diligent in your study of the Holy Scriptures and in your use of the means of grace? Will you pray for God’s people, nourish them with the Word and Holy Sacraments, and lead them by your own example in faithful service and holy living?

The liturgical response is: I will, and I ask God to help me.  Perhaps the best answer I can give to this essay question is simply to quote the liturgy, and ask for God’s help.

About Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. National Guardsman. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.
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11 Responses to Endorsement Essay Questions

  1. PS says:

    When I read your quote from the ordination liturgy, my first reaction was, well, that is what we all should be doing as Christians. Except that the pastor is promising to do it, is schooled more than the rest of us in these things, and gets paid to do them.
    So then I looked back at the question. I concluded that characteristic functions must mean (??) what the pastor can do because of the schooling and paid time that the rest of us can’t/aren’t doing.
    Have you asked any rostered ministers how they answered this?
    Could you write “huh?”

  2. David says:

    They ask such questions now so that when you meet with the committee later for internship approval they can measure your growth as a pastoral presence and ability to think theologically. My growth was most obvious in my waistline as I stayed up late eating junk food trying to answer such questions. Good luck…

  3. Anna says:

    If your “role” is minister of word and sacrament, doesn’t that mean that administration of word and sacrament are your functions? I wish i could remember what I wrote!

  4. Yeah, I’m thinking of writing something like, “the characteristic functions of a minister of Word and Sacrament is that she preaches the Word and administers the sacraments. Duh.” But, perhaps such sarcasm wouldn’t be appreciated by the committee. Oh well, back to work on the essay . . .

  5. LP says:

    I think I still have my endorsement essay sitting around somewhere. I recall getting reamed over one part of it, but I don’t recall which question.

  6. liz says:

    Sounds like a lawyer wrote that question… 😉

  7. R. Carnahan says:

    I wrote the whole thing in a 24 hour period (not bad since it was 39 pages) and there was nary a peep from the interviewers.
    Could I tell you what it was about?
    Not a bit, but I’m assured that it was brilliant.
    The problem is that none of that stuff matters once you get into the puplit, it just won’t come up and you’ve produced an eminently forgettable document, under duress.
    nonsense.

  8. LP says:

    Given R. Carnahan’s comment above and the fact that the ELCA process seems cumbersome at best (arbitrary at worst), it makes me curious about how the process may be changed to better facilitate mutual discernment.

  9. LookUpward says:

    It is a sad state of affairs when a Church needs to resort to symantically incomprehensible mumbo jumbo to help in the discernment process rather than simplicity and the Holy Spirit’s guidance. That same Church is in dire need of dedicated, right-minded, Spirit-filled servants such as yourself. Follow your own discerning spirit, Zephyr, in your responses and play not into the hands of the learned theological bureaucrats who make a vocation of confusing well-intentioned future Church pillars of faith. U go dude.

  10. CJ says:

    Well, I’m not sure how much different the questions may have been for diaconals, but I remember struggling with these sorts of questions too. If you look at the question carefully, it leads off with Scripture, Creeds, confessions and doctrinal traditions. The main function of this question in my synod is to get a sense of how much of a grasp the candidate has on these and whether or not they take them seriously and allow their understanding of ministry to be formed (and informed) by them. Be sure to talk to people in your own synod (even if you don’t know them other than by name) as each synod has it’s own culture that will affect how your sincerely writting essay is received. Best advice I got was not to b.s. and not to show off — just be sincere and as clear as I knew how to be. Must have worked, got endorsed! God’s blessings on all of you struggling with essays right now — you will get them done and you can trust that you do actually know more than you realize by now!

  11. Pastor David says:

    I seem to recall that I did, in fact, point toward the ordination vows, and draw out the analogy between the ordination vows and the baptismal vows.
    The key to these essays is to bring in something from Visions & Expectations, somethings from the COnfessions, and a great deal of who you are. These essays — especially the first ones — are primarily to help the candidacy committee feel like they know (1) who you are, (2) something of your understanding of the church and ministry, and (3) something of your personal theology.
    While these essays seems all important now, remember that after you are through with the process you will never see them again. It is a process, and the end result — the relationship between you and the candidacy committee that allwos them to feel justified in approving you for ordination — is the most important thing.

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