Last summer, I reflected a bit on what it means to be involved in educating and mentoring the next generation of ministers in the Church, especially in my own denomination of the Church of the Nazarene. I have been a part of this process since 2000 with the Global Theology Conference in Guatemala, continuing educational assignment in West Africa and the Nazarene Theological Institute serving a large swath of the African continent, and now working in my sixth year as an associate professor at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. I looked again at the Manual statements on the District Ministerial Credentials Board (DMCB) and District Ministerial Studies Board (DMSB) and the roles of educational institutions according to the Sourcebook on Ordination to find clarification for practical discrepancies that I've noticed over the last few years of working in the USA and Canada Region. Notations below are paragraph numbers within these documents.
The DMSB is to take “responsibility for and supervision of all candidates enrolled in a validated course of study for ministerial preparation.” (230.2) The duty of the DMSB is to care for the candidate, not manage the content of the educational program if the program of study is already validated, and to be sure the student stays enrolled in a validated program (see also 231.1). The task of the board is to walk with students as they pursue their studies (as candidates for ordination) and guide them with mentoring activities. See also paragraph 230.6 that encourages the DMSB “in seeking ways to encourage, aid, and guide the candidates who are pursing validated courses of study in a Nazarene college/university or seminary.” This does not include record-keeping, such as guarding transcripts, unless authorized by the Sourcebook on Ordination (230.4).
In paragraph 231.3, the DMSB is to work with ministerial students for “placement, advancement, or graduation [which] shall be consistent with guidelines provided by the office of Global Clergy Development through the respective Course of Study Advisory Committee.” (from here Regional COSAC or RCOSAC will be used). I do not see in this document where district boards are to be evaluators of student course work toward completion of validated programs or to take on the responsibility of registrar for those enrolled in validated programs such as those offered at Nazarene institutions. Rather, the district boards are simply to notate that students are enrolled in such programs. If there is confusion in the task, the Global Clergy Development and RCOSAC should be the ones to provide guidance as to what validates the educational requirements for those seeking to serve as a minister in the respective region. In my current situation, it is the USA/Canada Region.
I also noticed this significant line, in that it restates outright what is stated in an earlier clause, in 231.2: “The board [DSMB] shall carry out its responsibilities in conformity with the official Sourcebook on Ordination.”
Going to the Sourcebook on Ordination (2006rev2012), underline added below, this recommendation appears in 439.4: “Although Nazarene educational institutions are the preferred agencies for preparing Nazarene ministers and Christian workers, the church recognized the need for alternative training methods under the direction of the DMSB.”
In the next section 439.5 near the end, it states: “Regardless of the educational preparation track students pursue, they [the students] are accountable to the DMSB to show evidence they are working toward the fulfillment of educational requirements described in this chapter. Each year, students are responsible to provide this board with a transcript or letter that affirms their progress from the Nazarene college or seminary where they are enrolled. If students are pursuing educational preparation through non-Nazarene schools, they need to provide transcripts and course descriptions to the board. The DMSB will advise degree and non-degree students of the appropriate information they need to provide.” The DMSB should not ask a Nazarene institution that provides of a validated course of study for anything other than a “transcript or letter that affirms their [the students’] progress."
In the next paragraph (439.6) on College Involvement, the Sourcebook states, “The college major must be validated by COSAC and ICOSAC [International COSAC] as meeting all the educational requirements for ordination. If the major is not validated, the district may require the candidate to take additional instructional units to complete the educational requirements.” Why would the DMSB, in some cases, require additional coursework of educational institutions or candidates beyond the expectations of the Manual or the Sourcebook?
So, all of this to say, districts should be working alongside the COSACs and the Nazarene educational institutions in a three-way partnership. The DMSB does not have the flexibility according to the Manual to act in a way inconsistent with the Manual or the Sourcebook on Ordination. Educational institutions are not the final arbitrator of clergy preparation, but they have a necessary and helpful role in the process. When questions arise, the district could openly approach the educational institution and/or seek guidance from Global Clergy Development about the work they are to accomplish; and, questions and guidance could be sought from any of the three partners in work associated with the others at any given time. Openness and healthy connections will only help to invigorate this partnership.
The point is that district boards, educational institutions, and the clergy development office/RCOSAC need to be in agreement or the partnership weakens to the point in which one of the three partners might become excluded from the process of meeting educational requirements toward ordination. If one of the partners is excluded, the following scenarios could result:
It seems that the educational institutions, according to the Manual and Sourcebook, simply need to seek RCOSAC and ICOSAC validation for their programs. The Global Clergy Development office provides a listing of the validated programs. The districts are to affirm their candidates are enrolled in one of these programs. There is no place in the Manual or Sourcebook where it says the educational institution needs to seek out each DMSB to confirm the validation of the educational institution’s validated courses of study. This step would warp the system, and for practicality’s sake, this is not tenable with the work force and resources available to educational institutions (and districts, too, for that matter). For instance, a single university cannot practically connect annually with over 75 districts in the US/Canada to ratify its course offerings. According to the Manual and Sourcebook, it is not necessary for an educational institution to do so.
The DMSB is to guide the student through the educational process by affirming enrollment in validated programs or tracking courses of study not validated by the RCOSAC and ICOSAC. If there are alternative pathways, other than Nazarene institutions with validated courses of study, sought by the student, the DMSB should step in and track the student and offer guidance. If there is confusion, guidance needs to come to the district and educational institutions through the Global Clergy Development office and the Regional COSAC.