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It’s time, and a little past time, for my near-annual request that boards of ordained ministry, conference worship committees, and our bishops, get it right.

There’s a line in the ordination service that I’ve heard my bishops get wrong almost every year, for all forty-ish of my years of ministry. Certainly, I’ve witnessed them get it wrong far, far more often than I’ve heard them get it right.

After the candidates have been examined, and responded “I will, with the help of God,” the Bishop responds to these sacred statements of their intention – of their will with:

“May God,
who has given you the will to do these things
give you the grace to perform them.” (2017-2020 Ordinal, pp. 21, 41, 60)

Most of the bishops under whom I’ve served, most years, near-exhausted after presiding over complex legislative sessions and fractious clergy sessions, and now on the home stretch after a too-long day in a too-long week, deliver these lines with two words especially emphasized:

“May God,
who has given you the will to DO these things
give you the grace to PERFORM them.”

This spoken emphasis implies that the ideas being contrasted in these lines are “do” and “perform” which, sorry to say, are synonyms. As an ordinand, it was puzzling. Almost every year, it is a little jarring. And it’s a missed opportunity.

The contrast intended in the ordinal is not between the synonymous “do” and “perform,” but between the clearly distinct pair, “will” and “grace.”

“May God,
who has given you the WILL to do these things
give you the GRACE to perform them.”

Yes. Even our determined intention to fulfil our vows (our WILL to accomplish that list of sacred tasks) is frail, and in the heat of conflictual moments, the thirst of long dry spells, the deadeningly monotonous slog through administrivia, the ice of fears and failures, our work is utterly dependent on God’s GRACE.

Please, bishops? Will you stress WILL and GRACE this year? May God (and perhaps the help of your worship committee’s highlighters) give you the grace to perform it!

Source (and pages to highlight the bishop’s copy): https://gbod-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/legacy/kintera-files/worship/2017-2020_Ordinal-FINAL.pdf, pp. 21, 41, & (for consecration of bishops) 60.

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