Language of "calling" is somewhat foreign to me, although I have learned to use the word in a way that fits well enough within my other theological commitments. But it is not language I grew up with. "Call" seems to imply a sense of God's intimate and detailed providential involvement, not just in the world, but in one's own individual daily life and decision making processes. But this language has also been somewhat formalized, so that potential pastors and ministers in many traditions talk not just about "call" in a theological sense but a practical one as well--one finds a call to this place or that place, this church or that church, this ministry or that. In this more formalized sense, when all the negotiations and handshakings and prelims are over and one is invited to accept a position somewhere, it is called a "call:" I've accepted a call to such-and-such Church in Wherevertown, USA.
But we don't do that in the CofC, really. So in trying to think theologically about vocation and calling in our ecclesial context, there are a lot of things to be sorted out. How does vocation relate to formal ordination, and how does the lack of formal ordination in CofC practice affect how we do or don't use language of vocation? How does a doctrinal commitment to priesthood of all believers affect our sense of ministry and the status of preachers, teachers, elders, deacons, and others specially "called" to serve the church in specifically designated ways that intersect with our strong sense of everyone's status as a minister? Do we or don't we give our preachers a special kind of authority and status? Is this or isn't it consistent with our doctrine? What exactly is spiritual leadership and spiritual authority, and how is this related to vocation and formal or informal ordination?
And how, in the midst of all of this, do we talk about the vocation of women within our churches?
This year's Women in Ministry Conference is set for May 12-14, at the Manhattan Church of Christ. The topic is vocation; and the list of speakers for this year is exciting--women who have been working through all of the above, not just by sitting in a chair in front of a computer and blogging about these theological questions, but by living them and working them out in the most intimate way possible. They embody their answers to these questions, and they'll be sharing the fruits of their experiences with us.