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Calling and Character: Virtues of the Ordained Life [Paperback]

By William H. Willimon (Author)
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Item description for Calling and Character: Virtues of the Ordained Life by William H. Willimon...

In "Calling & Character", Willimon lays out a clear, compelling picture of the pastoral life, one that can inform both those embarking on ordained ministry and those who have been in it for many years. He lays out specific habits -- such as study, collegiality and humor -- as the day-by-day means of following the difficult and dangerous, yet deeply rewarding, calling of a pastor.

Publishers Description
In Calling & Character, Willimon lays out a clear and compelling picture of the pastoral life, one that will inform both those embarking on ordained ministry and those who have been in it for many years. He lays out specific habits such as study, collegiality, and humor as the day-by-day means of following the difficult and dangerous, yet deeply rewarding, calling of a pastor.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Abingdon Press
Pages   182
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.51" Width: 5.51" Height: 0.56"
Weight:   0.6 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 1, 2000
Publisher   Abingdon Church Supplies
ISBN  0687090334  
ISBN13  9780687090334  

Availability  0 units.

More About William H. Willimon

William H. Willimon The Reverend Dr. William H. Willimon is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at the Divinity School, Duke University. He is recently retired after serving eight years as Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church, where he led the 157,000 Methodists and 792 pastors in North Alabama. For twenty years prior to the episcopacy, he was Dean of the Chapel and Professor of Christian Ministry at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

Dr. Willimon is a graduate of Wofford College (B.A., 1968), Yale Divinity School (M.Div., 1971) and Emory University (S.T.D., 1973). He has served as pastor of churches in Georgia and South Carolina. For four years, beginning in 1976, he served as Assistant Professor of Liturgy and Worship at Duke Divinity School, teaching courses in liturgics and homiletics and served as Director of the Ministerial Course of Study School at Duke, and Presiding Minister in the Divinity School Chapel. When he returned to the parish ministry in 1980, he was Visiting Associate Professor of Liturgy and Worship at Duke for three years. He has been awarded honorary degrees from a dozen colleges and universities including Wofford College, Lehigh University, Colgate University, Birmingham-Southern College, and Moravian Theological Seminary. In 1992, he was named as the first Distinguished Alumnus of Yale Divinity School. He also serves on the faculties of Birmingham-Southern College as Visiting Distinguished Professor and as Visiting Research Professor at Duke Univeristy Divinity School.

He is the author of sixty books. His Worship as Pastoral Care was selected as one of the ten most useful books for pastors in 1979 by the Academy of Parish Clergy. Over a million copies of his books have been sold. In 1996, an international survey conducted by Baylor University named him one of the Twelve Most Effective Preachers in the English-speaking world.

His articles have appeared in many publications including The Christian Ministry, Quarterly Review, Liturgy, Worship and Christianity Today. He is Editor-at-Large for The Christian Century. He has served as Editor and Expositor (with his wife, Patricia) for Abingdon’s International Lesson Annual. He has written curriculum materials and video for youth, young adults, and adults. His Pulpit Resource is used each week by over eight thousand pastors in the USA, Canada, and Australia. A 2005 study by the Pulpit and Pew Research Center found that Bishop Willimon is the second most widely read author by mainline Protestant pastors.

William H. Willimon currently resides in Birmingham, in the state of Alabama.

William H. Willimon has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Belief Matters
  2. Pastor's Handbook
  3. Preaching About-- Series

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > Faith
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > Ministry
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Ethics

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Books > Church & Ministry > Pastoral Help > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Calling & Character: Virtues of the Ordained Life?

high minded but has holes  Jan 6, 2008
Bishop Willimon is an excellent preacher and teacher--no doubt about it. He sets a high standard for clergy ethics, and rightly so. I agreed with most of what he said until he began discussing the clergy family and the stresses put upon it.

I'm a clergy person, and I'm currently at home caring for two young children. According to his own experience, his wife benefited from parents who were often absent from the home, attending to the needs of the church instead of as he puts it "selfishly" turing attention to the family. I want to raise my own kids, and I frankly see it as a pretty selfless choice; I know a lot of totally messed up clergy kids, and more than enough clergy marriages that are intolerable. Much of this has to do with the needs of the congregation (read: everyone else, and the clergy person's own need to be externally validated) being prioritized over the real felt needs of the family.

I will probably return to some form of parish ministy when my kids are in school, but this sort of attitude really hardens my heart toward the traditional ways we do "church".
Use your own judgement, study scripture for your ethics...  Aug 26, 2004
Excerpt from the book, Chapter 2, under the heading "Clergy Characters", page 52:

"A person of homosexual orientation who was living a life of sexual abstinence could make a remarkably good candidate for ministry. Living as we do in a society that elevates a person's sexual orientation as the supreme mark of humanity, it is countercultural, radical and downright faithful to encounter a person, more disciplined than myself, who is willing to forego worship of Eros in order to serve the church."

I would advise a close study of God's Word before believing the opinions of man.
Clear and Concise view of the Ethical Life  Sep 12, 2002
This is a book about clergy ethics, but Willimon does not take the normal path of ethical discussion, trying to determine right and wrong actions, setting up situations and discussing the ethical choices involved. Instead, for Willimon, ethics in general and clergy ethics in particular are all about one's relationship with the Lord. Rather than asking "what should I do?" in a given situation, Willimon argues that we need to ask "Who am I to be?" This doesn't seem like an earth-shatteringly original thesis, but in the legalistic world in which we live, it's refreshing to see someone focussing on the Big Picture rather than on the quotidian minutiae of finely split hairs.

For Willimon, an ethical life comes from habits of biblical study, submission to the will of God and the church, living in community with one's flock and one's colleagues, bearing the crosses of ministry faithfully and patiently, and developing a humble sense of humor in one's ministry. This last one is interesting, because he isn't calling on ministers to be entertaining (though that might come through the use of humor); instead he encourages ministers to develop a sense of irony and satire that serves the counter-cultural calling of the church. In other words, we should develop a sense of humor like Jesus'. After all, if the Church cannot highlight the foibles and follies of modern life, then what institution can?

Breath of Fresh Air for Pastors  Feb 26, 2001
In an age intoxicated by techniques, quick formulas, and market surveys, it is refreshing to receive advice on pastoral ministry that not only doesn't appeal to these things, but rejects them as insignificant to true Christian ministry.

According to William H. Willimon, the first question a minister must ask himself is not, "What ought I do?" but rather, "Who am I to be?" These two questions are connected, but must be considered in the appropriate order. A minister's identity is vitally linked to his sense of God's calling on his life. "What pastors do is a function of who pastors are... Our danger is that we might 'black out,' that is lose consciousness of why we are here and who we are called to be for Christ and his church" (p.21).

Only a strong sense of purpose arising from God's call can sustain a pastor in the hard work of gospel ministry. Willimon quotes Robert Wilson on this point, "You can't pay people to do the things that ministers routinely must do... They need to think God has called them, or ministry is miserable" (p. 22).

Neither the approval nor the needs of his parishioners must control the pastor's ministry, lest he lose sense of his true calling and purpose in the life of the church. "In a culture of omnivorous need, all-consuming narcissism, clergy who have no more compelling motive for their ministry than 'meeting people's needs' are dangerous to themselves and to a church that lacks a clear sense of who it is" (p. 24).

With this as a foundation, Willimon highlights the ethical challenges peculiar to clergy and "the way in which clerical character informs these challenges" (p. 12).

In his chapter concerning the character of the clergy, he argues that faithful ministers must have such a strong sense of God's calling that they are able to "love the truth of Christ even more than their congregation's affections" (p. 48).

In his discussion concerning the pastor in community, Willimon argues that the Pauline "test for the ethical appropriateness of a given practice is, Does this edify the body?" (p. 61). American Christianity is far too individualistic. Willimon laments, "I am conditioned by my culture to ask, 'What does this mean for me?' rather than to ask the corporate, 'What is the Bible saying to us?'" (p. 76).

In his chapter on crossbearing, Willimon argues that no true gospel ministry will be without troubles. If Jesus' ministry was wrought with troubles, rejection, and betrayal, contemporary ministers should expect no better. Like Paul, faithful ministry will demand that pastors are "willing to provoke division, call names, condemn, accuse, and judge" (p. 96) for the sake of the cruciform gospel they proclaim. Put simply, the "[c]ross produces conflict" (p. 111). Willimon warns that parishioners will not prefer this kind of ministry but will prefer a comfortable social club setting instead. Out of all the minister's responsibilities, the one last aspect of ministry that parishioners still approve of is personal counseling. Everything else is tolerated, even though considered irrelevant by most congregations.

Another aspect of crossbearing for the clergy is the time crunch that comes from their numerous commitments. Willimon, rather than giving the standard scheduling advice offered in most books on this topic, calls on clergy to give themselves away in ministry. The cross calls to service, sacrifice, and even suffering. "What is immoral is not one's suffering in service to the gospel, but rather one's suffering in service to triviality" (p. 113). Jesus does not take away burdens, but makes burdens worth bearing. However, the pastor must examine the way he spends his time by asking himself, "Is this service to the cross of Christ or merely servitude to the omnivorous desires of North American discontented consumers?" (p. 113).

He concludes with a chapter on God's new creation, emphasizing the hope that ministers have that all their labor will end in glorious fullness.

Willimon's book is a breath of fresh air for pastors. It is a book that presents many of the pitfalls and hazards of gospel ministry and addresses them, not with simple formulas, but by stressing the character of God's office-bearer and the need to secure one's identity in light of God's call and not primarily people's felt needs.


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