Something with a vaguely Easter flavour. Never mind that Alanis Morissette wants to use her ordination as a minister to marry gay couples and spite George W. Bush (laudable though her intent may be); what caught my attention was that she became ordained via an online course.
Last year I cited some critiques of e-learning that contested there are limitations to what you can learn online, particularly when it comes to some skills that arguably have to be learnt and practised in situ. I'm sure it's possible to learn the mechanics of conducting a marriage ceremony in a few hours, but is that all you expect from a minister: to say the right things by rote at the right time?
I did some quick research-by-surfing to find out what these online ordination courses offer.
All the courses I came across were from non-mainstream churches with headquarters in the USA. Some are such 'open churches,' offering ordination at the push of a button, that the concept of being a minister can have little meaning — see this example. One step away from this the, Love Church Worldwide distances itself from "online ordination mills" that offer ordination with no training at all — whereas they offer training ("free" apart from the three-figure administration fee) that can bestow a Bachelor of Divinity degree as well as ordination.
I wanted to know what the syllabus for these ordination courses was. I'm not certain this is an online course but this tuition gives a breakdown of the 128 hours study required to get a BA degree. As far as I can tell, this includes a whole three hours on pastoral counselling, which may be optional. Forgive me, father, for not trusting my problems to your professional care after only three hours open learning. It's also hard to resist cracking a joke about another module that promises three hours training in fasting: I think many of us could last that long without a Snickers anyway.
Which is all by way of saying that I don't think we should take Alanis's online ordination too seriously. There are some things that ministers need to know that could be learnt effectively online: for example, these online continuing education courses may complement experience-based learning. But anyone wishing to serve God by building church activities and showing spiritual leadership in communities would be well advised to do some serious apprenticeship in churches and communities.Posted by David Jennings in section(s) E-learning on 9 April 02004 | TrackBack