Update (May 21): Houston-area Methodist minister Josh Hale has written a blog post clarifying some of the ageism claims regarding the Texas Conference's proposed changes for the age of clergy.
The overall average age of retirement is creeping slowly upward, but one regional United Methodist conference is promoting changes that would limit ordination opportunities for anyone over the age of 45.
The Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) has proposed new guidelines for candidates entering ministry. The guidelines encourage those over the age of 45 to "to pursue other expressions of lay ministry," and they aim to recruit younger clergy.
According to the UMC, "The Rev. Carol Bruse, the chair of the conference's 70-member board of ordained ministry, said the aim of the proposed standards is to help the conference plan for future needs. The policy would not affect current clergy or clergy candidates in the Texas Conference."
But the UMC also acknowledges that ordination is a lengthy process. As a result, "elders 35 or older made up more than 94 percent of all provisional and ordained elders [in 2012], and 53 percent of all elders were age 55 or older."
Some critics of the proposal have called it "outright ageism," and others say the emphasis on younger leaders could misinterpret the mission of the church.
Comprised of nearly 285,000 members, the Texas Conference is one of the largest UMC conferences in the U.S., and it could be an influential leader among other conferences when it comes to lowering the average age of clergy. In any case, the conference does not plan to make its final decision on the proposal until October.
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