In early December – just last month – I breathed a sigh of relief as I submitted more than ninety pages of written material for the Ordination process in our California-Pacific Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. As many of you have offered generosity of prayer and spirit, you have also asked what is entailed in such a process and where your Pastor’s status currently stands. As I have been in conversation with some, the question is not only important in relation to the servant leadership of this congregation but also of great importance to several in our midst who are considering their own call or Ordained Ministry. While there are some options depending on a person’s call to ministry, I will outline the current process for ordination as an Elder in Full Connection in The United Methodist Church.
Note: More information can be found at through the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
The first step is Candidacy, and it begins with a conversation with your Pastor. Conversation will be centered around the idea of call and experiencing a divine call to ministry. The UMC publishes a book called The Christian as Minister, and this will be recommended and discussed as well. Then someone seeking Candidacy will write a letter or speak with the District Superintendent, meet with the local church’s Staff-Parish Relations Committee (SPRC), and be affirmed by the annual Charge Conference.
Then there are educational requirements. Candidates for Elder must have a Master of Divinity degree from an approved seminary, usually an eighty-to-ninety unit degree. Candidates must meet regularly with both their local SPRC as well as a District Committee on Ordained Ministry for evaluation and support, and eventually will be recommended to the Annual Conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry.
At this stage a Candidate who passes the Board of Ordained Ministry would be commissioned as a Provisional Elder. With this in mind, not all Candidates pass on their first evaluation with the Board and some are returned to the care of the District Committee. At this point in my own process, I am a Provisional Elder; and the papers I recently submitted are for the next step in the process.
Once a Provisional Elder has completed mentoring and continuing education requirements and has been under Appointment for at least two years, she or he may apply for Full Connection. This process is very similar to the process for Provisional status, and includes a detailed written evaluation that could lead to an in-person interview with the Board of Ordained Ministry. Both must be passed in order to be recommended for Ordination.
There are many details that are not specified here, and I encourage any who might be interested in knowing more to contact me. For many, this is a process that seems difficult (not an unfair assessment) and I strongly suggest that alongside this difficulty comes a great deal of grace and care. It is a process that can bring tears of joy and tears of grief, moments of heartbreak and moments of elation; and surely God is present to guide those who feel called to ordained ministry.
In my experience, one of the most positive elements of this process is the emphasis on learning. Candidates and provisional members are not only required to meet various degreed or continuing education requirements, but the interaction with mentors and others in process aids us in learning about ourselves and our experiences of the divine. Very often I speak of the importance of intellectual study in our faith, and I do so because of these profound experiences.
And so I would like to invite you into a learning experience. If you have felt as though you wish to move deeper into your faith and your relationship with God, I invite you to consider a way to engage in some form of learning, some form of study. I often try to include elements of learning in our weekly sermons, and I think we can go beyond even this. A number of PB UMC members are planning to start new small group studies, and this is surely an option. We have a faithful group of members who meet on Saturday mornings for Bible study, and another group that meets during our 9:30am worship service on the Lanai.
A special District Leadership Training Event is being offered on January 23rd. Please see page 8 of our January Newsletter for a listing of classes offered by the South District that might be appealing to you as well!
May we all continue to grow in the knowledge of our God…