Professional and government organizations seeking specialized ministerial leaders may find their searches supported by an increased understanding of the UCC's process of authorization and endorsement.
In the United Church of Christ, authorization is granted by an Association (local geographic and judicatory body) on behalf of the denomination. There are three forms of authorized ministry in the UCC: commissioned ministry, licensed ministry and ordained ministry.
- A commissioned minister is authorized by an Association of the United Church of Christ to perform "specific church-related ministry which is recognized by that Association but does not require ordination or licensure." (UCC Bylaws) Typically, commissioned ministers do not perform sacramental ministry but are engaged in ministries (e.g. education, music, nursing) that the denomination values as part of its mission and ministry. Commissioning is dependent upon a recognized call to an organized body. A commissioned minister is a representative minister in the United Church of Christ, and one's commission is transferable to another Association when there is a new call within the same "specific church-related ministry."
- A licensed minister is authorized by an Association of the United Church of Christ "to perform specific duties in a designated local church or within that Association, mainly preaching and conducting services of worship for a designated time." (UCC Bylaws) Licensed ministry is frequently authorized, for example, when a local church needs pastoral and sacramental leadership but an ordained minister is not available. The Association, in consultation with the local church requesting a person's licensure, determines the specific duties and length of time for which the license is granted. A license is not transferable to another ministry setting or Association.
- An ordained minister is authorized by an Association of the United Church of Christ to preach and teach the gospel, to administer the sacraments and rites of the church, and to exercise pastoral care and leadership. An ordained minister is a representative minister of the United Church of Christ and is in covenant with the local church where (s)he holds UCC membership, the calling body where (s)he is engaged in ministry, and the Association acting on behalf of the United Church of Christ. Once granted, ordained standing is ongoing and transferable to another Association; standing is always subject to review and requires a mindful relationship between the clergyperson, Association and ministry setting.
There is a distinction between "standing" as an authorized minister within the United Church of Christ and "eccleciastical endorsement" by the United Church of Christ. The granting of ministerial standing (ordination, commissioning or licensure) means that a person is deemed sufficiently prepared and equipped for ministry in and on behalf of the United Church of Christ. Ecclesiastical endorsement is verification by the denomination that an authorized minister is in good standing, has gained the necessary qualifying experience, is willing and capable of working collegially in a religiously and culturally plurastic setting without prejudice, understands that they are not to evangelize in a specialized ministry setting, and has the maturity to represent the United Church of Christ to the calling institution.
Professional and government organizations that require ecclesiastical endorsement for their ministerial leaders can expect that authorized ministers will apply for endorsement in cooperation with their local Associations and the denomination's Endorser.