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Those serving in the ministry of Conferences and Associations are, increasingly, the denomination's "sandwich generation": they witness to, walk with and work through both the dying and the birthing of ministries. Association and Conference Ministers support leadership formation and authorization, congregational search and call, regional ministry programs, and they shape vision for church vitality.
The Ministerial MESA Ministry Team supports regional and judicatory ministers in the United Church of Christ, especially through the biennial event AM21: Authorizing Ministry in the 21st Century (held most recently in Savannah, Georgia, in December 2014). MESA is pleased to equip Judicatory Ministers and Conference Staff with the following tools for the ongoing work of authorization, oversight, and search-and-call. As these tools are updated for a church that is ever-changing in the 21st century, these files will be revised accordingly. Please check back frequently to use the latest versions of these files; dates are noted within the documents for reference.
Quick links to resources for Association and Conference Ministers:
- Ministerial Code of Ethics (2017)
- Sample Call Agreement
- Outline of a Ministerial File
- Vocabulary for Pastoral Positions
- Guidelines for Ecclesiastical Endorsement
- Procedures for Transfer of Ministerial Standing
- Sample Three-Way and Four-Way Covenants
- Sample Application for Privilege of Call/Dual Standing
- Access to the Ministerial Profiles Portal
- Information Review Form, for annual reporting between authorized ministers and Committees on Ministry
- Fitness Review Reporting Form
- Fitness Review Process Chart – Sample
- Media Guide for Fitness Reviews
- Roles of the Response Team in a Fitness Review
- Appeals and Communications in a Fitness Review
- The Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers, including the Marks Rubric (especially for Committees on Ministry) and the Journaling the Journey workbook (especially for Members in Discernment and authorized ministers)
- Manual on Ministry
- Manual on Church
- Discernment Travelogue
- Discernment Travelogue – Spanish
- Discernment Travelogue – Samoan
- Dictionary of Pastoral Positions
- Dictionary of Pastoral Positions – Spanish
- Dictionary of Pastoral Positions – Samoan
- 2005 Proclamation on Ministry Issues
- The Marks of Faithful and Effective Boundary Awareness Trainers
- Search and Call Conversations (a conversation resource from the MESA Ministry Team)
- Conference User Guide to the Ministerial Profiles Portal
- Certificate Order Form
- MESA and seminaries in partnership
- Committee on Ministry Research Report
- For Circulation: Articles about Ministry
- For Authorized Ministers: Departure Ethics and Social Media Boundaries
- Interim Agreement between the United Church of Christ and The United Church of Canada
The Ordained Ministry
I believe that God calls the whole Church and every member to participate in and extend the ministry of Jesus Christ; that the privilege of witnessing to the gospel in Church and society belongs to every baptized Christian; that God empowers the ministry of the Church and its members by the Holy Spirit; that the Church nurtures faith, evokes gifts, and equips its members for service; and that God calls certain of the Church’s members to various forms of ministry in and on behalf of the church.
I have been called by God to be a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ and ordained by 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.
I will seek to witness to the ministry of Jesus Christ.
I will preach and teach the gospel without fear or favor. I will speak the truth in love.
I will administer the sacraments and rites of the Church with integrity.
I will diligently perform the work of ministry which I have agreed to perform.
Partnership in Ministry
I will nurture and offer my gifts for ministry to the Church. I will seek to call forth and nurture the gifts of others in the Church and join their gifts with mine for the sake of the mission of Jesus Christ and the health of the Church.
I will seek to understand, support and interpret the diverse ministries of the Church and its members as carried out throughout the world. I will stand with those who risk personal well being because of actions taken in response to their Christian convictions.
I will work cooperatively and collegially with those whom I serve in the particular ministry to which I have been called.
I will stand in a supportive relationship with my colleagues in ordained, commissioned, and licensed ministry, offering and receiving counsel and support in times of need.
I will be an advocate for fair standards of compensation for all ordained and lay employees of the church, particularly in the place where I serve.
I will be a responsible participant in the life and work of my Association, Conference, and the United Church of Christ.
I will be a responsible representative of the Church Universal and participate in those activities which strengthen its unity, witness and mission.I will seek the counsel of the Conference or Association Minister or the Association Committee on the Ministry should divisive tensions threaten my relationship with those with whom I minister.
The Ethics of Ministry
I will regard all persons with equal respect and concern and undertake to minister impartially.
I will honor all confidences shared with me.
I will not use my position, power, or authority to exploit any person.
I will not use my position for personal financial gain, nor will I misuse the finances of the institution which I serve.
I will not perform pastoral services within a parish or for a member of a parish without the consent of the pastor of that parish.
I will deal honorably with the record of my predecessor and successor.
I will not, upon my termination and departure from a ministry position, interfere with nor intrude upon the ministry of my successor.
Growth in Ministry
I will encourage and participate in the regular evaluation of my ministry.
I will seek to grow in faith, knowledge and the practice of ministry through intentional continuing education, study and devotional life.
I will cooperate with my Association in the periodic review of my ordained ministerial standing.
Commitments to Self and Family
I will live a life which honors my commitments to my family.
I will honor my need for time for physical and spiritual renewal, recreation and vacation.
I will honor my family’s need for privacy and time together.
I will be a responsible steward of my personal and family finances. I will honor and accept responsibility for all debts which I incur.
I will attend to my physical well being and avoid abusive behaviors and abusive use of substances.
Relying on the grace of God, I will lead a life worthy of the calling to which I have been called.
If you are a minister of another tradition or denomination considering becoming a member and minister of the United Church of Christ, you should begin by learning more about the United Church of Christ, establishing a relationship with a UCC congregation, and requesting an introductory conversation with the Conference Minister in your geographic region. As you continue to explore the covenants of membership and ministry in the UCC, you will partner with a local Association's Committee on Ministry to consider authorization.
If you are a minister of another tradition considering service in a United Church of Christ congregation while maintaining your current denominational affiliation, you are invited to explore this option first through the judicatory of your home denomination. Contact then can be made with the United Church of Christ judicatory. Certain denominational partners have explicit agreements which may apply, detailed here:
Formula of Agreement (FOA) and Ordained Ministerial Partner Standing (OMPS) for the PC(USA), ELCA and RCA denominations and for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination, respectively.
Dual Standing and Privilege of Call for ordained ministers from other denominations and traditions.
The United Church of Christ’s Manual on Ministry describes processes of affiliating and obtaining standing for ministers of other denominations. Here is a brief description of those processes. For more, see the Manual on Ministry under “Resources”.
Dual Standing and Privilege of Call
This document describes United Church of Christ ministerial standing for those ordained in denominations other than the UCC. For more detail, see the Manual on Ministry in the Resources section.
Considering a New Church Covenant in the United Church of Christ: A Process for Exploring, Developing, and Affirming New Relationships [PDF]
This booklet describes a process of mutual exploration which will help a non-affiliated church explore the United Church of Christ along with a UCC Association. The goal of the exploration process is to decide whether to enter into a formal covenanted relationship.
Manual on Ministry: Perspectives and Procedures for Ecclesiastical Authorization of Ministry [PDF]
The Manual on Ministry serves as a guide for associations and conferences serving as associations for the authorization of ministry on behalf of the United Church of Christ. All sections of the manual are provided here in pdf format. Also available from UCC Resources.
Manual on Church: Perspectives and Procedures for Association and Local Church Covenantal Partners
The first section of this resource explores the covenantal relationships between local congregations and associations/conferences acting as associations. It is to be used by and with Committees on the Ministry, association and conference staff and local church members to help foster dialogue and increased understanding of what it means to "walk together in all God's ways" as expressions of the church.
Interim Ministry Guidelines [PDF]
This document, Ministry During the Interim Time, describes some common understandings and procedures for this form of ministry, as they have been developing in the United Church of Christ.
"The gifts Christ gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ." - Ephesians 4:11-12
How am I called to be Christ's servant in the service of others? What does the Church need from me in order to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil? How do I discern a call to ministry in the United Church of Christ? Ask the Question to explore paths of discernment, the requirements for education and formation, the possibilities and settings of ministry, and much more! Use the Discernment Travelogue individually or with a discernment support committee in your local church to develop a variety of practices for listening to God’s direction; the Travelogue is also available in Spanish.
In the United Church of Christ, ministerial formation and authorization are overseen by Committees on Ministry in local Associations (and Conferences acting as Associations). It is important for those who are exploring God's call to partner early with their home congregation and a local Committee on Ministry. Once an individual is in covenant with a local church and a Committee on Ministry, the person is designated by the Association to be a Member in Discernment. Members in Discernment seeking scholarships should review www.ucc.org/scholarships as well as www.ucc.org/ministry_education_scholarships; additionally, updated information on the Brown Scholarship can be found at http://ucfunds.org/the-brown-endowment/.
Annual gatherings for Members in Discernment (MIDs) are hosted by the MESA Ministry Team for the purpose of networking, sharing resources, and providing support. These gatherings are rotated seasonally (fall in 2017, spring in 2018, summer in 2019) in order to allow MIDs flexibility to participate according to their schedules. All gatherings are held in Cleveland, OH, and a MID may only attend one gathering during their process of discernment. Specific details and registration information for each gathering are emailed directly to MIDs approximately two months before the event.
A valuable discernment tool to assess one's educational, professional and spiritual formation is the document, Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers, which you can also engage creatively through the workbook Journaling the Journey. Those Members in Discernment who are exploring a call to specialized ministry should be mindful of additional requirements for non-parish ministry settings.
Resources for one's education and understanding of United Church of Christ theology, history and polity can be found online at http://www.ucc.org/education_polity. Also linked on the polity webpage is a listing of UCC History & Polity Courses being offered online and in-person.
There are three forms of authorized ministry in the United Church of Christ: commissioned ministry, licensed ministry and ordained ministry. The Manual on Ministry serves as a guide for the authorization of ministry on behalf of the United Church of Christ; it is available online in PDF and in print from UCC Resources.
- A commissioned minister is authorized by an Association of the United Church 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 by an Association, 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.
"But now thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.'" (Isaiah 43:1)
Ministry Issues: Forming and Preparing Pastoral Leaders for God's Church.
The Ministry Issues Pronouncement approved by General Synod 25 in 2005 seeks to address the needs of the UCC for well prepared and faithful ministerial leadership for God's mission in the world both now and in the future. In order to have such well prepared leaders who are able to engage with a geographically and economically diverse, multicultural, multiracial church, it is necessary:
· to expand our definition of learnedness and leadership
· to provide multiple means for persons to be formed and prepared for authorized ministry in the UCC
In order to do this, we must pay attention to:
· our theologies of ministry
· our understanding and practice of licensed ministry
· how we engage in deep and authentic discernment of both call and gifts for ministry
· how we help form leaders with an abiding identity and affinity with the UCC
Ministry Issues Draft 3.1, from the Ministry Issues Implementation Committee in 2009, offers an in-depth exploration of the work and conversations since General Synod 25, including the shift to "Member in Discernment" language and the "Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers."
- Las Senales de Los Cristianos Fieles y Ministerios Authorizados
The Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers
The following materials help Committees on Ministry explore Draft 3.1; they are designed as workshops that take about two hours, or as pieces to be read by committee members in advance of their work with Members in Discernment.
- Assessing Knowledge and Skills
- Local Churches
- Ministry of COMs
- Personal and Professional Formation
- Regional Programs
- Seminary Programs
Using the Marks
The November 2010 Background Document offers a closer reflection upon the covenants of authorized ministry, in conversation with the Marks. This background document may be helpful in discussing constitutional changes and new understandings fo proposed language. Additionally useful background material includes the 1996 lecture by Clyde J. Steckel; Steckel asserts that Committees on Ministry are the innovators of polity and ecclesiology in the UCC as authorized ministry and denominational ways-of-being shift in ways not imagined by our founders.
The Manual on Church: Perspectives and Procedures for Association and Local Church Covenantal Partners explores the covenantal relationships between local congregations and Associations/Conferences acting as Associations. MOC is to be used by and with Committees on the Ministry, Association and Conference staff, and local church members to foster dialogue and increased understanding of what it means to walk together in all God's ways as expressions of the church.
The Church Shaped by Covenant
Autonomy and Oversight in Covenantal Relationships
Expectations of Associations in Covenant with Local Churches
Expectations of Local Churches in Covenant with Associations
Entering into Covenant
A Chart Summarizing the Procedure for Entering into Covenant
Dissolution of Covenantal Partnership
Characteristics of Faithful Covenantal Relationships
Glossary of Terms