The gifts Christ gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.(Ephesians 4:11-12) The United Church of Christ values well-prepared and faithful ministerial leadership for the building up of the body of Christ and for God’s ongoing mission in the world. To that end, we continue to expand our definitions of learnedness and leadership, our practices of discernment, and our expressions of covenant.
Additional resources specific to authorized ministers in the United Church of Christ include: Grants for Personal and Vocational Crises distributed through the Pension Boards; Interim Ministry Guidelines; Information Review Form (a tool for maintaining one’s standing through intentional communication with one’s local Committee on Ministry); overview of health, pension, and other benefits through The Pension Boards; Faith and Wisdom (a searchable database of ecumenical Protestant opportunities for continuing education).
There are three forms of authorized ministry in the United Church of Christ: 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. The Ordained Minister’s Code not only guides a clergyperson’s behavior in ministry but also provides an assessment tool for ongoing discernment and growth.