Discerning a Call to Authorized Ministry
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. 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)