Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Licensing, Commissioning, and Ordination

     During the service of Licensing, Commissioning, and Ordination at the annual conference, I was ordained an Elder in Full Connection with the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. 
     Ordination in the UM Church is a process (some would say an “intense” process, others I have recently learned would say, "confusing" process). So as one freshly on the finished side I'll briefly explain. The application process begins with a series of interviews beginning with the Pastor and the Pastor Parish Relations Committee by one’s local Church affirming one’s call to ministry then on to becoming a certified candidate for ministry as recommended by their charge conference or equivalent (¶ 310.1e of our Book of Discipline). The process then takes the candidate before their District Committee on Ministry (DCOM). Some Pastors such as Licensed Local Pastors return there annually for a continuation interview. Some Local Pastors serve in a Part-Time capacity and others Full-Time.
    Many feel God is calling them to become a pastor, but do not see seminary as a reality, then they become a local pastor. Local pastors are not ordained but are licensed to preach and conduct divine worship and perform the duties of a pastor. Local pastors may also serve in extension ministries settings. They are not elected into membership of the annual conference. When appointed, the local pastor performs the usual duties of a pastor, including preaching and teaching; leading in worship and liturgy; receiving new members; performing the sacraments of baptism and The Lord's Supper; and performing the services of marriage, burial, and confirmation. The local pastor’s authority is only within the appointment setting and does not extend beyond it. The local pastor is not ordained and serves under the authority of a license for pastoral ministry after completing the steps outlined in ¶ 315 of The Book of Discipline (2012) and meeting any annual conference requirements. I was Licensed a Full-Time Local Pastor July 1st2013.
    Ordination as an Elder in Full Connection includes a 4 yr. seminary degree from a United Methodist or approved seminary, a minimum 3 yr. residence in ministry not to exceed 8 yrs. During the R.I.M. process, the Commissioned Elder attends monthly meetings and two annual retreats with their peers (which I completed last yr.). (I was commissioned as a Provisional Elder in 2014) once these steps are completed one can go before the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM) for Elder in Full Connection. To be granted an interview for Provisional Elder and Full Elder each step requires the completion of psychological testing and paperwork: maximum 40 pages on leadership, 40 pgs. theology, nearly 30 pgs. for proclamation to include a video of a sermon with exegetical notes, 30 pgs. personal growth, a project, a Bible study, and other basic application materials. For Full Elder this process is duplicated with almost identical assignments but now the Board looks for growth and integration in ministry. Many times persons are given growth assignments and resubmit again the following year. The idea is the Board of Ordained Ministry wants to help you as much as possible to best serve our Churches. It is a long but valuable process.
    When Bishop Carter laid his hands on me with my selected mentors Rev. Bob Laidlaw, and Rev. Jay Therrell he invoked the Holy Spirit praying, “Almighty God, pour upon Brian Harrell Sanderson the Holy Spirit, for the office and work of an elder in Christ’s holy church. Amen. Brian Harrell Sanderson, take authority as an elder to preach the Word of God, to administer the sacraments and to order the life of the church; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”  
     ¶ 340Responsibilities and Duties of Elders and Licensed Pastors- 1. The responsibilities of elders are derived from the authority given in ordination. Elders have a fourfold ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service and thus serve in the local church and in extension ministries in witness and service of Christ's love and justice. Elders are authorized to preach and teach the Word, to provide pastoral care and counsel, to administer the sacraments, and to order the life of the church for service in mission and ministry as pastors, superintendents, and bishops.
2. Licensed pastors share with the elders the responsibilities and duties of a pastor for this fourfold ministry, within the context of their appointment.
    We also commission and ordain deacons. Those who respond to God’s call to lead in service and to equip others for this ministry through teaching, proclamation, and worship and who assist elders in the administration of the sacraments are ordained a deacon. Ordained to Word, Service, Compassion, and Justice Deacons are persons called by God, authorized by the church, and ordained by a bishop to a lifetime ministry of Word, Service, Compassion, and Justice, to both the community and the congregation in a ministry that connects the two. Deacons exemplify Christian discipleship, create opportunities for others to enter into discipleship, and connect the needs and hurts of the people with the church. See ¶329 in our Book of Discipline for more on the Deacon. 
    God has called me, I have responded by being faithful to the process. Perhaps you sense that God is calling you into full-time Christian ministry as a Local Pastor, Elder or Deacon—talk to your Pastor. 

In His Service,
Pastor Brian  

  • The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (Nashville: United Methodist Publishing House, 2000), par.s 329, 340, Pp.s 246-270. 

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