The Ordination Track

Hopefully, you have learned more about Elders and Deacons, the Candidacy Process up to becoming a Certified Candidate, and the Educational Requirements for becoming an Elder or Deacon.

We want you to know the process of moving from candidacy or licensed ministry to Commissioning and Provisional Membership and then on to Ordination and Full Membership. Please be prepared to review if needed the information under the menu item “Next Step: Education.”

Completion of Candidacy toward Provisional Membership

There is an important middle step between candidacy and ordination as an elder or deacon. Before a person is ordained, he or she is commissioned in preparation to serve and gain the experience needed before approval for ordination. Likewise, before becoming a full member of the conference, a commissioned minister becomes a provisional member of the conference. We see the provisional period as a crucial season in the minister’s life. We often refer to someone who has been commissioned as a provisional elder or provisional deacon depending upon the minister’s ultimate goal.

Getting to this middle step of Commissioning and Provisional Membership represents a major accomplishment in and of itself. A candidate is eligible for election to provisional membership and commissioning after meeting the following qualifications:

  • Candidacy requirement: Each candidate must be a certified candidate at least one year before being eligible for election by the clergy session of the Annual Conference. (The maximum period for being a certified candidate is 12 years.)
  • Service requirement: Each candidate must have a minimum of one year in a service setting as determined by the District Committee. This may be carried out as a part of one’s academic study (contextual ministry or mentored ministry).
  • Undergraduate requirement: A candidate will have completed a bachelor’s degree from a college or university recognized by the University Senate.
  • Graduate requirement:
    • Required basic graduate theological studies in the Christian faith for both deacons and elders must include courses in Old Testament; New Testament; theology; church history; mission of the church in the world; evangelism; worship/liturgy; and United Methodist doctrine, polity and history.
    • A candidate for elder will have (a) completed the course work required for a Master of Divinity degree from a school approved by the University Senate, (b) including the following requirements for South Georgia: two (2) courses in preaching (taken on campus, not online).
    • A candidate for deacon shall have completed a master’s degree from a United Methodist seminary or one listed by the University Senate, or received a master’s degree in the area of specialized ministry in which the candidate will serve, provided that he or she has completed the basic graduate theological studies, in a context which will provide formation as a UM deacon in full connection within a cohesive program developed by the seminary and approved by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
  • For a Local Pastor route involving the Basic Course of Study and Advanced Course of Study, read “Serving as a Licensed Pastor.”
  • Medical History (Form 103), Transcripts, Biographical Form 102, Updated Summary from the Psychological Assessment Committee
  • Updated Criminal Background and Credit Check (See instructions for obtaining the check through the necessary forms in “The Candidacy Process” instructions.)
  • Approval by the District Committee on Ordained Ministry to go forward to the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry (3/4 vote by written ballot).

Finally, there is a rigorous written examination that is due in January and a set of interviews that are conducted in early March by the Board of Ordained Ministry.

Check this webpage for “Required Work for March BOM Interviews” for a complete description of the written examination and interview by the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry for Provisional Deacon and Provisional Elder Membership.

Upon approval by the Board, a recommendation will be made to the clergy session of the Annual Conference where it will be voted on and then acted upon at the June Annual Conference.

The Provisional Period Preparing for Full Membership & Ordination

A person who is commissioned as a Provisional Elder has a security of appointment for eight years (the maximum number of years a person can be a provisional member). A person who is commissioned as a Provisional Deacon, must, like a Full Deacon, secure his or her own place of ministry.

Minimum Service Requirement: In South Georgia, the minimum service requirement as a Provisional Member is three years. When persons are considered for certified candidacy, the test they must meet is FITNESS for United Methodist ministry. When they are considered for Provisional Membership, the standard they must meet is READINESS for ministry. The purpose of the Provisional Ministry period is for the minister to grow in their ministry and demonstrate EFFECTIVENESS, which is the test that is required to pass for Ordination and Full Membership in the annual conference.

Residency in Ministry: During the three to eight year Provisional period, the Commissioned minister is supervised by his or her District Superintendent. For the first three years, the Commissioned minister is required to go through an intense time of mentoring called Residency in Ministry (RIM). The Residency in Ministry experience usually places in a covenant group all those who were commissioned at the same time in a given year. The covenant group is led by two or three ordained clergy (either from among elders or deacons or both) who are chosen by the leadership of the Board of Ordained Ministry. The experience involves monthly meetings, spiritual formation practices, book discussions, listening to group members preach or lead significant acts of ministry, an annual retreat, and reviewing each other’s ordination paperwork as the group gets closer to their interviews with the Board of Ordained Ministry.

Another significant part of the Residency in Ministry is the Fruitfulness Project, which each Provisional Member must propose, share, implement, and discuss in order to receive feedback. The public sharing of the Project constitutes a significant part of the annual RIM Retreat. Another part of the RIM Retreat is an annual check-in that the Board of Ordained Ministry is required to do with each Provisional Member according to the Book of Discipline.

Check the webpage for full instructions for the Fruitfulness Project.

In the third year of RIM, the Provisional Member has the opportunity to begin preparing their work for interviews with the Board of Ordained Ministry for Full Membership and Ordination.

Check this webpage for “Required Work for March BOM Interviews” for a complete description of the written examination and interview by the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry for Full Deacon and Full Elder Membership.

If the Provisional Member chooses not to apply for full conference membership and ordination at the end of their third year of RIM, or if a Provisional Member applies and is deferred by the Board, then the Provisional Member will be assigned a mentor to guide him or her in the Post-RIM year(s).

When the Board of Ordained Ministry approves a person for ordination as a deacon or elder and full conference membership, then the full clergy session votes in June at the annual conference. In the ordination service at the annual conference, the person receives the long-awaited stole that symbolizes the yoke of authority and blessing to do ministry as a life-long vocation. In other denominational traditions, persons are ordained in a local church, but we ordain men and women at the annual conference in front of the clergy and lay delegates representing all the United Methodist churches in the South Georgia Annual Conference. We do this because we are a connectional church, because many people have joined each ordinand on their journey, and because each ordinand is being given back to the whole Church to be available for appointment and for service in the Church, the Body of Christ.