Orientation for New BOM Members
When you agree to serve on the conference Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM), you join a group of 60 to 65 men and women. This group is made up of elders, deacons, associate members, local pastors, and laity. Together, this group takes on the awesome responsibility of enlisting, vetting, and credentialing the ministerial leadership for our churches and other ministry settings connected to our annual conference. For most BOM members, a big part of your involvement will be related to the interviews we have with ministerial candidates the beginning of March. The preparation for those interviews begins in January and goes through February leading up to the interviews. In the March interviews, candidates hear whether they are approved for the clergy status they are seeking, or they are deferred in order to grow in certain areas. We have another day-long meeting in May where we conduct business, and we review the various conference relations of our clergy and prepare to make recommendations to the full clergy session at the Annual Conference session the following June. We also conduct occasional trainings, usually in the Fall of the first year in each new quadrennium.
The BOM also sets policies and oversees procedures that are carried out throughout the year through the work of:
Granting Clergy Status
Before a candidate comes for March Interviews, they have already been on a long journey that began with hearing God’s call. They talked with their pastor and the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee of their local church. They were approved by their local church and by their District Committee on Ordained Ministry to become a certified candidate for ministry. They began and eventually completed an intense educational journey in an approved theological school. The candidates come to us at this point in their journey needing to obtain the credentials and clergy status they need to be able to fulfill the ministry to which God has called them.
It is important to know the five kinds of clergy status that the BOM grants.
January and February Preparation for March Interviews
In January, you will receive an email with the outline of the schedule we will follow in March and provide a link to the registration page to confirm your attendance and determine your lodging needs. (The Board covers the costs of any hotel accommodations needed for the March meeting, most meals, and some reimbursement for your round trip mileage.) In another email, you will receive two important documents: 1) Interview Team Rosters, and 2) March Schedule with the candidates assigned to each team. This tells you what interview committee you will be serving on and the names of the candidates you will interview. You will also receive instructions on how to log into our secure webpage to retrieve the documents from the candidates you will be interviewing. With that information, you will be able to get started reviewing your candidates’ work. In order to be prepared to enter thoughtful discussion with your interview committee in March, you need to use the five to six weeks before the meeting to read all the paperwork. Make notes throughout the paperwork rather than trying to rely on your memory later. Your notes will remind you what you thought was good, confusing, or missing. The affirming comments and the questions you have written down beforehand will assist you as you participate in March in the discussions with your committee. It is okay to suspend final judgment of a candidate’s work until the group has had an opportunity to process thoughts together.
Three Kinds of Interview Committees
You will be assigned either to a Preaching and Teaching committee, Theology and Doctrine committee, or Called and Disciplined Life committee. To learn more about what you will be evaluating, it is extremely important to read the instructions that the candidates used in preparing their work. You need to know what was asked of the candidates. You can follow this link to those instructions. Please note that all three kinds of Interview Committees need to access the candidate’s autobiography.
Preaching and Teaching focuses on the sermon or act of ministry submitted by the candidate and the Bible Study submitted by the candidate. You will have the written sermon or act of ministry to read and an audio/visual recording of the event to experience. Candidates for Provisional Elder, Full Elder, and Associate Member must preach a sermon. Candidates for Provisional Deacon and Full Deacon have the option of choosing to preach a sermon or lead an act of ministry appropriate to their ministry setting and gifts. For the Bible Study, you have one detailed session to review and a brief outline of the complete Bible Study. In addition to the instructions, you can also view the Interview Report form containing the criteria used in evaluating the sermon/act of ministry and Bible Study. Take care that the standard in Preaching and Teaching for those applying for full membership be set somewhat higher than those applying for provisional membership.
Theology and Doctrine focuses on the doctrinal questions taken from the Book of Discipline. The expectation of associate members is to show the integration of theological education with what has been learned through four or more years of practical ministry. The expectation of provisional members is to show theological understanding of the core competencies of our faith and denomination. The expectation of members in full connection is to show integration of theological formation with practical ministry. Note that there are different report forms used in Theology and Doctrine based on the clergy status being sought.
Called and Disciplined Life closely examines each candidate's autobiography, case study, and responses to the questions from The Book of Discipline related to Called and Disciplined Life. Also, this committee examines the files of each candidate which are brought to the March meeting. These files include the various background checks, transcripts, psychological assessment summaries, and evaluations submitted by the candidates. Note that there are different interview report forms used in Called and Disciplined Life based on the clergy status being sought.
Arriving for March Interviews
Usually within that first Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday in March, the BOM meets at the Methodist Home for Children and Youth in Macon to interview candidates for changes of status to Associate Membership, Provisional Membership, and Full Membership. (Usually, only Monday and Tuesday are needed to conduct all our business.)
Group Conversations in Preparation for Interviews
We gather for worship and communion to center us in our work. Next, we have a brief large-group orientation, then we break up into our nine interview committees, combined into three teams (Team A, Team B, and Team C), each made up of the three different kinds of interview committees: 1) Preaching and Teaching, 2) Theology and Doctrine, and 3) Called and Disciplined Life. Each of the nine interview committees usually has 5 to 7 members. Once you have gathered with the members of your interview committee, you will participate in a discussion of the work of each candidate. Remember to bring the notes you have made throughout the paperwork rather than relying on your memory. The interview committee should have a plan for interviewing each candidate, including what questions will be asked and by whom. Care should be given to the selection of the first question. It is best to have committee members take turns asking questions. It is usually when someone in the committee departs from the plan that the interview does not go as well.
The Interview Process
When it is time to interview the candidates, someone from the interview committee will get the first candidate from the waiting area. The committee will have 40 minutes to conduct the interview. The committee leader should lead in making introductions. Realize that the candidate will be nervous, and take care that he or she be made as comfortable as possible. Someone should be ready with the first question. Sticking to the questions and focusing on the candidate’s responses is best. The interview is not the time for committee members to start sharing their own experiences or opinions. If the candidate spends too much time answering a particular question, the leader can gently help the candidate move on to the next question. Candidates may at times feel that their interview is not going well. If the leader senses this, it is okay for the leader to try to cause a mid-course change in the atmosphere if needed. The candidate should sense that the committee is for them and not against them. Someone in the group should be selected to track the time, and let the group know when it is time to wrap up the conversation and for someone to pray for the candidate before the candidate is directed to return to the waiting area.
The interview committee will have ten minutes to discuss how the conversation went. Although some collective judgments are formed when the committee discusses each candidate’s written paperwork, the committee should use the opportunity after the interview to assess if their questions were answered, if the oral presentation of their written work brought up the quality of their engagement with the material, or if the candidate showed problems in articulating themselves. The effect of the candidate’s stress and anxiety should be taken into account.
The discussion after each individual candidate should be limited to ten minutes, so that the next candidate can be brought up from the waiting area. Keeping candidates languishing in the waiting area raises anxiety. As the leader leads the introductions, ask the candidate how it is going. If the candidate seems troubled about the way the first interview went, then try to put the candidate at ease, by signaling that each interview represents a fresh start. After the second interview and the 10-minute discussion following the interview, the third candidate should be brought up.
Individual Interview Committee Deliberations: Meaning of “Approval” vs. “Deferred”
After the three interviews and the committee deliberations of each of the three candidates, it is time for the interview committee to discuss their recommendations regarding each candidate. The choices are Approval or Deferral. Approval means the candidate is approved for the status being sought: (Associate Membership, Provisional Membership or Full Membership). In rare instances, a person can be approved for Provisional Membership, but with a requirement or contingency that must fulfilled during a certain time period during the provisional period. It is extremely rare to approve a candidate with a contingency for Full Membership, because it is difficult to enforce any requirement after someone has been ordained and achieved full conference membership. Another choice is Deferral. Deferral means that a candidate is denied approval for the time being, and therefore must return to the BOM a year later. In deferral, there is usually a requirement or contingency that is spelled out in one of two forms: 1) a plan of action to do something (meet with a coach, therapist, the Conference Pastoral Counselor, do a directed study, do a series of case studies, take a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, etc., OR 2) a detailed description of the growth that must occur before returning the next year: “We want to see evidence of more (fill in the blank) before you can be approved.”
Team Consultations among the Three Interview Committees
Many times, an individual committee will not arrive at a recommendation of one or more of their candidates until a second layer of consultation occurs. After the individual committee concludes their interviews and deliberations as a committee, they go into consultation with their team (Team A, B, or C). There will be a leader over each team to guide the discussions among the three committees of that team. In the team consultation, the team will have 30 minutes to discuss the candidates in that particular block of interviews. The committee that saw a particular candidate in Preaching and Teaching will hear from the committee that interviewed the same person in the area Theology and Doctrine, and those committees will hear from the committee that interviewed in the area of Called and Disciplined Life. Each of three committees must come to a decision of what they will recommend to the full board concerning each candidate. The team will know going into the full board whether the team will recommend that candidate be approved in all three areas, or deferred in one area only (Called and Disciplined Life, Preaching and Teaching, or Theology and Doctrine) or deferred in two or more areas. To be deferred in one area means that the candidate will only have to return to the Board having to be examined again in that one area. To be deferred in two or more areas means that the candidate will need to return to the Board and be examined in all three areas. Interview Committee reports and Team Reports are filled out by hand by committee leaders and team leaders for each candidate.
Full-Board Consultation, Results Shared with Candidates
After the Team consultations conclude, then everyone gathers in the meeting of the full board. The chair calls the name of each candidate, and the team leader of the team that interviewed the candidate reports on the recommendations of each of the three committees. The chair may call on the leader of an individual interview committee for more information on the recommendation. Members of the full board may ask questions and discussion is permitted. After any discussion, the chair will call for a vote of the Board to support the recommendation of the team leader (for approval or deferral) or not support the recommendation. The majority carries. After discussions and decisions on all the candidates interviewed in a session, then members of the Board go out (usually in twos) to each candidate and takes each candidate into an individual room to share with them the Board’s decision, whether that decision is for approval or deferral. Once those who are approved have heard that they are approved, then they are brought to the full board to be introduced, to share any words to the board, and then for the board to express their congratulations.
In the days following the meeting, the candidates are informed in writing of the Board’s decision, and the Committee Reports and Team Reports are sent with the notes the leaders make. These notes are particularly useful for those who are returning to the Board. Without clear notes the candidates may be unclear what is expected of them.