South Georgia, North Georgia Conferences partner with Emory to form joint Local Pastors' Licensing School

Pictured, left to right, are Amy Carter, William Reaves, Aubrey Abbott, Lynn Martin, Michael Webb, Jackie Thomas, Antonio Sutton, Faye Burgamy, and Michael Forbes.

A partnership between the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church, the North Georgia Conference, and Emory University’s Candler School of Theology has created a new educational program for the licensing of those who want to begin serving as local pastors.

The inaugural joint Local Pastors’ Licensing School, held in May on Emory University’s campus, gave pastors the kind of practical, hands-on knowledge that’s vital in the day-to-day management and shepherding of local churches. A weekend school will begin in October and run through July 2016.

The partnership makes sense financially and experientially, said Dr. Jimmy Asbell, Jr., dean of South Georgia’s Local Pastors’ Licensing School and pastor of Macon’s Vineville United Methodist Church.

Emory and Candler already host a Course of Study school and had the resources, facilities, and teachers in place to host a Licensing School. For years, South Georgia has hosted its own Licensing School at Epworth By The Sea on St. Simons Island, but after North Georgia’s sale of Simpsonwood Retreat and Conference Center, where they’ve hosted their licensing school, leaders in the two conferences began to discuss the possibility of a joint partnership with Emory.

“Joining together … made economic sense and we were able to offer an experience that was truer to their ministry and cultural setting,” Dr. Asbell said. With 25 to 30 participants from both conferences versus just nine or 10 from South Georgia, “there was a better chance of covering the fullness of the church.”

Local Pastors’ Licensing School is a “crash course in ministry,” says Dr. Jay Harris, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministerial Services. Participants are inundated with information and practical knowledge about ministry, from preaching and pastoral care to church administration and how to conduct weddings and funerals.

“There are so many elements of ministry that they’re able to learn about, and they learn about it in a quick amount of time,” he said. “It gives them enough information that they can then pastor a church – that’s the goal.”

Not meant to stand alone, Local Pastors’ Licensing School must be followed up with either a Course of Study program or with a masters of divinity degree from a seminary program in a United Methodist-approved seminary. It’s only open to certified candidates who are approved by the district committee on ordained ministry.

Another benefit to the new partnership with Emory University is that it gives Licensing School participants a taste of what the Course of Study program or seminary would be like.

“It becomes a seamless step from the licensing program to the Course of Study for those who are going to pursue that as their way into the next status,” Dr. Asbell said.

It’s one more way that the South Georgia Conference and Emory University are helping develop and assist pastors and local churches in their ministries and disciple-making efforts.

“This is just another example of how Emory is supporting the life of the local church, down to the smallest of local churches.”

For more information about Local Pastors’ Licensing School, or click here.