Delegates to the 2008 United Methodist General
Conference consider legislation during the church’s April 23-May 2
assembly in Fort Worth, Texas.
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
A UMNS Report
By Vicki Brown* May 19, 2008
The candidacy process for ordained ministry in The United Methodist
Church will be shortened by two years beginning in January 2009, under
legislation approved by the 2008 General Conference.
The Rev. Sharon Rubey
"Steps were taken to shorten and expedite the process and make it more
accessible," said the Rev. Sharon Rubey, director of Candidacy and
Conference Relations at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education
"The effect of these changes reduces the possible years from entry into
candidacy to ordination by two years, plus makes the process less
prescriptive, therefore making it more accessible to more possible
General Conference, meeting this spring in Fort Worth, Texas, affirmed
legislation allowing a candidate to begin the ordination process with a
minimum one-year membership in a church, campus ministry or other United
Methodist ministry setting. The previous requirement was two years.
Other legislation made changes in probationary membership, including
reducing the requirement from a minimum of three years to a minimum of
two and changing the name to provisional instead of probationary membership.
Provisional members still will be required to follow a residency
curriculum of theological education, take part in covenant groups and
undergo mentoring with evaluation by their district superintendent and
Board of Ordained Ministry.
The result will be more intense work for the candidates and the annual
conferences, said the Rev. Anita Wood, the board's director of
professional ministry development.
However, since the legislation requires a minimum of two years, Wood
said annual conferences still have the option of a longer provisional
Complaints from young adults
Efforts to streamline and shorten the process without weakening it were
in response to complaints from young adults that the process takes too
long, according to the Rev. Rodney Steele. He was part of a group of
delegates from the South Central Jurisdiction who drafted the
legislation out of concern that the process is discouraging young
"By the time people articulate that they are feeling called to ordained
ministry, they’ve answered a lot of the questions that are part of the
current process," said Steele, a member of board's elected directors.
The addition of campus ministry and mission churches as fulfilling that
two-year membership requirement is particularly important, he said.
The Rev. Rodney Steele
"We are seeing college students who get involved in campus ministry and
decide to seek ordination. This legislation will let that time in campus
ministry count as church membership," he said.
Approved legislation also provides new language to be more accessible to
other cultural, racial/ethnic and non-English-speaking candidates. The
petition passed by a sizeable majority in the legislative committee, and
was approved by the entire assembly on the consent calendar.
In addition to campus ministry, membership in a United Methodist faith
community or mission church that is not yet an established church will
fulfill the one-year requirement.
The candidate, along with a candidacy mentor, will study resources
determined by the conference Board of Ordained Ministry based on the
candidate’s statement of call, Wesley’s historic questions found in
Paragraph 310 of The Book of Discipline, and questions about
formative experiences, the role of the church, Christian beliefs and
personal gifts for ministry, which are listed in Paragraph 311.3.b and
This means there is no prescribed Candidacy Guidebook. However, the
petition states that candidates are "encouraged to use resources
recommended by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry."
Rubey said recommendations will be offered as the process is implemented
in January 2009.
Cultural and racial/ethnic realities
The required completion and release of psychological assessment reports,
criminal background and credit checks remain in the process. However,
the new paragraph states that district committees "shall seek ways to
consider cultural and ethnic/racial realities in meeting these
Following one year as a certified candidate, if half the educational
requirements have been met, the candidate is eligible to be commissioned
and become a provisional member. Petition Nos. 80310, 80313, and 81450
also were approved on the consent calendar.
The language was changed to state that provisional members will be
appointed by a bishop to serve a minimum of two years (reduced from
three) following the completion of all educational requirements.
Language also was added to make it clear that those in provisional
membership "may be appointed to attend school, to extension ministry, or
in appointments beyond the local church."
Steele noted that this is permissive legislation and believes some
conferences, including his own, will keep the three-year provisional
requirement. "It’s working well for us, so I think the shortening for us
will come on the front end," said Steele, a district superintendent in
the Arkansas Annual Conference.
*Brown is associate editor and writer in the Office of Interpretation at
the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.