In the UCC, each Association maintains the authority to ordain ministers and grant ministerial standing for their region. When an individual seeks to be ordained to ministry in the UCC, the candidate engages in a lengthy period of discernment that includes their local sponsoring church, the Committee on Ministry (COM), mentors and advisors, seminaries and peers. The candidate’s last discernment partner is the Association itself, when Association delegates gather in an Ecclesiastical Council. The process works as follows —
- The COM holds the responsibility of shepherding a candidate through their discernment process and ensuring all requirements for ordination have been met, including but not limited to assessments, polity requirements and pastoral ethics, and boundary training.
- When the committee is satisfied that a candidate has a call to an authorized ministry and is qualified based on the Marks of Ministry, the COM will recommend the candidate to the Association for their approval.
- At that time, an Ecclesiastical Council will be announced no less than 45 days in advance of the called meeting. Each church of the WNCA will be invited to send voting delegates to the Ecclesiastical Council based on the number of delegates allotted at the annual WNCA meeting.
- At the called Ecclesiastical Council, the COM will present a motion that the Member in Discernment (MID) be approved for ordination pending a call. The committee will then present the candidate to the voting delegates, sharing relevant materials and articulating their thinking as to why the candidate should be ordained. Delegates then will be invited to engage the candidate in a theological conversation regarding their discernment journey as well as the Marks of Ministry by which the UCC discerns competencies and call. All delegates will need to be familiar with the Marks of Ministry before the Ecclesiastical Council commences.
- After this conversation has come to a close, the question will be called and the delegates will be asked to vote on the COM’s motion that the candidate be approved for ordination pending a call. If the outcome of the vote is No, the candidate’s MID status is terminated, either with or without bias. If the vote is Yes, the MID is Approved for ordination pending call and may begin to circulate a UCC Ministerial Profile.
The WNCA COM is currently walking through the discernment process with a number of candidates, several of whom are ready to move toward an Ecclesiastical Council in the coming months. If you have any questions about the process, feel free to reach out to COM Co-Chairs The Rev. Jim Luck and The Rev. Tamara Franks, or to WNCA ACM The Rev. Colleen Samson.