On my office wall is a small, framed article clipped from the Decatur Daily. The 40 year old clipping, yellowed by age, tells the story of a Church Conference at Ninth Street United Methodist Church when three teenagers were recommended as candidates for ordained ministry. The three of us had been nurtured in the faith, discipled, and mentored by pastors who had traveled the same path toward ordination.
I am truly grateful for our Methodist commitment to a path of discernment, accountability, and development for men, and women called by God into ordained ministry. It was out of gratitude, I welcomed the opportunity to serve on various District Committees on Ministry (dCOM), as well as the twelve years I served on the North Alabama Conference Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM). In this work I saw individuals grow, and develop through the process, while others walked away out of frustration over bureaucratic obstacles. The leadership of BOM would look for adaptive responses to the challenge only to be blocked by General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) policy.
The Global Methodist Church envisions a streamlined ordination process, building on the best of our Methodist inheritance. The process includes familiar milestones: inquiry, candidacy, and ordination. There are also distinct changes made to enable people to live out God’s call as ordained Methodist clergy. What follows are a few of the highlighted changes envisioned in the Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline (TBDD).
Two Orders of Ministry
All Christ followers are called to a ministry of witness and service. This shared call to ministry of the people of God, the laity, is initiated at baptism, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. All who are ordained as deacons and elders are “called out from among God’s people for particular service to His church.” (TBDD, ¶403)
Deacons are ordained to a ministry of Word, Service, Compassion, and Justice. Deacons lead “the Church the Church in the servanthood every Christian is called to live both in the church and in the world. Deacons are to witness to the Word in their words and actions, and to embody and lead the community’s service in the world for the sake of enacting God’s compassion and justice.” (TBDD, ¶403.1) A local pastor’s call to pastoral ministry will be recognized and affirmed through ordination as a deacon rather than receiving a license for pastoral ministry. A deacon is ordained for life. A person may choose to remain as a permanent deacon, or seek ordination as an elder if they discern God’s call to serve the Church as an elder.
Elders are ordained to the ministry of Word, Order, and Sacrament in the life of the Church. “Those called to the ministry of elder bear authority and responsibility to proclaim God’s Word fearlessly, to teach God’s people faithfully, to administer the sacraments, and to order the life of the church so that it may be both faithful and fruitful.” (TBDD, ¶403.2)
Educational Requirements for Ordination. An annual conference is given greater autonomy to determine the educational requirements including: Course of Study, a Bachelors of Arts in Ministry, or a Masters of Divinity. Minimum educational requirements for Deacons and Elders may be found at TBDD, ¶ 407.
Transfer of Clergy Credentials. A clergy person transferring from another Christian denomination will be required to pass denominational exams on doctrine, polity, history, and the Bible rather than acquire another graduate degree from an approved seminary.
A Collaborative Model for Clergy Deployment. Such a model values the clergy person, the ministry setting, and the office of Bishop as active participants in making the appointment. The goal of such an approach is to provide the local church with a clergy person well suited for their ministry context.
A Commitment to Diversity in Deployment. A core value of this new Methodist expression is that “All local churches and ministry settings will be open to all qualified and active clergy without regard to race, ethnic origin, gender, color, disability, marital status, or age.” This value is reflected in the “Hosier Rule” named in honor of Harry Hosier, the renowned black Methodist preacher who accompanied Francis Asbury in the early days of American Methodism. A local church’s interview slate for a clergy opening must comply with the parameters set by the Hosier Rule. Thus the interview slate must include at least one cross-cultural and one female candidate from outside the church or ministry involved.
The future Methodist expression envisioned in the draft “Book of Doctrine and Discipline” is committed to deploying men and women, called by God to ordained ministry, in Great Commission and Great Commandment ministry both locally, and globally. This post only highlights a few of the important reforms in ordination and ministry deployment in the Global Methodist Church. Below are included links to other resources for further exploration.
Lyle is an Alabama native, born in Birmingham and raised in Decatur. He currently serves as senior pastor of Cullman First UMC. Since 1990 he has pastored in Florence at Florence First UMC (Associate Pastor), in Toney at Toney UMC, in Pinson at Faith UMC, in Helena at the Church at Cahaba Bend (founding pastor), and in Jacksonville at Jacksonville First UMC. Lyle as a bachelors from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and a Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary.
He is married, since 1991, to the former Linda Denton of Culleoka, Tennessee. Their daughter Maggie is a school and clinical psychologist completing a post-doc year in Tallahassee, Florida where she lives with her husband Henry, a dog named Shaggy, and Clive the cat. Their son Bennett lives in Louisville, Kentucky where we works for a technology company as a data analyst. As empty nesters, Lyle and Linda are raising an Airedale Terrier named Loki.