Forms of Authorized Ministry

The United Church of Christ acknowledges as its sole head, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior. It acknowledges as kindred in Christ all who share in this confession. It looks to the word of God in the scriptures and to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, to prosper its creative and redemptive work in the world. It claims as its own faith of the historic church expressed in the ancient creeds and reclaimed in the basic insights of the Protestant reformers.

It affirms the responsibility of the church in each generation to make this faith its own in reality and worship, in honesty of thought and expression, and in purity of heart before God.

In accordance with the teaching of our Lord and in the practice prevailing among evangelical Christians, it recognizes two sacraments: Baptism and Holy Communion.

The United Church of Christ recognizes that God calls the whole church and every member to participate in and extend the ministry of Jesus Christ by witnessing to the gospel in church and society. The United Church of Christ seeks to undergird the ministry of its members by nurturing faith, calling forth gifts and equipping members for Christian service.

There are three forms of authorized ministry in the United Church of Christ: commissioned ministry, licensed ministry and ordained ministry.

  • An ordained minister is authorized by an Association of the United Church of Christ to preach and teach the gospel, to administer the sacraments and rites of the church, and to exercise pastoral care and leadership. An ordained minister is a representative minister of the United Church of Christ and is in covenant with the local church where (s)he holds UCC membership, the calling body where (s)he is engaged in ministry, and the Association acting on behalf of the United Church of Christ. Once granted, ordained standing is ongoing and transferable to another Association; standing is always subject to review and requires a mindful relationship between the clergyperson, Association and ministry setting. The Ordained Minister’s Code not only guides a clergyperson’s behavior in ministry but also provides an assessment tool for ongoing discernment and growth.
  • A licensed minister is authorized by an Association of the United Church of Christ “to perform specific duties in a designated local church or within that Association, mainly preaching and conducting services of worship for a designated time.” (UCC Bylaws) Licensed ministry is frequently authorized, for example, when a local church needs pastoral and sacramental leadership but an ordained minister is not available. The Association, in consultation with the local church requesting a person’s licensure, determines the specific duties and length of time for which the license is granted. A license is not transferable to another ministry setting or Association. Learn more about becoming licensed in the Southeast Conference.
  • A commissioned minister is authorized by an Association of the United Church of Christ to perform “specific church-related ministry which is recognized by that Association but does not require ordination or licensure.” (UCC Bylaws) Typically, commissioned ministers do not perform sacramental ministry but are engaged in ministries (e.g. education, music, nursing) that the denomination values as part of its mission and ministry. Commissioning is dependent upon a recognized call to an organized body. A commissioned minister is a representative minister in the United Church of Christ, and one’s commission is transferable to another Association when there is a new call within the same “specific church-related ministry.”

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