In the United Church of Christ there is an understanding that all members are called by their baptism to ministry, and some are set a part for authorization for ministry. There are three authorizations for ministry: licensing, commissioning, and ordination. This process is designed to accompany members in their discernment process, whether for ordination, licensing or commissioning. It is intended to engage all partners in the discernment process, the Member in Discernment (MID), the local congregation, and the authorizing body (the Association or Conference acting on behalf of the Association). The process may also determine that a candidate’s calling is other than to authorize ministry.
A person seeking to become a MID must be an active member of the local church through which he or she begins this process for a minimum of one year. The Covenant of Discernment between the candidate, his or her local church, and the Commission Ministry is to be a minimum of one year, and is not to exceed seven years. A person may be ordainable pending a call up to five years.
Summary of Chronological Steps in the Discernment Process:
- Following an interview with a prospective MID a local church, its pastor and appropriate church committee recommend the potential MID to the Discernment Committee in mutual discernment with the candidate and based upon the review of the following documentation (which become part of the candidate’s portfolio):
- Letter indicating the candidate’s desire to become a member in discernment in preparation for ordained, licensed or commissioned ministry.
- A statement of the candidate’s pilgrimage of faith
- A statement of his/her understanding of his/her calling at this time
- A complete resume
- Complete undergraduate and graduate transcripts
- Three written references of support for the candidate to enter the discernment process.
- A letter of support and recommendation of the candidate to be a Member in Discernment from the local church
If the appropriate body within the local church concurs that the candidate should be recommended as a member in discernment, the candidate proceeds to step 2.
- The Exploration Retreat. At this retreat Person in Explorations learn the overview of the process of discernment. Following this retreat, Persons in Exploration will be interviewed by a sub-committee of the MID Committee. They either recommend or not that the Person in Exploration move to the next step. If recommended, the MID Committee reviews the following items with the Person in Exploration:
- The development of a portfolio
- The UCC history and polity requirement
- A psychological evaluation
- Semi-annual meetings with the MIDs
- Regular meetings with the candidate’s advisor.*
- If recommended, the Person in Exploration initiates a psychological evaluation by a psychologist recommended by the Committee on Ministry. The Conference will pay 1/3 of the cost of this, the candidate 1/3, and the local church 1/3. Following the evaluation, the candidate will meet with the Psychological Review Committee.
- If the Psychological Review Committee recommends that the Person in Exploration proceed to the next step, the MID Committee will meet with Candidate.
- The Committee will approve or not the Person in Exploration for MID status. If recommended, it is at this time that the candidate becomes a Member in Discernment. The now full Member in Discernment (MID) is assigned an authorized UCC minister as Advisor who is neither a member of his/her congregation nor of the Commission on Ministry. (It is recommended that there be a service of recognition and celebration in the MID’s church of their acceptance as a MID).*
- The MID attends the semi-annual meetings of the MID group, in the spring and fall of each year. Each year the MID and his/her advisor will complete out an annual MID renewal form.
- Once the MID and his/her advisor are satisfied that the MID’s portfolio is complete and reflects well the MID’s formation for ministry, The adviser will complete a portfolio assessment form. The MID will then present the portfolio for review and assessment by a second reader. The MID Committee will review the assessments of the adviser and the second reader, and may make one of the following recommendations:
- The Committee recommends that the MID proceed to the next step.
- The Committee recommends further discernment for the MID and that, following a specified period of time and a clear statement of needed additional preparation, the MID may reappear before the committee.
- Following specific revisions to the portfolio it will be resubmitted to the Committee for review, the MID may be approved to proceed to the next step.
- The Committee does not recommend that the candidate continue in the discernment process.*
- The MID completes the UCC Ministerial Profile and shares this with the MID Committee.
- The MID Committee and/or the Commission on Ministry reviews the MID’s readiness for ministry, and recommends them for ordination *
- A service of ordination is scheduled in consultation with the Conference staff and the Commission on Ministry.
* Denotes gateway moment when the Candidate or MID either moves forward in the process or exits, after careful and mutual discernment. When a Candidate, MID, or local church disagrees with the decision made by the on of the committees, an appeal can be made to the Commission on Ministry