Ministry Study Commission Provides Discussion Questions on Proposed Changes

February 10, 2011

By Vicki Brown*

The Study of Ministry Commission has provided discussion questions and a PowerPoint presentation about proposed changes that include a shift away from security of employment for elders, a move to group candidacy mentoring, and separating ordination from full Annual Conference membership.
 
The study questions will give people an opportunity to have a conversation about the proposed changes in a structured and organized fashion, said the Rev. Sharon Rubey, interim associate general secretary of the General Board of Higher Education's Division of Ordained Ministry. "The commission will be finalizing their report over the next four months. Comments from groups who have studied the issues will add to our conversation as the final recommendations are written," Rubey said. She said the questions and presentation would be helpful for Annual Conferences, Boards of Ordained Ministry, and local churches.
 
The commission report, theological statement, the discussion questions, as well as the PowerPoint presentation, are now available for review and comments at www.gbhem.org/ministrystudy. Comments may be emailed to ministrystudy@gbhem.org.
 
Proposed changes posted on the Ministry Study page include: 
  • Having a vocational discernment coordinator on the Board of Ordained Ministry in each Annual Conference;
  • Requiring a common ministry preparation learning experience for all elder, deacon, or local pastor candidates immediately after certification as a candidate;
  • Moving to group candidacy mentoring;
  • Dropping the practice of commissioning;
  • Allowing ordination and provisional membership to occur as early as the completion of educational requirements, and would be separated from full Conference membership;
  • Doing away with security of employment for elders, commonly called guaranteed appointment. In order to do that, the commission calls on the General Church to determine limited and standard fitness assessments, and if necessary, revise transitional leave policies;
  • Affirming the practice of itinerancy as effective and responsive to the covenantal obedience to call; 
  • Asking Annual Conferences, Boards of Ordained Ministry, Cabinets, and bishops to determine a clear definition of and method for evaluating clergy, as well as coordinating with the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits on resources, methods, and practices for voluntary separation of employment and employment transitions;
  • Recommending that sacramental authority, which extends through the bishop to the Order of Elders, should be available to the whole church and that authority can be given to deacons for missional purposes and local pastors when an elder is not available.
*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.