Discipline ¶311

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  ¶  311. Candidacy for Licensed and Ordained Ministry-Persons, upon hearing and heeding the call to servant leadership through licensed or ordained ministry, shall contact the pastor of their local church, another ordained deacon or elder, or their district superintendent to inquire about the process of candidacy. Persons are encouraged to use the resources The Christian as Minister and the Ministry Inquiry Process.
1. Those seeking to begin candidacy for licensed or ordained ministry:
    a) shall have been a professing member in good standing of The United Methodist Church for at least two years immediately preceding the application for candidacy; including a year of service in some form of congregational leadership, either in that local church or one agreed to by the district committee on ordained ministry, provided that in the case of an affiliate member, there has been a consultation with and approval by the charge conference of the home church;
b) shall apply to their district superintendent in writing, in a letter describing their sense of call to licensed or ordained ministry, for admission to the candidacy program with a copy for the district committee on ordained ministry; and
c) shall be assigned to a candidacy mentor by the district committee on ordained ministry in consultation with the district superintendent;  
d) shall be registered through the candidacy mentor with the Division of Ordained Ministry, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry;
e) shall complete with the mentor the preliminary studies in the Candidacy Guidebook in a way that gives consideration to the candidate’s background and experience; and
f) are encouraged to pursue their education at one of the United Methodist seminaries.
  2. Those who have completed the process in § 1 and are ready to publicly declare themselves to be candidates for licensed or ordained ministry shall:
    a) consult with their pastor and committee on pastor or staff-parish relations after formulating a written statement reflecting their call to ministry and requesting  recommendation for certification. The candidate shall be interviewed by the committee on his or her statement of call and Wesley’s historic questions in ¶ 305;
b) be recommended by the charge conference. To be valid, such a recommendation shall be: i) approved by written ballot by two-thirds of the charge conference present at this meeting, provided that in the case of an affiliate member there has been a consultation with the pastor of the home church, and ii) the candidate shall have been graduated from an accredited high school or received a certificate of equivalency;
c) continue the candidacy studies for ordained ministry with a candidacy mentor.
  3. Candidates who have completed the requirements of § 1-2 and desire to be certified as candidates for licensed or ordained ministry shall:
    a) appear before the district committee on ordained ministry for examination;
b) submit a written response providing evidence of understanding and expectation concerning the following: i) the most formative experiences of your Christian life; ii) God’s call to licensed or ordained ministry and the role of the church in your call; iii) your future usefulness as a minister in The United Methodist Church; iv) your personal beliefs as a Christian; v) your personal gifts for ministry; vi) how your personal relationships may affect your future ministry;
c) submit a written response providing evidence of understanding of the ministries of local pastors, deacons and elders within The United Methodist Church;
d) complete and release required psychological reports, criminal background and credit checks. They shall submit, on a form provided by the conference board of ordained ministry:
    (1) a notarized statement detailing any convictions for felony or misdemeanor or written accusations of sexual misconduct or child abuse; or  
(2) a notarized statement certifying that this candidate has neither been accused in writing nor  convicted of a felony, misdeameanor, any incident  of sexual misconduct, or child abuse.
    e) provide other information as the district committee may require for determining gifts, evidence of God’s grace, fruit, and demonstration of the call to licensed or ordained ministry; and
f) agree for the sake of the mission of Jesus Christ in the world and the most effective witness of the gospel, and in consideration of their influence as clergy, to make a complete dedication of themselves to the highest ideals of the Christian life as set forth in ¶¶ 102-104; 160-166. To this end they shall agree to exercise responsible self-control by personal habits conducive to bodily health, mental and emotional maturity, fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness, social responsibility, and growth in grace and the knowledge and love of God.3 Where possible, the local church is encouraged to assist candidates with the expenses of candidacy.
3. In adopting the statements in ¶¶ 304.2 and 311.3f on the moral and social responsibility of ordained ministers, the General Conference seeks to elevate the standards by calling for a more thoroughgoing moral commitment by the candidate and for a more careful and thorough examination of candidates by district committees and boards of the ministry.
  
   The legislation in no way implies that the use of tobacco is a morally indifferent question. In the light of the developing evidence against the use of tobacco, the burden of proof would be upon all users to show that their use of it is consistent with the highest ideals of the Christian life. Similarly, regarding beverage alcohol, the burden of proof would be upon users to show that their action is consistent with the ideals of excellence of mind, purity of body, and responsible social behavior.
  
Therefore, the changes here do not relax the traditional view concerning the use of tobacco and beverage alcohol by ordained ministers in The United Methodist Church. Rather they call for higher standards of self-discipline and habit formation in all personal and social relationships. They call for dimensions of moral commitment that go far beyond any specific practices which might be listed. (See Judicial Council Decision 318.)
  
The General Conference, in response to expressions throughout the Church regarding homosexuality and ordination, reaffirms the present language of the Discipline regarding the character and commitment of persons seeking ordination and affirms its high standards.
For more than 200 years candidates for ordination have been asked Wesley’s Questions, including “. . . Have they a clear, sound understanding; right judgment in the things of God; a just conception of salvation by faith? . . .” (¶ 310).

All candidates agree to make a complete dedication of themselves to the highest ideals of the Christian life and to this end agree “to exercise responsible self-control, by personal habits conducive to bodily health, mental and emotional maturity, fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness, social responsibility, and growth in grace and the knowledge and love of God” (¶ 304).
  
The character and commitment of candidates for the ordained ministry is described or examined in six places in the Book of Discipline (¶¶ 304, 310, 311.3, 324, 330, and 335). These say in part: “Only those shall be elected to full membership who are of unquestionable moral character and genuine piety, sound in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity and faithful in the discharge of their duties” (¶ 324).
  
The statement on ordination (¶ 304.2) states: ”The Church expects those who seek ordination to make a complete dedication of themselves to the highest ideals of the Christian life . . . [and to] agree to exercise responsible self-control by personal habits. . . .
There are eight crucial steps in the examination of candidates. They are:
(1) The self-examination of the individual seeking ordination as he or she responds to God’s call in personal commitment to Christ and his church.
(2) The decision of the committee on pastor-parish relations, which makes the first recommendation to the charge conference when a member seeks to become a candidate for ordained ministry.
(3) The decision of the charge conference, which must recommend the candidate.
(4) The decision of the district committee on ordained ministry, which must recommend the candidate to the conference board of ordained ministry and, where applicable, the decision of the district conference.
(5) The decision of the board of ordained ministry, which must recommend deacon’s ordination and probationary membership. See Judicial Council Decisions 513, 536, 542.
(6) The decision of the clergy members of the annual conference, who must elect candidates to probationary membership.
(7) The recommendation of the board of ordained ministry for deacon’s or elder’s ordination and full membership.
(8) The election to deacon’s or elder’s ordination and full membership by the clergy members of the annual conference.
  
All clergy members of the annual conference are accountable as to character and effectiveness to the annual conference throughout their entire ministry.
  
The General Conference has made it clear in the “Doctrinal Standards and Our Theological Task” (Part II of the Discipline) that Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason are our guidelines. “United Methodists share with other Christians the conviction that Scripture is the primary source and criterion for Christian doctrine.”
  
In the Social Principles, the General Conference has said that “we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” Furthermore, the Principles state that “we affirm the sanctity of the marriage covenant that is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity between a man and a woman. We believe that God’s blessing rests upon such marriage, whether or not there are children of the union. We reject social norms that assume different standards for women than for men in marriage.” Also, “we affirm the integrity of single persons, and we reject all social practices that
discriminate or social attitudes that are prejudicial against persons because they are single.”
  
The General Conference affirms the wisdom of our heritage expressed in the disciplinary provisions relating to the character and commitment of ordained ministers. The United Methodist Church has moved away from prohibitions of specific acts, for such prohibitions can be endless. We affirm our trust in the covenant community and the process by which we ordain ministers.
  
In our covenant we are called to trust one another as we recommend, examine, and elect candidates for the ordained ministry and conference membership. See Judicial Council Decision 480.