At the July 2009 General Assembly Resolution 0922, “Theological Foundations and Policies and Criteria for the Ordering of Ministry,” was passed. Brought to the Assembly from the General Commission on Ministry (GCOM) with recommendation by the General Board, the two year implementation process of this document is now being led by GCOM. The resolution called for a number of changes to the processes by which people move through the steps to becoming recognized ministers in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Disciples currently recognize two kinds of ministry. Ordained ministry is generally attained by receiving a Master of Divinity degree from a seminary and working through an ordination process with one of the 33 Regions of the church. Licensed ministry is a formal recognition of a ministry being done in a particular location, and the license is granted from a regional committee for this one ministry only. Currently Regions periodically review the work of licensed ministers using a variety of approaches.
Resolution 0922 will introduce some significant changes into this system of ministerial recognition. Between the July 2009 General Assembly and August of 2011, (the date the new system is implemented), the General Commission on Ministry is working to implement the changes outlined in the resolution.
These changes include:
- Changing the designation of licensed ministers to commissioned ministers to better reflect the way that ministry is understood by the wider church.
- Making it easier for commissioned ministers to relocate to new ministries
- Creating a clear understanding and consensus that ministers seeking ordination may be trained in two educational tracks: seminary training and an alternative apprentice model.
Resolution 0922 requires that persons in both tracks complete a list of 16 competencies for ministry.
As the church adjusts to new realities, our needs for ministerial leadership training will change. Two of the changes addressed by Resolution 0922 are:
- The number of rural and urban congregations who can no longer afford full-time seminary trained pastors
- The reality that many people serving as pastors, and willing to do more training, do not always have options easily available to them in their geographic area that serve their linguistic, economic, or family needs. Not all persons called to ministry are able to uproot their lives and relocate to a seminary community for study.
Addressing these matters is complicated, as the changes to ministerial training will be occurring in many parts of the church at the same time. Seminaries are rethinking curriculum strategies and offerings. Regional Commissions on Ministry are creating and gathering resources for training in their locations.
As we make this shift, the General Commission on Ministry has formed an Implementation Team to oversee and coordinate the ensuing process. This Implementation Team has done three things that can help you understand, participate in and stay aware of the process as it unfolds:
- Made the resolution available, including a Frequently Asked Questions document, on-line for you to access for study at https://disciples.org/GeneralAssembly/ResolutionsandBusinessDocket/0922/tabid/519/Default.aspx
- Created three task teams to coordinate the first portion of this work ahead (see below)
- Commissioned a study guide for Section One, Theological Foundations, of Resolution 0922 that reviews a History and Theology of Disciples. This will promote meaningful conversation about the issue of the role and scope of ministry in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
The three task teams are:
A Competencies Definition Task Team, led by Rebecca Hale, will review the 16 competencies and seek to describe them more fully to create a common language for the whole church and the regions to use in developing training methods for ministers.
A Research Task Team, led by John Imbler, will do a thorough review of existing programs in seminaries, on-line and those created by regional church bodies in several denominations that train people for ministry in the 16 competency areas. This group will compile lists of programs that have resources to train for ministry in these areas and in a variety of settings and language instruction options.
A Communications Task Team, led by Cathy Myers Wirt, is charged with communicating to the whole church information, as it is available, about the implementation of Resolution 0922. This group will use web sites, press releases, and networking through the many communication avenues of our whole church to help do three things:
- Keep the whole change process as transparent as possible
- Make information easily accessible and up to date in all venues
- Help individuals and groups know how to feed information into the process so that the wisdom of many people across the life of the church can be harvested and given thoughtful consideration.
Your prayers and assistance in this venture are needed. More information, including the listing of all the task team members on all three teams, will be available on line in the near future. All three teams are now formed and beginning their work.
For more information, contact Richard Guentert, Chairperson of the Implementation Team of the General Commission on Ministry at [email protected]