Entering Candidacy Process

The Path to Licensed and Ordained Ministry

Are you sensing a call to either licensed or ordained ministry? If you think you might be, the information on this page is for you!

For a general description of the path to ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church, visit this page at the General Board of Higher Education in Ministry (GBHEM) website.

Candidates for licensure or ordination must comply with both the requirements of the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church and the requirements of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference.

On this page, you will find information about ordination and licensure, as well as some helpful links. However, the candidacy process always begins with a conversation with your pastor (of your local church or your Wesley Foundation).

Be sure to download the current Rocky Mountain Annual Conference Candidacy Checklist. While this page provides a quick overview of the three clergy roles (with links to other resources), the checklist includes extensive information about specific requirements and steps.

Understanding the Differences between the Clergy Roles

In the United Methodist Church, there are three different paths to set-apart ministry. Two paths, deacon and elder, are ordained to a lifetime of service in ministry work. The third, licensed local pastor, is licensed to ministry leadership in specific situations.

Below, you will find very basic information about the difference between the three roles.

The Ministry of the Deacon

As explained by the 2016 Book of Discipline (¶305), “Those called to the ministry of deacon are called to witness to the Word in their words and actions, and to embody and lead the community’s service in the world for the sake of enacting God’s compassion and justice.”

Deacons are ordained to a lifetime of ministry of Word, Service, Compassion, and Justice.

Deacons serve as a bridge between the church and the world. Deacons may serve in congregational settings or in ministries beyond the local church. Typically, deacons do not directly hold sacramental authority (that is, they cannot officiate at the sacraments of baptism or Holy Communion), although, in specific situations, this authority can be granted by the bishop of the annual conference in which the deacon serves.

Ordination as a deacon requires seminary training, as well as successful completion of the full ordination process as required by the Book of Discipline and the Board of Ordained Ministry of the local annual conference.

For more information, please visit this page at the GBHEM website.

The Ministry of the Elder

As described by the 2016 Book of Discipline (¶305), “Those called to the ministry of elder are called to bear authority and responsibility to preach and teach the Word, to administer the sacraments and to order the life of the church so it can be faithful in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Elders are ordained to a lifetime of ministry, involving Word, Sacrament, Order, and Sacrament.

Elders serve as pastors, superintendents, and bishops; their ministry setting may be in the local church, where they are typically serving as the pastor in charge (although larger churches may have more than one elder serving under appointment), in connectional ministry settings, or in extension ministry settings.

Elders hold sacramental authority, and may officiate over the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion. They are called to an itinerant ministry, serving at the direction of the bishop.

Ordination as an elder requires seminary training, as well as successful completion of the full ordination process as required by the Book of Discipline and the Board of Ordained Ministry of the local annual conference.

For more information, please visit this page at the GBHEM website.

The Ministry of the Licensed Local Pastor

As described by the 2016 Book of Discipline (¶355), “All persons not ordained as elders who are appointed to preach and conduct divine worship and perform the duties of a pastor shall have a license for pastoral ministry.”

Licensed local pastors serve in the role of the elder (including sacramental authority) within the scope of a particular charge. They do not serve as superintendents or bishops, and they are licensed only during the time they are serving under appointment by a bishop.

Licensure as a local pastor does not require seminary training, but does require completion of Local Pastor Licensing School, and enrollment in Course of Study. Licensure also requires successful completion of the licensing process as required by the Book of Discipline and the Board of Ordained Ministry of the local Annual Conference. The local pastor’s ministry is overseen by the District Committee on Ordained Ministry, which is an extension of the Board of Ordained Ministry.

For more information, please visit this page at the GBHEM website.

Common Resources

The Cabinet of the Rocky Mountain Conference requires that all clergy who will provide pastoral leadership in a church setting attend Local Pastor Licensing School as soon as possible. In the case of licensed local pastors, the license cannot be authorized until this requirement is completed. For information on the next available licensing school in this annual conference, visit this page. Candidates may choose to attend official licensing schools in other United Methodist annual conferences (this must be discussed with the candidate’s District Superintendent in advance of enrolling is such schools).

The same candidacy checklist applies to all three clergy paths. Please download that here.

Other relevant forms are found here.

Important Notes for Candidates

During your time in the candidacy process, you will be assigned “candidacy mentors” to assist you in your progression through candidacy. These mentors work with you to provide clarity on the candidacy requirements, and, as necessary, to assist with your discernment work. They are not usually mentors in the secular sense (who share wisdom and direction based on their experience). In some instances, coaches may also be assigned to you who may share their suggestions and wisdom.

Your progression through the candidacy requirements depend upon your own commitment; your mentors will assist, but will not push (or pull) you through the system. Please make sure that you are clear on your current candidacy status, as well as the next required steps and requirements you should be focusing on. Please ensure that you keep your own copies of all candidacy paperwork, including forms, papers, and communications from others, including (but not limited to) pastors, district superintendents, the District Committee on Ordained Ministry, and the Board of Ordained Ministry.