How We Support Vocational Ministry
What Is Vocational Ministry?
Vocational ministry begins with a personal sense that God is calling you to be set apart for ministry within and to the body of Christ. This calling must be tested and authenticated by the larger church. When the church affirms this calling, it offers the appropriate credential which endorses you to serve and lead within the various roles of ministry.
The Evangelical Covenant Church grants annually renewable ministerial licenses upon persons who are called to serve in various pastoral ministries in Covenant churches, institutions, and other approved places of ministry. Licensure is reserved for those who, by demonstration of character and gifts and by virtue of place of service, require credentials in order to perform pastoral ministry.
Ministerial licenses refer to those which are bestowed by laying on of hands at the Covenant Annual Meeting on candidates who have been carefully examined in matters of faith, theology, and call. The licenses available in the Covenant Church are:
- Ministry license
- Bivocational ministry license
- Global service license
Candidates for ordination to word and sacrament, ordination to word and service, transfer of ordination, or commissioning apply for this license while in process. It is the appropriate license for all individuals serving as senior or solo pastors who do not qualify for ordination to word and sacrament. The holder of a ministry license is accountable to a minister ordained to word and sacrament within the local area of service, or to the regional conference superintendent. At the time of a call to another Evangelical Covenant Church congregation or ministry in a different conference, the holder of a ministry license will have an interview with that conference’s committee on ministerial standing. This license is valid for one year and authorizes the holder to perform all ministerial functions, subject to state regulations.
Bivocational Ministry License
The bivocational ministry license (BVL) shall provide credentials for those persons who are involved in the pastoral ministry of the Evangelical Covenant Church while also engaged in secular work as the major source of livelihood. It may also be appropriate for persons serving a Covenant congregation or institution part-time. This license shall be valid for one year and authorizes the holder to preach the gospel and exercise pastoral leadership. A bivocational minister may administer the sacraments and perform other pastoral acts when circumstances require, with the approval of the minister ordained to word and sacrament within the congregation or the superintendent of the regional conference. Those holding a BVL and receiving pay may qualify for the clergy tax benefit for the funds paid directly for pastoral ministry. The BVL does not require participation in the pension program of the Covenant.
Global Service License
The Global Service License (GSL) is for persons who are called to be global personnel (missionaries) by the Evangelical Covenant Church. It is intended to provide credentials for those who do not qualify for ordination to word and sacrament, ordination to word and service, or commissioning but are serving as Covenant global personnel. This license is valid for the duration of the global personnel’s call and authorizes the holder to perform appropriate functions, subject to government regulations.
The Evangelical Covenant Church maintains high standards for its ministerial credentials, recognizing that those who are called and gifted to serve in vocational ministry are trusted with sacred responsibilities. We strongly believe that the call to such ministry is discerned not only individually, but corporately. Candidates for credentialing in the Covenant must demonstrate a multi-voiced call, receiving the affirmation of the local church, the regional conference, and the denomination.
In order to seek permanent credentialing in the Covenant Church, you must:
- be called to ministry,
- be affirmed by the church or ministry setting, and
- be enrolled in the Covenant Pension Plan or Ministers’ 403(b) plan.
(if serving a Covenant church/institution)
Permanent credentials refer to those which are bestowed by laying on of hands at the Annual Meeting of the denomination on candidates who have been carefully examined in matters of faith, theology, and call.
The permanent credentials in the Covenant Church are:
- Ordination to word and sacrament
- Ordination to word and service
- Consecrated to global service
Each credential is appropriate to specific callings within the structure of a church or other ministry setting.
The Evangelical Covenant Church accepts transfer of ordination candidates for both ordinations offered.
Ordination to Word and Service
Those ordained to word and service are called broadly to preach and teach, administer the sacraments, and be involved in the life of the whole church. Within that context, they are called to serve in an area of specialty. Their call includes being a leader in their area of specialty to the local church and the church at large. They are in service together with the person ordained to word and sacrament whose leadership and care exercises oversight of the congregation’s entire ministry. Their training comes from broad theological work, usually a master’s degree in a theological discipline, or a secular master’s degree with additional theological studies. Those seeking ordination to word and service normally hold a ministry license while working toward this credential.
Ordination to Word and Sacrament
When the church ordains to word and sacrament, it sets apart persons with the authority to preach and teach the word, administer the sacraments and rites of the church, and exercise pastoral care and leadership. Theologically, the question is, ordained to what end? The end or purpose is that to which the person senses a call and the church, by its designated processes, attests that such a call has been discerned appropriately. The person responding to this call has a broad classical theological education, usually a master of divinity, and holds the church true to the whole gospel. He or she functions as theologian in residence and missional leader, overseeing, empowering, and enabling all forms of the church’s ministry. This office is performed in three areas of competency: preaching well, teaching well, and caring well. The emphasis on word and sacrament through all aspects of ministry ensures that the basic apostolic vocation keeps the beginnings of the faith alive in whatever contemporary configurations emerge in the various ministries of the church. Those seeking ordination to word and sacrament normally hold a ministry license while working toward this credential.
The word commission is defined as “an authorization to perform certain duties or tasks or to take on certain powers.” To commission is to “send with a mandate or authority; to empower; to delegate.” In the Evangelical Covenant Church, we commission individuals called to a particular area of expertise to perform those duties within the context of the larger church. This call is seen as a long-term commitment to an area of staff ministry. The focus is primarily on their specialty, giving them a single purpose rather than broad-based contribution to the life of the church. The church recognizes these individuals as qualified in their particular task and sends them out to serve in this role. A commissioned person understands the parameters and limitations of the call and recognizes that it is always done standing with an ordained person. There is a co-mission aspect to the call necessitating this relationship with a team leader. The normative threshold of education is a bachelor’s degree with additional academic work in theology at the graduate level. Those seeking commissioning normally hold a ministry license while working toward this credential.
Consecrated to Global Service
Consecration to global service in the Evangelical Covenant Church is an act of the church by which a person called by God is recognized and set apart for global service. The Covenant consecrates only after determining through careful examination that the candidate has been called of God, is genuinely committed to the apostolic message, lives in conformity to it, and is gifted for the specific service to which they are called. In consecration the church gratefully accepts the person as one called by God and given to the church to minister in the spirit of Christ. The Covenant consecrates the global personnel to be the servant of the gospel by word and deed through the global work of the Covenant and its partners. The consecrated to global service credential is appropriate for global personnel who do not meet the educational requirements of the other permanent credentialing categories of ordination to word and sacrament, ordination to word and service, and commissioning.
Transfer of Ordination
Pastors who are ordained in another denomination and who currently serve a Covenant church or institution may be eligible for transfer of ordination to the Evangelical Covenant Church. It is possible to transfer an ordination into either category of ordination: ordained to word and sacrament or ordained to word and service. The decision to which ordination standing one can transfer will be made after examining a) the nature of the pastor’s current ordination, b) how that pastor understands his/her calling, and c) the pastor’s educational preparation for ordination. The following guidelines are to assist in discerning which category of ordination to pursue.