The United Methodist Church is a 12.3-million-strong global church that opens hearts, opens minds and open doors through active engagement with our world. Read more about the church’s mission statement.
John Wesley and the early Methodists placed primary emphasis on Christian living, on putting faith and love into action. This emphasis on what Wesley referred to as “practical divinity” has continued to be a hallmark of United Methodism today.
United Methodists should keep in mind the ruling of the General Conference that candidates for both deacon and elder orders in an Annual Conference must include in their graduate theological studies the areas of Old Testament, New Testament, theology, church history, mission of the church in the world, evangelism, worship/liturgy, and United Methodist doctrine, polity, and history. The specific requirement for United Methodist doctrine, polity, and history is the equivalent of two credit hours in each of the fields. This requirement may be met by successful completion of REL 691 (Ecclesiology, Ministry, and Polity) and REL 696 (United Methodist History) when taken in sequence. Annual Conferences may have additional requirements for ordination beyond those specified in The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. Many Annual Conferences require both a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education and one or two years of supervised ministry. Students should be in touch early in their seminary career with their Board of Ordained Ministry to determine specific requirements.
Candidates for ordination are reminded that they should contact their district superintendent and District Committee on Ordained Ministry to begin the candidacy process as described in The Book of Discipline. It is advisable to begin this process early in the seminary experience. Courtesy mentoring for candidates is sometimes possible through the Connecticut District of the New York Annual Conference.
Methodist Studies Certificate Program
Yale Divinity School currently offers a Certificate Program in Methodist Studies. The program seeks to create a place where the foundations of Methodist polity, theology, and ethos are taught and modeled, and students are provided with the courses and formation needed to prepare for ministry. The program supports academic inquiry into the Wesleyan tradition with special attention to United Methodist as well as pan Methodist identities, and creates a community of students on campus who identify with the Methodist traditions. Students in the Master of Divinity Program interested in the Methodist Studies Program are primarily those seeking ordination as deacons or elders in denominations rooted in the Wesleyan tradition including the United Methodist, Korean Methodist, African Methodist Episcopal (AME), and African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion).
The Methodist Studies Certificate program enhances a student’s seminary education by bringing together faculty, local pastors, and students to discuss important issues and concerns facing the Methodist Church to envision new ways of being church together, and to provide friendship and support as students, faculty, and local pastors confirm their vocational call to be servant leaders of the church.
The Methodist Studies Certificate Program is currently facilitated by two United Methodist clergy serving pastorates in Connecticut. About a dozen students are actively involved in the program, with a number more attending meetings and programs but not seeking the certificate. The requirements for the certificate include the completion of courses necessary for ordination within the denomination of membership, attendance at two colloquies each term, and active participation in the Methodist Society at YDS. The Certificate Program nurtures students in their vocational calling by providing extra curricular activities. Some of these programs include colloquia on emerging issues in Methodism presented by theologians and practitioners, travel seminars, and service to the community.
The program offers much to students from the Methodist traditions in order to supplement and support their call to ministry. Most recently, the Methodist Studies Program offered support for a travel seminar to Oslo, Norway, where students participated in the Methodist Federation’s UMC Seminary for a week of workshops on global Methodism and Social Holiness. Similar opportunities for engagement with the international and American church leaders is a part of the United Methodist experience at YDS every year.
The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church addresses Ordination in this way (¶ 304)
1. Those whom the Church ordains shall be conscious of God’s call to ordained ministry, and their call shall be acknowledged and authenticated by the Church. God’s call has many manifestations, and the Church cannot structure a single test of authenticity. Nevertheless, the experience of the Church and the needs of its ministry require certain qualities of faith, life, and practice from those who seek ordination as deacons and elders. In order that The United Methodist Church may be assured that those persons who present themselves as candidates for ordained ministry are truly called of God, the Church expects persons seeking ordination to:
a) Have a personal faith in Christ and be committed to Christ as Savior and Lord.
b) Nurture and cultivate spiritual disciplines and patterns of holiness.
c) Teach and model generous Christian giving with a focus on tithing as God’s standard of giving
d) Acknowledge a call by God to give themselves completely to ordained ministry following Jesus’ pattern of love and service.
e) Communicate persuasively the Christian faith in both oral and written form.
f) Make a commitment to lead the whole Church in loving service to humankind.
g) Give evidence of God’s gifts for ordained ministry, evidence of God’s grace in their lives, and promise of future usefulness in the mission of the Church.
h) Be persons in whom the community can place trust and confidence.
i) Accept that Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation through faith in God through Jesus Christ; be competent in the disciplines of Scripture, theology, church history, and Church polity; possess the skills essential to the practice of ordained ministry; and lead in making disciples for Jesus Christ.
j) Be accountable to The United Methodist Church, accept its Doctrinal Standards and Discipline and authority, accept the supervision of those appointed to this ministry, and be prepared to live in the covenant of its ordained ministers.
2. For the sake of the mission of Jesus Christ in the world and the most effective witness to the Christian gospel, and in consideration of the influence of an ordained minister on the lives of other persons both within and outside the Church, the Church expects those who seek ordination to make a complete dedication of themselves to the highest ideals of the Christian life. To this end, they agree to exercise responsible self-control by personal habits conducive to bodily health, mental and emotional maturity, integrity in all personal relationships, fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness, social responsibility, and growth in grace and in the knowledge and love of God.
3. While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals1 are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.2
4. The United Methodist Church entrusts those persons who are in the ordained ministry with primary responsibility for maintaining standards of education and preparation for ordination. Having been originally recommended by a charge conference and by authorization of the ordained members in full connection with the annual conference, according to the procedures set out in the Book of Discipline for the examination and approval of candidates for ordination, persons are elected to membership in the annual conference and ordained by the bishop.
5. In all cases where the district committee on ordained ministry, conference boards of ordained ministry, or ordained members in full connection in clergy session vote on granting any status regarding license, ordination, or conference membership, it is understood that the requirements set forth herein are minimum requirements only. Each person voting is expected to vote prayerfully based on personal judgment of the applicant’s gifts, evidence of God’s grace, and promise of future usefulness for the mission of the Church.