Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ministry- "The Local Pastor"

A Licensed Local Pastor in the United Methodist Church has answered a call from God to serve in the local congregation as pastor.  "The local pastor has the authority of pastor only within the setting and during the time of the appointment and shall not extend beyond the local setting."  That would be word, sacrament and service.  The local pastor is licensed, not ordained.  As part of the licensing process, the local pastor completes the candidacy process, is recommended by the district Committee on Ordained Ministry (dCOM), completes licensing school, and is subsequently approved by the clergy session of the Annual Conference.  They are assigned to a particular congregation to engage in ministry as local pastor.  The local pastor is a different path (ordination path) for those pursuing to follow a call into ministry.  Part of the role of every pastor is religious education.  For the Elder and Deacon, that involves an MDIV and or equivalent.  The local pastor attends Course of Study.  COS is a basic 5 year theological education program. After completion of COS, a local pastor may apply for associate membership in the Annual Conference, provided they have 60 hours of undergraduate credit and served four years as full-time local pastor.
If desired, a local pastor may apply for probationary membership and ordination if they have finished COS, have completed Advance Course of Study.
Local pastors serve in a variety of ministry settings.  In the Missouri Annual Conference, local pastors serve as pastors of small and large congregations, associate pastors in our larger churches and we have seen two local pastors start new churches.  The role of local pastor will inevitably chance in the next few years as financial expense of an Elder goes up, full-time and part local pastor will be in high demand.
In our district (Heartland South), for the past six years we have provided a day of fellowship and education for our local pastors known as the Local Pastor Connection.  Our discussions have included preaching, leadership, conflict management, evangelism and turnaround churches.  Our speakers have been most local pastors and a few other invited guests who are relevant to the conversation.
This next year local pastors will play a new role in the life of the Annual Conference.  For the first year, per Amendment 19- local pastors will have the opportunity to vote for the clergy delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conference.  Now, there are a few requirements, not all local pastors can vote.  Here is the breakdown.
"This amendment would extend voting privileges to associate members, provisional members who have completed all of their educational requirements and local pastors who have completed course of study or a Master of Divinity degree and have served a minimum of two consecutive years under appointment immediately preceding the election." 
The local pastor is vital to the future health and vitality of the United Methodist Church.  May God continue to bless all those who seek after Him and pursue a call to ministry.
Go in peace and go with God.

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