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The 2009-2012 Study of Ministry Commission Report and Recommendations

January 12, 2012

The United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and MinistryThe 2008 session of General Conference voted to establish a Ministry Study Commission to “report to the 2012 General Conference legislation addressing the issues before the commission including the ordering of ministry, the separation of ordination and conference membership, and the streamlining of the process leading toward ordained ministry.”

The report and recommendations of the commission “are intended to revised processes that identify, credential, and deploy leaders for the church in order to make those processes more streamlined, responsive to changing contexts, and flexible.”

The report is designed to raise challenges and recommend solutions – though, in many cases, the recommendation is offered to treat a symptom, rather than to address root causes.  For example, the quality of pastoral leadership is often viewed as inadequate.  Clergy leaders are poorly trained, equipped and supported.  One recommendation is to increase accountability and direct mentoring – which is all well and good, except that another recommendation is to make the ordination process shorter, simpler, and less demanding.  It is very difficult to improve quality by lowering standards and expectations.

The commission indicates that not everyone called into ministry should pursue ordained ministry, and we should eliminate commissioning entirely.  A clear distinction of the categories and orders of ministry are needed, with very clear demarcation between the functions of elders, deacons and local pastors.  Many laity have rightly criticized the commission for limiting ministry to three clergy categories.

The commission recommends the elimination of guaranteed appointments – based on the assumption that the guarantee of appointment results in poor leadership.  There is also concern expressed that cabinets need a review process for appointments, because the episcopal leaders and district superintendents cannot always fully comprehend the complexity and demands of the local churches.

Overall, the Ministry Study raises serious questions about the quality of leadership in today’s United Methodist Church, and recommends that we institute better processes for discernment of call, cultivation of gifts, mentoring, accountability, credentialing and appointment.  The 2012 Session of General Conference will receive the report and recommendations and determine the course of action the denomination will pursue for the 2013-2016 quadrennium.

To read the full report and for the  Study of Ministry Commission Presentation visit –

–  reflections by Dan Dick

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