Being a new minister, and having a blog, means I should be writing about the ordination process, right? Unfortunately, or fortunately, attempting to be ordained in MCUSA will give you very little to write about. For those kind of juicy posts you are going to need to follow the blog of a Presbyterian, Methodist, or Episcopalian. Theologically, Mennonites have a good reason for having a much different process than those folks, but I am not sure our process necessarily reflects those commitments as much as we just need to do something.
For most people becoming a minister with MCUSA will begin with receiving a call from a congregation (or as it is known amongst the low church, “finding a job”). Soon after you start at the church they will formally begin the process of being licensed. In the Pacific Northwest Mennonite Conference (PNMC) this means writing on the Confession of Faith, giving a biographical description of yourself, and updating your MLI (the general resume that helped you receive said job/call). After this paper is completed you will meet with a Ministry Committee for a 2-3 hour interview in which they discern if you are called and fit for the ministry. After the interview they make you wait painfully for 10 minutes and call you back into the room to give you the results of the discernment. When you come back to the room they will also let you know what you will need to do to be ordained. For most people it will involve a 1 year to 2 year discernment process with your congregation, meeting with a mentor, and fulfilling the requirements for the classes your conference requires (as far as I know no conference requires an MDiv). This will vary from conference to conference but the PNMC is pretty standard in requiring Mennonite Polity, History, and Theology. Because our conference is so far from Mennonite seminaries they offer the classes every 1-2 years in Portland. If you did not go to a Mennonite seminary (AMBS or EMS) it will be extremely difficult to not have to take all three. Both myself and a fellow minister in the process who went to Duke Divinity had classes that would fit some, if not most of the requirements, in the history and theology class in Seminary and are still being required to take the classes. If you are considering taking a class to fulfill the requirement check with the conference you most likely want to get ordained in to see if it will count. That won’t help much if you end up in a different conference, but should give you an idea if it would fill the requirement.
This is the current step I am in the process. My mentor has been a great resource for me, my congregation has been very supportive, and the classes are not difficult. In less than a year I hope to ask the congregation to raise me up for ordination (which includes a vote) and another meeting with the ministerial board of our conference. At that point if I have fulfilled all the requirements, seem fit for ministry, and the discernment seems right, I will be ordained in a service at my church.
The loophole in all this (as far as I can tell) is that you don’t need to be ordained to serve long term as a Mennonite pastor. You can renew your license every two years and minister without ordination for as long as you like. I am not sure of the reason for this but it is worth noting that you are not required to be ordained, only credentialed. And that said if your congregating decided it wanted to, you could go without credentials but I don’t think you could officiate recognized marriages, as well as visit prisons and hospitals after hours.
Any questions or additions if you have been through the process?