WDC’s four commissions provide leadership and resources to carry out the priorities and ministries of the conference. Each issue of the Garden in 2019 will feature a glimpse of one commission’s work.
Ministerial Leadership Commission
The Western District Conference Ministerial Leadership Commission (MLC) “helps congregations find and sustain pastoral leadership . . . through encouragement, support, accountability and credentialing” (WDC Bylaws). As WDC’s credentialing body, much of the MLC’s work involves the discerning of ministerial credentials.
A ministerial credential is “an action of the church, in response to the call of God and the leading of the Spirit in the congregation and the candidate’s life” (A Shared Understanding of Church Leadership) and represents authorization, accountability, and credibility in ministry. The authority that comes with the office of ministerial leadership (pastors, chaplains, etc.) is for the sake of empowering and building up the body of Christ. Credentialing provides accountability for that power, and represents a formal link between congregation and conference.
One of the MLC’s most profound tasks is the credentialing of new ministers. These persons have heard and responded to a call to ministerial leadership, and the MLC participates in the church’s role in discerning that call. Candidates provide extensive written reflection, along with their references, and come for an interview with the MLC.
Mennonite Church USA has identified “six core competencies” for ministerial leadership, which guide our discernment process: 1) Biblical Story; 2) Anabaptist/Mennonite Story, Theology, Convictions; 3) Christian Spirituality/Discipleship; 4) Self-Awareness and Emotional Health; 5) Missional Engagement; and 6) Leadership. After a time of discernment, the MLC decides whether to grant the credential, and prays with the candidate.
Newly-credentialed ministers who are on a track toward ordination first receive a “License Toward Ordination” during a two-year period of further intentionality and discernment of call as the person serves in their ministry role. WDC appoints a mentor, an experienced minister who walks alongside the newly-credentialed minister during this period. At the end of this period, the minister’s congregation may request ordination, and the minister provides further reflection for the MLC and comes for another interview to discern moving forward with ordination.
Ordination is a covenant in which the candidate makes a lifetime commitment to ministry, as the church affirms the candidate’s calling from God, giftedness, character, and readiness for ministry. Like baptism or marriage, this covenant profoundly shapes the minister’s identity. Ordained ministers are empowered to speak and act on behalf of the church.
It is a holy joy for the MLC to witness the process by which the Holy Spirit equips and calls persons to ministerial leadership. God has richly blessed WDC with incredibly gifted, wise, and responsible ministerial leaders!
– Peter Goerzen, Ministerial Leadership Commission chair