Candidacy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is the churchwide process of preparation and formation leading to approval for the public ministries of this church: commissioned associate in ministry; consecrated deaconess or diaconal minister; or ordained pastor. Candidacy invites an active partnership of candidate, congregation, synod, seminary, and the Congregational and Synodical Mission (churchwide unit).
It is by Christ’s gift that all baptized persons are called to ministry. Every baptized believer is given gifts and abilities for ministry. Every baptized believer is called to ministry in daily life. Some are given gifts and abilities which equip them to provide leadership in one of the four rostered ministries of this church. People become aware of their call and their gifts in a variety of ways: some in a dramatic moment of inspiration, some in the normal course of their disciplined church life, some at the urging of leaders in the church, some through years of struggle and doubt.
The ELCA is committed to the intentional identification and recruitment of those persons who are so gifted by God that they are able to provide leadership in the life of this church. Through a process of reflection and discernment, individuals are encouraged to consider whether they are called by God through the church to serve in one of the rostered ministries of the ELCA.
In the Lutheran tradition a person’s call from God to public ministry is understood as both internal and external:
- through and internal, personal sense of call that God in leading a person to public Christian ministry
- through public confirmation that the person has the character, commitment, preparation and ability to serve in a specific public ministry roster
- through the receipt and acceptance of a letter of call to serve in a particular ministry setting
A Churchwide Process
Every candidate in the ELCA is a candidate for the whole church. Candidates are considered for service in the ELCA according to churchwide expectations, requirements and standards, and by means of common processes and procedures. While specific application of churchwide policy may vary among the synods, a consistent candidacy process is provided throughout the ELCA. These churchwide standards and procedures are developed by the Congregational and Synodical Mission unit in consultation with the synods and seminaries of the ELCA.
Candidates approved by a synod candidacy committee are recognized and available for a first call to one of the four rosters of public ministry in the ELCA. Assignment for the first calls to ordained or rostered lay ministry is determined on a churchwide basis. It is the clear expectation of this church that candidates are willing to serve in response to the need of this church. There is a commitment to respond with understanding and compassion to the unique circumstances of individual candidates and their families. At the same time restrictions which limit a candidate’s ability to serve may delay or prevent the receipt of a call to service in the ELCA. Candidates are expected to make every effort to be able to respond to the leadership needs of this church.
Synod Candidacy Committee
The synods of the ELCA, through a candidacy committee, act on behalf of the ELCA in the candidacy process. Candidacy committees are responsible for determining the readiness of persons to enter the candidacy process and to begin theological education, for endorsing candidates for a specific roster of this church, and in the approval process for determining an individual’s qualifications and readiness to serve in rostered ministry.
The Congregational and Synodical Mission unit, through its central and deployed staff, provides counsel to the synods regarding implementation of the churchwide process and upon request may review the decision of a candidacy committee to determine whether the process was followed in an appropriate manner.
An Interdependent Process
Interdependence within the ELCA means that there is a sharing of responsibility in the candidacy process. Each partner in the candidacy process participates in cooperation with the other partners. Candidates, congregations, synod candidacy committees, seminaries, the Conference of Bishops, and the Congregational and Synodical Mission unit all work together to provide for the ELCA those gifted men and women who are called by God to serve in the rostered ministries of this church.
For further information about the Candidacy Process or for an application packet please send a note to Kari Maciver at firstname.lastname@example.org or you may call the synod office at 507-280-9457 or 800-426-6376 in Minnesota.