Clergy of the United Church of Canada

Clergy of the United Church of Canada

The clergy of The United Church of Canada are called "ministers". There are two "streams", ordered ministry and lay ministry. Ordered ministry includes ordained ministers and diaconal ministers. Lay ministry refers to licensed lay ministers, designated lay ministers (DLM) and congregational designated ministers (CDM). There are no restrictions on gender, sexual orientation, age, or marital status for any branches of ministry.



Discernment is the first step in becoming a minister. Via a series of interviews, discernment examines why a candidate wants to become a minister; if the person is suited to ministry; and which ministry stream would be best for the person in light of their gifts and talents. The discernment process begins first with a sponsoring congregation, then with the presbytery, and then with a conference interview board.[1]

Ordered ministry

An ordained minister leads the congregation in worship, preaches, administers the sacraments, provides leadership to the congregation and spiritual support to those who are ill or in need, as well as acting as the face of the congregation to the wider community. An ordained minister is ex officio approved to administer the sacraments of baptism and Communion, and may use the honorific "Reverend".[1]

A diaconal minister—"diaconal" comes from the Greek word diakonia, which means "service among others"—focusses on education and enabling the congregation to work together toward a vision of justice and wholeness in the world.[2] This new stream of ministry was approved at the 29th General Council in 1980. Generally a diaconal minister is part of a ministry team at a pastoral charge, where the ordained minister leads worship, and the diaconal minister concentrates on education. However, due to a shortage of clergy in certain parts of Canada, there are pastoral charges where a diaconal minister is the only minister. Upon commissioning, a diaconal minister is not automatically able to administer the sacraments of baptism and Communion, but can apply to the local presbytery for permission to do so if part of her work will be in leading worship.[1] Although technically there is no gender restriction, the majority of diaconal ministers commissioned to date have been women.[3]

Educational requirements

Once a person interested in ministry has completed the discernment process at the congregational, presbytery and conference levels, there are various educational requirements to be met.

A person wishing to be an ordained minister must usually already have a bachelor's degree, and earn a Masters of Divinity (MDiv) at one of twelve approved theological schools.[4]

Although there is no undergraduate degree requirement for a person wishing to be commissioned as a diaconal minister, the candidate must earn a certificate through a four-year program with the Winnipeg-based Centre for Christian Studies that includes semi-annual 16-day "Learning Circles" and a field placement at an educational, pastoral or social justice site in the student’s home community.[2]

Settlement process

Until recently, a candidate for either stream of ordered ministry did not choose his or her first congregation, but instead, in a process called settlement, the person was sent to a pastoral charge somewhere in Canada that had requested a newly-ordained minister. The new minister was required to stay at this posting for a minimum of three years before seeking another call. If a candidate could not be settled, he or she could not be ordained or commissioned, but instead had to wait a year for another settlement opportunity.[1]

However, at the 40th General Council in August 2009, the process was modified so that candidates can now choose either to be settled using the old settlement process or to seek out a congregation on their own. The candidates must make this choice by February 1 of the year they are to be ordained, and their decision is final for that year. Like the old settlement process, if a candidate who chooses to seek out a congregation is unable to get an appointment or call, he or she cannot be ordained or commissioned that year.[5]


Ordination and commissioning of all successful candidates in a conference takes place at the conference's annual meeting each spring.

Upon ordination or commissioning, the minister's membership with his or her sponsoring congregation is transferred to the presbytery where he or she has been settled. From that point on, the minister is never again a member of a congregation; even after retirement, a minister is a member of presbytery rather than pastoral charge.[1]

Lay ministry

There are three types of lay ministers: licensed lay minister, designated lay minister (DLM) and congregational designated minister (CDM). Lay ministers are not licensed to administer the sacraments of baptism or Communion, but they are otherwise trained to lead worship, and in the case of DLMs and CDMs, can provide leadership and educational roles within a congregation.[1]

A licensed lay minister does not belong to any one pastoral charge, but is a freelance preacher available to lead worship at any church within the presbytery. A candidate goes through a discernment process similar to that of ordered ministry, and undergoes whatever education is deemed necessary by the presbytery. Upon completion of the requirements dictated by the presbytery, the licensed lay minister, like ordered ministers, becomes a member of the presbytery.[1]

Like the licensed lay minister, a designated lay minister (DLM) goes through a discernment process similar to that of ordered ministry, and undergoes whatever educational program is deemed necessary by the presbytery. Educational requirements differ from presbytery to presbytery, but will require some training on a part-time basis through the church’s lay training centres while the person is engaging in ministry. While the licensed lay minister moves from church to church as a Sunday morning preacher, the DLM is "called" by a single pastoral charge to become a member of its ministry team. The DLM can provide both worship and educational leadership, depending on the person's vocation and the congregation's needs. A DLM while active is a member of the presbytery, not the congregation, but unlike ordered ministers and licensed lay ministers, a DLM reverts to being a member of a congregation upon retirement. [1]

Like a DLM, a congregational designated minister (CDM) is also a part of a pastoral charge's ministry team, but is a member of the congregation who has been appointed to the task by his or her own congregation. Unlike other ministers, a CDM always remains a member of the congregation.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "The Manual" (pdf). United Church of Canada. 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-04. 
  2. ^ a b "Discernment of Ministry: Diaconal Ministry". The United Church of Canada. 2009-10-2. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  3. ^ "Diaconal Ministry in The United Church of Canada". The United Church of Canada. 2003. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  4. ^ "Discernment: Ordained Ministry". The United Church of Canada. 2009-10-20. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  5. ^ "Changes Proposed for Transfer, Settlement". The United Church of Canada. 2009-07-15. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 

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