Synod Selection for Ordained Ministries
You have arrived at the webpage of the Synod Selection Committee, containing heaps of information to do with applying to become a candidate for ordained ministry in the Uniting Church. In case you’re not sure of the wording, a candidate is someone who is being prepared for ordained ministry.
If you’re considering applying, have decided to apply or are a member of a Presbytery supporting an applicant, you should find all of the resources that you need to understand the process and the updated forms that need to be completed right here .
The place where the process of application begins is to have a conversation with the Minister of your congregation. Share with them your thinking, feelings, hopes, doubts and questions about applying to be a candidate. Discernment of God’s call involves you as an individual and it also involves your Minister, Church Council of your congregation, Presbytery and Synod.
The Presbytery is of particular importance in the application process as it is responsible for caring for the applicant and for overseeing the first two-thirds of the process. This builds on the already developed relationship that was begun previously during the Period of Discernment that the applicant will have participated in.
Rev Isabel Greenall
Synod Selection Committee
For more information, please contact your Presbytery Secretary in the first instance.
Presbytery of Gippsland – Debbie Bye: firstname.lastname@example.org
Presbytery of Loddon Mallee – Joyce Bartlett: email@example.com
Presbytery of North East Victoria – Scott Leslie: firstname.lastname@example.org
Presbytery of Port Phillip East – Anne Kim: email@example.com
Presbytery of Port Phillip West – Heather Loader: firstname.lastname@example.org
Presbytery of Tasmania – Shirley Bowers: email@example.com
Presbytery of Western Victoria – Malcolm Boadle: firstname.lastname@example.org
Presbytery of Yarra Yarra – Geoffrey Grinton: email@example.com
How do you become ordained?
The process is clearly set out in this flow chart.
So, you want to be a Minister!
Applying to become a candidate for ordained ministry within the Uniting Church
What is a candidate?
A candidate is someone preparing for ordained ministry as a Minister of the Word or Deacon within an accredited teaching college of the Uniting Church.
What does the Uniting Church mean by a ‘Call of God’?
God calls individuals to serve God in many different ways.
The Call of God for the church, and individuals comprising it, is a call to use our gifts, talents and skills in the service of others as part of our worship and active discipleship. In a more specific sense, it is the call of God of an individual to a particular use of their gifts, talents and skills or to a particular vocation. All Christian people are called to service and ministry. Here is a discussion paper that the Synod Selection Committee has developed to be used as a tool for conversation with your Minister and Presbytery about this.
What is ordained ministry?
Ordination is the ‘setting apart’ of baptised women and men, called by God as discerned by the Church, to serve as Deacons and Ministers of the Word (Basis of Union, 1992 ed., para. 14(a)).
The Synod Selection Panel shares in the responsibility of discerning whether people may be called to ordained ministry.
What is the difference between a Minister of the Word and a Deacon?
Both are ordained by the Church, with the Minister of the Word primarily serving a gathered community, that is a congregation; and serving them through preaching, teaching, pastoral care and the presiding at the sacraments (Holy Communion and baptism). A Deacon is an ordained minister who primarily serves beyond the congregational setting in contexts of mission and evangelism, for example in chaplaincy (prisons, hospitals, schools) and community services.
What is the difference between a Pastor and a Minister?
In the Uniting Church, a Pastor is a lay person recognised and equipped for ministry within a particular location, for a specific ministry for a specific time. A Pastor undertakes training for their role as they exercise that ministry. Once that particular ministry has concluded, the individual is no longer recognised as a Pastor.
A Minister is an ordained person in the Uniting Church who is exercising a life-long calling and available to be called to exercise ministry across the Church. This person undertakes an initial formation program and then is required to undertake continuing education throughout their ministry practice.
Who is and isn’t allowed to be a Minister?
There are no barriers to becoming a Minister on the grounds of race, gender, marital status or sexuality HOWEVER there is an assessment of a person’s suitability and appropriateness on how any person may express these characteristics. Personal expressions and behaviours that are deemed unethical and inappropriate may in themselves be taken into account when a person’s suitability for candidature is being considered.
What do I need to have done before applying to become a candidate – the Period of Discernment?
As part of that discernment process, it is expected that all applicants for candidature will have participated in a Period of Discernment under the guidance of the Presbytery. The Period of Discernment is a discipleship opportunity through which an individual and the Church explore the directions of ministry, discipleship and vocation that may be possible and suitable for the gifts and talents of the individual.
If you have participated in a Period of Discernment and continue to feel a call to ordained ministry, you should first of all speak to/contact your congregational Minister who will inform the Presbytery of your desire to apply for candidature. If you do not have a minister in your congregation, then you are to contact your Presbytery directly and inform them that you wish to apply for candidature.
What is the process for applying to become a candidate for ordained ministry?
A person contemplating applying for candidature must be a member of the Uniting Church and have been a member for at least 12 months. The process involves discernment with you in partnership with your local UCA congregation, the Presbytery and the Synod Selection Committee. This process is a prayerful engagement with you, in testing your understanding and the strength of your call and the discernment of the UCA in supporting that call.
Once you have informed your Minister and presbytery that you wish to apply, the Presbytery will give to you an application form for you to complete. This form is to be filled in carefully and includes questions about your faith, your sense of call, your previous study and life experiences. This application is to be sent to the Presbytery upon completion. Your Minister will also send a confidential reference about you to the Presbytery.
The Church Council of your congregation will meet with you and discuss your sense of call to ministry and complete a form indicating their level of support.
The Presbytery committee (that is established to work with applications) will then meet with you and further discuss your sense of call, your spiritual maturity and your faith and suitability for ministry. The Presbytery then formally decides as to the level of support for your application.
If the support is high you are asked to prepare for attendance at the Synod Selection Conference. One important component is to immediately arrange an appointment for a psychological assessment. Appropriate and trained psychologists are listed and can be contacted through a list obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why do I need a psychological test?
Ministry is a demanding vocation and requires a well balanced and mature spirit. The psychological test is to ensure that the individual has the best chance to fulfil the responsibilities of ministry. The test is a recruitment assessment and is therefore not available to the individual on completion, although a summary report may be available on request. The Church pays for the psychological assessment but the information is not kept by the Church, beyond the initial Selection Conference.
What and when is the Selection Conference?
The Synod Selection Conference is held in Melbourne usually in September or October of each year. The Conference is held for 2 or 3 days, commencing on a Friday evening and concluding either the Saturday or Sunday (dependent on the number of applicants). The Conference comprises a number of conversations and activities, framed by worship and prayer, with opportunities for engagement with other applicants, panellists and chaplains. The Panel members include individuals from your own presbytery and the wider church.
At the conclusion of the Conference, the Panel members decide on whether each applicant is accepted to become a candidate for the ordained ministry or whether the applicant is encouraged to pursue other ministries or vocations.
What if I disagree with the Selection Conference decision?
It is appropriate to discuss your concerns with your mentor/support person or a person from your presbytery. There is an appeals’ process available.
What are the expectations of being a candidate?
Candidates are expected to participate in an intentional program of preparation for the ordained ministry. Previous skills, experiences and theological education all influence the amount of time and the style of formation.
The content and style of the formation program for an individual is discerned by the Formation Conversation which is held with the individual after he/she has been accepted as a candidate (usually in the November of any year).
Formation does make serious demands of candidates. It is a period of time in which there is a unique opportunity to lay down theological, spiritual, and personal foundations for potentially many years of ministry in an era when ministry is undergoing many transitions. The church expects this opportunity to be used well. Many challenges will be presented in this rigorous process and it is not to be undertaken lightly.
How long is the formation program?
The Formation Conversation will explore the possible length and content of the Formation Program, whether it will be part-time or full-time; the amount of formal theological education to be undertaken; and other elements of the Formation program to be undertaken. The Formation Conversation and a Formation Panel is held regularly during the candidate’s time to discern progress and whether other elements of formation are necessary.
Do I have to be in Melbourne?
For those able to attend Pilgrim Theological College in Melbourne, the Formation program takes place face-to-face in a weekly program. Those who live in regional Victoria or Tasmania may have a regional formation program developed located in their Presbytery.
What formal study is required?
Candidates are to engage in tertiary level theological education in the core areas of biblical, theological and missional study, as well as engaging in study of the history and core traditions of faith. Previous theological study will be recognised, however study within the Uniting Church context is a primary aspect of the formation and may require some further study for those who already have theological qualifications from other traditions.
Do I get any help financially?
Candidates (through a means test) may be eligible for an education financial assistance. A candidate with no major assets or alternative income may receive a bursary (equivalent to 1/3 of a UCA Minister’s stipend – approximately $25,000) plus housing assistance if appropriate. Candidates with dependent children also receive extra modest financial support.
What if English is not my first language?
Theological Study within the University of Divinity (through which candidates study) requires a certain level of English proficiency to engage in the study. The required level needs to be attained PRIOR to coming to the Selection Conference. An individual who is accepted at the Selection Conference to become a candidate cannot enter the formation program until the required level of English is achieved.
What if I have more questions or queries about the process?
If you have questions and concerns about the application process that have not been answered in the FAQ, you may wish to speak further to your minister or your presbytery. If the questions are about the Selection Conference then you may send your query to email@example.com. If you have questions remaining about the Formation program and requirements you may like to contact Sean Winter.