The United Methodist Church requires a provisional period of two years. This process may begin when half the education requirements have been met, but must include at least two years following the completion of a seminary degree. (¶326, 2008 Book of Discipline)
During annual conference, the bishop commissions persons recommended by the Boards of Ordained Ministry (BOM) and approved by the clergy session. This begins the provisional period and brings the commissioned person into the clergy covenant. These commissioned ministers will serve under appointment by the bishop during the provisional years in areas of service appropriate to their calling. Provisional members may be appointed to attend school, to extension ministry (elders), or in appointments beyond the local church (deacons) ¶326 BOD.
The provisional process addresses the clergy’s need for continuing integration of formal studies, life experiences, and the evolving challenges of leadership in a church that is at once local and global. Clergy leadership must be characterized by deep and growing Christian faith, a commitment to carry out the church’s mission of making disciples for Jesus Christ and, therefore, claim their discipleship and a willingness to equip laity for ministry. This leadership is fostered by continuing disciplined study of scripture, theology, history, and the changing multicultural society.
The provisional period is part of a continuum in the training/formation of clergy that begins with candidacy and theological education and culminates with mentoring, continuing theological study, covenant groups, and supervision. For those candidates not graduating from a United Methodist seminary, this provisional process will provide a working introduction to the United Methodist ethos and resources of the denomination.
Because ordination is not the private domain of a single annual conference (ordained clergy may serve across the entire connection), the General Conference establishes minimum standards and requirements for the provisional period. The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry provides guidance to all annual conferences. Within the parameters of these guidelines, each annual conference through its office of bishop, cabinet, and Board of Ordained Ministry will develop a plan particularly suited to its situation and supervise implementation of this plan.
These three resources have been developed by the Ministry Preparation Resource Team for use in the provisional process within annual conferences. They are available here for download in PDF format. Please contact Randy Cross at the Division of Ordained Ministry, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry for copies of the Principles and Guides for Annual Conferences,Tool Kit and Clergy Mentoring.