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Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service

Most elders are pastors who serve in local churches. They lead the people of God in worship and prayer, in ministry to their neighbors, provide pastoral care, and exercise pastoral supervision.

Some elders serve in extension ministries instead of church settings. Extension ministries can include chaplaincy, campus ministry, teaching, missionary work, general agency work, and other contexts.

Itinerant Clergy

For more than 200 years, elders in the Methodist tradition have agreed to offer themselves “without reserve to be appointed and to serve” wherever they are needed for the sake of the mission of the church. The elder makes a commitment to full-time service as an itinerant, “traveling preacher” under the authority of the bishop. All elders who are in good standing and continue to fulfill their professional responsibilities shall be continued under appointment—unless they are on leave—and are assured equitable compensation for their ministry. The itinerant system ensures pastoral leadership for every local congregation and enables the appointment of female and racial/ethnic clergy throughout the Church. It represents the missional thrust of Methodism: to extend the gospel and develop communities of Christian disciples who build the realm of God according to Jesus’ teachings.

For primary references regarding elders in The Book of Discipline (2012), see ¶332-¶344.

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