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Exploring Endorsement and Ecclesiastical Approval

United Methodist Endorsing AgencyEndorsement is the process established by the church to ensure clergy possess the skills, capabilities, and are appropriate representatives of the denomination to serve in specialized ministries. Both employers and professional certifying bodies look to religious organizations for this endorsement because:

  • It attests to one’s suitability for ministry in a particular setting,
  • It gains the denomination’s support for one’s ministry beyond church walls,
  • It provides an assurance the clergyperson has no present or past legal or moral barrier to congregational ministry, and
  • It renders an affirmation the clergyperson will accommodate the religious rights of all persons within the institution’s scope of care.

Ecclesiastical approval is provided for certain civilian/volunteer settings, certification of organizations and for seminary students who are seeking enrollment in the military chaplain candidate program. An ecclesiastical approval is not an endorsement according to the 2008 Book of Discipline (¶1421.5)

What an EMPLOYER Needs to Know About the UMC and Endorsement

United Methodist clergy are members of a connectional system, annually appointed by their respective Bishop to whatever church or ministry they serve. Because of this relationship, they are always under supervision and accountability to the church. The United Methodist Endorsing Agency serves as the point of contact for clergy serving in ministries where “endorsement” is required by the church.

The church’s endorsing agency came into existence in response to pressing U.S. needs for spiritual care and religious accommodation of military service personnel during World War II. After the war, other government agencies (e.g., veterans, prison, and mental health) expanded the employment of endorsed clergy to meet the spiritual needs of their specialized populations. A key outgrowth of these ministries has been a professionalization of spiritual care, most readily evident through diverse chaplaincy and pastoral counseling vocations. With professionalization came the development of standards, ethics, and certification within the profession.

The United Methodist Church takes the endorsement process very seriously because each endorsed clergy person is a representative of the denomination. As such, the established standards to receive endorsement by the church are amongst the highest of any religious organization granting endorsement. Each UMC endorsed clergy member has:

  • Presented evidence of the appropriate specialized training (i.e., academic, clinical) and expertise for professional ministry within their specific vocational interest;
  • Received ecclesiastical and personal reference checks validating one’s ordination; ecclesiastical standing, training, and capabilities for ministry;
  • Submitted written documentation of formation and pastoral experience to the United Methodist Endorsing Agency;
  • Presented themselves before an interviewing committee (consisting of three clergy peers, one of whom is a representative of their specialized vocational field);
  • Established or agreed to obtain credentials with a professional credentialing agency representative of their setting (e.g., Association of Professional Chaplains, Association of Clinical Pastoral Education; American Association of Pastoral Counselors, etc.)

In addition, once endorsement is granted, the United Methodist Endorsing Agency continues its relationship with the endorsee through ongoing nurture, support, advocacy and denominational connectedness. This includes the provision of onsite visits; cluster gatherings; continuing education opportunities sponsored in connection with UMC associated colleges, universities, and seminaries and specific pastoral care in response to identified need. Since endorsed constituents are under Episcopal appointment and must maintain their connection to the church, they are required by United Methodist polity to: 1) attend their annual conference; 2) submit an annual report describing their ministry with a copy of their annual evaluation; and 3) be faithful to one’s ordination vows and maintain their essential covenant with the UMC. If there is a need for an employer to dialogue with the church about a specific issue/concern related to an UMC endorsed employee, the employer should initiate the dialogue with the United Methodist Endorsing Agency’s Director of Endorsement.

What CHURCH LEADERS Need to Know About Endorsement

All United Methodist clergy serving under appointment are also under supervision regardless of the ministerial setting. Establishing and maintaining a relationship with Episcopal leaders and district superintendents is a vital part of the connectional system and must be maintained throughout one’s tenure under endorsement.

The endorsement process begins when a clergy person requests an application from the United Methodist Endorsing Agency for endorsement to a specialized setting. This endorsement validates ministerial credentialing; denominational good standing; and the professional skill set essential for ministry within the desired setting. Examples of these settings include:

  • Military Chaplaincy Settings: Army, Navy, Air Force, National Guard, Military Reserves
  • Civilian Chaplaincy Settings: Veterans Health Administration, Corrections, Mental Health, General Hospital, Hospice, Retirement Community, Substance Abuse, Workplace, Clinical Pastoral Education, Children’s Home, Specialized
  • Counseling Settings: Pastoral Counselor/Psychotherapist, Marriage and Family Therapy, Life Coach, Spiritual Direction
  • Community Service: Police, Fire, Civil Air Patrol, Restorative Justice, and Military (Chaplain Candidate Programs)
  • Transitional Interim Ministers : A Transitional-Interim Ministry Specialist (TIMS) is an experienced, mature, United Methodist pastor trained for the specialized ministry of the interim time. S/he is appointed by the bishop "for a specific length of time, established in advance" to lead the congregation in a time of healing and renewal as its wounds heal and it prepares for a new day in its life with a new pastor, yet to be appointed.

Clergy desiring endorsement for ministry in a specialized setting are expected to consult with their bishop and/or district superintendent prior to initiation of the endorsement process. This consultation empowers the church to maintain connectional order and accountability, and simultaneously, help clarify, evaluate, and discern the clergy person’s call to ministry beyond church walls.

The submission of an application for endorsement initiates a UMEA requirement to gather reference material from Episcopal leaders and district superintendents. It is expected, that the superintending leadership will provide a good understanding of the candidate to help facilitate a quality review of the candidate for endorsement.

To maintain the church’s connection and accountability of endorsed clergy serving in ministry beyond church walls, it is vitally important that bishops and district superintendents identify clergy serving under appointment within their boundaries of responsibility (note:¶344.3a and b, i.e., annual reporting requirements, charge conference notifications, etc.).

Endorsed constituents are a resource of sacramental ministry and an outstanding asset for interpretation of the church’s ministry beyond the church walls. To help ensure this vital resource remains connected to the greater church, those responsible for superintending are encouraged to ask the questions:

  • Who what, where, and how are the endorsed clergy serving in the district/conference I am responsible for?
  • Are they experiencing a connection to the church?
  • How am I facilitating this connection?
  • Implement a plan for engagement

Information Available

Types of Ministries Requiring Endorsement

Chaplaincy and Government Employment

The first Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects and accommodates the religious beliefs and practices of citizens. When citizens are entrusted to the care of the government (e.g., military, healthcare, mental health and prison), their life needs are a responsibility of the state. Chaplains are employed with primary oversight of religious/spiritual accommodation.

The specialized needs of these settings make ministry challenging. Each requires a strong pastoral care skill set which includes: an understanding and an ability to work with the population; counseling and critical incident stress management; leadership in worship and religious education; and active community outreach. All settings require an ability to function within structured protocols and government systems.

Healthcare Chaplaincy

Chaplains serving in healthcare organizations (i.e., hospital, palliative care, hospice) help patients, families and friends cope with sickness, disability, dying and death. They are part of a team working with doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, and social workers.

Chaplains assess the spiritual needs of the patient, provide spiritual resources, and render pastoral care for patients, families, and health care staff. They frequently conduct worship, offer sacraments, and are involved in critical incident stress management. In addition, chaplains serve on ethics committees dealing with complex issues in modern medicine. The ability to reflect work related relevance through evidence-based outcomes is essential in organizational systems.

Pastoral Counseling

Pastoral counselors have undertaken specialized training so they can bring together the resources of scripture, faith, and the insights of behavioral science in the counseling practice. Pastoral counselors serve in pastoral counseling centers, healthcare institution, and on the pastoral staff of a local church. They work with individuals, families, and groups where their counseling is carried out within the tradition, beliefs, and resources of the faith community.

Endorsement Settings of the United Methodist Endorsing Agency

  • Air Force
  • Army
  • Navy
  • Clinical Pastoral Education
  • General Hospital
  • Hospice
  • Life Coach
  • Marriage and Family
  • Mental Health
  • Children’s Home
  • Police
  • Prison
  • Pastoral Counseling
  • Retirement Home
  • Substance Abuse Workplace
  • Veterans Administration

Endorsement Resources & Contact Information

Endorsement Application To request an application for UMC Endorsement or Ecclesiastical Approval for Ministry in a specialized setting please send an email toumea@gbhem.org. Include the following information in your email:

  • Name;
  • Mailing Address;
  • Phone Contact;
  • Annual Conference;
  • Setting for which seeking endorsement
  • Clergy Status (Local Pastor; Elder, Deacon, Provisional)

Brochures

  • Annual Report Forms 

    Acrobat File Deacon Report Form - For deacons who are endorsed constituents. 

    Acrobat File Appointment to an Extension Ministry - For elders who are endorsed constituents.
  • Ecclesiastical Approval Process

    Ecclesiastical approval is provided for certain civilian/volunteer settings, certification of organizations and for seminary students who are seeking enrollment in the military chaplain candidate program. An ecclesiastical approval is not an endorsement according to the 2008Book of Discipline (¶1421.5) Find out more
  • Ecclesiastical Endorsement Process 

    If you believe God is calling you to service in a specialized ministry beyond the walls of the local church and wish to be endorsed, you must meet certain requirements before applying. Learn more
  • Transitions 

    Transition—voluntary or otherwise—is never easy. However, transition also offers you the opportunity to reflect on your calling and to listen for the ways in which God continues to lead you into new places for ministry. The following are some reflections and resources which are offered to you at this time of change. Read more
  • Why Ecclesiastical Endorsement?< >Endorsement is part of your connection with The United Methodist Church, 2008 Book of Discipline, (¶1421.5).Increases accountability to the church and those served in specialized settings.Read more

Contact Information

 

United Methodist Endorsing Agency 
Division of Ordained Ministry
General Board of Higher Education and Ministry
PO Box 340007
Nashville, TN 37213-0007 
umea@gbhem.org 
615.340.7411