What is an Ordained Deacon?
Deacons are clergy leaders who are called by God, authorized by the church and ordained by a bishop to a lifetime ministry of Word, Service, Compassion and Justice (¶329). Deacons exemplify Christian discipleship by being a bridge between the church and society.
In the congregation, Deacons teach, preach, officiate ceremonies, offer pastoral care, and assist the elder in administering the sacraments (¶328). Outside the walls of the church, Deacons share the good news in word and in their advocacy for the poor, neglected and discouraged.
Ordained Deacons have the rights of voice and vote during the clergy session of an Annual Conference in which they hold membership.
How to become an Ordained Deacon?
Some basic requirements for starting this process are to:
Step 1: Inquiring candidate & charge conference approval
If you believe God is calling you to the Ministry of the Deacon, spend intentional time in prayer and meditation. Talk to your Pastor and possibly a Deacon about your calling. We recommend you read the book, “Christian as a Minister” together to learn more about ministry.
Step 2: Exploratory Candidate & DCOM approval
The office of the District Superintendent will send you a link to the candidacy portal via email. This platform will guide you in your process and will be used to review your biography, background check, financial, physical and psychological health, among others (¶310.2.b). Additionally, the District Committee on Ordained Ministry will assign you a mentor.
After completing the requirements listed in the candidacy portal, you will need to meet with the District Committee on Ordained Ministry for an interview for approval to become a certified candidate and receive theological formation.
Step 3: Certified candidate & Educational requirements
Candidates are required to already have a bachelor degree in order to pursue ordination as a Deacon. However, there are some exceptions that may be made for missional purposes in consultation with the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. While all Deacons are required to complete the Basic Graduate Theological Studies in the Christian Faith, which are 24 semester hours of specific courses, they make take slightly different educational paths. There are the three available higher education routes that prospective Deacons may take:
- The first route is receiving a master of divinity or other theological degree earned at a school approved by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
- The second route is receiving a master’s degree in an appropriate area of ministry specialization from an accredited University and completion of the Basic Graduate Theological Studies courses.
- The third route is receiving a Professional or ministry certification, including a minimum of eight semester hours of graduate academic credit, and the completion of Basic Graduate Theological Studies courses (¶324.4.a).
After satisfactorily meeting the educational requirements, the District Committee on Ordained Ministry can then recommend you to continue the process as a Provisional Deacon (¶330).
Step 4: Provisional Deacon
Once recommended by the District Committee, you will need to meet and interview with your conference Board of Ordained Ministry, who, upon recognition of your gifts and graces, will further recommend you for commissioning at your next Annual Conference session. As a Provisional Deacon, you will be appointed to a ministry of service for at least two years and will work closely with your mentor, district superintendent and Board of Ordained Ministry (¶330.1). You will also need to complete a ministry project. (Note: You need to serve as a provisional candidate in the same ministry setting for two full years or its equivalent to be eligible for full membership).
Step 5: Ordained Deacon
After completing the requirements as a Provisional Deacon and upon recommendation of the Board of Ordained Ministry, your Annual Conference will vote you into full membership and you will then be ordained as Deacon by your Bishop with all rights and responsibilities entrusted to you (¶330.6). You can be appointed to a setting that allows fulfillment of your call – whether that is at a church or not, while continuing to be in connection with the church, the bishop and the Board of Ordained Ministry (¶331.4.a).
Becoming an Ordained Deacon requires a journey of discernment to lead service in the world for the sake of enacting God’s compassion and justice (¶331).
The steps outlined in this video are the basic standards established by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry and can be found in paragraphs 310 - 314 and 328 - 331 in the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church. However, each Annual Conference has the authority to require additional steps to contextualize your preparation and formation. So be sure to check in with your Pastor, District Superintendent, mentor or Board of Ordained Ministry to ensure you are meeting your conference’s requirements.
*The General Board of higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) is the accrediting agency of The United Methodist Church and certifies individuals for clergy ministry in coordination with annual conferences.
About GBHEM: As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to lead and connect the educational and ministerial life of church. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call on their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. If you have questions, you may contact your district superintendent or submit a question. Follow GBHEM on Twitter and Facebook.