Credentialing Process for Ordination
Earning an academic degree or certificate at a theological school does not necessarily give a graduate the authority to serve in a ministerial capacity. Most who are called to ministry must seek the approval of their denomination or faith tradition to be recognized (or certified, or endorsed) in their role. In many traditions, this process is called “ordination.” This process is similar to the requirement for lawyers to pass the bar exam, and for doctors to be licensed to practice, only the process is controlled by the religious organization and not the state.
Traditionally, religious organizations have required a Master of Divinity degree, but some denominations will allow a shorter program of study, such as a Master of Arts. The degree programs at Andover Newton are designed to satisfy most but not all denominational requirements for ordination in the United Church of Christ, American Baptist Churches (USA) and the Unitarian Universalist Association. Through the Boston Theological Institute, Andover Newton students also have direct cross-registrant access to classes required by the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Churches, and African Methodist Episcopal denominations.
It is important to engage in the appropriate credentialing process with your intended denomination as early as possible. For example, the Episcopal Church requires this to occur before enrolling in seminary. Denominational representatives from the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, the American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts (TABCOM), and the Director of Ministerial Credentialing for the Unitarian Universalist Association are frequently on campus and very accessible to students.
Credentialing, or ordination, is usually controlled locally or regionally. The most common process toward ordination begins with membership in a church, a conversation with the pastor of that church, and introduction into the formal credentialing process.
Here are links to the credentialing pages for several denominations:
- Requirements for Ordination in the United Church of Christ
- American Baptist Churches (USA) Ministerial Preparation in Massachusetts
- Becoming a Unitarian Universalist Minister
- Criteria for the Ordering of Ministry in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
- Ordained Vocations in the Episcopal Church
- Credentialing in the American Ethical Union
- Public Ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
- Steps into Ordained Ministry in the United Methodist Church
- Ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA)
- Ordination in the Metropolitan Community Churches