Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Is an Associate Member?

As I was reading the "About Me" side bar, I was wondered if anyone was wondering just what was an Associate Member of an Annual Conference? In the United Methodist Church, and the Annual Conferences (which are the regional bodies of the UMC) there are two ways of becoming an appointed clergy. The traditional route is for someone to declare their interest in becoming a clergy, attend college and seminary, take a few psychological and emotional surveys, jump through a few Board of Ordained Ministry (BoOM) hoops, receive a commission to serve, receive an appointment to a church or churches, jump through a few more hoops, survive a fairly intense interview by the BoOM, and then, after 2 to 4 years of being a Provisional Clergy, be ordained and become an Elder.

The other way is the route I took or at least the route I should have taken. A person who becomes clergy through this process is called a Local Licensed Pastor (LLP). It is designed to encourage persons over the age of 35 who doesn't want to go through seminary to become clergy and serve in a local church or churches. It is also possible to follow these steps without leaving a job or moving a family. After declaring an intention to be a clergyperson, someone attends a 2 week Licensing School (I went to Dubuque), take the psychological and emotional surveys, and receive an appointment to a local church under the supervision of the District Superintendent. The bishop "licences" the person to serve only the local church to which they have been appointed. Following the appointment, the person then has to begin attending "Course of Study" (COS) at one of the UMC seminaries. The full COS is 20 classes in 10 modules designed to give the student a quick yet intense seminary study. Each module is typically two weeks long, although seminaries have started modifying the ways COS is offered. A LLP who is serving full time must complete the 10 modules in 8 years. A part-time LLP must complete them in 12 years. In the UMC, a LLP is not guaranteed an appointment, but they also are not itinerate.

There are a few variations to these routes to ministry. For instance, someone who has gone through seminary but doesn't want to go through all the requirments for ordination can be a LLP and not attend COS.

Now, to answer the question posed at the top - an Associate Member of the Annual Conference is what I call a "glorified LLP". After I completed COS in 2007 I applied to the BoOM to become an Associate Member. I redid the psychological and emotional surveys, had a physical done by my physician, wrote a sermon, recorded the preaching of that sermon, wrote a biography (which was not short) about my physical and spiritual life, and answered the questions for ordained ministry listed in the Book of Discipline of the UMC (22 double spaced pages), and survived the BoOM interview. (BTW, these are many of the hoops that Provisional Members must jump through to be ordained.) I was then received as an Associate Member of the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church by Bishop Sally Dyck in 2008. The only difference between an AM and a LLP is that I am now guaranteed an appointment but I also agree to be itinerate.

Hopefully, this answers any questions.
God Bless and May the Peace of Christ be with you.

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