Union Theological Seminary Campus

Ordination Process by Denomination 

This section provides an overview of the ordination process for several mainline denominations, along with links to the denominational websites.

Click here for one document with overviews of the ordination process and requirements for each of the following denominations: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church.

For a table that groups the denominations by requirement, click here.

American Baptist

Requirements for ordination in the American Baptist Church (ABC) vary by region and church/pastor. A class on the history and polity of American Baptists is typically required.

For an overview of the ordination process in the Metro New York Region, visit their office at 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 432 or call (212) 870-3195. Every fall, usually in September, they have an ordination orientation. Contact the office above for exact date and time.

African Methodist Episcopal

The African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) has provided the following synopsis of the steps to ministry:

“To become an ordained minister in the AME Church, one must first be a regular and in good standing member of an AME Church for two years. If you feel a calling, you must then make your wishes known to the pastor of that charge. The pastor will then determine if you are pursuing the itinerant or local track. You must give a trial sermon at which point, the church will have a church conference in which to vote a person to be submitted as a potential licentiate. At the quarterly conference at that church, the Presiding Elder will then issue a preaching license, valid for a year. A candidate will be taken before the District Conference to be voted to be admitted into Annual Conference. It is only after these steps will you be allowed to go to the admission's class of the Board of Examiners (BOE). It takes five years to go through the BOE. If taking the itinerancy route, in three years after starting the BOE, you will be ordained a Deacon if you have a bachelor's degree. To be an itinerant Elder, you must have a Master's degree from an accredited seminary. To be a Local Deacon, you must have attended the BOE for three years. To be a Local Elder, you must complete all five years of the BOE. Deacons, both itinerant and local, can marry, bury, baptize, and assist with communion. Elders, both itinerant and local are the only ones that are able to consecrate the elements for communion and they perform the same rites as Deacons.” 

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Requirements for ordination in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ or DOC) may vary by congregation and Region.

Below is an overview of that process:

  • Membership and active participation in a local congregation for at least one year.
  • In a letter to the Commission on Ministry of the Region, demonstrate congregation’s endorsement of your ordination.
  • Meet regularly with Regional Commission on Ministry and provide a statement of faith, theological beliefs, and explanation of call to ministry/ordination.

In the northern region the following courses are usually required for DOC ordination:

      • Disciples of Christ polity and history at an approved institution
      • One Unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)
      • Sexual Ethics Boundary Training*

*The following one-day continuation education trainings are customarily required for clergy on a rotating annual basis: Year 1 - DOC History and Polity (a basic review), Year 2 - Healing and Reconciliation (Mediation), Year 3 - Anti-racism Pro-reconciliation Training, Year 4 - Boundary training, including sexual, financial, etc.

For more information on the process of ordination, please consult:

For a one-page overview of the DOC ordination process and course requirements, click here.


Episcopal ordination requirements vary by Bishop and Diocese.

Below is a summary of that process:

      1. As a baptized Episcopal member, aspirant starts conversation with her/his parish (usually clergy, then parish committee), who will reflect and decide whether to recommend to Diocese.
      2. If recommended to Diocese by parish, the aspirant’s file is reviewed by the Bishop, who will interview aspirant after s/he is interviewed and recommended by a Commission on Ministry (or equivalent body). If approved to become a postulant, Bishop decides a training program in conversation with postulant.
      3. In the course of formation, the postulant’s file is reviewed again by the diocesan Commission on Ministry and the Bishop, who may approve progress from postulant to candidate for Holy Orders. This will typically happen between one and two years after admission as a postulant.
      4. General Ordination Examinations are usually taken in last year of theological study.

The following areas are tested on the General Ordination Examination:

      • Scripture
      • Church History including the Ecumenical Movement
      • Christian Theology including Theology and Missiology
      • Christian Ethics and Moral Theology
      • Studies in Contemporary Society including Racial and Minority Groups
      • Liturgics and Church Music
      • Theory & Practice of Ministry

One year of study at an Episcopal seminary (following Union) is not uncommon. Typical course requirements (as determined by Bishop in step 2 above) include:

      • Episcopal polity and canons
      • Episcopal church history and liturgy
      • Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)

The Diocese will also require candidates to complete its own training programs in anti-racism, prevention of sexual misconduct in ministry, and the disciplinary canons (‘Title IV’) of the Episcopal Church.

For additional details on Episcopal ordination, please consult:

      • Your Diocese’s overview of the discernment process (i.e., for New York)
      • The Constitution & Canons, “Title III: Ministry” (see Canon 8: “Of the Ordination of Priests” starting on page 79) 
      • The Revd. Dr. Euan Cameron, Henry Luce III Professor of Reformation Church History at Union Theological Seminary

For a one-page overview of the Episcopal ordination process and course requirements, click here.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

Requirements for ELCA ordination vary by synod. Confirm requirements with your “home synod” (where you want to do your candidacy).

The following reflects typical steps and requirements of the Metro NY Synod.

      • Membership of ELCA church for one year.
      • Start candidacy process by completing the Congregational Registration Form with a synod. This online “entrance” form needs to be signed by both the church pastor and Congregational President.
      • Must have “a call” (placement) to be ordained.

When enrolled at Union:

      1. Affiliate with ELCA seminary (“affiliation seminary”), since at non-ELCA seminary. After graduating with M.Div. degree from Union, complete:
        • One-year internship, placement and supervision through affiliation seminary.✚✚
      2. One year of study at affiliation seminary

✚✚ Depending on arrangements with affiliation seminary and Union, one-year internship may be completed between the second and third (final) years of the M.Div. degree program.

The M.Div. degree is required for ELCA ordination, including the following coursework:

      • Greek required; Hebrew recommended
      • One unit of Supervised Clinical Ministry (or Clinical Pastoral Education, CPE)
      • Boundaries Workshop

For more detailed information, please consult:

For a one-page overview of the ELCA ordination process and course requirements, click here.

United Methodist Church

While procedures for ordination in the United Methodist Church (UMC) are denomination-wide, requirements may vary slightly by conference.

Following is an overview of the process:

      1. Write letter to District Superintendent (cc pastor and DCOM chair). Include your interest in ordained ministry, that you have meet with your pastor to discuss Christian as Minister, and your call narrative.
      2. Work with assigned mentor on Candidacy Guidebook, register with General Board of Higher Education, register with Board of Ordained Ministry (BOOM).
      3. Declare call publicly before pastor and staff/parish relations committee (of local church), who will vote to recommend you to Charge Conference (local church), who will vote to recommend you to District Committee on Ordained Ministry (DCOM).
      4. Meet with DCOM, submit to them required writing, have background check, complete psychological exam, attend UMC sexual ethics and anti-racism trainings. Gain DCOM approval.
      5. Gain (first) BOOM approval.
      6. Finish seminary with required coursework and trainings.
      7. Voted on at Clergy Session of Annual Conference.
      8. Commissioned by the Bishop of Annual Conference, thus becoming a Provisional Member of Annual Conference.
      9. Go through residency program in your annual conference (usually 2-3 years after completing seminary, although it varies) and gain (second) BOOM approval
      10. Elected by the Clergy Session into full membership of the Annual Conference. Ordained as an Elder by a Bishop.✝

✝ Ordination as Deacon follows a similar process.

Coursework required for ordination includes:

      • United Methodist doctrine, polity, and history (6 credits)
      • Evangelism and the mission of the church in the world (not necessarily “Methodist”)
      • Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) – required in New York for ordination as Elder
      • Old Testament
      • New Testament
      • Theology
      • Church history
      • Worship/liturgy
      • Sexual Ethics/Boundary training (one day, provided by UMC)
      • Anti-racism training – required in New York for Commissioning (see steps 6-8 above)

The overview above is based on information provided by Rev. Dr. James (K) Karpen.

For more information, please consult:

      • The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2012
      • General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s “Candidacy
      • Rev. Dr. James (K) Karpen, Senior Pastor at St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist Church
      • Dr. Hal Taussig, Visiting Professor of New Testament at Union Theological Seminary

For a one-page overview of the UMC ordination process and course requirements, click here.

Unitarian Universalist Association

Unitarian Universalists (UUs) who sense a call to ordained ministry begin by applying to participate in the ordination process. All applications are recorded by the Association. Those applicants who are accepted into the process become “aspirants,” aspiring to the ministry while fulfilling the formational and educational requirements to become a candidate.

      1. Applicant
      2. Aspirant
      3. Candidate

The UUA website provides access to its ministerial candidacy booklet as well as links to several videos and online resources.

Presbyterian Church (USA) 

Requirements for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA) vary by Presbytery, which is the body that ordains.

Following is an overview of the process:

First, must be a member of a church for at least six months.

      1. To enter “Inquiry” phase: tell board (“session”) and pastor, who must vote to take you “under care.” Complete online forms and answer questions in front of the Committee on Preparation for Ministry, which refers you to Presbytery to be enrolled as an Inquirer.
      2. “Candidacy” process will be governed by Committee on Preparation for Ministry (see Advisory Handbook). Candidacy can be completed once service in a church, academic work (including graduation from seminary with “satisfactory grades” and coursework required), and ordination exams are completed.

Ordination Exams:

      • Usually taken as “Inquirer:”
      1. Bible Content Exam
      • Usually taken during “Candidacy:”
      1. Open Book Bible Exegesis
      2. Theological Competence
      3. Worship & Sacraments
      4. Church Polity

Must have “a call” (placement) to be ordained.

The Committee on Preparation for Ministry for your Presbytery will determine specific academic and church service requirements for each individual.

Coursework required for ordination typically includes:

        • Presbyterian/Reformed theology, worship & sacraments, church polity (to prepare for Ordination Exam)
        • Hebrew and Greek
        • Exegesis of the Old and New Testaments using Hebrew and Greek (usually with additional Bible classes)
        • Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is often required*

For more information, please consult:

*Presbyterian students at Union have added support of Auburn, a Presbyterian seminary at 475 Riverside Drive, #1800, NY, NY 10115.

For a one-page overview of the Presbyterian ordination process and course requirements, click here.

Reformed Church in America

The Reformed Church in America outlines its ordination process for Ministers of Word and Sacrament as a progression from the individual’s sense of call through ordination as follows. 

      1. Internal call/External call—a personal sense of call affirmed by the church
      2. Local church consistory (governing body) applies on behalf of the applicant to the classis (regional governing body)
      3. Candidate appears before the classis or its committee for an interview.
      4. Classis petitions the General Synod (national governing body) for a Certificate of Fitness for Ministry, which will be issued upon completion of all requirements by the candidate no sooner than 27 months after the petition is received.
      5. Education (Master of Divinity degree)
      6. Ordination

For additional details, visit the RCA website

United Church of Christ

The requirements for and steps to ordination in the United Church of Christ (UCC) vary by regional Association.

Following is an overview of the process:

      • After being a member of a local UCC church for 1-2 years (length varies), get support of local church and become “Member in Discernment” (MID). Association will vote to affirm and then review theological education, preparation, and “Marks of Faithful Ministry;” recommendations made for further preparation will be based on the individual. MID is given and meets with a mentor.
      • Write a paper demonstrating your “theological perspective and grasp of the historic Christian faith,” “knowledge and understanding of the history, theological roots, polity, and practice of the United Church of Christ,” and your sense of call to ordained ministry. (Presented to Ecclesiastical Counsel of the Association after oral exam.)
      • Oral Ordination Exam (usually two hours) assesses “knowledge of the history, polity, and practices of the United Church of Christ”
      • Must have “a call” (placement) to be ordained.

Coursework typically required includes:

      • History and polity of UCC
      • Bible, systematic theology, church history, worship, pastoral care and counseling, administration, church education, interfaith; church finance, in some cases.
      • Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) (required by New York Metropolitan Association at least)
      • Boundary Training

For more information, please consult:

For a one-page overview of the UCC ordination process and course requirements, click here.

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