What is Candidacy? by Pastor Gary Loadholdt and Pastor Ginny Aebischer
The Candidacy process raises up, prepares, certifies and places public leaders in the ELCA. In the ELCA, public ministers include commissioned Associates in Ministry, consecrated Diaconal Ministers and Deaconesses, and ordained Pastors.
This process is a partnership among candidate, congregation, and synod, seminary, candidacy committee and the ELCA Vocation and Education unit. The candidacy committee of your synod acts on behalf of the ELCA in discerning with you the rostered ministry to which you are called: ordained or lay (Associate in Ministry, Deaconess, or Diaconal Ministry).
In the Lutheran tradition, a person’s individual or internal sense of call to ordained, commissioned, or consecrated ministry must be confirmed by the larger community of the church (external call). By the power of the Holy Spirit, the candidacy process invites chosen representatives of the church to determine whether a person’s character, ability, health and wellness, spiritual formation, preparation, and commitment are appropriate for the roster on which that person seeks to serve.
The Candidacy Committee of each synod has the responsibility for approving a candidate for rostered ministry in this church. There are several steps to the approval of a Candidate for Public Ministry and the Committee is tasked to walk with each candidate in the discernment of these steps. The Candidacy Committee is charged to approve, postpone or deny (with explanation of gifts and challenges) Candidates at each step in the process and to give guidance all along the journey.
The candidacy process parallels and works together with the academic process of seminary education. Following approval by the Candidacy Committee, a candidate will go through an assignment process which makes them available to a public call which is finally affirmed when a Christian assembly issues a call to the form of ministry for which the candidate has prepared.
Although all application materials for candidacy (including the entire revised Candidacy Manual) are now available online, your journey begins when you contact your synod office. Talk to Mrs. Jenny Spearen, who is Administrative Assistant to Pastor Ginny Aebischer. She can tell you which forms are necessary and how to complete them. She can also set up an appointment for you to meet with Pastor Aebischer to discuss the details of the candidacy process and your plans, if you so desire. When all your application materials are complete, including the Entrance Information form and Congregation Registration form, the synod candidacy committee will meet with you for an Entrance Interview. A positive entrance decision is required in order for an ELCA seminary to officially accept you for the appropriate theological program.
The journey toward commissioning, consecration, or ordination for ministry provides ongoing opportunities for discernment, growth, and development of your identity as a rostered leader of the ELCA. Your participation in the candidacy process is a significant part of preparation and formation. The people who serve on candidacy committees are deeply dedicated to serving as partners with you in this important journey of your life.
Steps in the Candidacy Process
The Candidacy process begins long before someone goes to seminary for their graduate work in theological education.
So, the South Carolina Synod Candidacy Entrance Decisions are usually made in the spring of each year before a Candidate enters seminary in the fall (or before summer Greek).
February 15 is the deadline for the synod office to receive the Candidate application AND the congregational registration form.
The forms are online at http://www.elca.org/Resources/Candidacy, but Inquirers should also contact the synod office for more information. Please note: February 15 is the deadline, but starting earlier than this is very helpful, because….
From the time the application is received, many things need to happen:
- The Inquirer will need to write and submit an autobiographical essay.
- The Inquirer will need to submit the Entrance Information Form.
- The congregation will need to decide on financial support for the candidate if entranced.
- An appointment for an Initial Interview will be scheduled, completed and written up for the committee.
- A background check will need to be completed by the synod.
- Psychological testing will be scheduled, tests taken, and then results interpreted to the Inquirer and written up for the committee.
The Candidacy Committee will need to have all paperwork read before the Inquirer comes to that spring meeting of the committee for an interview and an entrance decision. The Candidacy Committee always seeks to make its decisions at each step in this Candidacy process with great care and prayerful discernment on behalf of every inquirer.
The Candidacy Committee meets with candidates for official decisions at Entrance before someone enters seminary, at Endorsement usually in the midst of a Candidate’s Middler year and finally at Approval in the senior year. The committee follows each candidate to help guide their entire process and in addition to annual Candidacy Gathering Day the Committee will often ask individual candidates to join them for follow up meetings during the year. Each committee member also serves as a contact person for several candidates.
If you’re thinking about becoming a rostered leader, or if you are guiding someone who is thinking about it, the time to start is NOW! Contact the South Carolina Synod Office for more information. (803)765-0590.
A list of resources you may download or purchase is available through the Churchwide expression’s website at http://www.elca.org/Resources/Candidacy.