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by The Rev. Gary Loadholdt and The Rev. Ginny Aebischer

From the South Carolina Synod Candidacy Team

What is Candidacy?

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 Bishop 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 Rick Carter 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).

January 15 is the deadline for the synod office to receive the Candidate application AND the congregational registration form.

The forms are online at, but Inquirers should also contact the synod office for more information. Please note: January 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.


We believe the call process for any congregation is a “Spirit-led time of renewal.” It is our general custom to set an initial meeting between the Congregational Council and the Bishop or one of the Assistants to the Bishop to review the steps of the Call Process. At that time a copy of the South Carolina Synod Call Process Manual, A Spirit Led Time of Renewal, will be given to your Congregational Council. This Manual should be passed on to the Chair of your Call Committee once he or she is named. (Note: Most of these steps also pertain to calling a lay Rostered leader.)

Step 1. A Rostered leader always consults with the Bishop and turns in updated mobility paperwork before engaging in a Call process with another congregation.

Step 2. When a Rostered leader accepts a new Call he or she submits a letter of resignation to the Congregational Council at a called Council Meeting; The Letter of Resignation is copied and distributed to the Bishop’s office and to the Congregation along with a letter of acceptance from Council including any plans being made for a farewell event if those are known.

Step 3. Pastor and Council complete any obligations to one another (parochial records updated and certified to synod; any financial obligations between Rostered leader and congregation).

Step 4. An exit interview for the Rostered Leader led by Congregational Leaders may be helpful.

Step 5. Farewell event and clarification of expectations.

Step 6. The Office of Bishop conducts a Congregational Council visit, including setting a date for the “Congregational Event.”

Step 7. The Congregational Council works with Bishop’s office for selection of Interim Pastor.

Step 8. The Call Committee is established according to constitutional provision 13.05.

Step 9a. The Office of the Bishop provides leadership for a “Spirit-led Time of Renewal Congregational Event.”

Step 9b. The Congregation is asked to set up and participate in “Healthy Congregations” Workshop #1. Workshops # 2 & # 3 are highly recommended as follow up for each congregation in call process. Workshop # 3 is designed to be done a few months after your new pastor is settled into this new call. See the final Appendix page for the Healthy Congregations brochure and information.
Step 10. The Call Committee develops and submits to the Bishop’s office a “Ministry Site Profile” and a compilation of the data collected at the Congregational Event. The Ministry Site Profile (MSP) can be accessed online at click on MSP and follow instructions for completion. If you have questions about the form please feel free to call the Synod Office for assistance.

Step 11. The Office of the Bishop enters into a time of intentional prayer and discernment to find and determine potential candidates to offer your Call Committee for interviews.

Step 12. The Office of the Bishop meets with the Call Committee; Committee may receive names of candidates and begin the interview process.

Step 13. The Call Committee interviews candidates, remains in contact with the Bishop’s Office and ultimately recommends a pastor to the Council; The Council interviews and recommends the Candidate to the Congregation and sets a Congregational meeting date.

Step 14. Congregation votes to extend a call to this pastor, and on a second ballot votes on the compensation package; The Candidate accepts call and notifies congregation and the Office of the Bishop of their start date.

Step 15. The new Pastor is installed by a representative of the Office of Bishop on an agreed upon Sunday.

About the Call

A “Call” creates a holy relationship of respect, trust, and love between a rostered leader and a group of people who are united in a specific context.

About the Candidacy Committee

The candidacy committee of each synod has the responsibility for approving a candidate for rostered ministry in this church.

A list of resources you may download or purchase is available through the Churchwide expression’s website at

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Contact Information

ELCA South Carolina Synod
1003 Richland Street
Columbia, SC 29201
Telephone 803-765-0590
Fax 803-252-5558

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