Churches across the United States are looking for young people who are seeking ministry and the United Methodist Church Texas Conference is looking at a proposed policy change that would discourage anyone 45 years and older from seeking ordained ministry in the church.
The United Methodist News Service published an article on Friday about the proposed policy change; it has created controversy and debate among church members and clergy in the United Methodist Church on the web.
The denomination is looking for ways to be able to get younger generation of ordained clergy into churches. The Texas conference is looking at the options they have when investing time and money in the process of candidacy and training those who are seeking to be clergy.
According to the article the proposed policy would encourage those that are over the age of 45 to seek other paths in ministry such as licensed ministry (local pastors), certified lay ministry or expressions of lay ministry.
The church cost for an ordained minister includes health and welfare benefits, pension and financial support for education. The United Methodist Church has a policy that ordained clergy have a mandatory retirement at the age of 72 years old.
Supporters for the policy change say that it is not about age but it’s about looking at what the mission of the church is and how much investment the church wants to make in an ordained minister. If candidates for ordained clergy only have a couple years of service before retiring, the church needs to be concerned that candidates are being directed and discerned for a path that may serve better to that particular group. They want to make sure that candidates seek all opportunities before picking which path and age may be a variable they need to consider as well as the cost for seminary and time for the process.
Those who oppose the idea say that God calls people into ministry at different times, candidates can be young or could be older than the ideal age for starting ministry process. Those that go into ministry as second career often have skill sets in professions that are useful to ministry that young clergy may not have. They also say that without the older generations of clergy in the church, young clergy would not have the mentors they could have and need. If God placed ordained ministry on someone’s heart for their calling at age 50 they should not be steered away if that is what the calling truly is.
In the United Methodist Church the process for becoming an ordained can take years of seminary and going through the candidacy process. The church is finding that many of those seeking ordained ministry are above the age of 45 and therefore they may not have many years of service to give the church before having to retire.
The policy change would be used as a guideline and not a mandatory requirement for conference. The Texas conference is appealing to the church community to get feedback on the proposed change before bringing it before the conference body for vote.