It is biblical for the church to set apart particular persons for special tasks of leadership. Such persons bear witness to an inward call of the Holy Spirit and a confirmation of that call by the church. They are set apart by a public commissioning service, or by ordination, with the laying on of hands after the pattern of the early church.
It is the long-held conviction of the Free Methodist Church that both men and women are eligible to hold any office of the church, including membership on the Official Board of a local church, or to be ordained to any of the church’s ministries, or to be elected to the office of Bishop.
Both gifts and graces characterize men and women the church commissions or ordains. Gifts are special endowments of ability. Graces are special qualities of character. Both have their source in the enabling Holy Spirit. Although the church must discern who have such endowments, commissioning or ordination is always first and foremost an act of God’s calling and appointment.
Commissioned Ministers are called by God to provide specialized ministry leadership and do not feel called to provide pastoral leadership to an entire church.
Ordained Ministers are called by God to provide overall general pastoral leadership in the church and Kingdom. They may carry out their task under appointment to a particular congregation, or they may be given other assignments. In either case, their work will include preaching and teaching the Word of God, intercessory prayer, the administration of the sacraments, pastoral care, and other ministerial activities. Central to the task of the minister is the proclamation of the saving gospel and the winning of people of all ages to Christ. Because vital worship, Christian nurture, evangelistic outreach and social concern
characterize a healthy church, ordained ministers commit themselves to equipping the whole body of believers to these ends.
The commissioned and ordained ministry are both a calling and a profession. It is a calling in that it is a response to a divine summons. It is a profession in that this service is worked out under the direction of the church that sets ministers apart as leaders and requires accountability.
Free Methodist ministers are called to be leaders of God’s people. Leadership requires vision, a willingness to dare, an ability to move people to action and the readiness to live with the turbulence change brings. For the person called to leadership, all this is rooted in a deep love for Christ and his compassion for human need. God’s resources are abundantly available for all that embrace this task courageously and in radical obedience.
There are three stages to becoming a minister in The Free Methodist Church in Canada. The person feeling the call of God to the ministry is first licensed as a lay minister. The call is tested by service in the local church where initial training begins. Step two involves acceptance by the conference as a ministerial candidate. During this period the candidate prepares for the third step, conference membership as a commissioned minister (honorary) or an ordained minister (full).
Before detailed requirements are given for each stage in becoming a commissioned or ordained minister, in a long Methodist tradition, the following advice is given to all ministers.