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“What’s the difference between a deacon, an elder, and a local pastor?”

Local Pastors

Local pastors are not ordained but are licensed to preach and conduct worship and perform the duties of a pastor. They are appointed, but need not make themselves available as itinerant ministers. 

They are not elected into membership of the annual conference.

When appointed, the local pastor performs the usual duties of a pastor, including preaching and teaching; leading in worship and liturgy; receiving new members; performing the sacraments of baptism and The Lord's Supper; and performing the services of marriage (where state laws allow), burial, and confirmation. The local pastor’s authority is only within the appointment setting and does not extend beyond it. The local pastor is not ordained. They are required to complete a 5 year course of study program and meeting yearly with

the District Committee on Ministry for evaluation.


Provisional Members

During the provisional period (3 years in the Holston Conference), provisional deacons and elders serve under appointment by the bishop in areas of service appropriate to their calling. Provisional members may be appointed to congregations (deacons or elders), to attend school, to extension ministry (elders), or in appointments beyond the local church (deacons). They are supervised by a district superintendent, to whom they submit an annual report.

The provisional period is a time to gain experience in ministry. To be approved for ordination, the provisional member must demonstrate fruitful ministry. Partial evidence of that fruitfulness is the preparation of a project “that demonstrates fruitfulness in carrying out the church’s mission of ‘making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.’” Each annual conference develops guidelines for the project.


Deacons

Deacons are ordained United Methodist clergy who lead the church in relating Christians to their ministries in the world through worship leadership, preaching, teaching, nurturing spiritual vitality and leading ministries of service, love, and justice. Deacons must find their own position, in a church or in appointments beyond the local church. They are then appointed by the bishop to that context.


Elders

Elders are ordained United Methodist clergy who are ordained to a ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service. Elders preach and teach the Word of God, provide pastoral care and counsel, administer the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion, and order the life of the church for service in mission and ministry.

The servant leadership of the elder takes place both in parish ministry as well as in extension ministries, like chaplaincy. Elders itinerate, which means they serve in ministry settings (appointments) 

where the bishop assigns them.


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