One of the services Indiana Ministries provides is credentialing for pastors and for local congregations. While it is not the first service that I think of when Indiana Ministries comes to mind, I’m guessing that a lot of congregations and pastors think of it first. Indiana Ministries is about so much more, but credentialing is one of the responsibilities we have been assigned.
Last fall and this spring a credentialing congress was held to review and make edits to the current credentialing manual to keep it up to date. Church of God Ministries leads this process as the manual is our national manual and is not specific to just one state or region. This manual specifies the protocols, procedures and processes the Department of Ministry Services and our Ordination and Licensing Committees must follow for our state and others to be in compliance.
There are several changes being made in the manual that will go into effect soon. I’m not going to list them all but I do want to identify several of them.
- Compliance with the new manual is required for all assemblies for the credentials they issue to be recognized by the Church of God. In the past an assembly could disregard a portion of the manual which, as you might imagine, can cause chaos.
- A new section is being added called “Expectations of a Healthy Assembly.” There are already sections in the manual that address what it means to be a healthy congregation and a healthy pastor. Over the years there have been times when some state assemblies have functioned in ways that were unhealthy. The new manual allows intervention to take place when an assembly evidences unhealthy tendencies that are damaging to the effectiveness of the assembly.
- Leadership Focus is being required for all states and regions. Thus far it has been optional though many states and regions use it. You might recall that Indiana was one of three states that developed Leadership Focus and piloted it.
- A new section is being added called “Code of Ethics for Ministers” which is based extensively on Indiana’s Code of Ministerial Ethics that was initially drafted by Indiana’s Dr. James Lewis.
- Ministers and local congregations that do not register with their state/region and Church of God Ministries for two or more consecutive years will find their credentials and good standing revoked. This is to protect the integrity of our credentialing system and provide legal protection. Unfortunately, we have some credentialed ministers and congregations that regularly do not register, thus creating legal exposure for Church of God Ministries and state ministries. Don’t worry, this is not meant to create problems for the minister or congregation that simply forgets to register. This only addresses chronic failure to register.
- The number of required theological statements that a candidate will be required to write is being expanded to include a. Women in Ministry & Leadership and b. Marriage, Family & Sexual Identity. I applaud these two additions.
- Every five years each ordained minister (pre-retirement) will be required to complete a ministry update. We have some ordained pastors who are not actively connected to their state ministry or the Church of God. And we have some who have functionally left the ministry and have no reason to retain their ordination. This addition is intended to help state ministries become more aware of current status on all ordained ministers.
- A new section on Sexual Identity is being added. As you know, gender issues related to marriage and sexual orientation have been receiving a lot of media attention. This section is meant to provide guidance in these areas for credentialing purposes.
- A credentials standing committee is also being appointed to enable the Church of God to keep the manual up to date without having wait multiple years for another credentialing congress. This committee will be accountable to the General Assembly and will have the capacity to make changes to the credentials manual to keep it current.
If you are interested in more information about any of these changes, contact Jenene Lighty who is Indiana Ministries’ Director of Credentialing (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I deeply appreciate the many credentialed pastors who are involved on our Ordination and Licensing Teams and the Department of Ministry Services. These men and women volunteer their time to make credentialing work in Indiana. You’d be surprised at how many hours are volunteered annual to support credentialing just in Indiana. For several years, I’ve been wondering how many hours and what the cost in dollars is of our process of maintaining and issuing credentials. So, I’ve asked Jenene to do some work to figure that out. In Part 2 I’ll be sharing what we’ve discovered. Be sure to tune in. It is quite interesting.