I am familiar with some terms associated with ordained ministers, i.e., Elder, Deacon, Full Connection, but do not know the correct progression from one to the other and the requirements for each. Any info will be appreciated.

In the United Methodist Church we have two Orders of Ministry:  the Deacon and the Elder.  Both can be Members in Full Connection of a Conference and have equal vote and voice in the Conference.  One no longer progresses from the Order of Deacon to the Order of Elder, as was the case prior to 1996.  

Elders are ordained to Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service.  They typically are appointed as pastors or associate pastors of churches; they can also serve as District Superintendents or, if elected at Jurisdictional Conference, can be consecrated and serve as Bishops.  Elders may also be appointed to ministries beyond the local church -- such as University or Seminary Professors, members of the General Boards and Agencies of the Church, other Conference Staff positions, etc.

Deacons are ordained to Word and Service.  They typically are appointed as associate pastors and are often specialized into worship, music, education, administration, or other well-defined areas of ministry.  They may preach and teach and assist Elders at the Eucharist, but are not normally authorized to preside at the Eucharist.

Entrance to the Orders is the same for both.  One begins by being Certified as a Candidate for Ordained Ministry.  While one is in school one is often also Licensed to Preach and appointed as a Licensed Local Pastor.  This status does not involved Conference membership in either Order, but rather membership is in the "Fellowship of Local Pastors."  Some do not progress beyond this stage, but continue for a number of years as Local Pastors before retirement.  For those who are preparing for one of the two tracts of Ordained Ministry, however, once the educational requirements are fulfilled and one has gone before the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry for examination regarding Preparedness for Ministry, one can be approved, elected by the Clergy Session of the Conference to Provisional Membership in either the Order of Deacons or the Order of Elders, and then commissioned for ministry during the probationary period (usually 2 or 3 years).  Following the period of probationary ministry, and after one has been examined and approved by the Board of Ordained Ministry for Membership and Ordination, one can be elected by the Clergy Session to Membership in Full Connection and then Ordained by the Bishop as either a Deacon or an Elder.

One can transfer from the Order of Deacons to the Order of Elders (I suppose, also, from the Order of Elders to the Order of Deacons) but it doesn't happen often nor do I believe are there clearly defined procedures for doing so.

I hope the above helps.  If you would like clarification on anything I've written above, or would like to ask follow up or further questions, please feel free to write again.


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Rev. Gregory S. Neal


I can answer questions dealing with all issues of United Methodist Doctrine and Wesleyan-Arminian Theology. In particular I can answer questions dealing with the Sacraments and other liturgical and worship-oriented questions. I can also answer questions dealing with the form, structure, and organization of the United Methodist Church and our relationship with other denominations.


I am an ordained United Methodist Elder with more than 20 years of ministerial service experience in the local Church.

I am a Clergy Member in Full Connection and have been a member of the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church since 1991. I am a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion. I am also a member of the Emmaus Community, and am currently serving as Senior Spiritual Director for the Dallas Emmaus Community. I am a member of the Order of Saint Luke in the United Methodist Church.

I have my own website:   I have written two books, "Grace Upon Grace" and "Seeking the Shepherd's Arms," both available at and in bookstores.

I have a BA in Religious Studies, History and Russian. I have an M.Div in Systematic Theology and Biblical Studies and a Ph.D in Sacramental Theology and New Testament.

Awards and Honors
Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church
Fellow of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

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