Changes to sacrament licensing for UCCan diaconal ministers
by Debra Kigar
As member (and later Chair) of the Permanent Committee – Ministry and Employment Policies and Services (PC-MEPS) for the past several years, I have been intimately involved in the work that lead to this policy change. It seems to me that it would be helpful for all diaconal ministers to understand how this policy may affect them and their ministry.
In the past, the right for those who are commissioned to diaconal ministry to administer sacraments varied from Conference to Conference. Some Conferences issued licenses at the time of commissioning (although this did not align with the policy in the Manual), other Conferences issued licenses quickly and willingly when a diaconal minister began serving a congregation, and in some cases Conferences made it very difficult for a diaconal minister to be granted a license. In addition to these inconsistencies across the denomination, it was necessary to look at denominational policy on this issue in preparation for the transition of this responsibility from Conferences to Regional Councils.
The issue of sacramental rights for diaconal ministers has been an intentional conversation within the church since 2012 when a proposal was sent to the 41st General Council from Alberta Northwest Conference requesting that all diaconal ministers be granted the right to administer the sacraments at the time of commissioning. This proposal was referred to the Executive of the General Council and went on to become one of the foundational proposals for the One Order remit. However, since this remit failed, a new proposal was drafted by PC-MEPS and presented for discussion to the DUCC meeting in April 2018. The final proposal brought to GC43 included amendments to the existing policy (The Manual I.2.4) that could be made without requiring another remit (remits are required when the policy requires a change to the Basis of Union).
The Manual reads:
I.2.4.1 The regional council may grant a licence to administer the sacraments to a) a designated lay minister, candidate supply, diaconal supply, ordained supply, or retired diaconal minister;
I.2.4.2 The regional council must grant a diaconal minister a licence to administer the sacraments when the diaconal minister is serving in a call or appointment, or are employed in another ministry position. The licence will be for the duration of the call, appointment, or other ministry position.“
The amendments to policy included:
- The use of the directive ‘must’ (The Manual, I.2.4.1) to regional councils clarifies the understanding that sacramental privileges for ordered ministers is a denominational matter.
- The use of the word ‘may’ regarding granting licenses to retired diaconal ministers clarifies that this decision is a regional matter (The Manual I.2.4.1 (a)).
- Removal of the geographic boundary restrictions that were placed on sacrament licenses previously
- And in keeping with the new pastoral relations policy, the addition of the words ‘or employment in ministry’, thus allowing diaconal ministers serving in ministries other than a pastoral charge to be granted a licence for sacraments
For those of you who like to delve into the details of policy or are interested in further background, here are the links to various documents.
- The Manual (2019) on Diacaonal Sacraments, pages 151-152
- The full proposal (GCE 20) from the GC43 workbook (p159)
- The proposal was discussed at GC43, and recommended for approval, there was insufficient time for the vote. This and other unfinished business was brought before the General Council Executive for final decision (September, 2018, GA33). You will find the discussion notes from GC43 discussion on p3 of this document.
If you have questions, feel free to contact me at email@example.com at anytime.
Debra Kigar is former chair of the Permanent Committee – Ministry and Employment Policies and Services (PC-MEPS) where many of the newer church polices and processes have been developed in recent years. Deb is a semi-retired diaconal minister who is now working on contract at the General Council Office as Program Coordinator Trainer – Pastoral Relations policy and processes.
Note that PC-MEPS was dissolved under the new governance structure. Much of the work of PC-MEPS is now under the purview of the Office of Vocations.