The variety of rostered leaders in the ELCA–pastors, associates in ministry, deaconesses and diaconal ministers–provide this church with skilled and tested leadership that attempts to meet the needs of a complex twenty-first century society. Each roster has distinct characteristics, responsibilities, and accountabilities; and yet they are complimentary, share specific tasks and are all centered in the mission of Christ in the Church.
Pastors are called and ordained by the church for ministry. With a seminary master of divinity degree, pastors are primarily responsible for the life of the community of believers. That is– preach the Gospel, forgive sins, interpret doctrine, and regularly celebrate the sacraments. Pastors also serve as institutional chaplains, administrators, teachers, and counselors.
Associates in Ministry are called and commissioned by the church for service. With at least a bachelor’s degree and twenty course credits in Bible, religion and doctrine, the associates in ministry nurture the people of God in faith primarily through congregationally-based programmatic ministries. These can be in any area needed by the people– Christian education, nursing, music, youth and family, special needs, etc.
Deaconesses are called and consecrated by the church for service. With appropriate professional credentials and a master of arts in religion or master of ministerial studies degree from seminary, deaconesses participate in community life and serve in specialty ministries in the congregations, agencies and institutions of the ELCA and ELCIC. Some of these ministries include various medical vocations, teaching, writing and editing, parish work, hospital and nursing home administration, spiritual direction, and retreat work.
(For more information, visit the Deaconess Web site at deaconesscommunity.org)
Diaconal Ministers are called and consecrated by the church for service. With demonstrated competence in an appropriate specialization and a master’s level theological degree, the diaconal ministers serve in church-related and secular positions extending the church’s ministry and mission of witness and care into the world to address societal needs.