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Understanding the degree of License, Ordination, and Commission.

Distinctions between licensed and ordained ministers vary by the religious organizations that issue these credentials. In some organizations, ministerial licensing may be an initial step in the path to full ordination. Ministerial licensing can also be a way for a denomination to sanction the ministry of someone who does not meet its ordination credentials, but who is nonetheless engaged in an active ministry in a local parish.

Ordained Vs. Licensed Ministry

Some religious denominations and congregations make distinctions between different types of clergy, classifying them as ordained or licensed ministers. Each denomination sets its own policy for distinguishing between the two, but in many cases, religious organizations consider ordained ministers to be permanent clergy. Ordination permits the minister to perform church rites and sacraments, such as baptisms, legal marriages and funerals. Licensed ministers, on the other hand, are usually authorized to perform some ministerial functions, but may be required by the terms of their license to only act as clergy in the context of a local congregation. Unlike ordination, which is usually considered to be a one-time event, the credentials for licensed ministers may only be valid for a specific period of time. For tax purposes, the IRS recognizes both licensed and ordained ministers as clergy, although it may apply additional standards when determining whether a clergy person is subject to special tax rules for ministers.

Reasons for Distinction

The reasons for making distinctions between ordained and licensed ministers vary by denomination. In some denominations, seminary students or candidates for ordination must first undergo a probationary period as a licensed minister. Another reason why a denomination might license ministers is to address a lack of trained clergy in a specific geographical area. These denominations license active laypeople who lack ministerial education to serve as pastors of congregations. Finally, some denominations license ministers as a way of providing accountability and support to those who perform specific ministries in a church on either a full- or part-time basis.


Some denominations restrict the activities of a licensed minister to performing certain clergy duties, such as preaching, while not permitting him to officiate at weddings or funerals. Other denominations may allow licensed ministers to perform any rite or sacrament, but only within a local church.


Some religious organizations set different educational standards for licensed ministers and ordained ministers. Many Christian churches require ordained clergy to hold a Master of Divinity degree prior to ordination, but may have minimal standards for licensed ministers. Some denominations, such as the Evangelical Covenant Church in America, require licensed ministers to complete a sequence of seminary-level courses. Others, such as the United Methodist Church, sponsor educational programs specifically for licensed ministers.

Licensing is a way for the local church to give recognition, authorization and affirmation of a person’s gifts and skills for ministry. Licensing is looked on favorably by other churches, which adds further evidence of the person’s gifts and abilities throughout the Covenanting Transformation Ministries Churches.Licensing is usually granted through the recommendation of a church board to the membership of the church. Licensing is recognition of a number of different ministry specialties and does not need to be limited just to preaching pastors.  Like ordination, it is the local church that grants the license, not Transformation Ministries.A license is typically provided to lay persons who have the gift and ability to preach, teach or minister as defined by the church granting the license. The license may either be a step toward ordination or an endorsement of a gifted lay person for ministry within the church.

Generally, a license is called the “Certificate of License for the Gospel Ministry”, and has also been known as a “License to Preach”.  Though preaching is a primary focus of pastoral ministry, other gifts may also be recognized by licensing.


Ordination is appropriate for those who have a substantial preaching/teaching ministry in a church, parachurch or mission agency, or educational institution, including military chaplains.

New Life Christian Outreach Ministry & Alliances of Christian Training & Servanthood  will examine for ordination and recommend to the local church those who have a proven knowledge of Biblical truth and an aptitude for the communication of Biblical truth in their ministries.

The local church may license or ordain persons with specialized ministries not requiring preaching and teaching (e.g., counseling, hospital chaplaincy, worship ministry).

As a partnership of many ethnically- and culturally-diverse churches, ACTS Ministries affirms the fact that different cultural groups utilize various processes or steps in credentialing pastoral leaders.  The guidelines anticipate that local churches will utilize processes that are appropriate to their cultures for licensing and local examination before sending a candidate to the Ordination Standards Council

We strongly encourage all pastors who lead a Covenanting New Life Christian Outreach & Ministry to have their ordination recognized by Alliances of Christian Training & Servanthood Ministries.

What Does Recognition Mean?

ACTS (Alliances of Christian Training & Servanthood) believes every pastor is accountable to the Lord and, by ordination, is set apart by a congregation for ministry.

  • Recognition of ordination by another Christian body by Transformation Ministries is appropriate whenever a ACTS or NLCOM Ministries Covenanting Church calls, as pastor, an individual credentialed by another Christian body.
  • Recognition addresses the validity and transferrable standing of a pastor’s ordination outside of the local congregation.
  • Recognition comes from a Council representing the larger Body of Christ, the Covenanting Churches of A.C.T.S Ministries, acting in concert through the Ordination Standards Council to commend the pastor to all the congregations as fully qualified for pastoral leadership by approving a Candidate’s preparation, and examining his/her conversion, call, character, convictions and competence.

For More information about License or Ordination, contact NLCOM or ACTS:

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