Back in 2000 I finally decided to answer the call to ministry that had been nagging at me for seven years. The first non-family member with whom I shared this news was Pastor Janet Peele Wold, our pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Rockford, Illinois. She was very encouraging, of course. As a graduate of Wartburg Seminary, she told me I just had to go to seminary at Wartburg. My first response was, “Where is Wartburg?” I did not realize that we had an ELCA seminary just two hours away from Rockford in Dubuque, Iowa.
Pastor Wold then asked if I had contacted the Northern Illinois Synod to apply for Candidacy. I was too embarrassed to ask, “What is Candidacy?” so I simply said, “No.”
As my journey moved forward, I did indeed learn a great deal more about the seminaries of the ELCA and about Candidacy. But I couldn’t help but wonder why I did not hear more about our seminaries and about Candidacy while a member of two different ELCA congregations.
I discovered that our seminaries and Candidacy are some of the best-kept secrets of the church. My hope is that this will change!
While most people may not know the names and locations of our church seminaries, most people do understand their purpose—to form pastors and deacons for ministry. But I think few members of congregations know much, if anything, about Candidacy.
Each synod has a Candidacy Committee which is responsible for walking with seminarians throughout their journey to becoming a pastor or a deacon. The ELCA has a Candidacy Manual which is regularly updated that guides the work of all Candidacy Committees. The manual is focused on the formation of future leaders of the church.
The Candidacy Committee is responsible for supporting and challenging each candidate in the synod to meet the standards and expectations of the church as outlined in the Candidacy Manual.
The Candidacy Committee reviews background information about potential candidates and then meets with each candidate for an Entrance Interview to determine if the candidate is ready to begin the seminary journey.
A relator from the committee remains in communication with each candidate while they are in seminary. Prior to beginning internship, two members of the Candidacy Committee meet with the student and seminary advisor for an Endorsement Panel.
The full committee votes on Endorsing the candidate for internship based on the recommendation from the panel. The final step in Candidacy is to have the full committee meet with the candidate for an Approval Interview.
At this point, the committee decides if the candidate is ready to become an ordained pastor or deacon. If the answer is yes, the candidate enters the ELCA First Call Process to be placed in the first ministry site.
The Candidacy Committee continues to support the candidate until the person is placed in a First Call. The Candidacy Committee is made up of rostered ministers, laypeople, the ELCA Candidacy Coordinator for Region 5, a seminary representative, and the Assistant to the Bishop for Leadership for the Northeastern