||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with USA and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (May 2013)|
An Elder in the United Methodist Church — sometimes called a Pastor or Minister — is someone who has been ordained by a Bishop to the ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service. Their responsibilities are to preach and teach, preside at the celebration of the sacraments, administer the Church through pastoral guidance, and lead the congregations under their care in service ministry to the world. The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church states that
Elders are ministers who have completed their formal preparation for the ministry of Word, Sacrament, and Order; have been elected itinerant members in full connection with an Annual Conference; and have been ordained elders in accordance with the Order and Discipline of The United Methodist Church.
The office of Elder, then, is what most people tend to think of as the pastoral, priestly, clergy office within the church. In most of the denominations within Methodism, ordination to the office of Elder is open to both men and women.
While not presiding at a service of worship, elders in the United Methodist Church are sometimes seen wearing the clerical collar and clergy shirt in public. Preaching tabs can also be worn around the neck in lieu of the clerical collar. Many Methodist elders choose not to wear clerical clothing in their daily activities.
When presiding at a service of worship, Methodist elders are often seen wearing church vestments, namely the pulpit robe or alb, and to a lesser extent, the chasuble. Stoles that reflect the season of the Christian year are worn over the vestment. Other elders choose not to wear vestments and are often seen in suits, dress clothes or casual clothing. However, stoles which represent the "yoke" of responsibility to the Church and to God are not to be worn unless the person has gone through the process of ordination which extends past education to a provisionary period culminating with a formal ordination service where the Bishop presides.
In most cases, Methodist elders must have graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in liberal education or equivalent degree in a college or university listed by the University Senate of the United Methodist Church and must have a Master of Divinity or equivalent degree in a school of theology (seminary). However, individual Annual Conferences may require that a Master of Divinity or equivalent first professional degree be the minimum standard for entrance into the Annual Conference's Order of Elders, or presbyterate. Changes were made by the 1992 and 1996 General Conferences which revamped many aspects of the ordained offices in the United Methodist Church's polity and doctrine and made the Order of Deacon a permanent, rather than transitional, office. These reforms also elevated the previously unordained office of Diaconal Minister, who were lay persons performing specialized tasks within a congregational or ministry staff setting (such as music, education, youth ministry, etc.) to ordained status as permanent Deacons as well.
- The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1984
- General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church: Some Frequently Asked Questions About Clergy Attire and Proper Ways of Addressing Clergy
- Grace Incarnate: Vestments in the Methodist Tradition
- The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church: ¶ 415 - Educational Requirements (retrieved 22 May 2007).