As the ELCA we are passionate for the world to experience the difference God’s grace and love in Christ make for all people and creation. The grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ means that all the baptized, as members of a universal priesthood of believers, are called to a vocation of mission in their daily lives. Members of this priesthood are gifted, enabled, and called to active participation in God’s mission, both in their faith communities and in the world.
Each person pursues a path of discernment culminating in an awareness of a unique call. Such discernment often emerges through years of struggle and searching. The call comes in a variety of ways. For some, the call comes in the form of a dramatic moment of inspiration. For others, it comes in the normal course of a disciplined spiritual life. For still others, the call responds to the urging of church leaders. Discernment happens both through self reflection and through conversations with others.
The ELCA candidacy process is meant to be a welcoming and joyful time for people discerning how to serve through the church. It is a formalized – yet personally and relationally focused – journey that assists people in discernment for church leadership, whether they ultimately become rostered or serve in other lay roles within the church. Discernment is a life-long process, which continually assesses how God may be calling a person into a unique ministry. It is a means to determine who might serve as a rostered minister in a Word and Sacrament or Word and Service ministry, as well as who might serve in a variety of lay leadership roles in the church or in the world. The candidacy process will succeed when people graciously discover, through the nurturance of mentors, congregations, and others, how and where to serve according to the Spirit’s leading.
Within the context of the universal priesthood of all the baptized, some people discern a call to various leadership roles in the church. In the Lutheran tradition, a person’s call from God to rostered ministry is both internal and external. In the internal call an individual senses God’s leading to consider and prepare for rostered ministry. In the external call the church accompanies an individual in discerning appropriateness and readiness for such service. At the conclusion of the candidacy process, the call is confirmed by a call to serve in a specific setting.