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Why Credentials Are Important For Women Ministers

By Dr. George O. Wood, General Secretary of The General Council of the Assemblies of God

The Assemblies of God has long believed that God is an equal opportunity employer. Women in our Fellowship were being ordained before they had the constitutional right to vote in civic elections in the United States.

Thus, the credentialing of women in our Fellowship is not some late popular cultural fad that we decided to join. Our early pioneers were convinced that Scripture meant what it said when the promise of Pentecost was realized: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. . . . Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:17, 18).

Why is it important for women to be credentialed who are called of the Lord into the ministry? (Please note: the New Testament teaches that all believers are ministers – when ministry is used in the context of this article, it refers to those whom the Lord calls as pastors, evangelists, missionaries, teachers, and specialized roles.) There really is not a gender-specific answer to this. The same reasons apply to men as well as women.

First, the New Testament teaches that those called to leadership should have hands laid on them (Acts 6:6, 13:3; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6). The act of laying on of hands, with prayer, provides a punctiliar moment in which the Christian community formally recognizes the inner call God has placed on the minister. The Assemblies of God credentialing process attempts to replicate the biblical model by providing a point in time for an external recognition by the elders (presbytery) of the Lord’s personal call to the individual. In the first two levels of credential (certified and license), that recognition is conveyed through prayer, publication of the awarding of a credential, and an issuance of the credential itself. At ordination, hands are laid upon each candidate.

As a Fellowship, we recognize that there are no self-called individuals. The calling of the Lord must be confirmed by eldership (presbyters) that approves the candidate’s personal life as measured by biblical standards (1 Timothy 3:1-7), and the candidate’s aptitudes and gifting for ministry.

Second, the act of credentialing culminates a necessary process of preparation and qualification. Paul specifically enjoins Timothy, “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands” (1 Timothy 5:22). The Assemblies of God maintains a rigorous process to help us not be “hasty” in the granting of a credential. Applicants must provide evidence that they have “studied” (2 Timothy 2:15). An application and exam must be satisfactorily completed. Appropriate references (including the applicant’s pastor) must provide positive endorsement. A criminal background check is run. The applicant meets with a district credentials committee for interview. All these are necessary steps in providing a deliberative process that provides confirmation to elders (presbyters) that indeed, the applicant is ready for formal recognition as a minister of the gospel.

This extensive process also provides credibility to the applicant. The applicant can take satisfaction that he or she has met the rigorous requirements. In an era in which ministerial credentials can be obtained over the Internet without regard to qualification, the Assemblies of God credential becomes a “gold standard” of endorsement that a minister has satisfied the highest levels of qualification and has not denigrated their calling by obtaining a worthless piece of paper as a credential.

Third, we live in a culture where professional qualification is desirable. Neither doctors nor lawyers practice without a license. A minister’s credential provides the certification to the church and to the world that the individual has been duly qualified to fulfill the profession God has called them to as a minister of the gospel. Such recognition is especially important as a necessary qualification to pastor an Assemblies of God church, to serve as a chaplain, to have access to public and private institutions such as jails, hospitals, nursing homes, juvenile facilities, and the like. Many Assemblies of God churches require that pastoral staff members hold credentials.

Finally, the credential provides the minister an opportunity to participate in decisions that affect the direction of the Assemblies of God. Most districts permit certified ministers to participate and vote in district council meetings; licensed and ordained ministers may participate and vote at General Council meetings. Privilege always brings responsibility – and the wellbeing of our Fellowship is dependent upon the involvement and wise counsel of all who serve as credentialed ministers.

Dr. George O. Wood, General Secretary of The General Council of the Assemblies of God