What is the Difference Between a Licensed and an Ordained Minister
What is an Ordained Minister License?
While some may find this topic confusing, we believe there is a simple answer. A licensed minister is:
- a member of the clergy;
- who is for a specified period of time considered to be in “good standing” with a professional ministerial association, religious society, or denomination of churches, etc.
The term implies that one of these institutions have granted them a license to practice ministry for a specified period time upon which there is a renewal process after expiration.
- The purpose of expiration is not to suggest that the licensed minister no longer has a calling. “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” (Rom 11:29). Rather, it is for the purpose of accountability.
The terms minister license and ministry license (sometimes misspelled as minister licence) are common descriptions of the status where a minister has been given religious recognition (by faith) to conduct spiritual leadership within the presence of fellow believers.
- While not totally correct, another term often used to describe this status is a “license to preach”.
The source of confusion about these terms exists in the concept of the area of ministry in which a minister has been commissioned. For example, many churches may license a deacon for hospital visitations, but they are not necessarily granted opportunities to preach within their assembly because they are considered to be a “lay minister.” In such instances, a person often has been given the title of a deacon (which American culture has come to embrace as permission for religious visitations). Customarily, a church will give a deacon some form of paperwork (or letter of ordination) as a means by which to identify him or herself as having been recognized by a religious group as being capable of performing religious rites.
- Nevertheless, the difference between a deacon and a licensed minister is that the latter may in fact hold all of the permissions, responsibilities, and authority of an ordained minister.
Who Needs a Minister License?
Determining whether a minister needs a license is not very difficult.
Here we provide two questions to help ministers make this determination.
If the answer is “yes” to any of the above, it is a good idea that they maintain a minister license of good standing with their organization. Why? Inevitably, someone will ask for credentials.
Regarding public service, it is almost certain that any minister entering a county jail will be asked for identification, and proof of certification in ministry. The same is likely of a minister desiring access to an intensive care unit in a hospital, or even a nursing home.
Who May Perform Weddings?
The laws change from State to State. Some States only require credentials, while others require additional registration. For example, Ohio requires minister registration. Ministers in Ohio must register with the State office in order to legally perform weddings. They are required to fill out an Ohio minister license application (1), accompanied by original copies of their certificate of ordination and fellowship card (minister license) –signed by a representative of the religious society using their title. They strictly forbid duplicates of any sort. All credential submissions must be verifiable, original copies. Upon approval, the applicant is placed in their minister search database where they may be verified by the general public. Below is an example of our minister license that demonstrates how we meet the expectations of the State for licensure.
Upon approval by the State of Ohio, the applicant is placed in their minister search database where they may be verified by the general public. You may follow this link to see the Ohio minister database:
To conduct a sample search, leave all fields of the form blank except the last one titled “denomination.” In that box enter: National Association of Christian Ministers and press “run report.” There you will see the listings of all the ministers who are members with us who have been registered in Ohio as ministers.
In light of these things, not all states require registration. In fact, to the best of our knowledge most States do not require registration. However, many do have requirements that they expect to be upheld by the minister’s honor system. For example, South Carolina requires that a wedding officiant be a minister of the gospel; authorized to administer oaths by an organization with which they are in good standing. Texas views a licensed minster and an ordained minister as one in the same when under review to perform a marriage ceremony (2). Nevertheless, it should be noted that none of this is legal advice, and it is the responsibility of the minister to determine the law in their area of practice.
Conclusion: The Difference Between Licensed and Ordained Ministers
The only real difference between these two is an expiration date.
The National Association of Christian Ministers recognizes the lifelong calling with ordination. We also offer a minister license for the minister who may be serving in situations where they must prove that they are in “good standing”. In either case, we view a licensed and an ordained minister as one in the same.
NOTE: This page is cited by Chron Publications as a source of information about the Difference Between a Licensed Minister & an Ordained:
1. Ohio General Information of Minister License’s: https://www.sos.state.oh.us/records/minister-licenses/#gref
2. Ohio Minister Database: https://www5.sos.state.oh.us/ords/f?p=241:1::::::
3. Application for Minister’s License to Solemnize Marriages in Ohio: http://www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/Upload/Records/forms/min.pdf
4. Texas Statue of Limitations for Ministers: http://www.culpepperlaw.com/MINISTER.htm#Marriage
Do You Have to Renew Your Ordained Minister License?
How long does an ordained minister license last?
How to become a licensed ordained minister?
How to get your ordained minister license?
How do I become a licensed minister?
How to get a minister’s license?
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