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Ministers/ Teaching Elders

Orderly Exchange with Formula Partner Churches


Ministers of Formula of Agreement Denominations


The Process of Orderly Exchange

Ministers of Formula of Agreement denominations (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Christ) under “Orderly Exchange” may serve as installed pastors, co-pastors, and associate pastors of, or in temporary pastoral relationships with, a PC(USA) congregation by invitation from a PC(USA) presbytery (regional mid council).

Highlights of the Formula of Agreement and the Orderly Exchange process are:

  • The orderly exchange process begins with the identification of a ministry need by the appropriate regional body of the “inviting” congregation and the identification of an ordained minister from a Formula of Agreement partner church who may serve in that ministry setting.
  • The judicatory of the “inviting” congregation initiates the process of the orderly exchange between the congregation to be served and the ordained minister. The ordained minister should refrain from contacting a congregation directly unless instructed by the appropriate regional or judicatory official of that congregation’s church body.
  • The “inviting” congregation should consult with the appropriate regional body of the ordained minister to determine the suitability of the potential service and to receive the concurrence of the “sending” body—synod (ELCA), presbytery (PC(USA)), classis (RCA), or conference or association (UCC). The ordained minister remains accountable to the sending church for continuation of ministerial status.
  • A ministry in a congregation of another church is not intended for a “first call” candidate.  Experience in and knowledge of one’s own tradition is seen as necessary before serving in a different tradition. The 2008 General Assembly (Item 04-24) approved an Authoritative Interpretation stating that the words “not intended” in the Orderly Exchange document closes the door to ordination to a first call in another denomination. This interpretation within the PC(USA) applies to both those Formula church candidates who might want to serve PC(USA) churches and to PC(USA) candidates who might want to serve Formula of Agreement churches.
  • This agreement applies only to persons who are ordained ministers of Word and Sacrament and does not apply to persons who are locally trained and authorized ministers—commissioned pastors (RCA), commissioned ruling elders/commissioned pastors (PC(USA)), licensed ministers (UCC), synodically authorized ministers (ELCA).
  • The orderly exchange of ministers under the Formula of Agreement is defined within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as either installed ministry or temporary pastoral service in a Presbyterian congregation. Should an ordained minister of one church intend to serve permanently in another church, then the process of the transfer of ministerial status should be followed.
  • Each church will develop a provision whereby a minister may be granted full participation in the appropriate regional body of the church in which the minister is serving, which may include privilege of voice and vote. Such participation in the regional body shall end with the conclusion of service to the inviting congregation.
  • Should a disciplinary process be necessary, the ordained minister remains under the jurisdiction of the sending body, but the inviting body may be asked to participate as necessary. The inviting body retains the right to rescind the invitation to service, even in situations where a formal disciplinary process may not be initiated by the sending body.
  • Pension and medical coverage are through the ordained minister’s denomination of membership.

The complete policy and process document, “A Formula of Agreement—The Orderly Exchange of Ordained Ministers of Word and Sacrament,” is available on the Web at: (revised September 2018).

Office of the General Assembly, Mid Council Ministries, Office of Ordered Ministry and Certification

Revised October 2020.