AND CALL PROTOCOL
Section 1: Discernment at the Parish Level
Conversation with the parish priest The first step for anyone considering
a vocation to the priesthood is to confer with the parish priest as soon
as possible. The parish priest provides support and feedback to the individual
and discerns for her/himself whether the person is called. In accepting
this sober responsibility, the parish priest may discern that the individual
is not called to the deaconate or priesthood. Pastoral guidance and possible
re-direction in the discernment process may occur at this point. As difficult
as it is to say and hear that a person is not called, it is almost always
easier to have this conversation earlier than later.
2. Any applicant who has been refused
postulancy in other dioceses will not generally be eligible for consideration
in this diocese. A decision in this matter will be made on a case-by-case
Spiritual Direction. Any person discerning a vocation to the deaconate
or priesthood must have a spiritual director other than his or her parish
priest. A list of spiritual directors is available from the Commission
Parish Discernment Group. The parish priest convenes an informal Parish Discernment Support Group of three to four mature Christians. This group will discuss the call with the individual. Resources to assist the group are available from the Commission on Ministry Although this ad hoc group does offer a final evaluation, its primary tasks are to help the individual to discern God’s call, to refine the individual’s ability to articulate the reason he/she believes he/she is called to the deaconate or priesthood, and to be a support and resource for the individual if the process continues. As part of their discussions, the Parish Discernment Support Group will ask the applicant to write a 3-4 page spiritual autobiography.
At the conclusion of its discernment, this group will make a recommendation to the parish priest about the individual’s call to ministry. The report is only advisory. If the individual’s name is forwarded to the Bishop, a confidential letter of recommendation that describes the parish priest’s evaluation of the individual’s suitability to become a deacon or priest and the recommendation of the Parish Discernment Support Group will be included.
Considerations for Parish Priest and Parish Discernment Support Groups:
1. Do you know the applicant well enough to make a decision or do you need more time? Are you well enough acquainted with this individual’s experience in the Episcopal Church? Have you observed the applicant in a variety of situations?
2. Does this person have a sense of the Holy present in his/her life? How does he/she listen to and attend to the presence of God? What do you know about the person’s life of prayer? What are the person’s spiritual resources?
3. How do you feel about the applicant? What emotional responses do you have when you meet and talk with this person?
4. How is this person viewed by others in the congregation?
5. Why is the applicant seeking ordination?
6. How does the applicant understand ministry? How does the applicant understand the differences between the functions of ordained persons and lay persons?
7. In your experience with the applicant, does he/she behave in an open, honest, giving and receiving way with other people? How does the applicant listen and take initiative?
8. Does this person have a sense of clear boundaries? Is he/she able to talk about situations in which he/she had to decide: “What’s my business and what’s not my business?”
9. Is he/she eager to learn, excited about new ideas? Is he/she able to reflect, to ponder, to be challenged?
10. Does this person have a balance of interests in his/her life, or is there a single focus on church?
11. When this person has been in trouble of one sort or another, how did he/she seek help?
12. Are you aware of how the applicant reacts to and relates to persons in authority? How does the person react to conflict?
13. Does this person take time to exercise and to eat and rest appropriately?
14. Does he/she have a sense of the world beyond his/her particular location? Is there a curiosity about what is different and challenging to him/her about other cultures and communities? Is there an overall sense of connectedness with a wider community and the diocese?
15. Are you aware of anything that would significantly enhance or impede the exercise of his/her ordained ministry?
16. Is the applicant sufficiently aware of the financial demands of a seminary education?
Section 2: The Mission District Discernment Group (MDDG)
Upon receipt of a positive recommendation from
the parish priest, as well as the person’s application and spiritual autobiography, the
Commission on Ministry will appoint aMDDG. The purpose of this Committee
is to continue the work begun by the Parish Discernment Support Group,
but now at the diocesan level. The MDDG serves as a representative of
the wider church and is the first step in extending the discernment of
the applicant’s call beyond the parish. It is the responsibility
of the MDDG to decide whether or not to recommend to the bishop that
the applicant continue in the process.
GroupMembership. The MDDG consists of four people, both clergy and lay, from the applicant’s Mission District. To the extent possible, a COM member will serve on the committee or be the convener. The applicant’s parish priest appoints the fourth member. This person should be a member of the applicant’s Parish Discernment Support Group or, at the very least, be a person who knows the applicant. He/she is expected both to provide perspective from the parish and to be supportive of the applicant. At the same time, since this person is a full voting member of theMDDG, he/she should have sufficient Christian maturity to participate fully in the task of discernment at this level.
The Commission on Ministry will send a copy of the application for the priesthood/deaconate and a copy of the aspirant’s work history and 3-4 page spiritual autobiography to theMDDG. The MDDG will meet with the applicant for at least four sessions and will use the “Mission District Discernment Group Guidelines.”
The MDDG is expected to reach a consensus decision. Its responsibility is to recommend the applicant to continue, to recommend that the applicant not continue in the process, or to recommend a delay with suggestions for the aspirant. If there is significant disagreement between Group members regarding this decision, the nature of the disagreement should be reported.
The written evaluation of the Group must be shared with the applicant, and then sent to the Commission on Ministry. All members of the Group, as well as the aspirant, need to sign the document before it is submitted. Information acquired by the MDDG must be handled with great discretion. Confidentiality is imperative.
Section 3: Decision
At the conclusion of this process, the aspirant schedules an appointment with the Bishop. Although the Bishop is informed by the recommendations of the Commission on Ministry, the Bishop will decide whether or not the applicant should continue in the process.
If the results of the psychiatric and medical evaluations and the background
check are acceptable, the Bishop will make the aspirant a postulant.
According to the canons, an applicant for priesthood must be a postulant
for no fewer than six months.
Mission District Discernment Group Guidelines
1. Spiritual Awareness
A. How specific is this person in telling his or her faith story?
A. Is it a cohesive and clear expression of faith?
A. Does it sound like a maturing faith?
2. Emotional Maturity
A. Is the applicant able to reflect on his or her relationship with
his or her family of origin?
A. If this person is married, in a committed relationship, or has children:
Is the aspirant able to reflect on those relationships?
A. How does that family feel about the aspirant’s
interest in ordination?
A. Does the person “have a life?”
A. How does the person understand his or her private life as a reflection
of his or her faith?
A. Does this person have a sense of humor?
A. Has this person had to deal with grief?
• Have you ever lost someone you loved?
A. How does this person deal with his/her shadow side?
3. Vocation to Ordained Ministry
A. What is the nature of this person’s sense
A. Has the church affirmed it?
A. What gifts does the person feel that he or she has to offer the Church?
4. Past and Present History of Ministry
A. What place has the Church had in this person’s
life to date?
B. What lay ministries has this person been involved in?
C. How does the applicant understand the ministry of the laity?
D. What does the applicant consider to be the difference between lay and ordained ministry? What are the similarities?
E. How does the applicant respond to the question, “What
will you do if the Church does