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  DISCERNMENT AND CALL PROTOCOL
Commission on Ministry

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.

Notes:
1. Except in rare cases, a person must be a communicant in good standing in a parish of the Diocese of Nevada for at least two years before beginning the formal diocesan ordination process. The bishop has the sole discretion to determine whether an exception should be granted.

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 basis.

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 on Ministry.

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.

Note:
Throughout the ordination process, it is the responsibility of the person in the process to ensure that all documents are complete and are submitted in a timely fashion and that all diocesan and canonical requirements are met.

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.

Procedure:

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?
• Can you tell us about a “God-moment” in the last week: a time when you were aware of God’s presence or activity?

A. Is it a cohesive and clear expression of faith?
• Who is Christ, to you?
• When has it been hard for you to see God?
• If someone were to tell you that they have no faith, and don’t see why anyone else should, either, what would you say?

A. Does it sound like a maturing faith?
• How has your relationship with God changed?
• Tell us about your prayer life …

2. Emotional Maturity

A. Is the applicant able to reflect on his or her relationship with his or her family of origin?
• Tell us about your family …
• What have you learned from those experiences?
• (If the picture presented is mostly happy) What is one thing you would change, if you could?

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?
* How will your decision to pursue ordination affect them?
• If you are married, what will be the costs and benefits to your spouse or partner?
• If you have children, what will be the costs and benefits to them?

A. Does the person “have a life?”
• Who do you turn to for support?
• How do they feel about your interest in ordination?
• If they are supportive, how is that support expressed?
• How did those involvements shape you?
• What kinds of activities or community groups are you involved in right now?
• How important are they to you? Why?
• What do you gain from them? What do you bring to them?
• What else do you do with your leisure time?
• What restores you?

A. How does the person understand his or her private life as a reflection of his or her faith?
• How do you understand this question from the ordination service: “Will you do your best to pattern your life in accordance with the teachings of Christ, so that you may be a wholesome example to your people?”
• What does keeping that vow look like, to you?

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?
• What was that journey like? Emotionally? Spiritually?
• How would you guide someone else going through it?

A. How does this person deal with his/her shadow side?
• What would you say are your weaknesses?
• When have you most been aware of them?
• How have you dealt with them?

3. Vocation to Ordained Ministry

A. What is the nature of this person’s sense of call?
• When did it begin?
• Did a specific circumstance provoke it?
• Did someone else suggest it?
• What is it about being a deacon or priest that draws you?
• What specific form of ordained ministry is most attractive to you?
• What aspects of ordained ministry would be hardest or least attractive to you?
• Who are your role models? Who exemplifies what ordained ministry is all about?

A. Has the church affirmed it?
• Who else has encouraged you to consider the ordained ministry?
• In what ways have you felt your sense of call affirmed?

A. What gifts does the person feel that he or she has to offer the Church?
• Tell us about your strengths …
• What specific skills and talents will you bring to ordained ministry?
• How would they help you be a good deacon or priest?
• Tell us about your weaknesses/growing edges.
• How do they relate to this sense of call?

4. Past and Present History of Ministry

A. What place has the Church had in this person’s life to date?
• In what religious tradition were you raised?
• If a convert, what drew you to the Episcopal Church?
• What do you most value about this tradition?
• What would you like to change about it?
• What drew you to your current parish?
• What do you most value about it?
• What would you like to change about it?

B. What lay ministries has this person been involved in?
• What did you do in the parish in which you grew up? In the ones after that?
• In what ways do you serve in your current parish?
• What experiences have been the most frustrating?

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
not affirm your desire to be ordained?”

THE EVALUATION FORM
for Mission District Discernment Groups (MDDG):
.pdf format   ----.doc format