1. Personal Discernment
The first step of the process is that of individual discernment: the scrutiny by the aspirant of his or her call, qualities, and gifts. Throughout the process, the Parish Committee on Ministry and the Diocesan Committee on Priesthood will be seeking to determine whether the aspirant has the qualities specified below. Thus the aspirant should first scrutinize his or her own qualities. These qualities are:
A maturing Christian faith: reflecting an understanding of Christ’s presence, conveying a sense of being called to service, of sharing the Gospel, living in the Spirit, showing love and exhibiting openness to the whole body of Christ’s people in ecumenical engagement; and a disciplined pattern of private and common prayer; the ability and willingness to speak in a personal way of his or her experience of God and Jesus Christ.
Leadership potential: initiative, vision, willingness to risk, potential to motivate others and to energize struggling churches into dynamic and growing congregations; the ability to sense and deal with the impact of systems and institutions, as well as with interpersonal conflicts.
Sense of vocation for the ordained ministry: ability to articulate a call, a beckoning, recognized as from God and what he or she believes he or she has to offer to the Church; ability to articulate past and present personal history of ministry.
Effective communication: presence and poise in functioning with people, both one-on-one and with groups; ability to express self simply, clearly, and directly with the capacity to organize thoughts and actions and to establish goals and direction.
Intellectual competence: ability to learn, to process information and apply results, intellectual curiosity as an ongoing process in the aspirant’s life. Evidence of the ability to grow in a coherent sense of God’s work through history and in contemporary events, and the potential for appropriately communicating that knowledge. An aspirant for discernment must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university or the equivalent. According to canon law, to be ordained an individual must be 25 years or older.
Humility: understanding and acceptance of his or her humanity and ultimate dependence on God.
Awareness of the power of sacrament, word and liturgy: willingness to become a symbol bearer.
Loving heart: capacity and inclination to be close to and care for others, including family, friends, and colleagues.
A sense of self: strong sense of self-worth, psychological health, level of emotional maturity.
Personal integrity: authenticity, trustworthiness, dependability.
Sense of the fitness of things: judgment, boundaries, common sense.
Loyalty to the institution of the Church: A healthy respect for the traditions and authority of the Church from a position of challenge as well as from a position of support.
Commitment to continuing personal, professional, and spiritual growth.
The Rector/Vicar calls Diocesan House for Process and Application forms prior to meeting with the aspirant. At that time a discernment shepherd will be assigned to assist the Rector/Vicar, the aspirant, and the Parish Committee on Ministry throughout the discernment process.
It is extremely important that the aspirant have the support of his or her home parish Rector/Vicar. The aspirant should have spent significant time over several sessions with his or her Priest. The Rector/Vicar is the aspirant’s pastor in this process and it is essential that the aspirant establish an open and honest relationship with the Rector/Vicar from the beginning of the process. The Rector/Vicar evaluates the aspirant’s decision to go forward.
The Rector/Vicar must have a clear knowledge of the aspirant’s current ministries, spiritual life, and family history. The Rector/Vicar may suggest several disciplines to an aspirant including a spiritual discipline, spiritual director, lay mentor, a new ministry, or other helpful experiences as part of the initial discernment process. A spiritual director is required for all those in the ordination process.
The support of the aspirant’s congregation is extremely important and the aspirant must have been actively involved in a local church for a sufficient amount of time for the Rector/Vicar and congregation to determine the aspirant’s sense of call and gifts for the ministry.
A Parish Committee on Ministry will be appointed. The purpose of the Parish Committee on Ministry is to create a caring but questioning environment in which an aspirant can risk testing his/her vocational aspirations; to build a climate that encourages risk, sharing, and caring while discouraging judgment, competition, or advice; and to clarify the call, to look for God’s presence in the aspirant’s work and church life. The Parish Committee on Ministry will also be looking for the qualities listed in the section on personal discernment.
After an unspecified period of time, (at least 3 months) when the Parish Committee on Ministry feels it is ready (a majority of the committee voting affirmatively), the committee recommends the aspirant to the Rector/Vicar and vestry. The Parish Committee on Ministry, the home parish Rector/Vicar and the vestry must complete forms that are submitted to the Committee on Ministry stating their recommendations for further discernment.