The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut

Ordained Ministry

In the Episcopal Church, both women and men are ordained as deacons, priests and bishops. Celibacy is not a requirement for ordination. 

Deacons

Deacons model servant ministry. They are ordained, and serve certain roles in a parish. They are not paid for their parish work. The bishop assigns them to the parish. They also have a significant ministry in the world, either paid or volunteer, with the poor, lonely or sick. There is a training program for those exploring a call to the diaconate. Every year, the diocese holds a day for learning more about diaconal ministry. It is attended by priests, people interested in serving as a deacon, and their families. Click here for a list of FAQs asked by priests about deacons. Click here for the North American Associate of the Diaconate, a organization for deacons that publishes a regular newsletter. For more information about deacons in Connecticut, or about the deacon information day, contact Bishop Ahrens' Office.

Transitional deacons: Currently in the Episcopal Church, those who are on the "path" to becoming priests ordained as "transitional deacons" first, after completing all of their academic and other preparation. They remain as transitional deacons for about six months until they are ordained as priests. There are many deacons who would like to see this practice ended. They would prefer that priests be ordained directly to that order, and regularly petition the church's General Convention for a change in policy.

Priests

The canons of the church govern the process for discerning if one is called to ordained ministry as a priest; there are both national and diocesan canons. The individuals will work with their parish priest and vestry; a parish discernment committee; the bishop and any designated assistant (in Connecticut, the canon to the ordinary); several committees of the Commission on Ministry; and others as needed. The process can take many years, and is not a guarantee that all who start the process will finish as priests. The diocese holds an annual day for learning more about ordained ministry as a priest. It is required for those interested in exploring the possibility. Contact the Rev. Molly James, Dean of Formation for more information about the process, and the annual priest information day, 203-639-3501 x126, mjames@episcopalct.org

Priests are accountable to their diocesan bishop. As ordained ministers in the whole church, they may take a position with a parish in another diocese than the one in which they were ordained. In such cases, their paperwork, and accountability, transfers to the other diocese and bishop. Most priests are called to serve in parishes, but others may work in "secular" employment, including as doctors, directors of non-profit organizations, professors, etc. (These are sometimes called "tentmaker priests" after St. Paul.)

Bishops

Bishops are elected by dioceses (at a convention of diocesan clergy and elected lay delegates from parishes) and are bishops for life, even after retirement. There are canonical requirements for those who would be bishop, and for the election process. A diocesan bishop heads a diocese (the basic geographical unit of the Episcopal Church). A bishop coadjutor is elected to succeed a diocesan, and may serve with the diocesan until he/she retires or dies. A bishop suffragan is elected to assist the diocesan bishop, and has no "right of succession" if/when the diocesan retires or dies. A diocesan bishop may choose to hire a retired or resigned bishop from the same or another diocese to assist with certain ministries or responsiblities. Those bishops might be designated "assistant bishop" or an "assisting bishop."

The Episcopal Church USA has 109 dioceses, each with a diocesan bishop. Some have additional bishops, depending on their size. The Episcopal Church has a presiding bishop, elected for nine-year terms at the church's General Convention. The presiding bishop oversees the whole church, and gathers all the bishops, active and retired, for regular meetings. (In other countries this person may be called an archbishop; also known as a primate). The primates from all 38 churches in the Anglican Communion meet annually with the archbishop of Canterbury at locations around the globe; all bishops of the Anglican Communion meet every 10 years with the archbishop in England.