The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut

Detailed Overview of the Ordination Process

OUTLINE OF THE ORDINATION PROCESSES FOR THE DIACONATE AND THE PRIESTHOOD

TITLE III: CANON  7: SECTION 5: Preparation for Ordination [to the Diaconate]

Sec. 5. Preparation for Ordination

(a) The Bishop and the Commission shall work with the Postulant or Candidate to develop and monitor a program of preparation for ordination to the Diaconate in accordance with this Canon to ensure that pastoral guidance is provided throughout the period of preparation.

(b) The Bishop may assign the Postulant or Candidate to any congregation of the Diocese or other community of faith after consultation with the Member of the Clergy or other leader exercising oversight.

(c) Formation shall take into account the local culture and each Postulant or Candidate's background, age, occupation, and ministry.

(d) Prior education and learning from life experience may be considered as part of the formation required for ordination.

(e) Wherever possible, formation for the Diaconate shall take place in community, including other persons in preparation for the Diaconate, or others preparing for ministry.

(f) Before ordination each Candidate shall be prepared in and demonstrate basic competence in five general areas:

(1) Academic studies including, The Holy Scriptures, theology, and the tradition of the Church.

(2) Diakonia and the diaconate.

(3) Human awareness and understanding.

(4) Spiritual development and discipline.

(5) Practical training and experience.

 

TITLE III: CANON 8: SECTION 5: Preparation for Ordination [to the Priesthood]

Sec. 5. Preparation for Ordination

(a) The Bishop and the Commission shall work with the Postulant or Candidate to develop and monitor a program of preparation for ordination to the Priesthood and to ensure that pastoral guidance is provided throughout the period of preparation.

(b) If the Postulant or Candidate has not previously obtained a baccalaureate degree, the Commission, Bishop, and Postulant or Candidate shall design a program of such additional academic work as may be necessary to prepare the Postulant or Candidate to undertake a program of theological education.

(c) Formation shall take into account the local culture and each Postulant or Candidate’s background, age, occupation, and ministry.

(d) Prior education and learning from life experience may be considered as part of the formation required for the Priesthood.

(e) Whenever possible, formation for the Priesthood shall take place in community, including other persons in preparation for the Priesthood, or others preparing for ministry.

(f) Formation shall include theological training, practical experience, emotional development, and spiritual formation.

(g) Subject areas for study during this program of preparation shall include:

(1) The Holy Scriptures.

(2) History of the Christian Church.

(3) Christian Theology.

(4) Christian Ethics and Moral Theology.

(5) Christian Worship according to the use of the Book of Common Prayer, the Hymnal, and authorized supplemental texts.

(6) The Practice of Ministry in contemporary society, including leadership, evangelism, stewardship, ecumenism, interfaith relations, mission theology, and the historical and contemporary experience of racial and minority groups.

PREFACE

It is the expectation of the Commission on Ministry that all baptized members of the Church engage in ongoing discernment around their baptismal vocation; however we do recognize that sometimes there are specific calls and questions that need more focused discernment. All ministries and orders of the Church have their basis and foundation in the font of Baptism. There one discovers the riches and the risks, the bliss and the burdens, of the continual striving to attach one’s identity to Jesus the crucified and risen Lord. The vocation to this life of service can be expressed in friendship, in family, in marriage, in parenthood, in the struggle to live with integrity, compassion and hope in one’s home, work and community. The vocation to the orders of Priest or Deacon can only be heard if one is first well rooted in one’s Baptism. It has been long stated by the Church that a calling to Holy Orders must be heard not only by the individual, but also by the gathered Body of Christ where one’s identity in Christ has been nourished, challenged, sustained and shaped. This guide is offered as a help to the local gathering of Christians who are involved in the work of hearing the voice of God in the heart of one who feels drawn to consider the special ministry of Servanthood as an Episcopal Deacon for God's Mission. It is meant to provide some guidance and structure to what is essentially an imprecise, unruly, and often clumsy tool of determining what God might be up to in the interior life of a sister or brother in Christ.

If you are reading this in hopes of offering yourself to the Church for ordination, please know of the Church’s deep appreciation. We honor your desire and we recognize the vulnerability of offering oneself to a task that will inevitably and necessarily open you up to the scrutiny of others, some of whom may be complete strangers. We would not serve you well if we denied this. But having said this, we want to assure you of the prayers of the Bishops and of all the members of the Commission on Ministry as you begin this journey. Your call will be broadly tested by your parish community, the Commission on Ministry and other in our Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. It is our hope that in this process of discernment you will be open and ready to experience the surprising stirring of the Holy Spirit in your own life and church family.

To those who have answered the call as a member of the discernment group to serve as a fellow seeker of God’s will, the Church is also deeply grateful. Yours will be one of the most delicate, sensitive and essential tasks of the Church, and one of the most generous gifts you can offer, not only to your brother or sister in Christ, but also to God's Mission well beyond the walls of your local parish. It is the intent of this guide to provide you with ample and meaningful opportunity to explore, confirm, challenge, and widen a sense of your own calling to ministry.

A Word to Spouses and Partners: The journey of discernment and exploring the possibility of being ordained is one that is filled with the blessings of personal growth, new friendships, learnings, the movement of the Spirit, and so much more. It can also seem like a long road, at times, with many expectations, new challenges, and deadlines to be met. We believe that the primary commitment of Nominees who are married or partnered is to their family. We encourage couples to take care of their relationships.

For this reason we believe that from the very beginning, questions to and between both partners about present and anticipated challenges, and about how they deal with tough questions together, are not only appropriate, but essential. Thus, we also encourage couples in this process to waste no time in finding trustworthy friends who will support their commitment to each other and hold them accountable to it. We recommend occasional conversations with a counselor and/or priest for additional support and to help you maintain your strong bonds. It is also appropriate and encouraged to be in contact with your Bishop regarding important personal concerns. All of this is crucial for the health of your relationship and your family system, as well as for the health of the Church.

STEPS IN DISCERNMENT AND ORDINATION PROCESS (see Visual Overview)

Sometimes an individual, after a time of private prayer and reflection finds themselves wishing to offer themselves for discernment for Holy Orders in service in God’s mission.  Other times, others may notice gifts and charisms in an individual that may lead to encouragement to explore a call to Holy Orders.  In either case, the local faith community is where one is to be lifted up for Holy Orders and where initial discernment occurs.

If one is “recruited” for discernment for Holy Orders, an initial meeting between the person/body recognizing the gifts and the nominee should take place to discuss why they see such a call and to determine whether the individual would like to pursue exploration of the call.

Step One:

A nominee may be moved by the Holy Spirit to begin focused discernment towards ordination or in other cases someone (clergy, Bishop, lay leader, community member, friend, family member, etc.) may recognize gifts in an individual that would lead them to suggest discernment for ordained ministry.  In either case, the nominee is encouraged to have discussions within her/his local faith community about how God may be calling them to serve God’s mission.  

If the nominee feels they would like to pursue focused discernment for ordination they will begin informal discussions with a member of the clergy in their local faith community (Rector, Priest-In-Charge, Campus Minister, etc.) regarding their call.

Following the initial discussions and upon mutual agreement that deeper discernment is advisable, the clergyperson will contact the Dean for Formation to explore possibilities for discernment in their Region.

Step Two

Upon the completion of the discernment committee’s work, the leaders of the discernment group and the nominee will submit a report to the COM for consideration. The COM will then meet with the nominee to determine if the nominee should be invited to join the COM and Bishops on a discernment retreat. This is usually held in early fall.

Prior to the retreat, the clergy person will be asked to provide recommendations for the nominee.  These recommendations should include some summary of the discussions with the nominee as well as an explanation of why they feel the nominee has the qualities to best serve the church as an ordained leader.

Upon completion of the discernment retreat the COM will determine the next steps for the nominee which may include, but are not limited to:

  • Invitation to formally apply to the Bishops for postulancy.
  • Recommendation for further discernment on a local level.
  • Invitation for ongoing discussion with the COM.
  • A time of internship in a faith community other than one’s own.
  • Encouragement to explore baptismal vocation.

Step Three

Upon the COM recommending the nominee to the Bishops for postulancy, the nominee will need to submit the following to the Bishops before the Bishops admit the nominee to postulancy:

Official application materials

Psychological and physical examinations.

Endorsement from faith community

Postulancy is a time of more focused discernment and formation.  At any time throughout postulancy the COM and the Bishops or the postulant may determine that the postulant is not called to Holy Orders in which case the postulant will be encouraged to explore their baptismal vocation.

Upon invitation to postulancy, the Commission on Ministry assigns a mentor and a bishop agrees to shepherd the postulant through the process.

Given that a vestry endorses postulants and candidates, it is a conflict of interest for a postulant to serve on one. It is an important part of formation for postulants to begin to try on their calls to ordained ministry and that means stepping away from their previous roles in lay leadership. In order to be named a postulant one must resign from any formal leadership role in one’s home parish (warden, vestry, treasurer, committee chair, etc.) in order to more fully invest in one’s formation for holy orders.

The Commission on Ministry evaluates each postulant and, together with the Dean for Formation, devises an Individualized Formation Plan (IFP) that meets the requirements of the Canons and the needs of the Episcopal Church in CT, and that takes account of the postulant’s background, vocational aspirations, prior education, life experience, cultural specificity, and worldly obligations to ensure competency in the canonical areas. There is no set timeline for the formation process. Each formation plan includes an educational component and a set of experiences and interactions that enable the postulant or candidate to try on and grow into a life of holy orders. Most postulants for the diaconate will enroll in the two year Provinical Diaconal Formation Program, others may join the program of the Diocese of Massachusetts or an online program through CDSP. Tuition for the Provincial program is ($2000 per year, which is typically equally divided between ECCT, the postulant and the sponsoring parish). Costs for other diaconal formation options varies.

For many seeking ordination to the priesthood, the educational component will consist primarily of residential seminary training and an accompanying degree. For others, it will entail a combination of academic experiences, including independent study and online course work. The formation component will similarly vary from person to person, depending upon the individual’s background, circumstances, and needs.  

Specific guidelines for Diaconal Formation can be found here.

Specific guidelines for Presbyteral Formation can be found here.

Step Four

Over the course of the Formation Process, in addition to the work supervised by the Dean for Formation, Postulants will engage in ongoing communication with the Bishops and the Commission on Ministry. If it is determined by mutual consent that the appropriate next step is to move toward ordination, the Commission, based upon the recommendation of the Dean for Formation, will invite the postulant to apply to the Bishop for candidacy. If, based upon the application and supporting documentation, the Commission recommends the postulant for candidacy, the application and the recommendation are forwarded to the Standing Committee. If the Standing Committee approves the application, the Bishop may (but need not) admit the postulant to candidacy.

Admission to candidacy usually signifies that a person’s call to ordained ministry has been confirmed by the Church and ongoing preparation and discernment for ordained ministry continues, often with renewed intensity.  Candidacy is not a guarantee of ordination.

Step Five

When the candidate has completed all Canonical requirements for ordination to the (transitional) diaconate and with the recommendation of the COM and the Dean for Formation, the candidate may be invited to apply to the Bishop for ordination to the diaconate.  If, based upon the application and supporting documentation, the Commission recommends the candidate for ordination to the diaconate, the application and the recommendation are forwarded to the Standing Committee. Both the Standing Committee and the Bishop must approve the application for ordination independently.

Step Six (For those on the priesthood track)

When the "transitional" deacon has completed all Canonical requirements for ordination to the presbyterate and based upon the recommendation of the COM and Dean for Formation, the deacon may be invited to apply to the Bishop for ordination to the presbyterate.  If, based upon the application and supporting documentation, the Commission recommends the candidate for ordination to the presbyterate, the application and the recommendation are forwarded to the Standing Committee. Both the Standing Committee and the Bishop must approve the application for ordination independently.

 

Glossary of Terms:

Dean of Formation - Member of staff of Episcopal Church in CT who oversees the formation process for those in formation for Holy Orders as well as the staff contact for inquiries into the ordination process.

Mentor - A deacon or priest assigned by the Dean for Formation who is not the ordinand’s sponsoring priest or internship supervisor and can be a source of wisdom and support during the formation process.

Nominee - A confirmed adult communicant in good standing who has nominated for ordination to the Diaconate or Priesthood by the person's congregation or other community of faith. (Canon III:8.2)

Postulancy - Postulancy is the time between nomination and candidacy and may initiate the formal preparation for ordination. Postulancy involves continued exploration of and decision about the Postulant's call to the Priesthood. (Canon III:8.3)

Candidacy - Candidacy is a time of education and formation in preparation for ordination to the Priesthood, established by a formal commitment by the Candidate, the Bishop, the Commission, the Standing Committee, and the congregation or other community of faith. (Canon III:8.4)