To the Nominee ...
This page outlines the process by which the call to ordained ministry is supported and endorsed, discerned and formed within the framework of the national canons in the Diocese of North Carolina. Discernment refers to the initial stages of self-examination, conversation, and guided reflection by which you and the Church consider whether you are called to ordained or lay ministry. This includes being nominated to the Bishop by your sponsoring congregation and clergy, followed by a period of internship during which the Bishop and the Commission on Ministry explore with you the call to ordained ministry. Formation refers to the subsequent stages of academic and spiritual preparation for ordained ministry, which begin after the Bishop, with the advice of the Commission on Ministry, grants Postulancy.
The process of preparing for ordination begins with the discernment of a call to ordained ministry. For some people, this call will be to the diaconate; for others, it will be to the priesthood. It is important at this stage to understand the differences and distinctions between these two holy orders, as well as to be clear whether one feels called to a particular ministry as a lay person rather than to ordained ministry. Since the majority of people are much more familiar with the calling and duty of priest, those considering ordination to holy orders may need to become more familiar with diaconal ministry before entering the formal discernment process. The sponsoring clergy will be helpful in asking questions and providing information to help with the initial discernment of one’s call.
As you read through these guidelines, know that our prayers are with you. And we ask that your prayers be with us.
To the Sponsoring Presbyter...
At various times in our ministry, we are given the trust of one who asks for our guidance in exploring whether he or she is called to an ordained ministry of the Church. These guidelines outline the steps which those participating in the process of discernment and formation will take. We ask that you read through this text to acquaint yourself with the process as currently administered within the Diocese. If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact the Chair of the Commission on Ministry (COM).
As noted above, it is important for you to guide those coming to you for discernment in understanding the distinct orders of deacon and priest. If you are less familiar with the calling and duties of a deacon than you would like, the COM, the Archdeacon of the Diocese, and the Director of Formation for Deacons can provide you with information. If there is a deacon in a nearby congregation, you may wish to contact him or her, and, at the appropriate time, suggest the aspirant confer with him or her.
With the Bishop, the Standing Committee, and the Commission on Ministry, you—and those who assist you in the discernment process—bear a weighty responsibility. May God grant us humility and insight as we approach the gifts entrusted to us.
From the Bishop...
In the Diocese of North Carolina, we are seeking to be a community of disciples committed to following Jesus Christ into God’s dream for us and for all creation. We seek to be a missionary community committed to living and sharing God’s dream for creation by proclaiming in word and deed the reconciling love of God that we know in Jesus Christ. We strive to do this by making disciples — living as disciples of Jesus ourselves and inviting others into the community of disciples — and making a difference for the kingdom of God through works of compassion, justice, and witness in the world. In response to this missionary vision there is:
- an ever-increasing need for ordained leadership of deacons and priests that reflects the variety and diversity of the peoples and cultures of our country;
- a need for increased numbers of young people;
- a need for persons with a missionary vision, a pastoral heart;
- a need for persons who are comfortable in a multi-cultural and multi-national society and world;
- a need for persons who have cross-cultural experience and/or linguistic skills, particularly in Spanish;
- a need for persons who are willing and able to serve where they are needed.
As Aspirants for ordination, we seek persons who:
- have a living, growing, and healthy faith relationship with God, known and experienced through a commitment to and relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior;
- are loyal to the Episcopal Church while at the same time being able to be reflective and constructively critical;
- have either the potential for or demonstrated capacity for leadership;
- have the capacity to understand the Christian faith and tradition and to articulate it appropriately;
- are able to exercise leadership and independence while maintaining a healthy sense of accountability to the community and its structures of authority;
- have a healthy passion for the mission of the Church embracing the whole Gospel in its liturgical, evangelical, social, formational, pastoral, and prophetic dimensions;
- have a loving heart with the manifest capacity for compassion, practical caring, and a lived sense of fairness and justice;
- are comfortable with and able to live into the variety and diversity that is American culture and the Episcopal Church today;
- are collegial in leadership style and capable of sharing ministry with the lay and ordained ministers of the church;
- have a healthy sense of self, manifesting the capacity to be appropriately self aware, self affirming, and self critical with evidence of healthy self care—physical, emotional, and spiritual;
- have the ability to manifest a sense of humor and joy.
- Finally, ordained persons are called to be “wholesome examples to the flock of Christ.” In that light it is my expectation that applicants for the ordained ministry will exhibit the teachings and values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their personal lives. Family life must be characterized by faithfulness, monogamy, life-long commitment, mutual caring, and affection.
SUMMARY OF THE ORDINATION PROCESS
1. Confer with one’s Sponsoring Presbyter.
2. Participate in a discernment process with Parish Discernment Committee (PDC).
3. Nomination form (available on diocesan website) to Bishop by Advent 1.
4. Receive package of forms and instructions from diocese in mid-December.
5. Undergo physical and psychological examinations. Make sure that all required materials, including vestry endorsement, are received at Diocesan House by March 15.
6. Meet with the Bishop after the first of the year. If accepted as an Intern you will receive an assignment to a congregation for an internship which will last from July 1 to the Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6.
7. In fall of internship, meet with three members of COM for interviews.
8. Meet with the COM for the Discernment Conference (January or February overnight). The Bishop confers with the COM and then meets with individuals to discuss the next steps in ministry (granting Postulancy for Holy Orders or redirecting to lay ministry).
9. Begin seminary autumn following internship.
10. Complete one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), usually in the summer after the first seminary year.
11. In the spring of the middler year get recommendation from your seminary and your sponsoring vestry and meet with the COM for recommendation for Candidacy.
12. During the final year of seminary, undergo a second round of physical and psychological examinations (if 36 months have passed since the initial examinations), receive Vestry and seminary faculty recommendations, pass the General Ordination Examination (GOE) or equivalent.
13. In the spring of the senior year, meet with the COM and Standing Committee and receive their recommendations prior to ordination to the Transitional Diaconate.
14. Serve a Transitional Diaconate of no less than six months, receive a recommendation from the Vestry, and receive a cure (ministry assignment).
15. Meet with the COM and Standing Committee and receive their recommendations before ordination to the Priesthood.
OUTLINE FOR THOSE SEEKING ORDINATION
In The Congregation
1. The Nominee meets with the Sponsoring Presbyter of the congregation in which the Nominee has been an active confirmed communicant for at least one year (preferably two or more).
2. The Aspirant and Sponsoring Presbyter have a minimum of two conversations in which they review the ordination process, the Bishop’s statements regarding the needs of the Diocese and the desired qualifications of the clergy, and the Nominee’s call to ordained ministry and the grounding of that call in the life and witness of the Episcopal Church. The Sponsoring Presbyter reviews with the Nominee the financial obligations attending the ordination process. These will include a fee due the diocese for the initial psychological evaluations.
Note: See Canon III.6.2(a) and III.8.2(a). It is the responsibility of the Sponsoring Presbyter, the congregation, and the Aspirant to work together to meet these costs.
3. If the Sponsoring Presbyter is convinced of the appropriateness of seeking further discernment the name of the aspirant is sent to the Bishop by Advent 1. At this time the aspirant becomes a Nominee. Required nomination form is available through the sidebar.
4. The Nominee meets with the PDC (as described later in this document). The PDC produces its report to the Sponsoring Presbyter.
5. The Sponsoring Presbyter meets with the Nominee to review the PDC results.
6. Having favorably determined the Nominee’s intellectual, moral, emotional, and spiritual qualifications, the Sponsoring Presbyter writes the Bishop a letter describing:
- The Nominee’s call to the ordained ministry;
- The Nominee’s activities in the congregation;
- The Nominee’s spiritual life and development.
The Sponsoring Presbyter includes a copy of the PDC report and the Nominee’s autobiographical statement with the letter. NOTE: THIS LETTER AND ACCOMPANYING DOCUMENTATION ARE DUE AT DIOCESAN HOUSE NO LATER THAN MARCH 15.
At the Diocesan Level
1. Persons whose names have been submitted by Advent 1 will receive a packet of forms and information in December.
2. By March 15, the Nominee must complete the following steps and send results to Diocesan House:
a. Complete biographical data sheet;
b. Have the Sponsoring Presbyter and Vestry (or equivalent body) sign the certificate;
c. Provide official transcripts from registrars of all colleges and graduate or professional schools attended;
d. Undergo a complete physical examination (this may be done by the Nominee’s own physician, but must be reported using the canonical form);
e. Send requested fee to diocese and undergo psychological examination with one of the psychologists chosen by the Bishop for such examinations. A list of practitioners will be provided.
Note: Only the Bishop will have access to sensitive psychological report materials.
3. In April or May the Nominee will be invited to meet with the Bishop for an individual interview.
4. By early June, the Bishop will notify Nominee whether he or she has been accepted as an Intern. Upon receipt of this notification, the Intern will send a letter to the bishop, accepting status as a nominee. The date of this letter becomes part of the official record. If Nominee is not accepted as Intern, the Bishop will direct them to other ministries.
INTERNSHIP AND RELATED DISCERNMENT ACTIVITIES
1. Intern Orientation Meeting – Usually June
Interns, clergy supervisors and representative COM members meet to discuss the Internship and related discernment activities.
2. Parish Internship - July through January 6
The Internship offers exposure to administrative, liturgical, pastoral, and educational areas of ministry. The COM will assign Interns to a parish, mission, chaplaincy, or cluster (different from their home congregation), where they will meet regularly with an Intern clergy supervisor and a lay support committee and engage in a variety of ministries. Recognizing the wide variety of individual situations, the intern and supervisor may mutually agree to extend the internship into the spring. However, evaluations will be due in December, prior to the January/February intern overnight.
3. COM Interviews
Each Intern will meet individually over the course of the Internship with three different members of the COM. Each interview will explore one of the following areas:
- Sense of call, theological grounding;
- Personal and relational history, finances;
- Education history, self-care practices, spiritual disciplines, stewardship of time.
4. Reports and Self-evaluation - Due by December 15
- COM members send brief (<500 words) reports to the COM chair(s) about their interviews with Interns.
- Interns write brief (<500 words) reflection of their experience as Interns, especially as it has related to their discernment of a call to ordained ministry and to their spiritual lives.
- By December 15, Intern clergy supervisors write one- to two-page evaluations of the Postulants, discussing the Interns’ activities in that setting and including comments about their perceptions of the Interns’ discernment of vocational call and fitness for ordained ministry.
- COM chair(s) distribute reports to COM members.
5. Discernment Conference and Interview with Bishop
Interns attend a Conference with the COM in January or February. Others attending may include the Bishop, members of Diocesan House staff, the Commission on Ministry, and representatives of the Standing Committee. At the Conference, the COM interviews Interns in several sessions on topics including Life in Christ, the Sacramental Life, Mutual Ministry among Clergy and Laity, and Education and Study.
Follow-up interviews with the Bishop are scheduled, at which he will inform the Interns of his decision to grant Postulancy or direct them to other ministries.
All Postulants are required by Canon to send a quarterly Ember Day letter to the Bishop, reflecting on their academic experience and personal and spiritual development. Postulants are also assigned a contact person on the COM. They are expected to remain in communication with this person throughout the remainder of the process.
Postulants must consult with the Bishop before selecting a seminary. Postulants also are required to take one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in an accredited program, usually after the successful completion of the first year of seminary. The Postulant must send a copy of the CPE Supervisor's evaluation and their own CPE evaluation to the Bishop. This evaluation will be shared with the COM.
8. Pre-candidacy spiritual reflection
In June of the second year post-postulancy, the COM will send each postulant on track toward priesthood a letter containing a reflection question. Postulants are asked to respond with a spiritual reflection of no more than three pages, by September 1.
9. Candidacy Interviews
During the spring of the middler year, Postulants will meet with the COM, the Standing Committee and the Bishop to be approved for Candidacy. Candidates for ordination to the Priesthood must then consult with the Bishop about their plans for the summer between the middler and senior years in seminary.
10. General Ordination Exams
Upon the recommendation of the Bishop, Candidates will take the General Ordination Examination (GOE) in January of their senior year of seminary. On the GOEs, they must demonstrate proficiency in all seven canonical areas; if they do not demonstrate proficiency in any area, the diocesan Board of Examing Chaplains will assign additional work as they deem necessary until the Candidate does demonstrate proficiency. Candidates must also update their physical and psychological examinations (if more than 36 months have passed since the initial examinations), receive approval for ordination from their Sponsoring Presbyter and Vestries, and receive seminary faculty recommendations.
11. Transitional Diaconate
Ordination to the Priesthood is preceded by ordination to a Transitional Diaconate of no less than six months, appointment to a cure (ministry assignment), recommendation from the Deacon’s supervising clergy and Vestry, recommendation from the COM, and the certification of the Standing Committee.
In no case may a date or announcement of ordination be set or made without the consent of the Bishop.
13. Diocesan Residency Program: This program offers an opportunity for continuing formation and community during the first two years of ordained ministry for those who will become Priests in the Church. Newly ordained Transitional Deacons and Priests (whether ordained in this diocese or in another diocese) gather quarterly in a community of peers for overnight meetings with a Residency Supervisor. These mandatory meetings provide support and draw on current ministry experience for the continued formation and integration of a priestly and pastoral identity.