Guidelines for PDCs - Priests
All materials for a new Nominee class must be on file at Diocesan House by March 15.
Therefore, it is crucially important to become aware of the tasks that need completion prior to this deadline. The usual time frame for activity at the congregation level is eighteen months. Nominees must have been members of the parish, mission, or chaplaincy (or shown significant commitment and involvement in the congregation) for at least one year, preferably two or more. We strongly recommend that the Sponsoring Presbyter will have known the Nominee for at least one year and will have been discussing vocational call issues with the Nominee for at least three months (preferably many more) before commissioning the Parish Discernment Committee (PDC). Because the PDC must be formed no later than the beginning of Advent in order to meet the March deadline, these vocational discussions between Sponsoring Presbyter and Aspirant must begin by September at the latest.
During these vocational discussions, the Sponsoring Presbyter and Aspirant will focus on the Aspirant’s depth of awareness of his or her spiritual journey and call to the ordained ministry. They will incorporate into the discussion the Bishop’s outline of clergy characteristics and expectations, as well as the cost of the process. Note: It is the responsibility of the Sponsoring Presbyter, congregation, and Aspirant to work together to meet these costs. Sponsoring Presbyter are reminded that, at this and all stages of the process, saying "No" to an Aspirant is at least as important as saying "Yes."
After meeting with the Aspirant, the Sponsoring Presbyter appoints a PDC to work with the Aspirant in examining his or her possible vocation to ordained ministry. Where possible, the Sponsoring Presbyter chooses at least five PDC participants. Ideally, one will be a Vestry member. Other members should be representative of the diversity of the congregation. Where possible, include both those who are familiar with the Aspirant and those who are not. The Sponsoring Presbyter gives the PDC members a copy of these guidelines so that they can become familiar with the procedure before the first meeting. The Sponsoring Presbyter also gives the Aspirant a copy of these guidelines and instructs the Aspirant to begin writing an autobiography, which he or she will distribute at the end of the first PDC meeting (see guidelines below).
Note: By the First Sunday of Advent at the latest, the Sponsoring Presbyter should report the name and address of the Aspirant to Bishop, at which point he or she becomes a Nominee.
It is not necessary that the work of the PDC be completed by Advent 1, but it should be completed and the report sent to the diocese by March 15 of the following year. The Sponsoring Presbyter informs the Vestry that a PDC is being formed. If the Vestry does not know the Nominee well, the Vestry should attempt to become more familiar with him or her during the three months in which the PDC is meeting. If possible, the Vestry meets with the Nominee after the last PDC meeting.
By March 15, the following should be sent to the Bishop:
1. The Sponsoring Presbyter’s letter endorsing the Nominee, which articulates what he or she knows and believes about the Nominee’s call to ordained ministry and wherein issues for further discernment are identified;
2. A letter of introduction from the Nominee to the Bishop, setting forth the understanding of his or her call to ordination;
3. The PDC report;
4. The Nominee’s autobiography (see below).
5. A check to the Diocese to cover the cost of psychological evaluations. (Amount will be in January/February information packet from diocese.)
Parish Discernment Committee
The PDC helps Aspirants to identify, discover, and explore the varieties of ministry in the Lord’s service to which they might be called. Most importantly, the PDC represents the congregation in helping individuals affirm their special gifts of ministry, lay or ordained, that God calls forth. The task of the PDC is to create a caring but questioning environment in which an Aspirant can risk testing his or her vocational aspirations. Because of the special nature of the PDC’s role, PDC members should not also serve as members of an Intern or Seminarian support group, nor should they be Interns or seminarians themselves.
The congregation assists members in discerning whether God’s call to them is to a lay or an ordained ministry. It is the spiritual and pastoral home of the Aspirant. In this situation, the principal function of the congregation is to help the Aspirant appreciate that this is the beginning of a period of exploring and testing that may or may not result in ordination. This cannot be stressed enough. As stated above, saying "No" to a Aspirant is at least as important as saying "Yes." The congregation and the Aspirant are entering into a decision-making
process that is both personal and communal. This is a central element of the Anglican tradition. As the PDC facilitates exploration for the individual, it also carries the discussion about ministry into the larger community. This process is not a training course in ministry for one person, but the education of a whole parish about ministry and faith development.
The PDC is asked to enter into a special relationship with the Aspirant on behalf of the parish and the larger Church. This requires a commitment of time and energy, a sharing of themselves, and a willingness to ask difficult and challenging questions of one another. In the course of their work, committee members may enter spiritual depths in their life as a group and individually that will reward and challenge them. Many people entering this commitment to serve on a PDC may ask, “What do I have to offer? Who am I to judge?” The basic qualifications are within each of us in our life experiences and in the Christian commitment we offer. This task calls for a willingness to be open, honest, and candid in the context of a caring community, both to confront and to support the Aspirant. While the principal purpose
lies in helping the Aspirant clarify a calling, the process will probably result in a mutual journey for all involved.
The Aspirant will ask: “Is ordination the form my ministry should take?”
The PDC, the Vestry, and the Rector or Vicar will ask:
1. Does this individual sufficiently understand the ministries of all baptized persons and appreciate the opportunities for his or her lay ministry?”
2. Does ordained ministry seem to be the form of ministry to which God is calling this person?”
3. Can we, in good faith, send this person to become a leader of other congregations?”
In the early stages of the discernment process, the PDC and Rector should be in close communication. As they near the conclusion of their work, or if they choose to terminate the process, the committee will need to communicate with the Rector. During the course of their work together, the time may come when it seems proper to the Aspirant to decide not to proceed, or the committee may decide not to recommend the Aspirant to the Rector. In this event, the PDC should continue to support the Aspirant in continuation or expansion of his/her lay ministry.
In arriving at a recommendation, the PDC is assisting the Rector and, potentially, the Vestry and diocesan officials. The Committee recommends, but the Rector, Vestry, Bishop, and Standing Committee have the canonical authority to decide.
The work done by the PDC and its report are among the most important parts of this process. Members sustain a deep contact with the Aspirant and frequently become identified and involved with him or her. Openness, candor, and support are encouraged, but it is also important to balance those qualities with a positive degree of objectivity. The reasons are evident: The committee may have to say “no” to the Aspirant; or the Rector, Vestry, or Bishop may not accept the committee’s recommendations. If the Aspirant is directed to remain in lay ministry, the PDC affirms the Aspirant’s other ministries and its members must deal with their feelings about the outcome. The PDC can disband at the end of this task or the rector may suggest it continue on an on-going basis for other future Aspirants. It is important for each parish to make this process its own. These guidelines may be modified to meet each situation. For example, one parish may have an ongoing PDC. One PDC may request a session with the Aspirant’s spouse; yet another may want to include someone from another parish to help maintain objectivity for a well-known Aspirant. Special care should be exercised if the potential Aspirant is a staff person or spouse of a staff person in the parish. In these cases, the advice of the bishop and Chair of the COM should be sought. It is often best, in such situations, for the PDC to come from a neighboring congregation.
PROCEDURE FOR THE PARISH DISCERNMENT COMMITTEE
The procedure described in the following pages is outlined in steps and is designed to assist you in your work with your parishioner. It consists of at least six meetings over a period of three months; longer if you have more time with regard to the March 1st deadline. At the end, you will complete the PDC report, included below.
You will need a convener (appointed by the Sponsoring Presbyter) and a recorder (appointed by the convener), who will report the committee’s answers to the questions furnished below in the PDC Report. This is an exploration and journey in which all members will be involved. All PDCs, once organized, are required to meet with a member of the Commission on Ministry before beginning their meetings with the candidate.
General suggestions for all meetings:
Please open and close your meetings with prayer. You may wish to use the Prayer Book, especially pages 832-833. To place the discernment of gifts in a Biblical context, you might read l Corinthians 12:1-3; 2 Corinthians 4:5-14; Ephesians 4:7,11-16; Romans 12:1-8; and Acts 4:13,32-33.
Evaluation is an important step in this process, and we suggest that you use some method of evaluating at the end of each meeting. One that is easy is simply to tape up two pieces of newsprint and gather information about what was good and what was not so good, or what helped and what hindered.
Although the recorder will gather answers to the questions explored during PDC meetings, along with minority opinions, each member of the PDC will evaluate not only the Aspirant, but also the discernment process itself. We suggest that each member keep personal notes for future reference beginning with the first session.
Build a climate that encourages risk, sharing, and caring and that discourages judgment, competition, or advice. Be sure to discuss the issue of confidentiality at your first meeting.
Present: Sponsoring Presbyter, Committee
We suggest that the newly formed PDC and the Sponsoring Presbyter meet with a member of the COM who can answer questions and provide an overview of the ordination process. Topics to be discussed can include such administrative issues as the length of each meeting (we suggest 2 to 3 hours), scheduling dates, and choosing a location, as well as the crucial importance of confidentiality — for both the PDC members and the Aspirant — throughout the entire process.
Ideally, the Sponsoring Presbyter already will have given the PDC members these guidelines so that they can become familiar with the procedure. Also, the Sponsoring Presbyter should already have instructed the Aspirant to write an autobiography, which he or she will distribute at the end of the first meeting. Before the next meeting, PDC members should review the important influences in their own faith journeys, their definition and vision of Christian ministry, and their thoughts and feelings about being members of the PDC.
Meeting # 1: Introductions
Present: Sponsoring Presbyter, Aspirant, Committee
After welcoming all the participants and introducing the convener, the Sponsoring Presbyter departs. The convener will chair this and all subsequent PDC meetings, and will name the recorder (preferably the convener has made this assignment before this first meeting). In this meeting, everyone is an equal participant; the Aspirant is not the focus. Confidentiality is defined and emphasized at the beginning.
1. The convener will establish the format for the meeting:
A. All members will introduce themselves, stating briefly their names and other information such as occupation, years in the parish, family members, and a humorous fact that no one knows about them.
B. Going around a second time, all members will talk about:
1. Important influences in their faith journeys (e.g., family, friends, authors, teachers, experiences);
2. A high point and a low point in their journey;
3. Their definition of Christian ministry;
4. Their thoughts and feelings about being on the PDC
a. What can I offer?
b. What do I expect to receive?
2. Schedule the next five meeting times, identifying the topic for each, and reviewing together the questions that will direct and focus the discussions.
3. The Aspirant hands out copies of the autobiography, not to exceed five (5) typewritten pages, to be read by each participant before the second meeting with a focus on:
A. What pressures has this person experienced?
B. What pressures is this person currently experiencing?
C. How does he or she respond to pressure?
D. Describe the primary involvement for this person: work, home, church, community.
E. Describe this person’s current ministries in those areas.
F. How does he or she tie together the secular and sacred realms of life?
Meeting # 2: Exploration of Autobiography, Part I (pressures, ministries, areas of growth)
Present: Aspirant, Committee
Drawing on both your reading of the Aspirant’s autobiographical statement and what you learned from the first meeting, explore the following questions or other questions raised by the information you have gathered.
1. What pressures have there been in this person’s life?
2. What pressures are currently in this person’s life?
3. How does he or she respond to pressure?
4. Describe the areas of primary involvement for this person: work, home, church, and community.
5. Describe this person’s current ministries in those areas.
6. How does he or she tie together the secular and sacred realms of life?
The PDC now begins to explore the Commission on Ministry’s basic questions (below). You can rearrange the order of these questions as seems best. The discussion should include findings from any career counseling the Aspirant has undergone and your knowledge of the Aspirant’s home life, work life, congregational life, and other interests.
CAUTION: Because of the probing nature of the questions, we recommend that all PDC members share their own views concerning these questions as much as possible to avoid an inquisitorial posture. The PDC is judging the Aspirant’s fitness for ordination, but at the same time much can be learned from our collective viewpoints. While opinions are being expressed and judgments are being made, a sense of Christian love and learning is vital if these meetings are to be productive for all concerned.
1. What is the Aspirant’s understanding of the Christian ministry?
A. How does he or she view the ministry of the whole Body of Christ?
B. How does he or she differentiate between the ministries of lay persons and ordained persons?
C. How does he or she understand the ordained minister’s central task in pastoral care—solving other people’s problems? Giving answers? Helping people come to a resolution of their problems?
2. What further growth is needed, and does the Aspirant have the capacity to achieve such growth?
A. What is his or her academic record?
B. How open is he or she to questioning, self-exploration, and testing his or her view of reality?
C. What evidence do you see of his or her continuing commitment to learning and intellectual growth?
3. In what ways do you envision and experience the Aspirant as one who is growing in the Christian faith?
Meeting # 3: Exploration of Autobiography, Part II (emotional health, capacity for leadership)
Present: Aspirant, Committee
1. What is the status of the Aspirant’s emotional health?
A. How aware is he or she of his or her own feelings?
B. How well does he or she express strong positive and negative feelings?
C. When dealing with his or her feelings, do physical gestures and movements (body language) match the words spoken?
D. To what extent is he or she aware of and comfortable with his or her sexuality? How well-integrated is his or her sexuality or sexual identity with other aspects of his or her life?
E. Are there any indications that he or she aspires to the ordained ministry as a way of solving his or her personal problems?
F. Does he or she have a level of maturity and ability to adapt to different situations that is commensurate with his or her age level?
2. What is this person’s capacity for leadership?
A. Does he or she show initiative, self-confidence, enthusiasm?
B. Can he or she motivate others?
C. Is he or she aware of and at ease with a variety of leadership styles and able to use them as the situation indicates?
D. How does he or she function in interpersonal relationships?
E. How comfortable is he or she with being a person in whom authority rests? To what extent is he or she ready to claim and use that authority appropriately?
Meeting # 4: Exploration of call to ordained ministry
Present: Aspirant, Committee
1. What evidence do you have that this person is called by God to the ordained ministry?
A. Is the Aspirant confusing a calling to ordination with a calling to Christian service?
B. Are his or her primary interests congruent with the basic function of an ordained minister?
C. Are his or her innate abilities commensurate with the demands of the ordained ministry?
2. Can you envision this person as a Deacon or Priest in the Church?
Meeting # 5: Decision regarding the recommendation for proceeding in the ordination process
Present: Committee only
The committee reviews the previous weeks’ work and makes a final decision about whether to recommend that the Aspirant proceed in the ordination process. Using the recorder’s documentation and members’ input, prepare a written summary for the sixth meeting, using the format provided in the Attachment.
Meeting # 6: Summary and Wrap-up
Present: Aspirant and Committee
Present the written summary of the committee’s work to the Aspirant. If the committee endorses the Aspirant to the Sponsoring Presbyter, this report will accompany the Sponsoring Presbyter’s letter of endorsement to the Bishop. If the Aspirant is being redirected, the PDC might need to assist the Aspirant in recognizing and valuing a challenging, satisfying form of ministry in his or her other areas of primary involvement, i.e., work, family, community, or congregation, rather than in an ordained ministry.
PDC members should discuss what changes they have experienced during the meetings in their own attitudes about or concepts of Christian ministry. They also should determine what is needed to conclude this series of meetings among the committee, the Aspirant, and the Sponsoring Presbyter. Decide how the congregation may best support the Aspirant in the coming months.
The autobiography is designed to help Aspirants explore their life histories in the context of their spiritual journeys, their sense of call to ordained ministry and a description of the process of discernment by which he or she has been identified for ordination (III.6.2(b)(5) and III.8.2(b)(5). Aspirants write about their developmental life in the areas of family, personal relationships, school, career, and social and leisure activities. Ideally, Aspirants will produce succinct, substantive overviews of their lives, which will aid the PDC, and eventually the COM, to explore their sense of a call in greater depth. The autobiography should not exceed five (5) typewritten pages.
The Aspirants’ challenge is to describe their faith pilgrimages, woven into a developmental history that includes a chronology from early childhood to the present. Aspirants might want to break the history into sections, such as early childhood with summary background on parents and siblings and the quality of home life, school years through high school, post high school years and college years, and adult life experiences to the present. In each section, Aspirants should note significant life events that influenced both their spiritual and developmental lives. Aspirants should be prepared to articulate how these events influenced their sense of a call to the ordained ministry.
Since this is a lot to ask in five pages, the Aspirant might want to write as full an autobiography as possible in the first draft, and then edit the draft to the prescribed length, seeking help if desired from a trusted friend for review. Because of the volume of materials that the Diocese collects and reviews for each Aspirant, succinctness is highly valued. In-depth interviews will be a part of later phases of the process, so greater details can be presented at those times.
What is the Aspirant’s understanding of the Christian ministry?
1. Describe the current ministries of this person.
2. In what ways do you see/experience the Aspirant as one who is growing in the Christian faith?
3. What further growth is needed, and does this Aspirant have the capacity to achieve such growth?
4. Describe this person’s emotional health.
5. Describe this person’s leadership skills.
6. In what ways does this person envision his/her priesthood?
Recommend for continued Lay Ministry
Recommend for Diocesan Discernment Program
Recommend other alternatives at this time
[ ] Number of Concurrences
[ ] Number of Dissents
[ ] Number of Abstentions