Discerning a Call to Ministry

If you think you may be hearing a call to become a priest or deacon in the Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Northern California provides valuable resources to help you with your discernment.

The Diocese of Northern California requires those who feel a call to ordained ministry to attend a Discernment Weekend. The intent of this webpage is to provide instruction and the necessary forms to guide you through the process of applying for a Discernment Weekend. Rely on the Manual and Guide for Ordination and the CCOM Guidelines for detailed information.

It may take a year or more from the time you meet with the clergy in charge of your congregation until you attend a Discernment Weekend. This is a time of discernment. God’s time is not the same as our time. This is not a time of completing tasks and filling out documents – although that is part of what you need to do.

You may send completed paper documents to the Office of the Bishop (OOB) through the mail. Please send them to the attention of the Ordination Coordinator. If you send paper documents, be sure to keep a copy for yourself. You may also send scanned documents electronically to the Ordination Coordinator.

CCOM and Vestry Discernment

After completing the CCOM discernment process and receiving an endorsement from your Vestry, send these four completed documents to the OOB:

- Nominee’s written acceptance of Vestry nomination – write a brief letter accepting the Vestry’s nominaton for Postulancy.
- Endorsement of Application for Postulancy 
- Letter of recommendation from the Clergy in Charge
- Report of CCOM to Clergy and Vestry – see CCOM Guidelines

After receipt of these documents, the OOB will invoice your congregation for the cost of the required background check and psychological screening. A background check, psychological evaluation and medical examination are required prior to attending a Discernment Weekend. This information is kept confidential.

Your congregation must pay the invoice in order for the process to proceed.

Background Check

The OOB will initiate the background check after receipt of payment from your congregation. You will receive documents from Oxford within several days, which you must complete, sign, and return promptly to Oxford. Do not delay, as the background check process is lengthy and can take three months or more.

Psychological and Medical Examinations

The Church Pension Fund requires that specific forms are used for these examinations.

Authorization and Release Form: provides a consent process that gives formal permission to conduct sensitive examinations. The authorization and release allows clinicians and diocesan officials to communicate among themselves and with one another. The forms release all parties from liability for good-faith actions related to the medical, psychological and psychiatric screening of applicants for ordained ministry.

Life History Questionnaire (LHQ): a clinical self-assessment document that forms the basis for a structured clinical interview by the diocese’s designated psychiatrist or psychologist.

Behavioral Screening Questionnaire (BSQ): a clinical and risk management document, which focuses on a history of the nominee’s behavior and conduct in areas such as professional discipline, ethics violations, sexual misconduct and breaches of fiduciary duty.

Medical Examination Form: addresses the nominee’s physical state of health and the areas that may affect professional functioning in the Church.

Instructions for the Medical Examination

Have your physician perform a medical examination, complete the required Medical Examination form and send the completed medical examination form to the Ordination Coordinator’s attention at the Office of the Bishop.

Instructions for the Psychological Examination

Complete two copies of the BSQ and the Authorization and Release and send a copy of both forms to the Ordination Coordinator. After receipt of the BSQ and Authorization and Release, the Ordination Coordinator will provide you with the psychologist’s contact information and authorize you to initiate the process. Do not delay completing paperwork, scheduling appointments and taking psychological tests, as this process takes several months to complete.

After contacting the psychologist, send the following documents to the psychologist with sufficient time for review before a face-to-face meeting.

- Life History Questionnaire (kept as part of clinician’s medical record, not provided to the Diocese)
- Behavioral Screening Questionnaire
- Authorization and Release Form

After completion of the psychological examination process, the psychologist will send a report to the Office of the Bishop. The report is kept confidential.

Formal Application

During the time the background check, medical examination and psychological evaluation is proceeding, the nominee gathers and completes the following documents and sends them to the Diocesan Ordination Coordinator:

- Personal Data Sheet
- Application for Holy Orders 
- Six letters of recommendation from a variety of sources
- Current resume
- Wallet size photograph
- Evidence of Baptism and Confirmation
- Transcripts of college work or equivalent

The Ordination Coordinator will send the nominee a letter of invitation to the Discernment Weekend, which is contingent on receipt of all required materials by the set deadline. The DCOM Chair will also contact the nominee to provide helpful information about the Discernment Weekend.

© 2013 The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California.

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