Commission on Ministry
The Commission on Ministry is made up of lay and ordained members of The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California who help discern and guide the formation of the baptized for ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church in Northern California.
Discerning a Call to Ordained Ministry
In the Episcopal Church, call to ordained ministry as Priest or Deacon is discerned in community. We are all called to ministry through our baptism: this discernment process is to engage the questions around a call to ministry under the authority of your bishop, in a particular order within the church.
As part of its commitment to implementing Resolution 2015-D014 of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (Evaluate Individuals in the Ordination Process for Addiction Concerns), the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California has created a policy on Alcohol/Substance Dependency and Mental Health Issues for Individuals Seeking Ordained Ministry. Make sure that you review this policy carefully. The process is outlined in the Ordination Manual and on the Ordination Process flowchart and is summarized below.
Meeting with your Priest
The first formal step in the discernment process is to meet with the priest in charge of your congregation to discuss your sense of call. You will likely meet several times, over a span of time, as a part of this initial discernment. This priest will also be referred to as your sponsoring priest during this process. Remember that God’s time is not the same as our time. It may be a year or even longer from the time you first meet with the priest in charge of your congregation until you are eligible to be invited to attend a Discernment Weekend. This holy time is not just a time of completing tasks and filling out documents, although that is part of what you need to do. It is also a time of listening deeply, both individually and in community, for how God is calling you to serve in the Episcopal Church and whether ordination is required for you to answer that call.
Guidelines for Sponsoring Clergy
Day of Discernment
The Diocese of Northern California requires those who feel a call to ordained ministry to attend the Day of Discernment. The Day of Discernment is offered twice a year: ideally once in the Spring and once in the Fall. (During this time of social distancing, we are planning an online meeting.) It is intended to help those who are discerning a call to ordained ministry explore the various aspects of that call, as well as to consider the richness of a possible continued ministry as a lay person. During the Day of Discernment, there are presentations on the priesthood and the diaconate, as well as presentations by members of religious orders active in our diocese. There is also an overview of the ordination process. Day of Discernment registration is announced in Diocesan newsletters and on our homepage.
Regional Discernment Group and Vestry/Mission Committee/Mission Committee Discernment
After you and your sponsoring priest have attended the Day of Discernment, and if you and your sponsoring priest have discerned that you will continue discerning the call to ordained ministry as a priest or deacon, your sponsoring clergy will send a formal letter to the ordinations coordinator in the Office of the Bishop. The letter should state that the Sponsoring Clergy and aspirant have met following the Day of Discernment to review the expectations and determine their level of preparedness. This letter will then start the process for the aspirant, the application file in the Office of the Bishop will be opened and the Regional Discernment Group (RDG) coordinator will be notified. The coordinator will then convene the small group which will conduct the interviews, assured that the Sponsoring Clergy and aspirant have gone over all of the requirements, the checklist and the expectations involved. The Regional Discernment Group consists of lay and ordained members with particular gifts for discernment. At least 2/3 of its members must be from congregations other than your sponsoring congregation. The Regional Discernment Group will prepare a report with a formal recommendation to your sponsoring priest your congregation’s Vestry/Mission Committee, and the Bishop about your suitability for ordination. If your Vestry/Mission Committee, after reviewing the Regional Discernment Group’s report, believes that your call is to ordained ministry, they will vote to formally endorse your application for Postulancy.
Regional Discernment Guidelines
After you receive your Regional Discernment Group’s endorsement you will compile a formal application and complete a number of tests outlined in the Ordination Manual.
Meeting with The Bishop
Once you have confirmed that your application file is complete and that the Office of the Bishop has received all required reports, you should contact the Ordination Process Coordinator to schedule a meeting with the Bishop. The purpose of this meeting is for the Bishop to get to know you and talk with you about your sense of call to ordained ministry. After reviewing your application file and meeting with you, the Bishop will decide whether or not to invite you to a Discernment Weekend.
The Discernment Weekend
The Discernment Weekend is held 1-2 times a year. It is an opportunity for members of the Diocesan Commission on Ministry (COM) and the Standing Committee (SC) to meet with 3-5 individuals to explore their sense of call to ordained ministry. After a series of interviews and a time of discernment, the COM will make a formal recommendation to the Bishop regarding admission to postulancy. The Bishop will notify you, your sponsoring priest the COM, and the SC in writing of her decision regarding your admission to postulancy.
In the Ordination Process
Once you are a Postulant, the Commission on Ministry liaison will be a valuable resource for you. If you are unsure of the process or have questions, contact your liaison or the ordination coordinator in the Bishop’s Office.
All documents should be sent electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Send documentation of required training in the following areas to the Office of the Bishop:
- Prevention of sexual misconduct;
- Civil requirements for reporting and pastoral opportunities for responding to evidence of abuse;
- Church’s teaching on racism;
- Community Development Training course – required for deacons
- Demonstrated ability to conduct a service in a foreign language (sign language is accepted) – required for priests
The Candidacy and Ordination to the Diaconate forms are used for the vocational diaconate and the priesthood.