Requirements for Discernment & Ordained Leadership 

All baptized Christians are called to discern throughout their lives; this document is meant to outline what is required for a person to enter and complete a formal process of discernment that may or may not lead to ordained ministry.  It is possible that this formal discernment leads to lay leadership – which should not be seen as a consolation prize.  The Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer asks us “Who are the ministers of the Church?” And the answer is telling: “The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.”  Note that “lay persons” are listed first.  That is because the Church’s work – its ministry – would not get done without lay people.  The diocesan Commission on Ministry is committed to providing resources to lift up and develop lay leaders. But the laity also needs leaders, and in many cases, although certainly not always, we look to ordained people for that leadership.

What does one need to embark on this “process” of Discernment in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles that may lead to ordained leadership? 

First, a person needs to be:

  • A confirmed member in good standing of an Episcopal Congregation in the Diocese of Los Angeles for a period of at least three (3) years.
  • Meeting with a Spiritual Director – someone other than one’s local priest, for at least a year before entering the discernment process.  Preferably the spiritual director is someone who is not in the sponsoring congregation.  Sometimes the spiritual director is not an Episcopalian.  For more information about Spiritual Direction, click here.
  • Involved in some aspect of leadership or ministry within one’s congregation, for example, as a Lector, Eucharistic Minister, member of the Altar Guild or the Vestry, a small group facilitator, the chair of some committee, or leader in an outreach ministry. In other words, a person should be active in the life of the congregation.
  • Prepared to spend 4 or 5 years to complete this discernment process, including:
    • Close to a year of congregational discernment in the sponsoring (home) congregation
    • Another year in the Diocesan Discernment Year (DDY) at a different congregation with another discernment committee and a mentoring priest
    • 3 or 4 years completing any necessary formation and education (see below)
  • If the discernment process reaches the postulancy stage (after the DDY), an individualized formation plan will be developed for the discerner.  The additional requirements outlined below are necessary to be considered for ordination:
    • A Masters of Divinity degree from an accredited seminary for candidates to the priesthood
    • Masters of Divinity degree or Certificate of Diaconal Studies from an accredited seminary for candidates to the diaconate
    • Completion of at least one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)
    • Completion of the individualized formation plan (developed by the Bishop, the Commission on Ministry, and the Office of Formation and Transition)
    • In addition to their native language, prospective priests or deacons should be able to lead a service and converse pastorally in a language that is used liturgically in this diocese
    • Candidates for the priesthood must take the General Ordination Exams (G.O.E.’s). Note: the exams are used as an indicator for possible further formation; not an absolute determination of whether or not a candidate will be ordained
    • Candidates for the diaconate must take the Canonical Exams. Note: the exams are used as an indicator for possible further formation; not an absolute determination of whether or not a candidate will be ordained

It would be a good idea, as well, to read this whole section of the diocesan website that describes this discernment journey, including the sections devoted to the roles of the Discerner, Discernment Committees and Congregations, Sponsoring and Mentoring Priests, the Diocesan Discernment Year, and the section on Lay Leadership.  There is also a large section that includes video interviews with the Bishop, as well as various Priests, Deacons, Members of Religious Communities and Lay Leaders – all of those are well worth watching to get an idea of the breadth of ministry opportunities available.  The Commission on Ministry has attempted to lay out everything here that you will want to know about getting into and living through this process.

A note about Seminary

While a few individuals begin their process of discernment in the Episcopal Church with a Masters of Divinity (MDiv) degree already completed, most do not. It is strongly recommended that enrollment in an MDiv program not begin until completion of the Diocesan Discernment Year (DDY), and only with the Bishop’s approval. For those who begin discernment having already obtained an MDiv (or other advanced theological degree), their transcripts will be subject to review and approval by the diocesan Examining Chaplains and the Bishop, and it is possible that further studies may be required.  It is important to note that completing an MDiv degree is not a guarantee of acceptance into the Diocesan Discernment and Formation process or of eventual ordination in the Episcopal Church.