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Instructions for Sponsoring Clergy

All members of the church are called to live out the Good News of God’s love, justice and compassion – and it is truly a privilege to be invited into the holy place of conversation about discernment for that ministry – whether lay or ordained. 

A seeker is ordinarily expected to: 

  • Be a member in good standing and a pledging member of an Episcopal worship community for at least the two previous years. 
  • Be a confirmed Episcopalian for at least two years. 
  • Have been in consultation with a spiritual director for at least a year. 
  • Have experience of participation and leadership in a wide variety of parish ministries.

A formal discernment process for ministry of leadership, lay or ordained, is preceded by a series of conversations with the sponsoring clergy. Because the sponsoring clergy is among the first to meet officially with a person discerning a call, the clergy leader’s role is important. By listening carefully and responding thoughtfully, the clergy leader may assist a person to perceive and express more clearly the nature of that call. In these initial contacts, the process of exploration and testing the vocation has begun. The clergy should note any recent problems in the individual’s life and be alert to manifestations of stress or trauma at the time the notion of ministry call is voiced. These issues, if present, must be resolved before continuing the discernment process. If the priest cannot in good conscience support the individual, for whatever reason, this must be made known to the individual at the very beginning of the process. Further, it is not to be assumed that any such issues impacting discernment would or could necessarily be resolved at a later stage in the process. 

The initial discussion in part should review the person’s spiritual life. Does the clergy leader see evidence of a discipline of prayer, regular attendance at public worship, a commitment to the ongoing life and mission of the Church, and contact with a spiritual guide or director?  This initial exploration between clergy and the individual pursuing discernment would further include: 

  • Discussion of the faith community’s role in identification of call. 
  • Exploration of leadership options within the congregation. 
  • Reflection upon and discernment of God’s action in one’s life: A rule of life, personal prayer, 

study, worship, service to others; an Anglican understanding of the Sacraments and Scripture; and the distinction between the roles of lay minister, deacon, priest and monastic.

 Following those conversations, the next step before a formal process is initiated is the submission of the following documents for consideration.

Spiritual autobiography (5-7 pages) that addresses the seeker’s: 

  • religious background and experience; 
  • past and present Church involvement and leadership experience; 
  • sense of calling and spirituality; 
  • significant relationships; 
  • vision of how her/his ministry will contribute to the Church and community.  

Resume detailing the seeker’s work and educational experience including transcripts. 

List of suggested persons the seeker would like to be considered for membership on a Congregational Discernment Committee (CDC).

At this time, the seeker, the sponsoring clergy, and any potential CDC members will attend a Diocesan Information Gathering (DIG) for further information. The Bishop does require clergy to attend this event with any seeker from their congregation.

If all concur that the time is right for a formal discernment process, a CDC – made up of from 6-8 members – is convened to meet with the seeker over a period of months for deeper conversations about discernment.

The CDC, after completing its series of meetings, will complete a report to the sponsoring clergy and the governing body (vestry/BC).  The governing body will review the report and decide on presenting the seeker for diocesan discernment.

A recommendation forward from the CDC, sponsoring clergy, and governing body is followed by referral to the Diocesan Officer for Formation and an invitation to the Diocesan Discernment Retreat where the seeker meets with the Commission on Ministry to move on to the next discernment steps.