Instructions for Sponsoring Priest
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 discerner is ordinarily expected to:
- Be a confirmed member in good standing of an Episcopal congregation in this Diocese for at least three 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 priest. Because the sponsoring priest is among the first to meet officially with a person discerning a call, the priest’s role is important. By listening carefully and responding thoughtfully, the priest 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 priest 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 priest 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 discerner’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 discerner’s work and educational experience including transcripts.
List of suggested persons the discerner would like to be considered for membership on a Congregational Discernment Committee (CDC), understanding that the CDC should also include members who are not well-known to the discerner.
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 discerner over a period of months for deeper conversations about discernment.
At this time, the discerner, the priest, and any CDC members will attend a Diocesan Discernment Information Gathering (DIG) for further information. The Bishop does require the sponsoring priest to attend this event with any discerner from their congregation. At least one member, usually the chair, of the CDC is required to attend but all members are encouraged to attend.
The CDC, after completing its series of meetings, usually for a period of 9 to 12 months, will write a report to the sponsoring priest, which is shared with the congregations’s governing body (vestry/BC). Invite the discerner to attend the next vestry/BC meeting and speak for a few minutes and respond to questions. The discerner is then asked to leave while the group deliberates on advancing the discerner to diocesan discernment.
A recommendation from the CDC, sponsoring priest, and the governing body is sent to the diocesan Office of Formation and Transition Ministry (OFTM). The sponsoring priest will be contacted by the OFTM to schedule an interview between the Bishop and the discerner. Both the sponsoring priest and a warden or other lay leader will be asked to attend the interview. The discerner will then be invited to begin diocesan discernment.
The sponsoring congregation will be asked to participate financially with the discerner in the following ways. The estimated total costs here are estimates only and may vary; they will be split equally between the Diocese, the discerner and the sponsoring congregation:
- Background Check (approximately $200)
- Initial Psychological Evaluation (approximately $1800)
- Final Psychiatric Evaluation (approximately $300)
The sponsoring priest’s job does not end with the beginning of diocesan discernment. Pastoral care to the discerner should continue through all phases of the process.
After the DDY year is complete, the COM will require the sponsoring congregation’s governing body to review the DDY reports, and re-affirm its support for the discerner by nominating them for postulancy. The nomination must be received before the “Next Steps” conference, where the COM considers advancement to postulancy.
If the discerner is advanced to postulancy, the postulant will likely return to the sponsoring congregation while completing their formation plan. At this time, in addition to ongoing pastoral care, the sponsoring priest is expected to continue to provide ministry and formation opportunities to the postulant.