Ordination into Holy Orders in Christ’s Holy Catholic Church, and specifically in the Anglican Church of Canada, is a privilege not a right. Every Christian is called by God through baptism to minister by the effective use of his or her spiritual gifts in life’s context. The ordained ministry is only one of many ways in which God calls the baptized to serve Christ.
The Ordained Ministry — Is It For You?
We do not judge those seeking ordination on the basis of how well they meet the standards of those who are already formed and matured ordained ministers. We do, however, seek to discern the signs or “clues” which will, in time, produce individuals capable of effective ordained ministry.
The discernment of the particular form of vocation for which God is equipping a person is the responsibility of that person and the Christian community and an individual’s sense of calling is never above the scrutiny and jurisdiction of the Church. It is for this reason that the Diocese of Montreal has a policy of corporate discernment procedures at parish, diocesan and regional levels.
It is the responsibility of the Christian community to offer continuous support to individuals in their vocational development, whether it be lay or ordained. Hence the postulancy procedure makes provision for this support in a variety of ways:
We offer support for the discernment of gifts for lay ministries for those not accepted in the ordination track.
We are committed to clear lines of responsibility for communicating decisions to the candidate. At each level, failure by the designated individual to communicate negative recommendations honestly, would constitute an act of non-support.
We have established a mentoring process for those on the ordination track, beginning after acceptance by The Advisory Committee on Postulants for Ordination (ACPO) and continuing throughout the theological training. It is hoped that this would become a pattern of nurturing faith development and self-care which would remain in place throughout his/her ministry. Since this mentoring relationship is one of trust and confidentiality it would not normally be part of the evaluation process.
According to canon law, the Bishop is the person who makes the final decision about whether or not to make a person a Postulant. He/she certainly listens to advice and recommendations, but is the ultimate decision maker. Once a person becomes a postulant in the Diocese of Montreal we will do everything in our power to assist him/her in the process of educational formation. We assume that he/she will be ordained at the end of the process unless something of major significance occurs. It is for this reason that extensive screening is done before granting postulancy.
Procedure for Ordination
A candidate for Holy Orders in the Diocese of Montreal will normally pass through five stages before being ordained as a priest. The requirements for each stage must be successfully completed before the next stage is begun. With no prejudice to either party, the process may be terminated at any stage by either the Diocese of Montreal or the candidate. Discussion of the reasons shall precede termination. A brief flowchart of the stages and individuals or groups involved follows
Church level Church body Function
Parish Incumbent Contact person and initial discernment
Diocese Bishop Gives go ahead for discernment
Parish Parish Ministry Group Discerning Body
Diocese Bishop’s Commision on Ministry Discerning Body
Province ACPO Discerning Body
College Faculty and Assigned Parish Instruction, supervision and Evaluation
Diocese Bishop Ordination to Diaconate (transitional or vocational)
Diocese Bishop Ordination to Presbyterate
At each stage of the process, the candidate and the parish/diocesan individuals or groups involved, have a responsibility for open communication and discussion of both positive and negative recommendations. In the event of termination, the candidate will be offered support and re-direction by qualified persons in the diocese or the parish.
Quick Overview of Process
A person expressing interest in serving the Anglican Church in an ordained capacity, confers with the Incumbent of the church where he or she has been worshipping, for initial exploration into implications of a call to ordained ministry. If the Incumbent feels that the call might be legitimate and the individual’s personality and lifestyle compatible with ordained life, and after the individual has spoken with the Bishop, they proceed to the next step.
The individual is asked to fill out The Inquirer’s History Form and submit it to the Incumbent. This form will include biographical information, as well as a brief history of his or her spiritual journey. Upon receipt of the completed form, the Incumbent convenes the Parish Ministry Group (PMG) and contacts the Chair of the Bishop’s Commission on Ministry (BCom).
The PMG and the Incumbent meet with a representative from BCom to discuss their purpose and the process of discernment. Diocesan resource material will be given to each member. Once the briefing is completed, copies of The Inquirer’s History Form are distributed to members of the PMG.
Over the course of six to eight months, the PMG meets with the Inquirer to explore his/her sense of vocation and aptitude for ordained ministry.
The Incumbent and Convenor of the PMG meet with the Inquirer to communicate the recommendations of the PMG. All pertinent information is forwarded to the Chair of the BCom who reviews it and, where necessary, requests additional information. He/she then arranges for the Bishop to meet with the Applicant. The Bishop meets with the Applicant to discuss current and future opportunities for ordained ministry in the Diocese of Montreal, and to learn each other’s expectations.
Qualities Desired in Prospective Postulants for Ordination
Spirituality and Church Life
Deep faith, revealed in an obvious sense of God’s presence, and an ongoing search for the meaning of life through relating the biblical model of life and the traditions of the Christian faith to personal life and spiritual reflection.
Awareness of the need to serve God, which is already reflected in the exercise of baptismal ministry; an understanding of the differences, as well as the relationships, between lay and ordained ministries; a commitment to empowering and preparing all the people of God for their ministries in the church and the world.
A confirmed or received member of the Anglican Communion for at least three years before application for consideration as a Postulant, and at least two years as an active participant in the worshipping life of the sponsoring parish; a breadth of church experience.
A knowledge of, and commitment to the faith and tradition of the Anglican Church; an acceptance of its ecumenical role in today’s world, and an openness to engaging with new theologies which may challenge current beliefs and assumptions.
Vision for Ministry (pastoral and social concern)
Leadership potential which is evident by level of participation in both church and secular activities; a sense of humility combined with the understanding that effective church leadership is responsive to the guidance and will of God.
Possesses basic communication skills which enable him/her to express and respond to the concerns of others; has, or is developing, the ability to express thoughts and feelings clearly in order to inform, motivate and/or challenge and persuade.
Shows an ability to build community and welcome newcomers into groups.
Demonstrates healthy pastoral skills by the ability to be with others in their spiritual and emotional needs; is able to balance this with both personal needs and the corporate needs of the worshipping community;
A desire to proclaim the Good News through social witness and evangelism, and the willingness to take the risks associated with making a difference in the church, the community and the world; f)
Authenticity: A sense of personal worth as a child of God; an evident moral integrity; a realization that a priest is human, not divine, and is therefore subject to human limitations and imperfections;
Visible physical, emotional and spiritual health;
A lifestyle which is compatible with the teachings of Christ, and the willingness to live in accordance with the official position of the Anglican Church of Canada on Sexuality and Ordination to Ministry in the Church;
The person is intellectually curious and able to think clearly and critically;