The Church’s mission is “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” The Church pursues its mission “as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.” The Church carries out its mission “through the ministry of all its members.” (The Prayer Book Catechism, p. 855).
All baptized persons are called to the ministry of the Church, which is the ministry of Jesus Christ. From the whole Body of the faithful, only a few are called out (not up!) to serve as ordained ministers of the Church.
From the ministry of all the baptized come three orders of ministry: bishops, priests and deacons. Deacons fall into two categories: vocational and transitional. Vocational deacons are those called, prepared and ordained to remain deacons. The process for discernment and formation for ordained ministry in the Diocese of West Texas is structured for those called to priesthood. While vocational deacons who move into the Diocese may be licensed to serve, we do not have a discernment process or education/formation program designed for vocational deacons.
Transitional deacons are those ordained to the diaconate as part of their continuing formation for eventually entering the priesthood. If you feel that God may be calling you to the priesthood of The Episcopal Church, you should first explore this sense of call with your priest. If there is not a local priest, please contact a priest at a neighboring church or town. This is the first and essential step: Talk to your priest.
Complete details about the discernment process in West Texas are available from the Bishop’s Office, and may be requested by your priest. What follows is an overview of the process.
Experiencing a call to ordained ministry—whether it comes in a dramatic and decisive moment, or sneaks up on you slowly and quietly—is often intensely personal. But it cannot remain private. An individual’s interior call must be affirmed by the external call of the Church. The Church does not lay hands lightly on any person, and we can bring harm to individuals and to the Church by ordaining people not truly called.
Those who feel called to this ministry must enter the “discernment process,” which provides plenty of time and opportunity for a person and the Church to explore and test this vocation.
The discernment process in theDiocese of West Texas is highly structured and sequential and takes time, frequently more than a year.
Prior to admission by the Bishop into the discernment process, an individual must:
If the Bishop permits someone to move forward, he or she shifts from the discernment process to the ordination process (though discernment continues, always!) Several steps remain before the person is given permission to enroll in a residential seminary or in the diocesan Iona Collaborative for bi-vocational priesthood.
These steps include the official support of the local church’s Vestry or Bishop’s Committee, and physical and psychological examinations.
Throughout a person’s time in the ordination process, discernment continues. Coursework, further endorsement by the sending parish or mission, check-ins with the Bishop, certification by the diocesan Standing Committee, and an annual retreat with the diocesanExamining Chaplains are just a few of the ways that those preparing to be ordained are supported and guided by the Church during these critical years.
No one may enter the ordination process without the Bishop’s permission; and no one may be ordained by theBishop without the consent of the Standing Committee. The many steps and stages of the discernment and ordination processes are not intended to be hoops to jump through, but a means of grace by which you might reflect upon a possible call to Holy Orders and by which the Church might assess and support such a call.
Remember, the first step is to talk it over with your priest.