The ordination process in The Diocese of West Missouri consists of a series of stages that are mostly prescribed by the Title III canons of the Episcopal Church. The canon governing the ordination of deacons is Canon 6, while the canon governing the ordination of priests is Canon 8. The first stage for either process is a pre-stage: a period of local discernment.
Discernment of vocation or “calling” means a process of reflection in community on how a Christian should live out his or her baptized ministry. A discernment process can be formal or informal, or something in between. It will include reflection upon a person’s sense of identity, purpose in life, spiritual gifts, and the needs of the community. The below document describes in detail the Diocese of West Missouri’s approach to vocational discernment, plus also resources for use by congregations or special ministries. The resources for this process are still in development, so please check back often to see what new resources are available.
The Discernment Handbook can be found here.
Every Christian has at least one vocation, and these may change at different stages of life. Most vocations are within the lay order. On a few rare occasions, however, a process of vocational discernment will lead to the conclusion that someone may be called to a ministry in the ordained orders, either deacon or priest. When that happens, it is appropriate for a congregation or special ministry to nominate that person for ordination.
A nomination for ordination consists of two canonically prescribed letters. One is a letter from the congregation or special ministry nominating a member for ordination. That letter must be signed by the priest-in-charge and at least 2/3 of the Vestry or Bishop’s Committee, or by a priest and at least 2/3 of the governing council of a special ministry. The second letter is from the Nominee accepting the nomination for ordination. These two letters together then initiate the formal process for ordination in the diocese. The below document describes that process of nomination in detail. At the conclusion of that process, the Bishop may choose to admit the Nominee as a Postulant for either the diaconate or priesthood.
Preparation for Ordination: Postulancy and Candidacy
Postulancy is the time to begin formal preparation for ordination. Below is a helpful paper explaining the expectations, do’s and don’ts of being a Postulant: Postulancy
The first step will be to apply for admission to an authorized school. For Postulants for deacon, there is only one authorized school:
- The Bishop Kemper School For Ministry (BKSM): bishopkemperschool.org
For deacon Postulants, BKSM offers a two-year curriculum. Details of the curriculum are on the above website.
Postulants for the priesthood may attend one of the accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church, or BKSM. For Postulants who expect to remain in Missouri, Kansas or Nebraska, and who expect their priestly ministries to be either part-time or unpaid, BKSM is the obvious choice, as it is designed specifically for students who will remain in the diocese while continuing to work at secular employment. The BKSM curriculum for future priests consists of 30 courses taken over three years. Details of the curriculum are on the BKSM website.
Postulants for the priesthood who expect to work full-time for the church, and especially those willing to relocate to any diocese, should plan to attend an accredited seminary and enroll in its Master of Divinity curriculum. These are:
- Berkley Divinity School at Yale (New Haven, CT): berkeleydivinity.yale.edu
- Bexley-Seabury (Chicago, IL): bexleyseabury.edu
- Church Divinity School of the Pacific (Berkley, CA): cdsp.edu
- Episcopal Divinity School (Cambridge, MA): eds.edu
- Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest (Austin, TX): ssw.edu
- The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church (New York, NY): gts.edu
- Nashotah House (Nashotah, WI): www.nashotah.edu
- Trinity School for Ministry (Ambridge, PA): www.tsm.edu
- The School of Theology, University of the South (Sewanee, TN): theology.sewanee.edu
- Virginia Theological Seminary (Alexandria, VA): www.vts.edu
Note that students attending an accredited seminary will be expected to have already completed a bachelor’s degree.
During the first year of Postulancy, Postulants will be asked to complete the following:
- A 10-year background check through Oxford Document Company, at Postulant’s expense ($120). The diocese will email a release form to start the background check.
- A medical examination using forms from the Church Pension Fund. Postulants may use their own doctors. The diocese will email the required forms.
- A psychological evaluation, at the diocese’s expense. The diocese will make the arrangements.
In addition to the academic requirements of the seminary curriculum, all Postulants—both for priest or deacon—must complete the following training before ordination:
- Prevention of sexual misconduct—and
- Civil requirements reporting and pastoral opportunities for responding to evidence of abuse. Both of these requirements may be offered by the seminary, or may be completed using the online Safeguarding units offered through the diocese’s department of Human Resources.
- The Constitutions and Canons of the Episcopal Church, particularly Title IV thereof. This requirement will be offered by the seminary.
- The Church’s teaching on racism (or the wider Diversity training). This training will be offered by most seminaries, and periodically by the diocese.
Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)
The Diocese of West Missouri also requires all persons in the ordination process to complete a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). For students in accredited seminaries, the seminary will help arrange CPE, which is normally taken in the summer—either between Junior and Middler years, or between Middler and Senior years. For BKSM students the CPE process is more complex. BKSM students may take CPE during the summer, provided they can be off work for 10 weeks. Otherwise, there are extended CPE programs that can take several months up to a year. The Commission on Ministry (COM) will help BKSM students to find and apply to CPE programs. Where a CPE program is not available, or cannot be fit into the student’s work schedule, the COM will help arrange a “CPE-like” alternative program. For many BKSM students, CPE will follow completion of the BKSM curriculum. For more general information about CPE, please see the website for the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc.: www.acpe.edu
All persons in the ordination process must pass an examination prior to ordination. For deacons, the exam will cover the following five required areas: (Title III, Canon 6.5.f)
- Academic studies including, The Holy Scriptures, theology, and the tradition of the Church.
- Diakonia and the diaconate.
- Human awareness and understanding.
- Spiritual development and discipline.
- Practical training and experience.
The canonical examination for deacons will be administered by the Diocesan Board of Examining Chaplains (DBEC) following graduation from BKSM—usually in July.
For priests, the exam will cover the following six required areas: (Title III, Canon 8.5.g)
- The Holy Scriptures.
- History of the Christian Church.
- Christian Theology.
- Christian Ethics and Moral Theology.
- Christian Worship according to the use of the Book of Common Prayer, the Hymnal, and authorized supplemental texts.
- The Practice of Ministry in contemporary society, including leadership, evangelism, stewardship, ecumenism, interfaith relations, mission theology, and the historical and contemporary experience of racial and minority groups.
For students at accredited seminaries, the exam will normally be the General Ordination Examination (GOE), given in early January of the Senior year. Here is the website of the General Board of Examining Chaplains with more information on the exam: www.episcopalgbec.org.
For students at BKSM, the canonical examination will be administered by the Diocesan Board of Examining Chaplains (DBEC) following graduation from BKSM—also usually in July. The exam content will be very similar to that of the GOE, but with a more flexible schedule for completion.
BKSM students will also be required to perform an internship following graduation from BKSM. Students at accredited seminaries will not normally be asked to perform an internship, as their Field Education units in seminary are considered sufficient. Here is a document that further explains the internship requirement: Internship
Along the way between being made a Postulant and ordination, the Postulant must apply to be admitted as a Candidate for ordination. For priest Postulants, this step will normally take place after the Middle year. For deacons, this step will normally start around January of the second year at BKSM. Here is a document that explains that process: How to Apply for Candidacy.
After completing all of the requirements to be ordained, a Candidate may apply for ordination. Here is a document that explains these final steps: How to Apply for Ordination.
The Ordination Process for Clergy from other Churches
Persons who have been previously ordained in other denominations or communions have a different process toward ordination or reception than that described above. The ordination process for clergy from other churches is defined in Title III, Canon 10. There are three basic categories, with different procedures for each:
- Clergy Ordained by Bishops of Churches in Communion with The Episcopal Church.
- Clergy Ordained by Bishops in Churches in the Historic Succession but Not in Communion with The Episcopal Church.
- Clergy Ordained in Churches Not in the Historic Succession
For these processes, please read this document: The Canon 10 Process (to be developed).