Deacons: Discernment Process
(Note: This process may need to be adjusted according to individual Parish needs. The Bishop and Diaconal Commission will help the Parish/Congregation make that determination.)
4.1.1 When a person is considering becoming a candidate, he or she will inform both the Incumbent and the Wardens. The Church Committee (Parish Council) will be informed of the request. If the Committee supports the application and wishes the process to continue, then the Committee agrees to support the individual in the following ways:
4.1.2 Inquirer discusses interest in the Diaconate with Incumbent.
4.1.3 Inquirer meets with Bishop, if Incumbent is supportive.
4.1.4 Bishop calls Diaconal Commission who will send an application form to inquirer. Diaconal Commission will also send a set of questions and guidelines for the formation of either two separate groups or one discernment/support group for the inquirer, to the Incumbent. (See Appendix A, B, and/or C)
4.1.5 Upon return of application, Diaconal Commission arranges to interview inquirer.
4.1.6 The Diaconal Commission will arrange for a psychological assessment of the inquirer. When the test results are returned the Diaconal Commission meets with the inquirer to discuss those results.
4.1.7 Commission writes report for Bishop, sends initial paperwork, and recommends whether or not inquirer ought to enter the programme, as a candidate.
4.1.8 The Incumbent and wardens meet with the Church Committee to obtain a commitment to form a discernment/support group for the candidate and a commitment to lead the Parish/Congregation through a training process on the role and function of a deacon.
4.1.9 The Incumbent and wardens will meet with candidate to clarify expectations of the programme, including formation of a discernment/support group(s), as well as the financial commitment of Parish/Congregation to candidate’s discernment and training process. Required financial support includes: 50% of required course fees (not including books), 50% accommodation if billets are not available, and 100% of fuel for travel for candidate’s attendance at all required courses and interviews.
4.1.10 Candidate may begin the education segment of the programme at any point in this initial process.
4.1.11 Bishop meets with the Inquirer to discuss report from the Commission and then communicates the Episcopal decision, regarding entrance into the programme as a candidate, to the Diaconal Commission.
4.1.12 Diaconal Commission holds an education event in the Parish on the diaconate and diaconal ministries, including meeting with discernment/support group(s) to help clarify standards for working together.
4.1.13 Parish discernment/support group(s) meets regularly to:
evaluate their own readiness and to understand their task
to evaluate readiness of Parish/Congregation to receive a deacon
assess that the candidate is appropriate to be a deacon in the Parish/Congregation
determine how best to support the candidate
4.1.14 Parish discernment/support group(s), after the Parish/Congregational training, makes a written recommendation to the Diaconal Commission as to suitability of candidate, and readiness of Parish to have a deacon. The process will end at this point, if the candidate is deemed to be unsuitable or the Parish/Congregation is deemed to be unready.
4.1.15 Diaconal Commission reviews candidate’s completed application form and Parish/Congregation’s recommendation then forwards these completed forms, together with their own recommendation for Candidate’s continuing education needs, to the Bishop.
4.1.16 If all recommendations are positive, and the Bishop is willing, the candidate may formally enter the training programme.
4.1.17 Diaconal Commission sends a letter to the Bishop reporting on the candidate’s progress through the programme with evaluative comments.
4.1.18 Generally, after one year the candidate, upon the recommendation of the Bishop, is interviewed by the Examining Chaplains. This interview will primarily assess the candidate’s understanding of diaconal ministry and recommends, or not, attendance at a Diocesan Advisory Committee on Postulants for Ordination (ACPO).
4.1.19 If the above recommendation is positive, the candidate attends a Diocesan ACPO.
4.1.20 If the Diocesan ACPO says no, and the Bishop wishes to move forward with the ordination process for the candidate, the Bishop will write a letter to the Diaconal Commission and the Examining Chaplains stating reasons for allowing the candidate to move forward with the process.
4.1.21 After attending a Diocesan ACPO and upon the decision of the Bishop, the candidate becomes a postulant and may meet with the Examining Chaplains for a further interview.
4.1.22 The Postulant continues training and formation events.
4.1.23 The Postulant meets a second time with Diaconal Commission. This interview will assess the candidate’s growth and understanding of the diaconate, as he/she moved through the formation process and identify any issues that may have arisen during formation.
4.1.24 The Diaconal Commission writes a final recommendation to the Bishop regarding Postulant’s readiness for ordination to the diaconate.
4.1.25 The Postulant meets with Bishop.
4.1.26 If Bishop decides to ordain postulant she/he will become an Ordinand. The Parish/Congregation will write a covenant with the Ordinand setting out the nature and scope of the new deacon in that Parish/Congregation. (See Appendix E for a sample covenant).
4.2 Note: If this discernment process is stopped at any point because the candidate is deemed unsuitable, there is a process in place to provide pastoral care for the candidate and the Parish. (See Appendix B)
4.3 It is important to remember throughout the process that there is no guarantee of eventual ordination. The final decision rests with the Bishop.