UPDATED 24 January and 25 January – see UPDATE below.
Recent online discussions engendered by people encouraging ordination candidates in The Episcopal Church (Anglican Communion) as they headed to their General Ordination Examination, results in me sketching up what I think is needed in an ordained person nowadays.
I do this because I am conscious that in our numerically-small Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia there is not an agreed minimum standard. I am not even sure if there are written documents of minimum standards in dioceses, hui amorangi, or tikanga (cultural streams)?
For The Episcopal Church, you can see an example here: 2022 General Ordination Examination
Previous examples of examinations.
A primary principle appears to be that a priest is not simply a priest in a parish, ministry unit, or diocese – a priest is a priest in the whole church.
The areas of competence required in The Episcopal Church are:
- Christian Worship (TEC’s Book of Common Prayer 1979 and at least one other General Convention-approved liturgical resource)
- History of the Christian Church
- Christian Ethics and Moral Theology
- Christian Theology
- The Practice of Ministry
In thinking about things, I fell over the Australian Anglican draft minimum requirements for ordination. I appreciate that it acknowledges that ordinations can take place of people that don’t fulfil all requirements, but that bishops do so understanding that “variations from them are made self-consciously, intentionally and with adequate justification.” The Australian draft has four areas:
- Spirituality and faith
- Ministry Skills
- Australian Anglican identity
UPDATE (24 January 2023): Thanks to the comment of Clare Amos, here is the recent Church of England Qualities for Discernment of a Priestly vocation and Selection Criteria for Discernment to the Priesthood. I would note that in the FAR larger and diverse context of the Church of England, it has been possible to agree to ordination guidelines. Might I also here note the excellent points being discussed on the Liturgy Facebook Page.
UPDATE (25 January 2023): Thanks to the comment of Jim Pratt, here is the Competencies for the ministry of priests in the Anglican Church of Canada. And the previous CofE criteria for comparison with the new ones.[End of UPDATE].
In my own developing reflections, I think that for a person to be ready to be ordained they need a level of psychological maturity; I think they need to normally functioning at James Fowler’s Stage 5 of faith (in brief summary, I would describe that as having owned faith for oneself – Stage 4 – and having moved beyond needing to see one’s own expression of faith replicated in another person; the Benedictine understanding of faith may be, just as one example, the way that my spirit is nourished, but, as a Stage 5, I would not only be comfortable that for others this is not nourishing for them, but I would encourage the way that is appropriate to that individual).
Psychological maturity and one’s stage of faith are normally not areas of formation, study, and training. Nine areas of formation, study, and training that I think are needed in preparation for ordination spring to my mind:
- Context: agility in our post-modern, post-Christian, multi-faith, multi-cultural situation; agility with the digital situation in which we find ourselves (this is where people live); in Aotearoa-New Zealand being comfortable in Tikanga Māori and Te Reo Māori (culture and language)
- Spirituality: having a personal discipline of prayer and contemplation; being able to companion people on the spiritual journey
- Scripture: knowledge and understanding of the Bible and at least some agility with the effects of biblical languages, geography, and culture to situate the text in its original context
- Theology & ethics: this includes understanding ethical theories (deontological; utilitarian;…)
- History: basic overview of Christian history, Anglican history, Christian history in our own nation and region
- Pastoral: listening skills; basic counselling skills, and the knowledge of where one’s limitations extend to
- Worship Leadership: the ability to lead comfortably services that one is ordained to lead (the Daily Office, Baptism, Eucharist, Weddings, Funerals – these latter two one might not need immediately)
- Preaching: public speaking skills; how it differs from a lecture
- Leadership: dynamics; leadership theory and practice – including how to run a meeting, and understanding the rules of the church
What do you think? What is missing in my list?