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The Discernment Process for Ordination Candidates
The Church of England works to discern whether a person is experiencing a call from God to ordained ministry locally, in the diocese and nationally. The Director of Ordinands, the Revd Mary-Lou Toop, oversees this process in the Diocese of Hereford on behalf of the Bishop.
Any candidate who is given permission to test their vocation formally will need to be prepared for the process to take a minimum of 12-18 months. If a candidate and/or spouse has been married previously and the former spouse is still alive, an Archbishops' Faculty is needed before going further and the process may well take longer.
After meeting with Mary-Lou there will be a number of early interviews to discern whether it is right to proceed. Candidates will be required then to complete a Registration Form and other administrative paperwork, to have a clear Enhanced CRB Disclosure, and to do a written Pastoral Exercise. References are taken up. When the person is ready, Mary-Lou will organise a Diocesan Advisory Panel (pre-assessment). Candidates have 3 interviews with advisers, who then report to Mary-Lou. If the panel is able to support a candidate in going forward, s/he will be asked to see Bishop Anthony, who then takes the decision about whether a candidate is sponsored for a national Bishop's Advisory Panel (BAP.)
The candidate then does more preparation for the BAP. These Panels run through most of the year, except around major festivals and in August, so there is good availability of places, but the spring and summer months are usually very busy. It may take some weeks or even months before a suitable date can be offered. There is no quota system in operation at a BAP - each person is treated as an individual and their vocation is discerned in this way.
BAPS run over 3 days. While they are there, candidates will have more interviews, give a presentation and lead a discussion group, amongst other tasks. It is a demanding experience. The panel's report is sent about 10 days later to the Bishop, who will relay the news to the candidate as soon he can.
Candidates may be recommended for training; not recommended or conditionally recommended. No-one is ever recommended for ordination at this stage - discernment goes on during the period of initial ministerial training.
The questions everyone is asking in the discernment process are really these:
- What is God's will for this candidate?
- Does the person have the necessary gifts and potential for ordained ministry?