The Commission on Ministry is a group of clergy and lay people from all parts of our diocese. Our purpose is to help men and women discover if they have a call to ordained ministry, and monitor their progress as they move from Aspirant, to Postulant, to Candidate for Orders, to ordination as a deacon.
The Commission on Ministry is part of an efficient system of checks and balances present in our Diocese’s ordination process.
- When an individual believes he or she is being called by God to be ordained, he or she will first meet with her or his rector or vicar, and get the rector or vicar’s approval, in writing, to the Bishop. The discernment process with one’s parish priest should be significant, taking up to a year, before such a recommendation is made. Resources helpful in that process might include: The Christian Priest Today by M. Ramsay, The Good Shepherd by L. Newbigin or II Timothy by J. Stott
- Before proceeding with the discernment process, the postulant will be given an exam to assess basic Biblical competence.
- The individual will then meet with the Canon to the Ordinary to discuss the ordination process, in preparation for an interview with Bishop Lawrence. This will include the preparation of a Spiritual Biography.
- The Aspirant will schedule a time to meet with Bishop Lawrence for his permission to proceed further in the process.
- With that permission, the rector or vicar will then set up a Parish Discernment Committee who will meet with the individual over a period of several months.
- If the discernment committee recognizes the call, they will recommend the individual to the church’s vestry or mission council.
- If the vestry or mission council affirms the call, their affirmation, along with the committee’s report are sent to Bishop Lawrence.
- If the bishop approves, the individual meets with the appointed professional for a psychological examination, as well as completing the rest of the paperwork required for the application process.
- That examiner presents his findings to Bishop Lawrence, and if the bishop believes there is a potential calling, he allows the individual to meet with the Commission on Ministry during what is normally an annual overnight retreat.
- The Commission on Ministry interviews the individual (and spouse if married), and gives its recommendations to Bishop Lawrence. (Bishop Lawrence is under no obligation to follow the recommendations of the Commission on Ministry.)
- If Bishop Lawrence approves, he meets with the aspirant and informs him or her where he or she will be going to seminary. The aspirant at this point becomes a Postulant for Holy Orders.
- Midway through the seminary experience the Commission on Ministry and the Standing Committee of the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina interviews the Postulant. At this meeting, the Commission on Ministry makes a recommendation to the Standing Committee for approval for the Postulant to become a Candidate for Holy Orders. (If the Commission on Ministry doesn’t approve of the Postulant’s progress, the ordination process is halted at this point.)
- In his or her senior year of seminary, the Candidate for Holy Orders takes a written Ordination Examination, and meets with the diocesan Board of Examining Chaplains for an oral examination.
- If the Candidate passes the examination and meets with the approval of the Examining Chaplains, the Commission on Ministry and the Standing Committee again interviews him or her. At this meeting, the Commission on Ministry makes a recommendation to the Standing Committee for ordination to the Diaconate. (Again, if the Commission on Ministry doesn’t give approval, the ordination process is halted.)
- The Standing Committee then recommends the person to Bishop Lawrence, who ordains him or her.
Current Members of the Commission on Ministry
The Rev. Karl Burns, Chairman
The Rev. Jamie Sosnowski
The Rev. Joyce Harder
Mr. Foster Smith
The Rev. Cn. Jim Lewis
The Rev. Chris Warner
Mrs. Sue Beson
Mr. Sam Dargan
The Rev. Janet Echols
Criteria for Discerning a Call
We are often asked about the criteria we use to help us discern a call. Here is a brief list of some of the expectations of the Commission on Ministry. For the individual seeking ordination to the priesthood, we expect to see:
A basic understanding of and belief in orthodox Christianity. While we don’t expect the individual to be an accomplished theologian, we do expect him or her to be able to articulate his or her faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. A good summary of what we believe as orthodox Christians is found later in this document.
Biblical Competence. There is much that seminary will do to form a postulant for ministry. To maximize that benefit, we expect aspirants to be able to demonstrate biblical literacy BEFORE they attend seminary. No one will proceed as an aspirant who cannot do so.
An Existing Ministry. This could be a teaching ministry or a pastoral ministry but it needs to be more than simply serving as a chalice bearer or serving on an altar guild.
Identifiable leadership – This could be vestry membership, a committee chair, or even in secular leadership roles. Do other church members come to this individual for information or advice?
Leadership potential – Has she or he developed a new ministry or church program or improved on an existing one? Does he or she have a vision for future ministry?
A discernable desire to preach and teach – Proclamation of the Word and teaching are two primary duties of a priest.
(If married) A good marriage and a willing spouse. If the aspirant is married, the spouse must be 100% in agreement with the call and be willing to relocate and make the necessary (and permanent) sacrifices in lifestyle.
A call to minister in South Carolina – While we are ordaining people for the entire church, and while God is in control of where one will serve Him, we are looking for people who desire to minister to the people of South Carolina, and would be delighted if they were able to remain here forever.
What we are looking for: Discerning Candidates for the Priest in the 21st Century
- The Influence Factor—Do they influence others (especially to follow Jesus Christ)?
- The Capacity Factor—Do they have the potential to grow and develop?
- The Attitude Factor—Do they desire to grow and develop themselves in and with Christ?
- The Winsome Factor—Are they winsome in communicating the Gospel and their walk with God.
- The Passion Factor—Are they self-motivated and a self-starter?
- The Teamwork Factor—Do they work well with others?
- The Support Factor—Do they add value to others?
- The Creative Factor—Can they find possibilities in seeming impossibilities?
- The Discipleship Factor—Do they presently have a good grasp of the Bible and a regularly study it and share what they learn with others? Do they have a deep prayer life? What Spiritual disciplines do they presently practice?
- The Leadership Factor—Are they presently discipling, pastoring or evangelizing others?
- The Gospel Factor—Can they articulate the gospel with clarity and conviction?
- The Travel Factor—Can they and their spouse or family travel light?
- The Entrepreneurial Factor—Do they show any signs of having an entrepreneurial attitude?
*This list provides a range of factors that we believe increasingly will be needed of those entering the priesthood and being successful in leadership in the church. Of course, few aspirants will have all of these traits.
What we are NOT looking for in people seeking ordination to the priesthood:
- Someone who wants to “help people.” We have secular counselors and social workers, and we don’t need to ordain people for that purpose. If the aspirant’s primary desire is to visit the sick and minister to the poor and needy, he or she might be called to be a permanent deacon instead of the priesthood.
- Someone who simply wants to lead worship. While the priest is in charge of the liturgy, Sunday morning is only a small part of the priest’s week.
- Someone who sees the priesthood as “the next step up.” Some people apply secular standards to the faith, and assume that as one grows in his or her faith, he or she progresses from a lay person, to a Sunday school teacher, to a vestry person, to a warden, to a deacon, and then to a priest. The priesthood is not a “step up” in ministry.
- Someone who is relatively new in their faith, or recently converted. While we give thanks for budding new Christians, Jesus says you will know them by their fruits. We need to be able to see some fruits of existing ministry.
- Someone who would make a good assistant. Again, we need identifiable leaders. Leadership is one of the gifts of the Spirit, and the gift of leadership is not given to everyone. If ordained, our applicants will probably serve as assistants at first, but we are looking for potential rectors. We in the Church don’t need to ordain someone who might make a good assistant, but would make a poor rector. We need to find and affirm people who have vision, ideas, passion, drive, and the desire to lead parishes and missions.
- Lastly, The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina does not sanction or condone same-sex relationships or sex outside of marriage and will not ordain anyone who actively participates in either, or approves of either.
The statement of belief below is taken from A Place To Stand, the theological statement of the American Anglican Council. It is a good summary of the beliefs of classic Anglican Christianity.
The mission of the Church is, according to Jesus’ Great Commission, to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). In a fresh commitment to that mission, we join together in common confession of the Gospel and in a radical commitment to support one another in accordance with classical Anglican orthodoxy.
A COMMON CONFESSION OF THE GOSPEL
The Gospel and the Triune God: We rejoice in the grace of the Triune God, who has forgiven our sins and given us redemption in Jesus Christ. We proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine, who became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, lived a life of perfect obedience to his heavenly Father, died on the cross to atone for the sins of the world, and rose bodily in accordance with the Scriptures. God the Holy Spirit draws us to faith in Jesus Christ, through whom alone we are justified and found acceptable by God the Father.
Christian Obedience: We confess Jesus as the Lord to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given by the Father. We commit ourselves to follow him and love him above all else and to conform our lives to his example and teaching by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Holy Scripture: We believe all Scriptures were “written for our learning” (Romans 15:4), that they are “God’s Word written,” and that we are to “hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.” We commit ourselves to regular Bible study and to preach and teach only that which is in accordance with Holy Scripture.
Congregational Life. We hold corporate worship, discipleship, and mission to be interconnected and indispensable aspects of our response to God as he revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ. We are committed to being sacrificially involved in all three aspects of congregational life.
Mission and Missions. The Risen Lord commissioned his disciples to preach the gospel and to follow his commandments. The mission of the Church includes both evangelistic proclamation and deeds of love and service. We commit ourselves and our resources to this mission, both locally and to the uttermost parts of the earth. We affirm our particular responsibility to know, love, and serve the Lord in our local settings and contexts. Since the biblical pattern of witness moves from the local to the global, we will endeavor to be well-informed about our local communities and active in church planting, evangelism, service, social justice, and cross-cultural, international mission, with particular concern for the poor and the unreached peoples of the world.
Historic Faith, Ecumenical Vision. We affirm the Faith of the Church as it is set forth in the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds and in the classical Prayer Book tradition, including those documents contained in the “Historical Documents” section of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (BCP p.863). We further affirm the principles of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (BCP p.876) as an expression of the normative authority of Holy Scripture and as a basis for our present unity with brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion and for the future reunion of all the divided branches of Christ’s one holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
CONTEMPORARY IMPLICATIONS OF THE GOSPEL
Christian mission is rooted in unchanging biblical revelation. At particular times, however, specific challenges to authentic faith and holiness arise which require thoughtful and vigorous response. We therefore speak to the following issues of our time and culture.
The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ. While religions and philosophies of the world are not without elements of truth, Jesus Christ alone is the full revelation of God. In and through the Gospel, Jesus judges and corrects all views and doctrines. All persons everywhere need to learn of him, come to know and believe in him, and receive forgiveness and new life in him, as there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
Church and State. Biblical social commandments and Christian ethical principles are foundational to the well-being of every society. Recognizing the call of Christians to be faithful witnesses and a challenging presence in society, we are committed to seek ways to express these commandments and principles in all spheres of life, including the public life of the nation.
Sanctity of Life. All human life is a sacred gift from God and is to be protected and defended from conception to natural death. We will uphold the sanctity of life and bring the grace and compassion of Christ to those who face the realities of previous abortion, unwanted pregnancy, and end-of-life illness.
True Inclusivity. In grateful response to Christ Jesus, in whom there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, we will extend the welcome of the Church to every person, regardless of race, sex, social or economic status, sexual orientation, or past behavior. We will oppose prejudice in ourselves and others and renounce any false notion of inclusivity that denies that all are sinners who need to repent.
Marriage, Family, and the Single Life. God has instituted marriage to be a life-long union of husband and wife, intended for their mutual joy, help, and comfort, and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation and nurture of children. Divorce is always contrary to God’s original intention, though in a fallen world it is sometimes a tragic necessity. The roles of father and mother, exercised in a variety of ways, are God-given and profoundly important since they are the chief providers of moral instruction and godly living. The single life, either by call or by circumstance, is honored by God. It is therefore important for unmarried persons to embrace and be embraced by the Christian family.
Human Sexuality. Sexuality is inherent in God’s creation of every human person in his image as male and female. All Christians are called to chastity: husbands and wives by exclusive sexual fidelity to one another and single persons by abstinence from sexual intercourse. God intends and enables all people to live within these boundaries, with the help and in the fellowship of the Church.