Key contact: Diocesan Director of Ordinands.
If you believe that God may be calling you to ordained (or any other) ministry, you should first speak to your vicar. He or she may then advise you to get in touch with the Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO).
The DDO works with a team of Associate DDOs, who together help individuals to explore their sense of call.
Typically, this process can take at least 12 or 18 months, and often longer as we try to discern God’s will for you and the wider church.
If you are thinking more of a Reader Ministry, then your minister should put you in touch with the Reader Chaplain for your Archdeaconry.
See also the diocesan Vocation Strategy, Sowing, Growing, Harvesting.
If we come to the conclusion that you may have a call to ordained ministry, we send you to one of the experienced priests in the diocese called Examining Chaplains, who will interview you at length and decide whether or not a national Bishops’ Advisory Panel would be likely to recommend you for training. If the answer to this is Yes, we then ask the Bishop if he is willing to send you to a Bishops’ Advisory Panel (BAP).
When a Bishop sends someone to a Bishops’ Advisory Panel, he is, in effect, asking for advice (Bishops’ Selectors have been renamed Bishops’ Advisers to emphasise this point). During the course of the BAP, you will be asked to undertake a number of tests (a written piece of work, chairing a meeting and making a presentation of some kind) but the core of the BAP will be the three interviews. Each of the three Advisers has their own specific brief and will use a number of criteria in order to assess your call. These criteria cover the areas of:
Ministry in the Church of England – Vocation - Faith – Spirituality – Personality & Character – Relationships – Leadership & Collaboration – Mission & Evangelism – Quality of Mind.
You will have already been introduced to these criteria well before you attend a BAP as the DDO, Vocations Advisers and Examining Chaplain all work using the same touchstones. At the end of the day, the Church is looking at the candidate’s potential so the list of criteria is not intended to be a blueprint for the ideal priest. For example, under the criterion ‘Personality & Character’, Selectors are looking for evidence of someone who is stable, resilient and mature but in a 20-year-old candidate would expect to see a level of maturity appropriate to someone who is 20 not 40 or 60 years old.
The BAP is residential so that candidates can engage with other candidates and selectors and it is hoped in that they can relax sufficiently so that they can be themselves. It is however a fairly intensive experience but crucially all takes place in the context of prayer and worship. It is not the aim of Bishops’ Advisors to ‘catch candidates out’ but to try and discern God’s will.
Once the candidates have gone home, the Advisors stay as long they need in order to come to a mind about each candidate. They then write a report to the Bishop, either ‘Recommending’ or ‘Not Recommending’ (or sometimes ‘Conditionally Recommending’) that a candidate can start training. Note that they do not strictly speaking recommend that a candidate is ordained, only that they should enter training. This is a recognition that the training itself is part of the discernment process.