Discernment for Holy Orders, Part 1


It’s been so long since I’ve last posted that I feel like an imposter here, but I’ve been told before that I harbor too much residual evangelical guilt.

After a time of further reflection on the part of myself and the leadership of my parish, and after a time of immersing myself in the ministry of said parish, I officially began meeting with a committee of parish lay persons and leaders last night.  Deos Gratias! I can now call myself an aspirant for holy orders in the Episcopal church.  I’m pretty excited, I must say; and a little freaked out.  Nothing like a Grand Inquis…er…discernment committee coupled with a wife nearing the end of her first pregnancy (Miserere mei, Deus) to deeply unsettle a guy on an existential and emotional level (By the way, I blame my recent writer’s block on this unsettling [unsettlement?]).

The discernment committee, as the first step on a long road toward ordination, is composed of a group of women and men from my parish family, who were called by Fr. Goodman (the priest of my parish) to put my call under rigorous scrutiny.  Last night, the Fr. Goodman emphasized that to allow me to proceed toward ordination as a priest if I was not truly called would not be doing me or my family any favors, and I couldn’t agree more.  At the same time, of course, I want to be a priest (a fact that is still–a year and half after acknowledging a call from God–unsettling for me, and even troubling for some of my family).  So, I suppose I will just have to see what happens.

O inscrutabilis Scrutator animarum, cui patet omne cor, si me vocaveras, olim a te fugeram. Si autem nunc velis vocare me indignum…

As a member of my generation stereotypically would, I got permission to blog about the whole process, so that is what I intend to do.  My first two posts (which should appear before my next committee meeting which is at the end of March), will be:

a) to present a sort of bibliography of priestly/call-to-ministry books both fiction and non-fiction, with a call for suggestions on further reading,


b) to publish a spiritual autobiography (in entirety or excerpts), which is my homework, due before the next meeting.

Meanwhile, ora pro me (and correct my Latin, if needed).



  1. This is great and I’m so excited for you! My diocese has put a temporary hold on accepting new aspirants and nobody knows how long it will last, so I am unable to begin the process. (which is, tbh, slightly frustrating).

    I’ll be praying for you and looking forward to your posts.


  2. Good luck! Discernment processes can be both exhilarating and exasperating, for all kinds of reasons. If you get as much of the former as the latter… you’re golden.


  3. Having been through “the process” with my wife the Vicar, I recommend a good ale and a good pipe and good prayers to follow up each meeting of the discernment committee.

    Like Tony, my wife’s diocese had a freeze on new aspirants. She got permission from the bishop to go on to seminary, and began the official discernment process upon graduation, when the freeze had been lifted. Still, she was told that there would be no promise of a job upon ordination.


  4. All, thanks for all the encouragement and well-wishing.

    Tony, I am sorry to hear about the hold. Do you at least know why it is in place?

    Toni, thanks.

    Scott, your suggestions will be implemented immediately.


  5. One thing I love about our Church is that we recognize that discernment is best done in community with those who know us best. We seek the Spirit’s voice in community, rather than only on our own.

    May God lead you in His ways.


  6. Congratulations, James. Good for you and good for the church – no matter what is ultimately discerned. The “process” when and where I went through it was quite gentle and painless – in spite of the fact that the final vote by the diocesan Commission on Ministry affirming my postulancy was something less than unanimous. But the process varies greatly from diocese to diocese and your mileage may vary.

    I look forward to your future posts.

    Blessings on you and may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your heart and mind in the love and knowledge of God and of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.


  7. I was involved in this process for a friend of mine some years ago and have since come to reject it root and branch, as it were. The so-called ‘discernment process’ places a tremendous amount of emphasis upon what is basically a silly magical practice – as if someone is supposed to be a priest because a committee of lay people (most of whom probably have no theological education at all, and may not even be devout or orthodox) feel that a postulant has a special ‘calling’ or whatever. This is all inane. Objective questions, such as – is this person orthodox, committed, well-informed, honest, trustworthy, kind, virtuous, etc. – are wholly ignored. It’s a sort of bureaucratic anti-intellectualism which subverts the toil of Christian commitment and especially priesthood in favor of emotionalism. I mean, why not bring out a divining rod and put it on your head and your heart to see if they resonate? It makes as much sense. I assure you that the lay people in your care will not give a flip about whether or not you have a ‘calling’. If they don’t like you, they will savage you, and the diocesan bishops will acquiesce to whatever their demands are (I’ve seen this, too).

    I hope and pray the best for you in this process, and in doing so, I offer the following insight. It does not matter what your committee thinks of you. What matters is what is true. If you keep this in mind, the more tedious, ridiculous, and insulting elements of your ‘discernment process’ will be held in the right perspective. (There is nothing worse than some poorly read lay person giving you a hard time simply because they are bigoted against the young and think that you need some more ‘life experience’, as if this were some sort of quantifiable universal.) What matters is who you are and what you do with the talents that you are obviously given.


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