Called to Ministry
Introduction to Vocational Discernment and Licensed Ministries
European Institute for Christian Studies
THe Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe
I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith. For just as in one body we have many members, and not all the members serve the same function, so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another.
Section 1: Introduction to Vocational Discernment
First, a word of welcome to the Vocational Discernment Process
As the baptized people of God, all of us are called to exercise ministry. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of the one who called you out of darkness into God’s marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). All can offer their personal gifts and talents in the service of Christ and the Church in a myriad of ways and in many ways over time. The Church is in a constant process of discerning what ministry is called for by God to meet the specific needs of a particular place, time, and context. In hearing this vision and in responding to it, individuals and communities of faith may perceive a calling to a particular kind of ministry. The word “call” is usually used to describe that sense we feel when we discern the possibility of responding to some obvious need, and see ourselves in that role. Another word that will appear from time to time is “vocation”. Sometimes we refer to this as a sense of vocation. The individual’s sense of call and vocation is rooted in the call and vocation of the whole Church to be the people of God.
The vision of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe is that the gospel mandate is put into practice, in part, by the discernment, training, and licensing of a range of lay ministries in parishes and missions throughout the Convocation. The Bishop and Council of Advice perceive a need for these ministries to complement the ordained ministries of Bishop, Priests, and Deacons.
The document, Called to Ministry has been prepared as an introduction to discernment for all and as a guide for those who have noticed a desire to be of service in some formal way, and would like to take the steps necessary to become qualified in one of the ministries upon which the Church depends. Another document provides guidelines toward ordained ministry. A third document provides supporting annexes.
The question may be asked of what qualities are being looked for and discerned by the Convocation of Churches in Europe as it meets the missional challenges of today. The Holy Spirit has endowed the people of God with a wonderfully diverse array of gifts and we should not quench the Spirit by being too prescriptive as what may be needed. But there are qualities and skills that are particularly valuable in the European context:
- A deep spirituality and love of God as understood by Christians as God the Holy Trinity
- A commitment to regular worship and support of the local parish/mission
- A valuing of the Episcopal Church and its calling to be Beloved Community
- Appreciation of Holy Scripture as interpreted by the Episcopal/Anglican tradition
- A calling to inclusive ministry – reaching out to a specific group of people who may be marginalized in the life of the church and society.
- A passion for social justice to undo the unjust structures of society
- Ability to communicate in the local language(s) as well as English
- For public ministry, the ability to communicate Christian faith in an effective way both in-person and on-line.
Glossary of terms and references to other sources
As you proceed through the pages that follow, you will encounter some words and phrases that are either new to you or may require some interpretation. Every attempt has been made to ensure that this document is easy to understand, but of necessity some terms are used that need explaining. A comprehensive glossary of terms is provided in the document of annexes and you are encouraged to consult the glossary as needed.
When it comes to the training required for the Lay Ministries, the following abbreviations are made:
European Institute of Christian Studies – the body in the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe responsible for the training of lay and ordained ministries.
Church Divinity School of the Pacific – the Episcopal Seminary with which the Convocation is partnered. CDSP provides study modules from CALL: “Center for Anglican Learning and Leadership”.
The Ministry of the Baptized
The primary ministry of the baptized is that of continuing the work of Christ in the world. Ministry is a way of living in the world, aware that God acts in and through every Christian to bring to fruition God’s plan for all creation. It is the way we live when we realize that Christ encounters us in everyone we meet — family, friend and stranger.
One of the greatest challenges of the ministry of the baptized is its invisibility to the unknowing observer. Ministers wear no uniform or identification that sets them apart, confers status or authority, or automatically signals that these good works are done in the name of Christ. Every Christian must discover their own way of letting Christ be known through activities often not regarded as “religious.” This risk to be vulnerable in the name of Christ will often involve stress, conflict and confusion. Its model is Christ’s own public and often invisible presence in the world.
There are many ways to channel Christ’s redeeming love into our troubled world. Not only are we called to be caring, generous, tolerant and forgiving persons ourselves, but we are also called to redeem the mistakes, inadequacies and omissions of each other.
We are all sent to minister in the midst of the distractions, temptations and evil of the world. To do so requires recollection and mindfulness, patience and charity, and the ability to acknowledge faults, seek forgiveness and try again, and again, and again. It requires trusting that God will empower us each time we seek guidance and open ourselves to receive it.
The ministry of the baptized is exercised in two arenas: within the world and within the Church. The primary arena is the world. With lives centered in the community of faith, the people of God are sent out to represent Christ to families and friends, communities, at workplaces and places of leisure, “bearing witness to Christ wherever we may be