Chicago to discern discernment process

The Diocese of Chicago will not receive new people into the ordination process in 2010 in order to evaluate and retool their discernment process so that it is in tune with the mission needs of the diocese.

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, Bishop of Chicago, says that there are more than forty people in the process now, and they will proceed with their discernment and formation but that the Commission on Ministry will take no new applicants during this “sabbath time.”

Bishop Lee, in a letter to the diocese, asks some hard and interesting questions about the ordination process and our assumptions about the nature of “call”:

Responsibility and faithfulness demands that we ask questions about diocesan level discernment. Are the processes and structures we currently use really helpful to us? How do we make the switch from listening for a call to recruiting for a call? What are the best ways to form leaders for the Church today and tomorrow?

Because the issues of leadership discernment and formation are so crucial, with so many far reaching effects, I have been engaged in joint conversation with the Commission on Ministry and the Standing Committee. With their support, I have concluded that we need to take a ‘Sabbath Time” in the process for those seeking to be ordained leaders, both priests and deacons. This will allow me time for further conversations with the COM and the Standing Committee regarding the ordained leadership needs of the Church and, in particular, our diocese. This will allow us time to look at Title III, the General Ordination Exams, and Clinical Pastoral Education, to determine what part they have in the process of formation, especially for the priesthood.

Doug LeBlanc of the Living Church writes:

The revised program likely will place greater emphasis on what sort of ordained people the diocese needs. The diocese, for instance, wants people with entrepreneurial and congregational-development skills who can be flexible about their sources of income.

“God calls to ministry, of course, but the Church calls to holy orders. Sometimes we get that right and, God knows, sometimes we don’t,” Bishop Lee said. “We’re trying to recover and renovate a language that at one time would have been common: Fitness for ministry.”

Both the bishop and Fr. Portaro said one change will be how to describe a person discerning a call. The language has changed from aspirant to nominee.

“It may seem a subtle shift, but it isn’t, for it involves the community in discernment long before a person’s call is clarified and put forward,” Fr. Portaro said. “In my own campus ministry experience, our interns and peer ministers—all students—were invited to participate; at the end of each academic year, I and our student community leaders reflected on who among us had evidenced gifts we could and should encourage. We found this much healthier than an open application process, though we always considered those who self-nominated. It’s just that that wasn’t the first most frequently used portal.

Read the Living Church article here.

Here is a letter from Bishop Lee to the Diocese.

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