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The Commission on Ministry (COM) is established by Title III, Canon 2 of the canons of the Episcopal Church. According to that canon, every diocese must have one consisting of Priests, Deacons, and Lay Persons.

The primary function of the COM is to assist the Bishop in three distinct areas:
1) In implementation of Title III canons related to ministry.
2) In the determination of present and future opportunities and needs for the ministry of all baptized persons. 
3) In the design and oversight of the ongoing process for recruitment, discernment, formation for ministry, and assessment for readiness thereof.

In the Diocese of Western Michigan
, the Commission on Ministry oversees the discernment of people to Holy Orders, establishes guidelines and programs for formation as a minister of the church, and guides people through the Ordination Process. This is true for all orders of ministry. Though the largest section of their work is taken up with people discerning a call to priestly ministry, this page also contains information on discerning your call to lay ministry as a baptized Christian and discerning a call to serve as a Deacon. If you have questions about anything on these pages, or want more information about discerning your own call to ministry in Christ's church, please contact the current Commission on Ministry Chair, the Rev. Michael Ryan (click here to e-mail), or Canon to the Ordinary, the Rev. Canon William J. Spaid (click here to e-mail).


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Discerning a Call to Ministry in the Church

Finding your Gifts — Laity: A Process for Discerning a Call to Baptismal Ministry within the Parish (PDF)
Finding your Gifts: A Process for Discerning a Call to Ordained Ministry within the Parish  (PDF)

"Discernment" is sorting out the voice of God from all the other voices that call to us. The term comes from the root word "discern," which means the following:
1. To identify
2. To recognize or to comprehend
3. To perceive as being different; to distinguish.

In the process of discernment, we learn to pay attention to the direction of the Holy Spirit. In fact, discernment is not only for those thinking about a call to ordained ministry, but is for all people who desire clarity about God's call in their daily lives. We all have the opportunity to hear where God is calling us, both clergy and laity.

The first handbook linked to above sets out a process whereby a group of baptized Christians seeking a deeper understanding of their call may enter into a Covenant Group for a period of discernment. The handbook is modeled on the process for discerning a call to ordained ministry, but is different because of the full mutuality of discernment involved. The second handbook linked to above is the process of discernment for someone who is seeking the Church’s wisdom and God’s guidance regarding a possible call to ordained ministry. The discernment is still mutual, but the questions are more focused on the specifics of diaconal and priestly ministry and the group has a focus in one applicant. 

The links below offer helpful resources for exploring this topic further:

Listening Hearts – A program helping individuals and groups to hear God's call.
PLSE: the Pastoral Leadership Search Effort – PLSE seeks to identify young persons who might have the skills and interests to pursue an active role as lay or ordained leader in the Episcopal Church.


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The Call to Baptized Ministry

From the Catechism (BCP 855)
Q. What is the ministry of the laity?
A. The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.

The fundamental ministry of each baptized Christian is not what one does in the church. Instead, it is the way in which you live into your baptismal promises in the world. In your daily life and work, in interactions with family and friends, as you bear witness to Christ, working to reconcile people to God in their neighbor, you are fulfilling your baptized ministry. After that, each baptized Christian is also called to take her or his place in the life, worship, and governance of the church.

The handbook below is intended to assist lay people in discerning their ministry as baptized Christians. In addition, below is the form related to specific licensed lay ministries within the church.

Affirmation and Celebration of Lay Ministry: A Guide to the Discernment Process and recognition of Lay Ministry for all Baptized Persons
Lay Ministry Application for Licensing

Formation for your ministry as a baptized Christian takes place primarily in your local community of faith as you worship, learn, and serve alongside your fellow Christians. If you do not have a community of faith, click here to find an Episcopal Church near you. There are also two broader programs of formation in our diocese that can assist you in your ministry as a baptized Christian.
Preparation for the Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows (Confirmation):: This process is designed for adults entering the Episcopal Church from another tradition and for those baptized as children who wish now to make a mature affirmation of their Christian faith. Contact the leader of your local congregation for more information about how you can be a part of this process.
Education for Ministry (EfM): This program is the primary vehicle of intentional formation for Christians who seek a more intentional exploration of faith and ministry. A four year program, developed by the School of Theology at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, EfM uses study, prayer, and reflection in a small group setting to help cultivate informed, knowledgeable Christians who think, and strive to act, theologically.


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The Call to Diaconal Ordination

From the Catechism (BCP 856)
Q. What is the ministry of a deacon?
A. The ministry of a deacon is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as a servant of those in need; and to assist bishops and priests in the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments.

Deacons exist as models of servant ministry within the church. They are a full and ancient order, established first by the Apostles in the book of Acts to assist with the distribution of food to those in need. Though they assist bishops and priests in their ministry, their fundamental call is not to the altar, but is instead to stand at the door of the church, proclaiming the needs of the world to the church and inviting the church out to meet the needs of the world.  They are most particularly extensions of the bishop, serving directly under her or his authority to the ministries where they are sent.

The Customary for the Diaconate (PDF) offers guidelines to enable a vibrant ministry of the Diaconate in our Diocese. Those interested in discerning a call to this order of ministry should familiarize themselves with this Customary as a way of understanding the way the Diaconate functions in Western Michigan

The handbook below is intended to assist those who are discerning a call to diaconal ministry. There is also a checklist for the steps for ordination and the forms that will be required as a Christian discerning a call to diaconal ministry journeys through that process. Please note, your discernment of call will begin with the formation of a Lay Discernment Committee using the guide for discerning a call to ministry in the church, “Finding Your Gifts” That guide is linked to at the top of this page.

A Guide to Diaconal Ordination in the Diocese of Western Michigan (PDF)
Checklist of Steps for Discernment of Call for Ordination to the Diaconate (PDF)

Click here to read about the deacons serving our diocese and their ministries.

Forms for Discerning a Call to Diaconal Ordination
Form 1 – Local Discernment Committee Cover
Form 2 – Vestry/Bishop Committee Certificate for Nomination
Form 3 – Ordination Process Information Form
Form 4 – Financial Inquiry Form
Form 5 – Medical Form
Form 6 – Vestry/Bishop Committee Certificate for Candidacy
Form 7– Vestry/Bishop Committee Certificate for Ordination to the Diaconate

Formation for the ministry of a deacon is described in this online document. It is expected that all postulants for the diaconate will go through this process, with a new cohort beginning each fall. Any deviations from this process should be explained in advance to the Commission on Ministry who will give their recommendation on the proposed deviation to the Bishop. The bishop will make the final decision.

Following successful completion of formation, a candidate for Holy Orders is then ordained by the Bishop. The Commission on Ministry has created an Ordination Customary to answer many common questions and make sure that you are well prepared for that day to be one of joyous celebration. Questions or deviations from this customary should be discussed in advance with the bishop when you meet with him to discuss the service. 


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The Call to Priestly Ordination

From the Catechism (BCP 856)
Q.
What is the ministry of a priest or presbyter?
A. The ministry of a priest is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as pastor to the people; to share with the bishop in the overseeing of the Church; to proclaim the Gospel; to administer the sacraments; and to bless and declare pardon in the name of God

While deacons are called primarily to those outside the church, priests (also called presbyters), are called to those within the church. They function as pastors to the community of the baptized. They have a role of authority and oversight with regard to the ministry of Christ in a congregation, a role that is derived from the bishop’s role as chief pastor in a diocese. They also proclaim the Good News of God in Christ, administer the sacraments, and pronounce God’s blessing and God’s absolution.  Those called to the priesthood are leaders with hearts for equipping and empowering the baptized members of the church for their ministry.

The handbook below is intended to assist those who are discerning a call to priestly ministry. There is also a checklist for the steps for ordination and the forms that will be required as a Christian discerning a call to priestly ministry journeys through that process. Please note, your discernment of call will begin with the formation of a Lay Discernment Committee using the guide for discerning a call to ministry in the church, “Finding Your Gifts” That guide is linked to at the top of this page.

A Guide to the Priestly Ordination in the Diocese of Western Michigan (PDF)
Checklist of Steps for Discernment of Call for Ordination to the Priesthood (PDF)

Forms for Discerning a Call to Priestly Ordination
Form 1 – Local Discernment Committee Cover
Form 2 – Vestry/Bishop Committee Certificate for Nomination
Form 3 – Ordination Process Information Form
Form 4 – Financial Inquiry Form
Form 5 – Medical Form
Form 6 – Vestry/Bishop Committee Certificate for Candidacy
Form 7– Vestry/Bishop Committee Certificate for Ordination to the Transitional Diaconate
Form 8 – Vestry/Bishop Committee Certificate for Ordination to the Priesthood

Formation for the ministry of a priest usually occurs in one of our Episcopal Seminaries (see list of affiliated seminaries). The program is a three-year, residential, Master of Divinity that seeks not only to impart knowledge but, more importantly, to form you through your seminary community into a person who can lead God’s people as priest. At times, the bishop authorizes an alternative program of formation for someone pursuing a priestly vocation. Those alternatives can be discussed with the Bishop or the Commission on Ministry. 

Following successful completion of formation, a candidate for Holy Orders is then ordained by the Bishop. The Commission on Ministry has created an Ordination Customary to answer many common questions and make sure that you are well prepared for that day to be one of joyous celebration. Questions or deviations from this customary should be discussed in advance with the bishop when you meet with him to discuss the service.