Priesthood competency guidelines ‘a roadmap for growth’

(L to R) Dr. Lela Zimmer, The Rev. Canon Dr. Todd Townshend, and The Rev. Canon Dr. Eric Beresford brief members of the Council of General Synod about competencies for ordination to the priesthood. Photo: Marites N. Sison
(L to R) Dr. Lela Zimmer, The Rev. Canon Dr. Todd Townshend, and The Rev. Canon Dr. Eric Beresford brief members of the Council of General Synod about competencies for ordination to the priesthood. Photo: Marites N. Sison
Published November 19, 2012

So you want to become a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada?

Chances are you will find different sets of guidelines across the church’s dioceses in Canada as to what skills and knowledge you must possess to become a candidate for ordination.

This situation may soon change.

A commission mandated by General Synod 2010 to identify competencies for priests has completed a final draft, and the Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee (FWM) presented it to the Council for General Synod (CoGS) for information and discussion. The list of competencies and examples of how they are manifested will ultimately be submitted by the FWM for approval to the 2013 General Synod in Ottawa.

“This is a document by the church, for the church,” Canon Eric Beresford, commission member, told CoGS at its fall meeting Nov. 15 to 18.

The document recognizes “the rapidly changing and increasing demand for ministry,” and prepares the church “whatever shape it may come in the future,” said Beresford.

Archbishop Colin Johnson, metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario, said the competencies helps to make the selection “a much fairer process” and could also be used by clergy as a “road map for ongoing professional development and growth.”

The Rev. Doug Reble, the ELCIC representative to CoGS, called the document “an exquisite piece of work that will help to identify good candidates for ministry.”

Canon Terry Leer, of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land, expressed the hope that the list won’t be “a checklist by which we bludgeon people into self-doubt and berating.” Beresford responded by saying that, on the contrary, it “can help support us in what we do.”

The competencies were identified after extensive consultation with heads of theological colleges, provincial synods, diocesan committees of ministry, the primate, and the national indigenous Anglican bishop, among others. The commission also studied materials from the Theological Education for the Anglican Communion (TEAC) and from the Association of Theological Schools in Canada and the U.S.

According to the Primate’s Commission on Theological Education and Formation for Presbyteral Ministry, candidates for ordination must possess the following competencies:

· have a personal faith and spiritual life adequate to leading others;

· understand who we are as people of God and what it means to be Anglican within the wider Christian family;

· be able to translate that rich tradition into the real life of the actual communities and contexts where we minister;

· have the capacities to provide effective leadership in the communities we are called to serve; be able to teach, mentor and support the development of the ministry of the whole people of God.

The call to identify these competencies emerged after the Canadian House of Bishops expressed concern that the lack of guidelines within the church hampered the transferability of priests from diocese to diocese. There was also “ecumenical pressure” from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), the church’s full communion partner, which has its own set of requirements.

The competencies should not be seen as a set of standards nor a curriculum for theological education, Canon Eric Beresford told CoGS. Rather, it is “one tool amongst many” that can be used in the early stages of the candidacy process, by discernment and candidacy committees, and candidates themselves.

It is also an “aspirational document that will propel us to do our best,” said Beresford. The commission, in its report, said the list of competencies could be used by priests as guides in self-reflection “to help discern areas for continued growth, formation and education.”

They can also be used in conducting ministry reviews by bishops, peers and others who work with priests “to develop excellence and health in ministry,” said the report. And, they can be useful for theological education programs.


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