Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Journey to Ordination, by The Rev. Timothy J. Yanni

I am so glad that I am able to share my journey to ordination with all of you at St. Mary’s!

My path to ordination has not always been an easy one. It has tested me tremendously as I’ve hit bumps along the way. These bumps have tested my emotions and pushed me to consider whether I ever would be ordained in this church. I continued to sense God was telling me he wanted me to be a priest, and I pushed through it. I’m happy to have an ordination date and I’m very excited that St. Mary’s will host this most joyous of days!

The path to ordination is somewhat similar throughout the Episcopal Church, but each diocese has its own policies in addition to those required by the canons of the church.

In the Diocese of Utah, the first requirement is that an inquirer be a resident of the diocese for at least three years. In this diocese, the process is nearly identical for those pursuing either the priesthood or the vocational diaconate. An inquirer becomes an “aspirant” when he or she submits paperwork to enter the process.

Once formally accepted into the process, the aspirant becomes a “postulant.” Prior to postulancy, an aspirant must complete a thorough time of discernment with a parish discernment committee. In addition, he or she must complete a criminal background check and medical and psychological tests. The aspirant must also participate in Day of Discovery and Time of Discovery, two workshops hosted by the diocese to explore ministry options.

At any step along the way, the aspirant is advised that even if he or she does not pursue ordination, they are ministers in the Church by virtue of their baptism and there is certainly no shame in deciding to halt the process.

In most cases, a postulant enrolls in a seminary after being granted postulancy. A postulant nearing graduation applies to become a “candidate.” A candidate then applies for ordination to either the vocational or transitional diaconate. The only time requirement is that 18 months must have passed between the time a person is nominated and the time they are ordained a deacon.

The Church treats deacons the same, whether they are vocational or transitional. Vocation deacons are deacons who recognize that is a ministry God is calling them to do. The Rev. Sandra Jones is a vocation deacon. Transitional deacons are deacons who are called to be priests. The ancient tradition of the Church says that all priests must be ordained to the diaconate first.

In the Episcopal Church, the canons require a person to serve in the capacity of a transitional deacon for six months prior to the time they can be ordained a priest. Some dioceses require a year of service as a deacon. Ours does not. I am the only transitional deacon in residence in this Diocese (The Rev. Charlie Knuth is canonically a resident of this diocese, but he will transfer his canonical residency when he is ordained a priest).

Both vocational and transitional deacons have the same responsibilities, liturgically and ministerially.

At each step along the way, the diocese requires a letter from both the ordinand (a fancy word for someone pursuing ordination) and his or her congregation. That means St. Mary’s submitted paperwork endorsing me every step along the way. The most recent letter from St. Mary’s was the letter of endorsement for ordination to the priesthood. If the Standing Committee consents, the bishop takes order to ordain. An ordination can only take place if both the bishop and the people of God grant their consent. If someone has an objection at any point, an effort is made to determine whether the objection is warranted.

The process leading up to ordination is very thorough. Virtually all reasonable objections are easily weeded out before a person reaches candidacy.

In a subsequent blog post, I will discuss some details of my own process. My process was not in the realm of “normal.”

~ The Rev. Timothy J. Yanni
The authors of the blog texts welcome comments.