Bishop Morgan drew attention to the document "The New Covenant" stating that appeals have been received from native people that the Sunday before the First Minister's Conference be designated a Day of Prayer.
That this House of Bishops respond to the request of Native leaders for the Churches to name a Day of Prayer to precede the final First Ministers' Conference to be held on March 26-27, by designating Sunday, March 22, as a Day of Prayer for Aboriginal Peoples:
And that we commend the document entitled "A New Covenant" prepared as a Pastoral Statement by leaders of the Christian Churches to be used as a focus for this Day of Prayer. CARRIED
Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan gave a brief update since the last meeting of the House of Bishops. (At the last meeting of the House, the bishops worked on a document of recommendations about the discernment of ministry, written by the Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee at the request of the bishops. The proposals were to go to the Council of General Synod for its approval.) She distributed a document outlining the actions of the Council of General Synod and the recommendations which it accepted as ACPO [Advisory Committee on Postulants for Ordination] guidelines. The House was asked for its approval of those guidelines.
"That the document be approved by the House of Bishops." CARRIED
Bishop Tottenham as the Episcopal representative requested that the members submit to her the name of their ACPO secretary in time for the November meeting of the ACPO committee.
[Document No.] 006-18-97-11
Recommendations of the Consultation on Discernment for Ordained Ministry
A. Concerning the Role and Governance of ACPO
1. ACPO is advisory to bishops. We recommend that ACPO continue as a national process, accountable to the House of Bishops. We recommend that the budget should be set by the Council of General Synod and administered for the House of Bishops through the Primate's office.
2. There are 4 arenas of discernment: the parish, the diocese, the theological college/training institution, and ACPO. While each arena of discernment will assess a wide range of criteria and gifts, each has an area of particular responsibility. It is the primary responsibility of the parish to assess a candidate in the areas of spirituality, leadership, and Christian lifestyle. It is the primary responsibility of each diocese to assess the particular gifts of the candidate in the context of its own diocesan needs and ministries. It is the primary responsibility of the training institution/theological college to assess competency in academic and professional skills. It is the primary responsibility of ACPO to assess for the wider church on issues related to character, charisms, and call to ordered ministry.
3. ACPO's primary task is to assess for suitability for postulancy for the priesthood. ACPO can identify areas in which the candidate needs to grow.
4. It is the responsibility of the diocese and training institution/theological college to make decisions about programs of education and formation suitable both for the candidate and for the particular form of ministry for which he/she is preparing.
5. In order to facilitate clear accountability and structure, we recommend that ACPOs be established and held accountable to the House of Bishops through Provincial structures, e.g. the Metropolitan and Provincial House of Bishops. We recommend that each Province have on ACPO coordinating group, consisting of a bishop, Secretary and lay assessor. We recommend that the bishop be chosen by the Metropolitan, and that the Secretary and the lay assessor be chosen by the Provincial Council. The suggested length of term is three years, renewable once, and we recommend staggered appointments.
6. We recommend the establishment of a national ACPO coordinating group which would include the members of the co-ordinating group from each Province.
7. A pool of assessors needs to be maintained in each Province by the Secretary and the lay assessor, on nominations by the dioceses. The pool needs to be diverse, including individuals representative of and/or sensitive to the varieties of cultures present in the Province, and familiar with the diverse forms of ordered and lay ministry present and evolving within the Province.
8. Training for assessors is essential. General standards for this training need to be set by the national co-ordinating group. Detailed standards need to be developed by the Provincial co-ordinating group (bishop, Secretary, lay assessor). Training should include an exploration of the assumptions assessors are bringing to the task, developing clarity and consensus about the task, the theology of the priesthood as found in the ordinals, cultural sensitivity training, sensitivity to the particular ministries and cultures in the Province, discernment processes and skills, sexual harassment training, and confidentiality.
9. We recommend that the "Checklist of Indicators" presently in use by ACPO be revised as amended (Appendix "C"). This Checklist is to be used by ACPO assessors in their evaluation of candidates, and is commended to other arenas of discernment for their use.
10. Extraordinary care needs to be taken in the various processes of discernment for the selection and screening of postulants for the ordained ministry around the issues of power, trust, sexual harassment and abuse.
11. It is the responsibility of the national coordinating group to set standards for background checks, reference checks and psychological testing. These would normally be undertaken by dioceses. It is the responsibility of Provinces to ensure that appropriate information arising from these is communicated to the Secretary before the ACPO event.
12. The entire process needs to be communicated clearly to the candidate at every stage, including the fact that there are no guarantees that approval at any stage will lead to ordination and/or employment. Recommendations from each arena need to be clearly communicated to each of the other arenas, stating what is affirmed, what recommendations for the future are being made, and if the candidate is recommended for postulancy to the priesthood or not.
13. We recommend that, in general, the ACPO contribution occur at an early stage of the overall discernment process, although diverse individual and contextual circumstances may result in individuals attending ACPO at different stages in the process.
Supplementary with respect to the "Interim Report" and "Recommendations" of the Consultation on Discernment for Ordained Ministry: some members of FWM suggested that further consideration be given to the following matters regarding ACPO:
- "Interim Report,"[Section] D. We need to develop our theology of ordained ministry. This section seemed to some to set the Prayer Book understanding of ordination in an unjustifiably severe opposition to the understanding of the Book of Alternative Services. We think that there is more theological convergence than this approach suggests. Recommendations as to how ACPO can be used and what its criteria of judgment will be, will naturally depend on a prior theology of ministry.
- "Recommendations", [Section] A,2. We should reaffirm that it is the bishop who makes the final decision whether to ordain a candidate. ACPO, candidates committees, examining chaplains, parishes, theological colleges, and so on, all indeed contribute to the process of discernment, but we should be careful not to write as if they have final authority in any decision about ordination.
- "Recommendations, [Section] A,2. Those helping candidates in the process of discernment should talk to each other. The "Recommendations" seemed to envision that the four "arenas of discernment" had different tasks and worked independently.
- "Recommendations, [Section] A,3. ACPO should help persons in a process of vocational discernment. The report seems to envision that persons will come to ACPO with a clear sense of calling, and that ACPO's job will be to assess the call to ordained ministry. But some persons cannot claim a calling without the kind of self-examination and reflection which a different kind of ACPO process might assist. At present such persons are asked to defer ACPO for a year or two while they work out their sense of calling for themselves, and the result is that they come to ACPO as they are about to finish their studies, which reduces the usefulness of ACPO. Assessment as such should not be part of ACPO's task. Assessment is better left to something like the current system of evaluations by seminaries, field placements, internships, CPE supervisors, examining chaplains, and so on. ACPO assessors have a very limited exposure to candidates and are not in a position to assess their skills and aptitudes.
- "Recommendations," [Section] A,9. The "checklist of indicators" needs to be rethought. It needs to reflect a clearer, more generally agreed, and more theologically informed understanding of ordained ministry. It will be of limited use in discernment of vocation (as opposed to assessment of skills and aptitudes).
- "Recommendations", [Section] A,11. Psychological testing should not be part of ACPO. It might be recommended in particular cases. One problem is the potential for legal issues involving confidentiality and the civil rights of candidates. Another problem is that to choose an approach to psychological testing is to choose from among a variety of modern theories about human personality, and the Church might well be reluctant to commit itself to a particular school of modern psychological thought.
General. Recruitment is vital. ACPO cannot be expected to provide the Church with good ministers. Conversely, the problems of ministry in the Church today are not likely to be solved by a better ACPO. Bishops, parishes, and other leaders should be encouraged to identify and recruit those who may have gifts for the work of ordained ministry. Unfortunately, if the system for discernment and assessment is complex, cumbersome, and overly procedural, it may be hard to attract the best prospective candidates. The Church needs to put more energy into attracting talent, as opposed to screening out mediocrity.