You may feel that God is calling you to ordained ministry in the
Church of England. But it’s a big decision—and both you and the Church need to
be sure it’s the right one.
TESTING YOUR OWN SENSE OF VOCATION
Firstly, of course, you’ll need to fully explore your own
sense of vocation.
TESTING BY OTHERS
Then, if you feel you have a strong sense of vocation to ordained ministry,
you’ll need to see if other people in the Church of England can also discern
that calling! Your bishop appoints certain people to the role of discernment on
behalf of the Church. They will ask themselves two crucial questions:
- Are you being called by God and his Church to ordained ministry?
- Do you have the necessary gifts and potential to fulfil your vocation?
In answering these questions, they will want to focus on nine aspects of your
life, called the ‘criteria for selection’.
THE CRITERIA FOR SELECTION
You will need to meet these 9 criteria if the answer to the above questions is
to be ‘yes’:
You should be able to talk about a growing sense of being called by God to
ministry and mission, including your own inner belief and how much other people
may have confirmed it.
Your sense of vocation should be obedient, realistic and
informed. You should also be able to show how your sense of calling has had an
impact on your life.
What signs have you noticed that God may be calling you to ministry?
Who else has noticed your calling?
What effect has your vocation had upon you?
MINISTRY WITHIN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND
You should be able to show an understanding of your own tradition within the
Church of England, as well as an awareness of the variety of traditions and
practice within it, and show a commitment to work within that variety.
You should be able to talk about the distinctiveness of ministry within the Church
of England, and what it means to be a deacon or priest. You should show
commitment to a ministry of proclaiming the gospel—through word and sacrament,
pastoral care, and social action.
What do you appreciate most about the
Church of England?
In your experience, what makes a good minister?
You should be able to show that you have spiritual discipline, involving
individual and group prayer and worship, including a growing pattern of
disciplined daily prayer, Bible study and regularly receiving holy communion.
This pattern of prayer should be able to support and energise you in your
training and ministry. You should show a connection between your prayer life and
daily living, and an understanding of God’s activity in your life.
What is your pattern of prayer?
From where do you receive spiritual support and guidance?
PERSONALITY AND CHARACTER
You should be appropriately self-aware and self-accepting, and mature enough for
the demanding work of a minister. You should be able to face change and pressure
in a flexible and balanced way.
You should be, and be seen to be, a person of integrity. You should show a
desire and capacity for self-development and growth.
What are your main strengths and weaknesses?
Temperamentally, how well-suited are you to the ministry to which God may be
You should be aware of your strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities, showing that you can
build and develop healthy personal, pastoral and professional relationships. You
also need to be aware of the power structures which may lie within these
In all aspects of your life and relationships, you should show integrity: emotional,
psychological, physical, sexual, and financial, as well as in more general
aspects of honesty.
You must submit to the disciplines in the Church of England’s
Issues in Human Sexuality.
You should be able to listen to others, and show willingness to resolve disagreements.
How well do you relate to others?
What kind of relationships do you need to support you in your vocation?
You should show the ability to offer leadership in the Church community and, to
some extent, in the wider community. You should have an ability to guide and
shape the life of the Church in its mission to the world.
This includes an ability and willingness to use and develop other people’s
gifts. You should be a witness to the servanthood of Christ, and show how you
provide an example of faith, love and discipleship which is inspiring to others.
What has been your experience of exercising leadership?
How good are you at working alongside and motivating others?
What is your preferred style of leadership?
You should show an understanding of the Christian faith, and a desire to deepen
your understanding of it.
You should demonstrate a personal commitment to Christ and a desire and ability
to share the gospel.
You should be able to make connections between faith and the complex demands of
What is your gospel?
What is at the heart of the good news you want to share?
What experiences in your life have strengthened or weakened your faith?
You should have a solid understanding of the breadth of God’s mission to the world—one which
carries through into your prayers, thoughts and actions.
You should be able to put into words what it means to share the gospel of Christ, and be able
to talk about him in a way which is both attractive and appropriate.
You should be aware of how changes in culture and society are having an impact on the life of
You should show potential as a leader of mission, as well as a commitment to enable others in
mission and evangelism.
How have you experienced God’s mission to the world?
What does it mean to you to share the gospel of Christ?
QUALITY OF MIND
You should have the necessary intellectual abilities and quality of mind to
succeed on a course of theological study, and be able to cope with the
intellectual demands of ministry.
You should have a desire and a commitment to do theological study, and a willingness to set off on a life-long journey
of ministerial and theological training and development.
You should show a readiness to reflect, and to enquire.
How best do you learn? Is it by listening, watching, reading, or other ways?
What would excite you most about theological training?
to people already training for priesthood can give you a sense of what it’s
like. So meet some ordinands.
is a great way to explore your calling. Check out our list of
recommended reading, or ask around.
will keep you closely connected to God, and will help you work through your
sense of calling. Why not use some of our prayers?
to your vicar or chaplain, friends and family about how you feel will help you
find out whether other people also sense your calling.