ORDINATION AND INCARDINATION

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     General considerations

     

    The Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese of North America welcomes inquiries from men who wish to explore a calling to Permanent Deacon or Priesthood in its communion, or as a lay evangelist, and women who are called to the ministry of a Deaconess.

    Irrespective of the location where they are to provide ministry, all candidates for ordination in the Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese of North America are ordained, and their Faculties issued, under the terms of the jurisdiction.

    Discernment of the call of God to the ordained ministry is a process that, in the view of the Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese of North America, cannot be done entirely at a distance. If you are considering writing to us, please ensure first of all that you either live within a reasonable traveling distance of one of our existing missions, or that you are prepared to relocate for the purpose of training. Part of the process that of theological study can be done at a distance; however, the aspects of altar training, personal and pastoral preparation under a mentor, and assignment to a ministry for the purposes of assessment do require personal contact.

    Preparation for Holy Orders is both a process in which the candidate becomes spiritually prepared and attuned to receive the Order in question and to exercise the consequent ministry of that Order within our jurisdiction. The latter aspect is particularly emphasized because we confer Holy Orders for our communion and its ministerial needs, not for the benefit of the individual concerned. It is therefore of the first importance that candidates are fully satisfied with their suitability and affinity with the charism of the church, and that the Church in return considers the candidate to be a satisfactory fit with our jurisdiction and its particular traditionalist Orthodox witness.

     

    Candidates for ordination or incardination must therefore satisfy the Ordination Committee that they will be able to exercise a productive, purposeful and loyal ministry within the boundaries of the Church. They will usually be able to demonstrate these qualities by means of a period of attachment to a mission or the fulfillment of other ministerial requisites for initial observation and during their candidacy. During this time, they will be entrusted with a variety of responsibilities and opportunities to test and prove their vocation.

    First steps

     

    At an initial stage, enquirers will be invited to explore their vocation via email correspondence and the provision of necessary background documents. If this indicates that potential contact may be fruitful, they will be invited to meet with a bishop for the purposes of further exploration via interview and assessment. The assessment of candidates will include psychological assessment, which is carried out for the Church by a qualified psychologist. If the result of interview and assessments is a recommendation that the enquirer be accepted as a candidate for ministerial training, they will be assigned to a parish or oratory which will provide the basis for that instruction. While training is not full-time, taking into account the non-stipendiary nature of ministry in the Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese of North America, it nevertheless makes significant demands on the candidate and will usually be found to be challenging in a number of ways.

    Specific issues


    The Church requires that candidates who suffer from any disability or other health condition that may require support should make this known at an early stage of inquiry. The Church wishes to enable suitable candidates to serve effectively in the ministry regardless of any such issue; however, it is important that it should be recognized that the limited resources available to the Church may affect the extent and nature of any support it is able to offer.

    The Church does not generally ordain candidates who have committed criminal offenses. It may exercise discretion on this issue in the case of candidates who have since shown sincere repentance and rebuilt their lives. Equally, in the case of offenses of a violent or sexual nature, or that involve the abuse of trust, it is unlikely that such discretion would be appropriate.

    Candidates for ordination must, in addition to demonstrating a clear calling to the ordained ministry, show that they have attained a level of stability in their lives such that they are not characterized by constant disruption. They should be able to support themselves financially, and where they undertake work in a secular profession, it should be of a nature that is compatible with the exercise of Christian ministry. They should have the support of their immediate family members, and be able and willing to uphold in their personal lives and ministry the traditional teaching of the Christian Church on marriage and the family.

    Educational requirements


    It is a requirement that candidates for the permanent deacon, priesthood or for setting aside as a Deaconess should have completed a first degree (bachelor’s degree) in theology, or an equivalent qualification, or should be able to show substantial experience in ministry that is deemed by the assessing panel to be the equivalent of a degree. The Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese of North America maintains its own seminary, Gregorian Orthodox School of Theology, which is empowered by the Educational Department of the Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese of North America. The Seminary awards a Degree in Theology for the purpose of ordination in the Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese of North America, to those who complete its programs in a satisfactory manner. Programs consist of mentored instruction, usually via correspondence, with the program of study arranged to take account of the candidate’s prior education, experience and to allow for the exploration of particular areas of interest.

    The Gregorian Orthodox School of Theology


    Alternatively, candidates are recommended to study theology at a university, Orthodox seminary or other suitable institution whose programs have been approved and are either National or Regionally accredited in advance for the purpose by the Church.

    Ministerial preparation


    The Church also places strong emphasis on the development of the candidate for Holy Orders through a committed life of prayer, worship and Christian service. The ecumenical nature of the Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese of North America means that valuable opportunities for engagement with the corporate worship of other churches may present themselves. The candidate’s development should also be directed towards the creation of their own ministry within their community and its nurturing through establishing occasions on which to serve others. Prison visiting, lay ministry to care homes for the elderly and disabled, the provision of administrative or practical assistance to the clergy of our own and of other churches, lay chaplaincy to youth organizations, charity volunteering and street evangelism are some of many forms that this might take. The candidate for Holy Orders are expected to take the lead and be pro-active in this aspect of their ministry, aware that the roots that they put down during their training may serve them well once they have been ordained. In turn, the Church is flexible in its approach, recognizing that the gifts of particular individuals may result in a wide diversity in the nature of ministerial outreach.

    Character of ministry in our jurisdiction


    Whatever the diversity of particular ministries, a uniting factor is that the Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese of North America is a sacramental community. All candidates for the ordained ministry are expected to demonstrate a strong commitment to the Eucharist, which is definitely understood by the Church as a sacrifice, and to traditional liturgical practice, and to commit themselves to altar training that will fit them for their subsequent roles.

    Ordained ministers of the Church serve under canonical obedience, and one purpose of training is to establish that candidates have the necessary qualities of discipline, obedience and humility to serve together with others in a Christian community where the bonds of shared faith, vision and commitment are paramount. They commit to a minimum term of five years after ordination during which they may not seek excardination to any other communion without incurring serious canonical penalties.

    Incardination


    In some circumstances, ministers originally ordained in another jurisdiction may come to the conclusion that their ministry is most appropriately expressed in the Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese of North America, and decide to seek incardination.

    The Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese of North America is highly selective in admitting candidates by incardination. Valid ordination in another communion is not, by itself, sufficient criterion for such admission, since the standards required for candidates in other jurisdictions are frequently below those set by the Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese of North America. Moreover, since stability is one of the criteria looked for, candidates who seek to move jurisdiction within a relatively short time of their ordination are not generally suitable.

    Candidates for incardination are, like candidate for Holy Orders, required to hold a Degree in Theology.

    A candidate may not proceed beyond the stage of initial inquiry until he has satisfied the Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese of North America either that he is free of all canonical obligations to his previous communion, or that his Ordinary is, through provision of a Letter of Consent, willing to grant him excardination in the event that he is accepted to exercise the ordained ministry in the Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese of North America.

    All candidates for incardination will be required at an early stage to attend a personal interview and assessment with one or more bishops of the Church. A decision on incardination will often be subject to a preliminary period of observation under temporary episcopal oversight or other considerations. Incardination may be offered on a temporary basis, subject to review during an initial period of six months or one year.

    Where a candidate is responsible for a community not in intercommunion with the Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese of North America that includes other clergy, or for any religious order, all associated clergy and all professed members of the religious order must have met the standards for incardination in order to become members of the Church. In no circumstances will the Church permit “independent” affiliation of communities on an open-ended basis. Such communities must either become a full part of the Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese of North America subject to its hierarchy and canons, or those members who wish to join the Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese of North America must leave the other jurisdiction in order to do so.

    At present, bishops from outside our wider circle of intercommunion relationships are not generally permitted to incardinate except under exceptional circumstances.

    Inquiries


    Inquiries about ordination or incardination should take the form of an initial communication addressed to the Church Vocations Director at nfo@theocena.org that indicates a brief summary of your background and circumstances, including your development within the Christian life, and your reasons for interest in ordained ministry in our jurisdiction.