Process of Discernment: For the Common Good
Discernment involves a life-long personal questioning, 'Where is God calling me? Where might I best serve God?'
Faithful Christians seek the mind of Christ through individual supplication, listening attentively to the sometimes subtle, sometimes powerful voice of God. The response to God's call to ministry most appropriately begins in solitude and prayer. But it can never end there. Even cloistered monks and nuns are members of a larger community and are under authority. All ministry takes place in a community context, through relationships with others with whom we share God's life. Discerning and defining a call to such ministry must always involve the community of faith adding affirmation to a private call.
The process of discerning ministry in the Diocese of New Jersey focuses on how a person might best answer the Spirit's call for the sake of the common good. In this process, more attention must be paid to what benefits the Body of Christ than to the aspirations of the individual. Discernment is often less about personal fulfillment and more about the Church selecting its leaders. Discernment involves both listening to a private call and also evaluating and defining the leadership needs of God's people.
The Prayer Book defines priestly ministry as the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the celebration of God's blessings and the reconciliation of sinners with God and each other. This kind of ministry is not restricted, however, to the ordained alone. In fact, the Baptismal Covenant places the responsibility to perform such ministry on the shoulders of all the baptized. And yet, there are those who exercise reconciling, blessing and proclaiming ministry with such particular commitment that the Church holds them up as examples for others to follow. This we call ordination.
The Church, through the process of discernment, identifies baptized members who are already undertaking ministry in such an exciting and inspiring way that other members of the community are motivated to accept responsibility for their own ministry. Ordination, then, is the Church's affirmation and support for the ministry of one of its members that has been evident for some time.
Last updated: 12 January 2011
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