The Ordained Ministry

As Christians we are all called to be an active part of the Church’s ministry. That process began in our baptism, but it continues through prayer, through the reading of the Scriptures and through the receiving of Holy Communion. Some are called to express ministry in a particular way, as authorised ministers, either lay or ordained. Ordained ministry is expressed through the threefold order of Bishop, Priest and Deacon, as described in the Ordinal. Although Priests continue to be Deacons, and Bishops continue to be both Priests and Deacons, each order of ministry also has its own proper focus.

The Diaconate
The order of Deacons is a full and equal order of those ordained to ministry. When called to be distinctive deacons they provide a focus for the whole church of the servant ministry as modelled by Christ to his disciples. Working collaboratively with laity, priests and bishops they focus, encourage and help to co-ordinate the servant ministry of the whole church within the mission of God in the world. The diaconate is a go-between ministry, working within the church but also reaching out to the whole community particularly those on the fringes of society and making sure the church is aware of the needs of the wider world. They have a prophetic ministry as heralds of the gospel - envoys or advocates. They may be involved with issues of justice, poverty or environmental concerns.

In their liturgical role they may be responsible for intercessions (leading and training), reading the gospel, introducing prayers of penitence or in leading non-Eucharistic worship, including funerals and baptizing and marrying when necessary or appropriate. They also share in preaching with all other ordained or authorised ministers. Deacons have an enabling role alongside the oversight exercised by bishops and priests.

Deacons test their vocation and attend a Bishop's Advisory Panel in the same way as priests. Candidates over the age of 32 years train on a part-time course over a period of three years.

The Priesthood 
Priests are called by God to work as shepherds and servants amongst the people to whom they are sent by their bishop. Priests proclaim the word of the Lord and in Christ's name absolve and declare the forgiveness of sins. They baptise and prepare the baptised for confirmation. They preside at the celebration of Holy Communion. They lead the people in prayer and worship, intercede for them, bless them in the name of the Lord, encouraging by word and example. They minister to the sick and prepare the dying for their death.

Like deacons, priests in the Church of England are under authority, which is to say that the location and nature of their service is worked out with their bishop. 

Potential candidates for ordained ministry are directed by their incumbent to attend an ‘It’s Your Calling’ day following which they will meet with a Ordination Vocations Adviser to explore the direction of their calling. If appropriate the candidate will then be referred to the Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO), The Rev Pamela Ive , who then work with each individual, or allocate them to an Assistant DDO, in order to discover whether ordination is their particular calling. The DDO or ADDO use a set of nine criteria as tools to discover a vocation in this direction, and these criteria are also used by all involved in the diocesan process and by the Church of England’s Ministry Division.

Ordained Ministry
Those who are deemed to have the necessary leadership skills to mount a public representative priestly ministry as an incumbent are sponsored for stipendiary ministry.  Such a ministry is deemed to be flexible, in that such candidates are ordained for ministry in the national Church and may need to move to another diocese for their first appointment.  That first appointment normally lasts for four years, and includes ongoing training which is known as Countinuing Ministerial Development CMD 1-4.

Candidates under the age of 32 years are trained in one of the residential theological colleges which are spread around the country.  This involves the candidate and his or her family moving to the college location for a period of three years. 

Candidates over the age of 32 years may train either at a residential theological college for a period of two years, or on part-time course over a period of three years.  The course for Rochester candidates is the South East Institute for Theological Education.

Self Supporting Ministry (SSM)
A stipendiary minister is someone who exercises their ministry full time from which they receive an income (a stipend) and usually a house. Whilst most will minister primarily in a parish setting throughout their lives, some will function in a specialist ministry as chaplains to hospitals, the armed forces, prisons, industry, schools, universities and colleges.  Increasingly, many people exercise their ministry as they continue in their ongoing occupations. Such ministers are referred to as self supporting ministers. The title reflects not on their ministry but on the fact that they receive no income from it.

Please click on Bishop's Policy for SSM 2013 for more information.

Some potential candidates feel called to ministry in a chaplaincy setting, for example in a prison, hospital, school etc.  It would normally be expected that such a candidate would need to do a curacy before moving to such an appointment, although some have served as curates and chaplains at the same time.

Please see our list of chaplaincies and more information on chaplaincy in the Diocese sectionChaplaincies.

Ordained Pioneer Ministry
The Church of England is committed to fresh expressions of Church: new and different forms of Church for a changing society.

We need new forms of ordained ministry to pioneer these fresh expressions of Church and to guide their life. The paragraphs below tell you a little about this pioneering ministry, so you can reflect upon whether it might be for you.

There are some common threads which point to what the Church is looking for in an ordained pioneer minister:

  • A track record and experience of leading or involvement in a fresh expression of Church
  • A heart for mission and evangelism and for reaching out to those outside the life of the church
  • Good and effective communication skills
  • Potential for imaginative, pioneering ministry

If you are called to ordained pioneer ministry you will need to have (or the potential to develop) these gifts. You will also need to fulfil the same criteria for selection as all candidates for ordained ministry in the Church of England.

You can find out more about exploring ordained ministry on the Church of England’s website here:

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