Jun 01, 2019The varied work of the Commission on Ministry

The varied work of the Commission on Ministry

The Commission on Ministry (COM) is a key part of the leadership and ministry of our diocese. Fr. Bill Fasel explains what the Commission on Ministry does.

The Rev. Dr. Bill Fasel Six-minute read.   Resources
On Saturday May 11, 2019, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City hosted the Ordinations to the Sacred Order of Priests of the Rev. William Jeffrey Hurst, the Rev. Dr. Sean Kim, and the Rev. Marco Serrano. Image credit: Mary Ann Teschan

The Commission on Ministry or COM is a key part of the leadership and ministry of our diocese. I suspect that many people have heard the words, but may not know what the Commission on Ministry does. The most visible role of the Commission is to oversee the ordination process and to advise the bishop on all aspects of that process. The Commission consists of 20 people. 18 of those persons are either elected by Diocesan Convention, or appointed by Bishop Marty. Half (nine) are clergy and the other half are lay persons. There are two ex officio members: Dr. Victor Matthews who is chair of the Diocesan Board of Examining Chaplains, and myself, the staff liaison to the Commission on Ministry.

This has been an exciting year for ordinations in our diocese. In May we ordained five transitional deacons to the priesthood, and back in March we ordained our two graduating seminarians as transitional deacons. In the meantime, we have had a rush of younger persons being nominated for ordination. We will have two new seminarians matriculating at the Seminary of the Southwest this fall. We also have one who has just finished his first year at Virginia Theological Seminary, and two younger persons were just nominated for the priesthood in the last few weeks.

About to deliver the dismissal — the Rev. James Yazell (left) and the Rev. Joseph Pierjok at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, March 24, 2019. Image credit: Donna Field

Of our 48 churches, only 14 offer full-time positions, and of those only six offer more than one full-time position.

As exciting as this is, it has some associated issues. We definitely need early vocation clergy who can devote an entire career to the Church. These are the people we expect to be in position for top leadership later in their careers, serving as bishops or cathedral deans. At the same time, we have very few openings for full time clergy in our diocese. Of our 48 congregations, only 14 offer full-time positions, and of those only six offer more than one full-time position. Of our two graduating seniors this year, only one was able to come back to our diocese. The other fortunately found a job, but in the Diocese of Western Louisiana. I’ll talk more about this issue later.

What we do need a lot more of are vocational deacons … and bi-vocational priests.

What we do need a lot more of are vocational deacons (who generally do not get paid, but may well have expenses covered), and bi-vocational priests. (A bi-vocational priest is someone who works part-time as a priest, and earns the bulk of his/her support elsewhere. This could be another full or part-time job, or retirement, or the occasional “independently wealthy.”) Currently at the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry (BKSM) we only have one person each in the deacon and priest track, and none currently scheduled to start next fall. I would encourage every member of our diocese who knows someone who has the gifts for either ministry to please talk to them and encourage them to enter into a process of discernment.

Speaking of discernment, that is another mission area where the Commission on Ministry has responsibility. The general church canons call for Commissions on Ministry to provide vocational discernment to every member of the diocese. Here’s what we mean by that. Vocation is a Latin word that means “calling.” We believe that every Christian has a “call” to ministry. Most of those “calls” are in the lay order, although few will always be to ordained ministry. We want to help every member of every congregation to discover his or her various callings to ministry at this time in their life. (Note, vocations do change over time and circumstances.)

Fr. Jos Tharakan rector at St. James Episcopal Church, Springfield. Image credit: Gary Allman

The Rev. Jos Tharakan has recently taken over as the Chair of the Commission’s subcommittee on vocational discernment. He and his committee are working to develop a number of tools to aid in this important work and to make them available on the diocesan website. As these tools become available, the subcommittee will also be providing training in how to use them. If you want to start work on discernment right now, please contact me. I have materials that I can start you with.

Another area of responsibility for the Commission on Ministry is the administration of lay licenses for specific ministries. These are:

  • Preacher (someone licensed to preach regularly in his/her church)
  • Catechist (a person who helps and coordinates the preparation of persons for baptism and confirmation)
  • Pastoral Leader (a lay person tasked with pastoral and administrative responsibility for a congregation)
  • Evangelist (a person who leads and coordinates the evangelism ministry of a congregation)
  • Worship Leader (a lay person who regularly leads worship in a congregation)
  • Eucharistic Visitor (a person to takes communion to those unable to attend worship)
  • Eucharistic Minister (a person who assists with the distribution of communion during worship)

All seven of these licenses are defined more fully on the diocesan website. The first four listed have defined tracks at BKSM. I invite you to check them out below.

The Evangelist license is brand new—defined this year—but we hope to have our first licensee soon. She just graduated from the Evangelist track at BKSM.

All of the guidelines and license applications that you will see on the diocesan website are the work of our Licensed Ministry Subcommittee, which Cosette Hardwick, Chairs.

Finally, the Commission on Ministry has responsibility for continuing education of clergy. Our Continuing Education Subcommittee, chaired by the Rev. Deacon Beck Schubert, has been working on two major initiatives. One is an orientation program for newly ordained clergy and clergy new to the diocese. Many of you saw the beginnings of this program when we passed out “welcome baskets” at diocesan convention. The new clergy have since been invited to a series of retreats at Trinity Meadows (near Dunnegan, MO). There has been one retreat so far.

The other big continuing education project has been to establish a curacy process in our diocese. A curacy is a first job for a newly ordained priest. Such a priest is normally called a “curate”. The idea is to provide a structure to teach those things that are not taught in seminary, but a priest needs to know, and to mentor new priests as they “learn the job.” We have a plan for a three-year curacy program, wherein the new priest would spend the first half in a larger parish being mentored and taking on responsibility, and then in the second half going to a smaller congregation to try to jumpstart new ministry. We applied for a grant to cover the cost of the startup of this ministry, but we were not successful. We are now working to solicit operating and endowment donations to fund this ministry. You will be hearing more about this soon.

If you remember back at the start of this article I mentioned a problem we have as a diocese in that we have too few starting positions for new clergy. This curacy program is a direct effort to do something about this. If Bishop Marty or anyone else asks you to consider contributing to this important ministry, I hope that you will give it prayerful consideration.

Fr. Bill Fasel is the Ministry Developer for the Northeast Episcopal Regional Ministry (NERM) and also Assistant to the Bishop for Leadership Development — the latter meaning mainly staff liaison to the Commission on Ministry. 


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