Discernment (Theology of Ministry)

The Holy Spirit calls the Church and its people into and empowers them for the ministry of the reconciliation of all.

Discernment is the process of work, thought, prayer, and listening which makes possible the recognition and understanding of the Spirit's call to an individual or group.

A lifelong process, a role for everyone
Each of us has a duty to be in a lifelong process of discerning the ministries through which we may use our gifts in the service of God's purposes for the restoration of the world.

Each Christian and each Christian community has a role to play in God's ministry of reconciliation. We carry out those roles both in our lives in the world and in our corporate life in the Church. We often need the help of the Spirit and of others to discover how best to live into our share of God's ministry. Like young Samuel, we may find ourselves confused about the nature and source of the call.

Where are you being called?
The process of discernment involves the individual, the community, and the Holy Spirit. The notion of a call may begin with the individual's sense of being drawn into a new ministry, or it may emerge from the community's identification of a person's gifts for a particular ministry.

Exploration of a call may lead to a deeper sense of vocation in secular employment, to community service, to specific ministries within the Church, or to consideration of ordination.

Discernment is a prayerful attempt, within the scope of human weakness and limitation, to identify a pathway to meeting God's will for the individual, the community, and the Church.

Which is the 'better' call?
It is important to recognize and value the gifts of each person in the course of discernment. All baptized persons are called to ministry in their whole life in the world. A call to ordained ministry is not a "better call." The ordained have unique ministries to help empower the baptized for their roles in God's purposes of salvation.

Discernment is a matter of identifying the gifts of a faithful individual that are suited to a particular form of ministry.

When one's call seems to be toward Holy Orders, the Church has a great responsibility to participate in the discernment process. This includes prayerfully joining in seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, supporting the individual in further exploration of the call, and considering the individual's gifts in the context of the needs of the Church.

This work of discernment will first be carried out locally, but eventually, a call to ordained ministry involves a wider circle of concerned persons within the diocese continuing the work begun at the local level.
A congregation considering its ministry is engaged in discernment. The work of discernment includes recognizing needs, resources, and gifts, and prayerfully seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

More Info

Contact: The Rev. Mike Angell, chair, Commission on Ministry