WHAT WE BELIEVE ABOUT ORDINATION
The awareness of a vocation or call to formal ministry is a serious event in the life of a Christian. We believe these “calls” come from God and an individual chooses to accept or decline these invitations. The decision to accept this call is an important decision that requires a good deal of discernment. Unlike a call to an occupation (e.g., to be a teacher or a pilot), the call to formal ministry, whether it be as a deacon, priest or monastic, is a call to a way of life that involves the whole person and has an impact on those significant others with whom they are connected. It is a call to a way of life, not just a job or role. The way is one of prayer and commitment to service to God and to the People of God.
WHAT MAY BE UNUSUAL FOR THOSE CONSIDERING AN OCCA ORDINATION
Unlike the call to an occupation or profession, the process of discernment or deciding if this particular occupation or vocation is for me involves more than just finding a training program that will accept me. For most candidates applying to the Orthodox-Catholic Church of America, there may not be a long history of affiliation and membership in our jurisdiction as we are a small part of the universal Church and one that does not have a lot of active parishes or communities. Our clergy are not reimbursed for their services but work in the tradition of Paul as a tentmaker, earning their keep through their employment in another job or profession. While there may be stipends offered for their services, it is not a salary nor is it enough to provide a living. If you are looking for full time, paid ministry, you should look elsewhere. If that does not discourage you and you already have a career or are working toward a profession, and see the call to formal ministry as something that still attracts you, perhaps you are an appropriate candidate for OCCA.
While clergy development is customized for each candidate based on their incoming credentials and life experiences, there are a set of mandatory requirements for all candidates. They include the following:
* Must pass a psychological evaluation (The psychological evaluation must be done by a psychologist approved by the Director of Vocations and Training and the applicant must pay for this evaluation)
* Must pass a legal background check (Any costs for background checks will also need to be paid for by the applicant).
* If married or in a committed relationship, candidate’s spouse must write and sign a statement of consent to the candidate’s ordination and his/her understanding of the meaning of ordained ministry
* Must pass the scrutiny of a recommending bishop and the Metropolitan Archbishop.
* Finally, candidates must pass a General Ordination Examination by their ordaining bishop and/or the Metropolitan Archbishop covering any area of study that is required for ordination.
Generally, clergy come to the Orthodox-Catholic Church of America by one of three different paths.
Some have been ordained in other apostolic traditions such as the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Episcopalian or Lutheran traditions. Some have Master of Divinity degrees or similar preparation from a traditional seminary.
Path One candidates who come to us with a Master of Divinity degree or similar preparation from a traditional seminary accredited by the Association of Theological Schools and the appropriate regional accrediting body and are already ordained in another apostolic tradition may be eligible for incardination into OCCA with a minimum of 1 year of discernment and affiliation with an OCCA community or bishop. This decision is made by the Archbishop with the recommendation of a bishop who knows the individual and has had significant contact with him or her.
Others come to us with significant study and preparation in scripture, religious studies, or theology which might include courses in seminaries, colleges or universities, directed study or self-study. Some have been extremely active in their churches as associate ministers, religious education teachers or directors, and as part of that active ministry been involved in much continuing education over the years that amounts to significant life experiences that have helped prepare them for formal ministry. Chaplains with CPE training would be considered in this group as well.
Path Two Candidates must submit evidence of their studies in various areas as well as they are able. Transcripts from colleges attended, attendance certificates from continuing education programs and a summary of their life experiences with corroborating letters of recommendation as are possible will all be accepted. Guided study or self-study will also be accepted if it can be described thoroughly by the individual. The Director of Vocations and Training will review this material and in consultation with the bishop or priest who is working with the applicant decide what additional training is needed. Those aspiring to ministry as chaplains will be encouraged to pursue CPE training when possible. Once a commitment to seek training is made, regular reports of progress need to be submitted at least quarterly.
Still others come to us who have had no formal training and are not in a position where they can attend a seminary or for one reason or another have not had exposure to formal religious training but still feel a strong call to formal ministry.
Path Three Candidates are starting their training without benefit of previous formal training. They will be expected to complete training for ordination either through enrollment in a formal training program or through accumulation of courses through a variety of colleges, continuing education or tutorial type programs. Once a commitment to seek training is made, regular reports of progress need to be submitted at least quarterly.
Each candidate’s training and development towards ordination will be unique. They will consult closely about necessary education requirements with their bishops and the Director of Vocations based on their calling (deaconate, priesthood, monastic, etc.) and their accumulated education and life experiences. Although candidates may choose to emphasize a certain area of study, all candidates who reach ordination are expected to have a strong foundation in the following areas:
* Scripture – Old and New Testament
* Moral Theology – Fundamental principles and ethics
* Dogmatic Theology – (e.g., Christology, Trinity, Ecclesiology, Creation, etc.)
* Church History – East, West, Orient
* Orthodoxy, especially as handed down through OCCA
* Spirituality – a variety of topics related to personal growth, mysticism, spiritual direction
* Liturgy & the Sacraments or “Mysteries”
For candidates who have the flexibility to attend a campus, there are many opportunities available for education. While the options are fewer, candidates who do not wish or are not able to go to a campus are able to complete their studies in online programs as alternatives. Individual programs are to be determined by the Director of Vocations and Training and the candidate. No matter what the choice for training, the costs for educational programs are the responsibility of the candidate. OCCA does not have training funds available.
If you have questions which have not been answered here, or if you are ready, let us know of your desire to answer the call to ordained life. Contact and OCCA clergy person, one of our bishops or our Director of Vocations and Training, Bishop John Newbauer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A note on support of the national church:
- No person receives a salary from the national church
- The national church is supported by the clergy through the cathedraticum
- The cathedraticum is set by the Finance Committee
- Clergy on fixed incomes, retired or with special circumstances can have this adjusted by the Finance Committee by contacting them
- This supports the national church in many ways including: dues to ICCC and WCC, the national website, printing, clergy IDs, required travel. (More information is available from the Finance Committee)
If you are interested in more information, please contact us using the email address on the Contact Us page and indicate you are interested in more information on vocations.