While questions about ordination of new clergy, or reception into the Diocese of already-ordained clergy, are ultimately questions to be considered directly by the Diocesan Bishop in his role as Archpastor, the Chancellery regularly receives communications about the beginning stages of these matters, and so here provides some general information on ordination and incardination (i.e. the reception of clergy from another Diocese or jurisdiction).
A general note
Ordination is a calling from the Church to an individual, to serve in the Holy Altar and in the pastoral life of the Church in various specific roles and functions. It is not a ‘right’ of any person to seek or obtain ordination at any level, but rather a charism of the Holy Spirit, bestowed in and through the Church which is the Body of Christ, determined by her in concert with the willingness of a heart to serve when so called.
Factors considered in ordination, or in receiving ordained clergymen into the Diocese
The chief factor in determining whether a specific individual might be ordained into Holy Orders is the discernment, by the Bishop in concert with the individual’s Spiritual Father and in discussion with the individual himself, of God’s divine will regarding the intention to serve in Holy Orders. As service in such Orders is not chiefly a matter of personal ambition but of the needs of God’s Church, to whose faithful all clergymen are appointed as ministers, certain factors relating to the needs of ministry within our Diocese are always considered in decisions relating to the ordination of a new cleric, or the reception of an already-ordained clergyman into the Diocese. These include:
- Evidence of a pious and Godly life, lived in accordance with the teachings of the Orthodox Church, both personally and as relates to the individual’s family.
- The absence of any canonical impediments to ordination or reception, which question is addressed preliminarily with the individual’s Spiritual Father, but ultimately determined by the Diocesan Bishop.
- For individuals who have been received into Holy Orthodoxy from other religious backgrounds, an ample period of life as a layman within the Orthodox Church prior to ordination. Ordination as Reader or Subdeacon is generally not considered prior to the passage of at least a year since reception into the Church; ordination as Deacon or Priest is not considered before the passage of at least three years, except in the most exceptional of circumstances.
- The ability to speak the local language of the parish of ordination or appointment (English in England, French in France, Italian in Italy, etc.), or assurance that this can be learned to a proficient level within no more than one year of ordination or incardination
- The ability to speak Russian is not a requirement by any means, but in practical terms, in our Diocese, is a strong help in ministerial potential, and in some parishes (e.g. where there are a majority of Russian speakers) may be deemed a necessity; those capable of beginning to learn Russian are strongly encouraged to do so.
- Formation in liturgical instruction commensurate with the Holy Order being considered. Our liturgical life is essential to our ministry in Christ’s Church, and therefore all candidates must demonstrate a knowledge of liturgical service fitting to the practices of the Russian Orthdox Church Outside of Russia at the level of service of whichever rank of ordination is being considered (Reader, Deacon, etc.) — or to undertake training in this as part of their preparation for tonsure / ordination. Those being ordained as Deacon or Priest (or being received into the Diocese in these ranks) will always be expected to spend a period of at least 10 days, immediately or very swiftly following ordination, at either the Diocesan Cathedral in London or the Cathedral Parish in Geneva, serving daily, so as to be properly instructed in the precise liturgical customs of our Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
- The majority of our parishes serve the Divine Services in Church Slavonic, either in whole or in part, and thus an ability to serve in this sacred language is a profound pastoral help. In some cases (depending on the specific considerations of a given parish), individuals are ordained who do not yet know Church Slavonic, but it is always an expectation that study will be undertaken to be able to serve at least portions of the services in this language (and instruction in this can be arranged through the Diocese)
- Evidence of theological education commensurate with the degree of Holy Orders being considered. Given our existence in the Diaspora, we do not have a strict regulation on seminary or academy formation for ordination, but all candidates for higher Orders (Deacon, and especially Priest) are expected to have or to undertake a degree of theological instruction. This matter can be discussed with the Bishop to find a format and means of such study that fits an individual’s circumstances and situation.
- For those transferring into the Diocese from other territories, evidence of a legal right to reside and, if required, work in the country of appointment (i.e. any necessary visa or work permits, etc.)
Procedure for clergymen already ordained and serving in another Diocese or Local Orthodox Church, who wish to be transferred into our Diocese
Clergymen in any rank of Holy Orders (Readers, Subdeacons, Deacons, Priests) who, with the blessing of their current Hierarch, seek to be transferred from their Diocese into the Diocese of Great Britain and Western Europe and enter into the ranks of our Diocesan Clergy, should follow these steps to initiate the proper discussion with the Hierarchy:
- Send a letter to the Diocesan Chancellery, introducing yourself and your situation, and explaining the circumstances of your desire to move into a new Diocese (this letter must not be sent by e-mail to the Bishop). Included with this letter should be:
- A completed and signed Examination of Clergymen Prior to Reception into the Diocese form, available in English and French.
- Documentation concerning your canonical status and previous ordinations (certificates of baptism, marriage, ordination, etc.), as well as a photocopy or scan of a document confirming your identity (e.g. the details page of your passport).
- Indication of the area / portion of our Diocese in which you would like to serve.
- The Diocesan Chancellery will provide the above documentation to the Ruling Bishop, who thereafter will be in communication with you directly. Discussion with the Bishop will likely begin via correspondence, but ultimately will involve speaking by telephone. When considering the transfer of Priests, it will almost always be expected that the individual, at a time agreed with the Bishop, travel to the Diocese to meet in person, prior to any decision being taken.
- If it is ultimately determined to be in accordance with God’s will for you to transfer into the Diocese, our Ruling Bishop will write directly to your current Hierarch requesting a letter of Canonical Release and associated documentation from your current diocesan chancellery. Under no circumstances is a clergyman received into our Diocese without having first received a letter of release from his canonical Orthodox Bishop.
All clergymen from Dioceses outside of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) are advised that the system of clerical ‘awards’ (nagrada) is different in the ROCOR than in other parts of the Russian Church and in other Local Orthodox Churches. It is the practice in our Diocese that clergymen are received with the blessing to serve in such liturgical awards as they would have received had they been ordained within the ROCOR itself (i.e. according to the timeline of such awards used in our Church), and this might mean that you will not be blessed to wear nagrada that you have been awarded in your current jurisdiction, which have been awarded sooner than would have been done in our Church, until such time as these nagrada are granted to you by our Bishop according to the ROCOR timeframe and practices. This is a matter that will be addressed by the Diocesan Bishop in his communications with you prior to reception.