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). (Если Вы предпочитаете читать эту информацию на русском языке, нажмите здесь.)
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 heart in an individual 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 a matter of personal ambition but of the calling 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 (wife, children, etc.).
- 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. In addition, the individual’s express vow to adhere wholly to the prescriptions and proscriptions of the Holy Canons for the remainder of his life.
- 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, but in practical terms, in our Diocese, is a strong help in ministerial life, since there are generally Russian-speakers in most parishes; and in some parishes (e.g. where there are a majority of Russian speakers) this may be deemed a necessity. Those capable of beginning to learn Russian are strongly encouraged to do so.
- Formation in liturgical practice 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 Orthodox Church Outside of Russia — or undertake training in this as part of their preparation for tonsure / ordination. Those being ordained as Deacon or Priest (as well as those being received into the Diocese in these ranks from other dioceses or Local Orthodox Churches) 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 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. All candidates for higher Orders (Deacon, and especially Priest) are expected to have undertaken, or newly to undertake, a programme of theological instruction approved by the Diocesan authorities. 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 (e.g. residential seminary, distance-learning programmes, etc.). Those who have already undertaken a seminary, academy or other theological degree must make this known to the Bishop as part of the process of consideration for ordination; those who have not yet undertaken such studies must make this known, and a suitable programme of study will be determined. The Diocese does not ordain as Deacon or Priest those who have not undertaken appropriate theological studies, or who do not begin such studies as part of this process.
- 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.).
- Together with this, a clear understanding that in our Church Abroad the majority of clergy are not paid a salary by their parishes that is sufficient to cover the full costs of daily life, and therefore clergy must also be prepared to find and hold secular employment sufficient to meet these needs.
Practical steps before ordination to any rank.
If, at the request of your Spiritual Father, the Bishop has blessed the further examination of the possibility for you to be tonsured or ordained, you will need to complete the Examination Questionnaire for Candidates for Ordination, which gathers essential information about you for the records of the Diocesan Chancellery (e.g. personal details, educational history). There is a space at the beginning of this form to write a letter to the Bishop, stating your reasons for seeking ordination. This should be completed even if you have spoken to the Bishop previously about these matters, as a written testimony of your desire to approach higher divine service in the Lord’s Church.
The Church Administration will then be in communication with you about further steps. If ordination is blessed, all candidates for ordination must make the appropriate vow before the ordination itself, while standing before the Gospel and Cross in the temple. The vows before ordination can be reviewed here in advance.
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:
- Complete the Examination of Clergymen Prior to Reception into the Diocese form, which is electronically submitted to the Diocesan Chancellery. The first part of this form provides the space to write an opening letter, to be read by the Diocesan Bishop and Chancellor, in which you should introduce yourself and situation, and explain the circumstances of your desire to move into a new Diocese. The remainder of the form collects essential data about you, for the reference of the Diocesan Administration (e.g. personal details, history of ordinations, educational background, etc.). You should not initiate the submission of this form until you are able to provide the details requested.
- 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, will 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 the Orthodox Bishop in right canonical authority over him.
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.
A note for men who are clergy in heterodox churches.
The Orthodox Church recognises only those ordinations performed within the Orthodox Church. Men who are ordained in heterodox traditions (e.g. Roman Catholic priests, Protestant pastors) are not received into the Orthodox Church in the clerical ranks of their previous traditions, but as pious laymen. If, after an appropriate time has passed following reception into Holy Orthodoxy, such a man is called towards ordained service in the Orthodox Church, he must begin with tonsure as Reader and progress through the normal ascent of Holy Orders within Orthodoxy.
The same applies to those who come from schismatic groups.