Some Christians are called to ordained ministry, as deacons, priests, or bishops, exercising ministries of Word and Sacrament.
A. Deacons The ministry of a deacon is to represent Christ and Christ’s Church, particularly as a servant of those in need; and to assist bishops and priests in the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments. In the Independent Catholic Christian Church, all who are ordained priests or bishops must first spend at least a year as a deacon, and they retain the obligations of the diaconate after their ordination to the priesthood. Some may be called to be deacons for the remainder of their lives, without being called to the priesthood.
B. Priests The ministry of a priest is to represent Christ and Christ’s Church, particularly as pastor to the people; to share with the bishop in the overseeing of the Church; to proclaim the Gospel; to administer the sacraments; and to bless and declare pardon in the name of God. In the Independent Catholic Christian Church, all priests are worker priests, who must support themselves by secular employment. This gives our priests both additional burdens and additional freedom in carrying out their ministry.
C. Bishops The ministry of a bishop is to represent Christ and Christ’s Church, particularly as apostle, chief priest, and pastor of a particular diocese or jurisdiction; to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the whole Church; to proclaim the Word of God; to act in Christ's name for the reconciliation of the world and the building up of the Church; and to ordain others to continue Christ's ministry. In the Independent Catholic Christian Church, bishops will only be consecrated if the community has discerned a need. We will only participate in the consecration of bishops for churches with whom we are in full communion.
D. Discerning a Vocation Those discerning a vocation to ordained ministry in the Independent Catholic Christian Church exhibit these qualities:
* Creedally Orthodox – aspirants have a strong saving faith in the Triune God, the Incarnation, and the Atonement won by Christ through the Cross and Resurrection * Joyfully Sacramental – aspirants have been baptized and confirmed and are regular participants in the Eucharist, and they feel a hunger to celebrate the sacraments (priest) or assist in the celebration of the sacraments (deacons) * Radically Inclusive – aspirants are willing and able to work with people from a variety of backgrounds and with a variety of personal characteristics, and in particular, are strong supporters of the ordination of both men and women and gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and heterosexual Christians and the marriage of both same-sex and opposite-sex couples * Deeply Prayerful – aspirants are committed to daily prayer and the nurture of their spiritual lives and are willing to grow in their spiritual lives in their journey of formation * Liturgically Diverse – aspirants are grounded in a particular rite, however they are willing to pray in a variety of authentic Christian traditions and to extend tolerance of liturgical diversity, being willing to officiate at liturgies of other authorized rites if the needs of the congregation are served by doing so * Generously Relational – aspirants have healthy relationships with themselves and others and are involved in a local faith community and are willing to grow in their understanding of and practice of community
E. Formation for Ordained Ministry The Independent Catholic Christian Church engages in formation of those preparing for ordained ministry through a program of reading for orders and mentorship through its Christ the Eternal High Priest Institute for Pastoral Studies. This program focuses on academic, spiritual, and ministerial formation. For those without previous formation, this program will take three or four years. Those with previous formation will have that formation evaluated to determine if some of the requirements of our formation program are fulfilled. Candidates for ordination grow into it by the traditional rites of tonsure as clerics, the minor orders, and the subdiaconate.
There are seven areas of formation, and these traditional grades are connected with each area, with the appropriate order being conferred at the conclusion of each area:
Entry into candidacy for ordination: Tonsure as cleric Scripture: Doorkeeper Theology: Reader Spirituality: Exorcist Church history: Acolyte Ethics: Subdeacon Liturgy: Deacon Pastoral arts: Priest
Of course, all clergy are expected to engage in life-long learning and continuing education.
Those who are already ordained as deacons or priests and who are accepted for transfer to the Independent Catholic Christian Church will go through a year of probation and formation for ministry in this jurisdiction, with quarterly evaluation.
The Ordination Discernment and Vocation Process in the Independent Catholic Christian Church
Thank you for considering a vocation as a Deacon or Priest in the Independent Catholic Christian Church (ICCC) -- we look forward to discerning this vocation with you. This is a serious matter to discern, and it takes time. The most important thing to discern at each step of the process is whether this vocation enables both the Aspirant and the Church to flourish, both spiritually and personally, from the vocation. If both the Aspirant and the Church discern that the vocation is fruitful, then the Church will work to equip the Aspirant with the skills necessary for the vocation to be lived out in the best way possible. Here is a brief outline of the process.
During the first stage, inquiry, the Inquirer gets to know the Independent Catholic Christian Church and vice versa. This involves conversations with the Bishop, other Clergy, and Laity of the ICCC; becoming thoroughly acquainted with the ICCC’s website and social media sites; attending an ICCC Gathering if possible; and, perhaps most importantly, participating in worship with us. The Vocations Director will guide this process. For those who live near ICCC communities, this will be done in person, while for everyone, there are also online opportunities for worship. We encouraging becoming involved in our community as much as possible.
The purpose of this stage is for the Inquirer to obtain a fairly in-depth knowledge of the ICCC and for the ICCC to get to know the Inquirer to see if this would be a good fit for both the Inquirer and this Church. This is a time for questions and for getting to know people in the ICCC. It is understandable that, at this stage, the Inquirer may be looking at other jurisdictions as well, and no commitments for further discernment or formation have been made on the part of either the Inquirer or the ICCC.
After the Inquirer has gotten to know the ICCC and vice versa over a period of time, once both the Inquirer and the Vocations Director believe it to be appropriate, the Inquirer may submit an application to enter the formation process for ordained ministry. This step is only appropriate once the Inquirer has determined that the ICCC is the right particular church and has finished inquiring with other jurisdictions. Also, the Applicant should be worshiping in ICCC communities as their primary worshiping community. Only baptized Christians who have been confirmed by a Bishop in apostolic succession (or by a Priest authorized by such a Bishop to confirm) are eligible to apply – those potential Applicants who have not received one or both of the sacraments should receive them in the ICCC prior to applying.
The application process begins with completing the application for formation for ordained ministry, which has some basic personal and ecclesiastical information regarding the Applicant, as well as requiring the submission of two essays, one a spiritual autobiography describing one’s faith journey and the other a description of one’s understanding of their vocational call to ordained ministry. We encourage Applicants to be very thoughtful in these essays and truthful in the application. The application will be read by a number of Lay and Clergy Members of the ICCC.
The ICCC convenes a Discernment Committee consisting of select Laity and Clergy to advise the Bishop. The Discernment Committee reviews the application and interviews the Applicant in person, together with the Bishop. They may request additional interviews, either virtual or in person. They then deliberate to determine their recommendation, which may be to admit the Applicant to the formation process, to recommend that the Applicant remain a layperson, or to continue this stage of the discernment process. If the recommendation is to admit the Applicant to the formation process, the Chapter of Canons will review the recommendation and application materials and will determine whether to forward the recommendation to the Bishop, who will make the final determination.
If the Discernment Committee recommends the Applicant be admitted to the formation proces, with the Chapter of Canons forwarding and the Bishop accepting the recommendation, then the next step is a postulancy of a few months. The purpose of this is to orient the Postulant to the formation process, deepen their understanding of the ICCC, and to introduce them to the life of liturgical prayer that is required of Clergy in the ICCC. There are classes (conducted virtually), regular prayer together, and requirements of continuing to worship regularly with ICCC communities, as well as to pray the liturgy of the Office and Eucharist daily (either alone or with others – the Blessed Sacrament will be provided for Postulants, Minor Clergy, subdeacons, and deacons to reserve and from which they may commune daily). From this point on, attendance at the annual ICCC Gathering is mandatory.
This is a period of both discernment and formation, and at any time, the Postulant may choose to withdraw from the process or the ICCC may determine that the postulant be released from the process. At the end of the postulancy (normally three months), there will be an evaluation done by the Postulant, Bishop, Discernment Committee, and any additional Formators to determine whether the Postulant should be admitted as a Cleric, extend the postulancy, or be released.
IV. Cleric and Minor Orders
Once the Postulant has been admitted as a Cleric through the rite of tonsure and giving of the surplice, the Cleric is a member of the Minor Clergy of the ICCC. This is a time of more focused formation and discernment. During this time, there are four main areas of formation that the Cleric will undergo, as part of the ICCC Community for Diaconal and Priestly Formation (Formation Community):
A. Community Formation The Cleric will deepen their understanding of and involvement in the ICCC; learn more about and deepen their commitment to our values and ethos; and further develop relationships with the Clergy and Laity of this Church.
B. Spiritual Formation The Cleric will continue to worship regularly with various ICCC communities, including the Formation Community, and pray the liturgy of the Office and Eucharist daily. Formation will be given in deepening one’s experience of liturgical prayer as well as in developing additional prayer practices, such as devotional and contemplative prayer and scriptural meditation.
C. Ministerial Formation The Cleric will begin to develop a plan for the ministry they plan to exercise once ordained as a Deacon or Priest, and will work with mentors to develop both general skills required of all ordained ministers and those particular skills necessary for their planned ministry. This formation will include carried out with hands-on ministry.
D. Intellectual Formation The Cleric will study Scripture, theology, spirituality, church history, ethics, and liturgy. A major emphasis is in developing the skills to continue one’s own skills in these various areas.
Every quarter, the Bishop, Formators, and Cleric will evaluate the Cleric’s progress. At various points in the formation, if the Church and Cleric discern that it is appropriate, the Cleric will be ordained to each of the four minor orders of Doorkeeper, Reader, Exorcist, and Acolyte as they take on more ministerial responsibility in the church. Prior to each ordination, there will be a more extensive evaluation with the Discernment Committee to determine if the Cleric is ready for the next step.
While the sacramental orders of Deacon and Priest impart an indelible spiritual character on the Ordinand, the minor orders do not, and if a Cleric withdraws, they are no longer ordained in any of the minor orders they have received. As with postulancy, this is a period of both discernment and formation, and at any time, the Cleric may choose to withdraw from the process or the ICCC may determine that the Cleric be released from the process.
The subdiaconate is the first of the major orders, although it is not a sacramental order. The particular significance of this step is that, at this point, if both the Cleric and the Church agree that the Cleric should be ordained a Subdeacon, both the Subdeacon and the ICCC are making a permanent, lifelong commitment to one another. The Subdeacon agrees to continue in ordained ministry within the ICCC for the rest of their life, and the ICCC makes a commitment to the subdeacon to care for them spiritually for the rest of their life. This is not a step to be taken lightly, and the Cleric engages in serious discernment with the Discernment Committee, with their recommendation requiring approval from both the Chapter of Canons and Bishop to move forward. Similar discernment will occur before ordination to the diaconate and priesthood.
The Subdeacon, once ordained, continues in formation as described above. The period of formation from admission to the postulancy to ordination as a Deacon is normally four years.
Diaconate is the first of the three sacramental orders. If a Deacon intends to remain a Deacon only and not pursue priesthood, the first year of diaconate will consist of focused ministerial formation and mentorship suited to their particular diaconal ministry. After that, the Deacon is expected to continue their formation for the rest of their life, but is personally responsible for it, in consultation with the Bishop.
If a Deacon does intend to become a Priest as well, then the formation will consist of ministerial formation preparing them for priesthood, in addition to continuing formation as a Deacon. A year of diaconate is required prior to ordination as a Priest.
The first year of priesthood includes mentorship by experienced Priests and continuing focused formation. After that, the Priest is expected to continue their formation for the rest of their life, but is personally responsible for it, in consultation with the Bishop.
For additional information about our formation or incardination process for clergy, please read our Canons.