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What makes a competent priest?

What makes a competent priest?

The Anglican Church of Canada is developing a set of competencies for priesthood. They will be used in the formation and evaluation of priests.

The following document is prepared by the Primate’s “Commission on Theological Education and Formation for Presbyteral Ministry” in response to Resolution A143 of General Synod, 2010. This draft proposal is being circulated for widespread consultation, with formal consultations planned for each of the Provincial Synod meetings in the spring and autumn of 2012, followed by a final consultation with the House of Bishops and presentation to the Council of General Synod. To guide your responses, three questions are included below.

The document is designed to help bishops, candidates, diocesan officers, educators, field educators, parishes, and anyone else who seeks to raise up leaders for the church. The foundation of this proposal is our faith in Christ who is continually raising up a body for the work of God’s mission in the world.

The document will have done its work when it has informed and inspired the development of those who are called to the ministry of a priest. It will also help with navigating various tensions (eg. the tension between local needs and the universality of the church, the tension between the autonomy of each diocese and a desire for common expectations, etc.).

The document also gives aid to the difficult process of determining what constitutes competency. The primary question underlying the use of this document is not ‘What does a person know?’ but ‘What competencies does the person need to gain in order to be able to fulfil this ministry/vocation?’ The necessary competencies can be gained in a variety of ways.

The areas of competency are:

I. Personal and spiritual formation

II. Anglican heritage and identity


I.1 Scripture

II.2 Theology

II.3 History

II.4 Contextual ministry

II.5 Liturgy

III. Cultural Context

IV. Capacity for leadership

V. Skills for teaching and learning

Download the document here.


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John D. Andrews

Leadership should open the window to the working of the Holy Spirit. This will only happen with the adoption of a collaborative leadership style. Priests must be willing to give up control in order for the parish to flourish as the voice of the Holy Spirit is being heard by those in the congregation. Priests must also be willing to recognize their weaknesses and allow others who have strengths in those areas to exercise their expertise. We must get away from running a church like it is a business with a top-down management style, which only serves to stifle the Holy Spirit.



Like your comments.

Loving one’s parish and the souls entrusted to one’s care requires actually taking the time to get to know the people who make up the parish. And that means more than knowing their first name when you shake their hands after Sunday services–it means knowing their joys, their sorrows, their challenges, and their home lives. These are soft skills, difficult to measure, but IMHO vital to any effective ministry.

Eric Bonetti

Paul Woodrum

I’d be more comfortable if “skills for learning” came before “skills for teaching.” And, maybe, some skills in understanding inter-personal and group dynamics.

Rod Gillis

After three and one half decades in the Canadian Church, a large slice of it spent with theological and field education, I think the document a signature piece for a church that is big on “documents” but otherwise creatively challenged. Very early on it announces a false dichotomy with evangelical zeal.

“The demands of those ordained to ministry in the church are changing as the focus moves from the maintenance of existing structures to participation in the mission of God.”

God’s Mission! Really? Isn’t this a rather smug appraisal of what has gone before in parish ministry? It is as if, baptizing, preaching, educating, counseling, outreach and advocacy, sitting with the dying, offering hope to the bereaved was all about “maintenance” with The Kingdom as an after thought.

Lap top projectors may have replaced the flip chart; but the conventional produce of church bureaucrats endures.

How about a clear road map describing how the Canadian Church intends to hold ordaining bishops across the country to the goals embedded in the document? That would truly constitute a move away from existing structures.

Are the Canadian bishops about to undergo a sea change,and focus discernment on prospective postulants who are of an age and aptitude to appropriate the skills cataloged?

Wendy Dackson

It looks like it’s based on the Church of England’s ministry competencies grid (which has sections for what is expected at the point where someone is selected for training, what is expected at the end of initial ministerial training, and what is expected after CME prior to becoming the incumbent of a parish). It seems to be what TEAC is advocating, and so it’s probably good that the Episcopal Church is getting in line with it.

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