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Title III debate moves forward, sans dramatic changes

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
[Convention Daily]  The Standing Commission on Ministry Development’s revisions on Title III will read very differently from those in the Blue Book when they make it out of dispatch and to the bishops and deputies.

The SCMD had proposed some dramatic changes that did not make it into the canons that the houses will now debate. Most prominent among those was a call for direct ordination to the priesthood. The House of Bishops rejected that change. A move to reduce the role of standing committees to one of simply certifying that a candidate had met all the canonical requirements for ordination also failed to make it through the committee.

During a procedural vote Tuesday morning on two resolutions dealing with direct ordination, a number of bishops said they wished they could have the option of direct ordination. Newark Bishop John Croneberger, chair of the bishops’ portion of the SCMD, told his colleagues that the bishops needed to have a conversation about ordination sometime when there wasn’t a piece of legislation on the table.

The latest version of Title III does include a major revision concerning locally ordained deacons and priests. The SCMD collapsed the current Canon 9’s provisions for those deacons and priests into revised canons governing the ordination and life and work of all deacons and priests.

Northern Michigan Bishop Jim Kelsey said Tuesday he anticipates some questions about what is being called the “portability issue.” Portability refers to the fact that locally ordained deacons and priests are currently expected to act in their local congregations unless another congregation asks them to minister to them and the bishop agrees. They are also expected to remain in their ordaining diocese unless another bishop agrees to take them into his or her diocese.

Kelsey said some people have been concerned that a person who has been called and formed in a small rural congregation could get another call to a larger and much different setting and not be prepared. Kelsey said that concern can work both ways, describing situations where priests from larger urban parishes might need help dealing with what he called the “cultural shifts” involved in answering a call in a rural area.

“I’m very comfortable that whenever one is called to a new ministry there needs to be discernment as to the appropriateness of the person’s background, training and experience,” he said. “That discernment needs to take place in any and all circumstances, not simply with locally ordained clergy.”

 “A commitment to ongoing learning, lifelong learning and formation” is key to all of the proposals, Kelsey said.