December 8, 2020

Apostolic Hazing: When Seeking Holy Orders Becomes Dangerous

Apostolic hazing. I know. Sounds harsh, doesn’t it? Unfortunately in many cases the term is warranted. There are too many stories of aspirants and ordinands coming out of the discernment/ordination process feeling emotionally scarred, financially strained, depressed, angry, discarded, blackballed, humiliated, along with not being able to fully trust others. Some of the hurdles that are put before people seeking Holy Orders are downright cruel. Here are some of the things you’ve might have heard, experienced, witnessed, or actively participated in:

● Constantly moving targets for them to meet, only for the target to be changed up again
● Making people go to seminaries that the bishop is fond of, without considering the life circumstances of the aspirant (job, housing, passport, family, finances, distance, etc.).

● Suggesting an aspirant has to be from a certain financial class to even be considered.
● Not considering BIPOC aspirants because there aren't many within the parish or diocese.
● Aspirants and ordinands enduring sexual abuse and harassment in order to stay in the process.
● Aspirants and ordinands enduring racist microagressions so as to not rock the boat and jeopardize their progress in the process.
● Aspirants and ordinands enduring sexist microaggressions, making them feel less than adequate to serve God, simply because of their gender.
● Undergoing spiritual direction only to have the spiritual director throw all confidence out the window, spreading their business around the parish and diocese.

These are just a few situations that either I’ve personally experienced or know of others who have experienced them. The situations have caused many people to enter into counseling, in efforts to heal from these experiences which have emotionally crippled them- even if the outcome was ordination. But does it really have to be this way? Does it really take hazing to discern whether or not someone is called to holy orders? Maybe there are some preventatives that can be taken that would help aspirants and ordinands along the path for whatever God has for them in this life, versus being hurt and humiliated by the Body of Christ. Here are some things we as the Church can reflect upon in our service to those who are seeking holy orders.

  1. Is your executive council/discernment committee filled with praying and loving members that will seek the face of God on behalf of the aspirant/ordinand?
  2. Are there people on the executive council/discernment committee that will form a spiritual friendship with the aspirant?
  3. Does the executive council consist of people of diverse backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, etc. to possibly bring a different perspective and understanding that would identify with a BIPOC aspirant/ordinand?
  4. Does the executive council/discernment committee only consist of the bishop’s or the rector’s friends, or those with the biggest pockets within the parish or diocese?
  5. Do the people on the executive council/discernment committee have the kind of faith that allows them to understand that everyone’s ministry looks different within holy orders?

Not everyone who is seeking holy orders is called, and not every process works out the way some might want it to. However, according to Colossians 3:12, everyone is called to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” For the next soul that bravely comes to the church with the proclamation of Isaiah 6:8 (Here I am; send me); let us try not to push them away, but lead them to a deeper realization that God deeply loves them, and that they are a precious member of the Body of Christ; no matter the outcome.