Discernment Guide

A Short Guide to Surviving ‘The Discernment Process’ in the Church of England

by Jules Middleton



Some time ago I had one of those ‘why doesn’t someone do that’ thoughts. You know the ones where you see something that needs to be done and rather hope that someone might actually do it? Well with this one I felt a gentle prod from God to just do it myself.

Having gone through the ‘discernment’ or ‘selection process’ in the Church of England, discerning a call to ordained ministry, at times I found myself rather bewildered at what would happen next. As I progressed through, was recommended, and subsequently began training I found I was not alone in this. Despite being an enriching and worthwhile process, many people I spoke to had been totally unprepared for what the process would actually mean for them. Of course some of us were given a list or even a timeline if lucky, but most were left completely unprepared for the way it would affect us and those around us. At times emotional, occasionally draining, sometimes just all too much, I wanted to help people entering the process to feel a bit more prepared for it. So, this guide was begun. I’ve spoken to many others who’ve gone through it, sent out questionnaires, tweets and Facebook requests, and so this guide is the work of many, to whom I am very grateful. Together it is a guide, but also a personal reflection, hopefully giving you a taste of what the process could be like for you. I say right throughout this guide that the situation will vary from diocese to diocese and I can’t stress this enough, but I hope that it will also offer a framework of how the process generally works too.

discernment-process_ Dave walker

Love this Dave Walker cartoon, just a little too close to the bone!

It has taken some time to put this together, around work, family and study so I am publishing it simply here via my blog, which hopefully will enable it to reach more people (so do send the link to those who you know in the process!).

Of course any mistakes are my own and I would be more than grateful if you pointed them out so I can rectify them!

Jules Middleton, July 2015

Also now available to download here as a PDF:  Discernment Guide PDF – Feb 16


This page is effectively the contents page, so all chapters are listed below rather than putting them all in one ridiculously huge long post…


1. Introduction

2. What is ‘Discernment’ All About?

3. Getting Started

4. It’s All About You

5. Jumping Through Hoops

6. Going to BAP

7. What Next?

8. Appendix & Resources
© Copyright Jules Middleton, 2016

8 thoughts on “Discernment Guide

  1. Bryony says:

    Can I just say how helpful I found this – and how much I enjoyed reading it. Thank you for writing this and for sharing it.

  2. Roxanne says:

    Hi Jules, I just found this today, I’m in the Scottish Episcopal Church and about to go to a Provincial Panel who will discern if I am to go to a BAP. The guide is so, so helpful and made me chuckle a few times! Thank you so much for your generosity in taking the time to write it – it has been really helpful! :-)

  3. Jay says:

    I just read your piece in the church times ( a bit behind in my reading) and from then on have quickly looked at your blog. I wish I’d had this when I was going through the process 10 years ago. So well done. However the thing that prompted me to write was your comment on how unlikely it is that the candidate will come out of the first DDO meeting disheartened. I waited ages to see the DDO after an initial discussion with my priest (15 months) and I provided the DDO with a written account of my journey and my current circumstances. When I got there the DDO seemed to have little idea of who I was and asked me all kinds of questions about whether I worked, which church I attended, whether I was married etc. I had to work hard to contain my irritation. The DDO showed great concern that I wasn’t sure about my vocation and used that as proof that I was unsuitable whereas I thought the meeting was about exploring my sense of vocation. It was horrible and awful and although I think of myself as reasonably sane I found that for 3 days after the meeting I couldn’t sleep or eat. That’s how bad it was. The DDO on subsequent meetings expressed huge concern that I wasn’t suitable. It was all very harrowing until I got to the BAP which I have to say was the fairest and most compassionate part of the process. Fast forward 10 years and I am working full time as a priest; details sparse to anonymise the DDO in question.

    • Jules
      Jules says:

      Thanks Jay. Sorry to hear your experience of the DDO was not too positive. Sadly a lot of it is down the the DDO and if you have a good one it makes all the difference. I hope that your experience is rare, most the stories I’ve heard were positive. Glad you persevered though and you’re obviously now where God intended you to be.

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