The last stage in the process for helping to explore your vocation before formal training is the Bishops' Advisory Panel or BAP.
It's a bit like an interview, and is the way in which you would be selected for ordination by your Bishop.
Bishops' Advisory Panels are held throughout the year, and are arranged by the Ministry Division of the Church of England. Panels normally last from Monday to Wednesday, and you’ll be expected to stay over for the whole time.
At a panel, you’re likely to meet others also going forward for ordained ministry, as well as advisers and someone from the Ministry Division.
Much of the assessment at a BAP looks at whether you meet the criteria for selection, which can be found here. It's helpful to know what the criteria are, but don't feel you need to know them inside out as it will be covered by the people you explore your vocation with.
Before the Panel
Several months normally go by between being sponsored by your diocese and your panel.
Before the panel, you’ll be asked to fill in a detailed form, and to provide the names of some referees. You’ll also be asked to produce a ‘written reflection’ of between 500 and 750 words, on an aspect of mission and evangelism related to your own experience and to which you feel drawn as part of your calling.
Your diocesan director of ordinands (DDO) will send your paperwork to the Ministry Division, which in turn will send you a booklet entitled Going to a Bishops’ Advisory Panel, explaining in detail what will be expected of you.
At the Panel
At the panel, you will experience:
- three interviews with bishops’ advisers, which will focus on the criteria for selection;
- a presentation (which you will have prepared before the panel), in which you will speak for up to five minutes on your choice of topic, relating to an aspect of one of the criteria for selection;
- a group discussion, which involves facilitating as well as participating in a discussion;
- a 'personal inventory', in which you’ll be asked to write to a series of questions based on the criteria for selection;
- a pastoral exercise, in which you’ll be asked to respond in writing to a complex pastoral situation.
These will help the bishops’ advisers to get to know you as a person, and will show them the ways in which you meet the criteria for selection.
After the Panel
After the panel, the bishops' advisers send a report with recommendations back to your sponsoring bishop. They make the final decision about training for ordination, and the report will make one of the following recommendations:
- Recommended for training: The way is open for you to start your training.
- Conditionally recommended for training: It's like a provisional yes. It may mean that the Ministry Division hasn’t yet received all of your paperwork — or that you haven’t yet fully met one or two of the criteria for selection, and need to do some work on them before you’re ready to enter training.
- Not recommended for training: If this is the case, then reasons will be given. It is important to emphasise that this is not a denial of your calling to Christian service and witness, but a call to do that in ways other than ordained ministry. Your DDO and vocations advisers will help you to explore other ways of responding to your calling to serve God.
On receiving the recommendation, your bishop will write to you or talk to you and let you know of his or her decision. He or she will also ask you to get in touch with your DDO to discuss the report.