A082 Amend Various Canons Regarding Preparation of Medical and Psychological Evaluation in the Ordination, Episcopal Election, and Reception Processes

The Episcopal Church Canons require medical and psychological evaluations prior to ordination for deacons (Canon III.6.5.j.2), priests (Canon III.8.5.k.2), and bishops (Canon III.11.3.a.2), as well as for persons ordained in other churches being received into The Episcopal Church (Canon III.10.1.b). Each of these Canons prescribes that those evaluations be undertaken using forms prepared by The Church Pension Fund (CPG).

There has been a need for some time for an updating of these forms. As it began the process for this update, CPG recognized that these new forms would best be prepared by a group with a mandate more aligned with the needs of today’s Church, a point with which we agree. The purposes served by the forms have indeed evolved over the years. CPG originally got involved with this task in the early 20th Century when it noticed an inordinate number of relatively newly-ordained clergy taking long-term disability. As the Church’s primary benefits provider, CPG had an interest in guarding against that, as did the Church. Later, as its Church Insurance entities also became a provider of liability insurance to much of the Church, CPG gained an additional interest, in guarding against potential liability. The Church shares that interest, as well. As important as those two concerns are, however, the Church’s interests in the medical and psychological screening of persons in the ordination, bishop discernment and reception processes are much broader, including a range of topics that explore fitness for ministry.

Accordingly, the Task Force to Assist the Office of Pastoral Development proposes that the Canons be amended to provide that the preparation of forms be undertaken either by a newly-created Standing Commission on Ministry and Formation, the creation of which is being proposed by the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons; or, if such a Standing Commission is not created, by a committee of Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons unless a task force is created by the General Convention especially for that purpose. Further, we propose that whichever body undertakes the task, it be charged with consulting with medical and psychological professionals as well as persons with a variety of roles in the discernment process. We have confirmed with the Chief Executive Officer of the Church Pension Fund that it is agreeable to having another body of the Church responsible for the preparation of these forms.